Leadership In a Word: Redemption

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[No] matter what a waste one has made of one’s life, it is ever possible to find some path to redemption, however partial. – Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain

A word about redemption

The life of a leader is a life of many imperfections, failures, and flaws. Then add to that all of the false accusations, whispers, and rumors. Hang around in leadership long enough and you will come to know what I mean.

Thankfully though, perfection is not a prerequisite for leadership. But neither is this truth a license for bad behavior. On the leadership journey, we all need some grace and redemption.

I am reminded of a story involving a young boy working in the lab with Thomas Edison. It comes from a book by James Newton in which shared this story.

Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a “light bulb” and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You’ve probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs.

It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. That’s true forgiveness.

How many times as a leader have you been like the boy who dropped the bulb? How many times in our learning curves have we come up short, missed the mark, didn’t come through, or failed to deliver? We’ve all been there.

On our leadership journey, we all need some grace and redemption. Let’s briefly examine a few key concepts.

The redemption I need

This framework has already been established so I won’t dwell here long. Suffice to say, as leaders we are all flawed in some way. When you see yourself as one who leads from a position of needing redemption and grace as much as the people you lead, it will cause you to walk humbly. The Scripture says, “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48), and this is especially true for leaders today.

The redemption I give

I can only imagine the reaction of that young boy’s face when the next day Edison handed a new light bulb back to him to walk up the stairs. But that was a testament to the redemptive heart of Edison.

What about you? As a leader, and by your actions, you have opportunities to be an agent of redemption and forgiveness. Your one redemptive act of kindness toward a colleague or team member may be all it takes to turn things around for that person.

I am not talking about abandoning expectations or lowering the bar as it relates to standards and performance, but I am speaking to a specific leadership skill not found in the manual but in your heart. The human equation. Perhaps if we listen more, talk less, forgive more, condemn less, love more and hate less, then we can reflect a standard of leadership worth emulating.

Redemption quotes

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”. – Nelson Mandela

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, making sure that impact lasts in your absence”. – Sheryl Sandberg

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart”. – Eleanor Roosevelt

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you”. – Ephesians 4:32

“Civility doesn’t weaken a message, it helps others hear it”. – Kate Nasser

A final word

We live in a world of hurting people. And here’s a truth I learned many years ago – hurting people hurt others. As a leader, in your sphere of influence however large or small- you’ve been given an opportunity to be a small light in the darkness. Your one redemptive act of kindness or forgiveness may be all it takes to set the course right and change someone else’s life. Let redemption be a defining quality of your leadership.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

*Note: Leadership In A Word is my writing theme for 2018. Each week the focus will be on a word that impacts you as a leader. My style is new but my message and commitment to delivering fresh leadership insight to you are the same. It’s my sincere desire to help you grow as a leader and to partner with you in reaching your full potential.

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Leadership In a Word: Encouragement

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Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A word about encouragement

In a Gallup article entitled “Seven Things Great Employers Do (That Others Don’t)”,  the author’s introduction speaks to the rise in the number of employees who are actively disengaged in their work, and identifies companies who are bucking the trend.

One of the ways in which companies are doing it is by ensuring that the basic encouragement requirements are being met before expecting an inspiring mission to matter. They state:

When employees know what is expected of them, have what they need to do their jobs, are good fits for their roles, and feel their managers have their backs, they will commit to almost anything the company is trying to accomplish. Conversely, if these basic needs are not met, even the most exalted mission may not engage them. People simply don’t connect with proclamations of mission or values — no matter how inspiring these might sound in the head office.

Is it possible in our leadership circles that we have exalted our mission and vision statements to such a high level that those tasked with fulfilling it can’t do so because the basic need of encouragement has not been met?

We’ve all come to know in some small way what encouragement looks like. It’s a kind word, a slap on the back, being recognized and thanked for a job well done. These things are import and they matter. But why? Here are a few reasons.

Encouragement matters because your people matter.

As the authors of the article stated, “People simply don’t connect with proclamations of mission statements or values.” Simply put – people connect people. And if you want your people to be connected to your mission or vision you must first connect with the ones who will bring it to life.

John Maxwell was right when he said, “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand”. If you fail to do this, what else really matters?

Encouragement matters because it focuses on the relationship

There is a difference between praise and encouragement. “Encouragement can be given at any time, to anyone, in any situation. It is an observation, an acknowledgment, a statement that focuses on effort, etc.,” says educational consultant Vicki Hoefle. It’s a leadership principle that acknowledges the hard work of your people and speaks to the challenges that your team faces, and is an acknowledgment that you see and recognize, and appreciate it.

When you focus on encouragement you are building the most important thing in the life of your organization – relationship.

Encouragement matters because results matter

When your people know that you have their backs, and they’ve been empowered and equipped to do their jobs, they will come through for you. As a leader, you must back up your words of encouragement with action.

Make no mistake, your people need to hear your words of encouragement. They appreciate it more than you realize. But the mission and vision mean little to them or you if it doesn’t come to life. And at the end of the day, the results of your business or organization matters.

Encouragement quotes

“Don’t let the muggles get you down”. – J.K. Rowling

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Multiple attributions

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – I Thessalonians 5:11

“When you encourage others, you in the process are encouraged because you’re making a commitment and difference in that person’s life. Encouragement really does make a difference.” – Zig Ziglar

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” – C.S. Lewis

A final word

In a world filled with much negativity, strive to be a leader that is an encourager. See the best. Believe the best. Give your best. Be a model of what true encouragement is all about. Raise the bar and raise the people around you.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

*Note: Leadership In A Word is my writing theme for 2018. Each week the focus will be on a word that impacts you as a leader. My style is new but my message and commitment to delivering fresh leadership insight to you are the same. It’s my sincere desire to help you grow as a leader and to partner with you in reaching your full potential.

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Leadership In a Word: Reading

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Read to refill the wells of inspiration. – Harold Ockenga

A word about reading

Reading is imperative for every good leader. It’s how you learn, it’s how you grow. In short, it makes you a more rounded and better leader. So why aren’t more adults reading?

Marissa Levin, writing in Inc. reports that “Americans read fewer and fewer books each year”. She cites a survey by the National Endowment of the Arts which said only 43% of adults read any type of literature not required for work or school- a percentage that is a three-decade low.

What about you? What are your reading habits? In her article, Levin revealed the reading habits of the likes of Warren Buffet- 500 pages a day, Mark Cuban who reads 3 hours a day, and Bill Gates who reads 50 books a year. These are impressive numbers.

I realize that there are those who advocate for reading as many books as you can throughout the course of a  year. It’s an admirable goal. And I must confess, I am a helpless book junkie an avid reader. But in recent years, I have become more selective as a reader. My goal is not so much about the quantity of the books I read, but the quality. I choose to be more intentional about the return on my investment in the books I select. (You can find my books on Amazon)

Some years ago, I came across these reading strategies by J. Oswald Sanders for making your reading worthwhile and profitable. I’d like to pass his advice on to you.

  • What you intend to quickly forget, spend little time reading. The habit of reading and forgetting only builds the habit of forgetting other important matters.
  • Use the same discrimination in choosing books as in choosing friends.
  • Read with pencil and notebook in hand. Unless your memory is unusually retentive, much gained from reading is lost in a day. Develop a system of note-taking. It will greatly help the memory.
  • Have a “commonplace book,” as they are called-a book to record what is striking, interesting, and worthy of second thought. In that way, you will build a treasure trove of material for future use.
  • Verify historical scientific and other data.
  • Pass no word until its meaning is known. Keep a dictionary at hand.
  • Vary your reading to keep your mind out of a rut. Variety is as refreshing to the mind as it is to the body.
  • Correlate your reading-history with poetry, biography with a historical novel. For example, when reading the history of the American Civil War, take up a biography of Lincoln or Grant and poetry by Whitman.

Thanks to technology, our access to books are greater than ever. But when only 43% of adults are reading anything beyond what is required for work or school the challenge is as great as ever. Leaders must be ahead of the curve in order to succeed.

Reading quotes

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book too long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go.” – Dr. Seuss

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” – Francis Bacon

“I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson

A final word

As a leader, develop a routine for reading. Take the advice of Sanders and add some variety to your collection. The depth of your knowledge and your growth as a leader is the byproduct of the books you read.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

*Note: Leadership In A Word is my writing theme for 2018. Each week the focus will be on a word that impacts you as a leader. My style is new but my message and commitment to delivering fresh leadership insight to you are the same. It’s my sincere desire to help you grow as a leader and to partner with you in reaching your full potential.

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Leadership In a Word: Scars

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Turn your scars into stars – Robert H. Schuller

A word about scars

In The Odyssey, there is a scene that takes place near the end of the story. Odysseus returns home after many years of wandering. He is in disguise as an old man. At first, nobody recognizes him, not even his wife and child. One night before bed, Odysseus’ aged nurse bathes him. At first, she thinks he is just a stranger, but while bathing him, she recognizes a scar on his leg. She remembers the scar from infancy. Until she saw the scar she did not recognize him.

Hang around in leadership long enough and you will come to know about scars. It’s not something you hear a lot about when starting out in your professional life although you should. We tend to start out wide-eyed and ready to take the world by storm.

But along the way, all the things that you weren’t taught in your MBA classes and elsewhere introduce you to the realities of leadership. Life happens. People disappoint. You experience a few failures. Loneliness sets in. You second guess yourself. Your blinders come off as you’ve been properly introduced to the real world. Can you relate?

But in as much as we can accumulate scars through the school of hard knocks in leadership, not all are the by-product of negative experiences. Often time scars are from tenacity – staying in the fight, not giving up, and persevering in the face of adversity. Great leaders are known for this.

Think for a moment about your own leadership journey. While scars can be painful, you’d probably not be where you are today without them.  

Yet over the years, I’ve seen scars do leaders in – the pain was too much. Here I’d like to offer a word of hope and these reminders.

Scars are a sign of healing

I read something very interesting about scars. It stated, “A scar is a mark left on the skin after a wound or injury has healed. Scars are a natural part of the healing process”. And this is where many in life and leadership miss the process. A scar is not an open or active wound- it’s a healed one.

Sometimes in life and in leadership, we thwart the healing process regarding the battles we’ve gone through. When we hold onto our hurts with unforgiveness, bitterness, or anger, the wound can never heal.

You can be a leader with scars and move on or you can be a leader holding onto wounds.

Scars are a sign of your passion

When you’ve found your passion – your one thing – it will motivate you to stay in the fight when others walk away. It will cause you to refocus your energies. It will keep you up late at night and cause you to rise early. Because of it, you will learn to give up the good to chase after the great.

Years ago in high school, I worked at a garden center. The winter months were brutal. But it was during this time we built the greenhouses and spent those cold days potting roses. Thousands of roses. Our cold and bloodied hands bore the scars of the hard work that went into a prosperous and beautiful spring. Scars were part of the price we paid to enjoy that beauty.

Your scars in leadership prove your passion. They are signs of your willingness to go above and beyond to reach your goals.

As a leader, see your scars for what they are – proof that you have skin in the game and that you will fight for what you believe in.

Scars are a sign of your strength

Whether it’s in your everyday life or more specifically in your leadership role, no one likes the situations that bring scars. They hurt. We feel the sting of disappointment, failures, betrayals, and what about that difficult boss you have to deal with?

Over time, these life experiences don’t just cut us but they can scar us. The question then is about our response. Are we going to let it define us or prepare us? Are we going to get bitter or better? We have a choice to make.

I can look back at some of my most painful scars and see it now from a different perspective that only time allows. While the experience was painful at the time, I can now see where it prepared me and made me a stronger leader as a result.

You haven’t come this far in your journey because you are weak, you are here because you are strong. You have the scars to prove it.

Scar quotes

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars”. – Elbert Hubbard

“Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me, they are proof of the fact that there is healing”.- Linda Hogan

“Scars are not signs of weakness, they are signs of survival and endurance”. – Rodney A. Winters

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” “. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

A final word

Most every leader I know has scars. What about you? Leadership will present you with challenges you didn’t anticipate. You will acquire some scars along the way. But your scars are reminders that you have healed, they are reminders of your passion, and a testament to your strength.


©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In a Word: Complacency

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Complacency happens almost without notice. Check and renew your heart daily. – Jim George

A word about complacency

By definition, complacency is ‘showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements”. Not very flattering is it?

Yet one of the chief enemies of leaders can be wrapped up in this one word. It’s been said that success breeds complacency. While I do believe that a certain amount of dissatisfaction with one’s talents and abilities can be healthy, complacency can devastate your leadership.  

Consider the great pianist Paderewski. He achieved a great deal of success in America. In spite of that, he is quoted as saying, “There have been a few moments when I have known complete satisfaction, but only a few. I have rarely been free from the disturbing realization that my playing might have been better”. In other words, he was keenly aware that there was always room for improvement.

As a leader, it’s important to avoid certain dangers as it relates to complacency Here are a few of them.

The danger of pride and arrogance.

This is how the smugness of uncritical satisfaction or complacency manifests itself. A leader full of pride or arrogance mistakenly thinks it’s all about them. So long as this attitude continues to manifest itself in the actions and words of the leader, the more that leader will become isolated.

There’s no room for pride or arrogance in a leader. It’s one thing to show pride in one’s work that fosters an attitude of excellence, but another thing entirely to lead from a position of self-serving pride and arrogance.

The danger of not having a personal growth plan

This type of leader exhibits a lack of depth or wisdom to think long. As leaders, we never stop growing and we never stop learning. Not having a plan in place whereby you are continuously learning and being challenged can be fatal to your leadership.

Consider your own growth plan for just a moment. Is it well thought out and intentional or is random and sporadic? Your personal growth and development is an investment in your future and in the people you lead. If you are not growing as a leader then how can you expect it from the people you lead?

The danger of believing that past achievements will guarantee future success

Your successes and achievements are milestones on your leadership journey. What you achieved yesterday is not necessarily a predictor of your success tomorrow. It’s when you become complacent that you believe that one automatically guarantees the next.

What complacent attitudes are you holding onto that are holding you back? Smart leaders are continuously striving to excel, learn, grow, and are looking for new and improved ways to do it. Be thankful for past wins, but don’t live there.

The danger of believing your best days are behind you

While it’s important to believe your past successes will not guarantee your future success, it’s equally important -if not more so, to understand that your best days are not behind you, they are before you. A complacent mindset will lull you into believing the former. Don’t believe it.

My encouragement to you as a leader is to shake off any complacent attitude about your life and leadership. Don’t allow yourself to be surrounded by negative influences that would hold you back. Complacency – not matter it’s form, voice, or identity is not something you have to associate with or be defined by.

Complacency quotes

“The dream is over only when you become complacent” – Lorin-Morgan Richards

“He who is content with what has been done is an obstacle in the path of progress” – Helen Keller

“I will not allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure” – Og Mandino

“Change before you have to” – Jack Welch

A final word

One of the sad consequences of complacency is that it keeps you from fulfilling a God-inspired purpose for your life. It tarnishes your past and robs you of your future. Don’t allow complacency to hold you back you as a leader. You have too much to gain and far too much to lose as a result.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In a Word: Anchors

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The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundations. – St. Augustine

A word about anchors

In his book Six Hours One Friday, Max Lucado shares a story about weathering Hurricane David while living on the Miami River in a houseboat. While many people along Florida’s Gold Coast were boarding up their homes he was desperately trying to figure out what to do to save his boat.

In his desperation, he recalls a story of a friend who came to his aid. He writes:

I was reaching the end of my rope, in more ways than one, when Phil showed up. Now Phil knew boats. He even looked boatwise.

He was born wearing a suntan and dock-siders. He spoke the lingo and knew the knots. He also knew hurricanes. Word on the river had it that he had ridden one out for three days in a ten-foot sailboat. They made him a living legend.

He felt sorry for us, so he came to give some advice … and it was sailor-sound. “Tie her to land and you’ll regret it. Those trees are gonna get eaten by the ‘cane. Your only hope is to anchor deep,” he said. “Place four anchors in four different locations, leave the rope slack, and pray for the best.”

Think for a moment of the many times in your own life and leadership when you’ve faced storms and trials. We’ve all been there.

In leadership, as in life, you will need to take the advice of Phil and anchor deep. You will need to know that your anchors are deep and will withstand the storms when they come.

What about you? What are the anchors that keep you grounded? Here are a few anchors that work for me and have worked for me over the years. See if you can relate to any of these.

The anchor of faith

My faith has sustained me over the years through many times of testing as a leader. I am thankful for God’s strength to empower me, faith to encourage me, grace to forgive me, and His love working through me to empower and encourage those around me.

The anchor of family

Family tends to be your most honest brokers. They are the ones who love you unconditionally and the ones who can give it to you without the filter. Family will stick with you when others walk away and weather the storms with you when times are tough. I am thankful for my family.

The anchor of values

The hardest and most important decisions you make as a leader must be made through the lens of your values. Not what is expedient at the moment or the most politically advantageous. You will be defined by your values so be sure they are clear to you because that’s how others will evaluate you as a leader.

The anchor of your why

Knowing your why  – living out your God-given purpose as to why you are on this earth will keep you anchored. It’s your filter for the good things that you say no to in order to say yes to the greater things that are in store for you. When you know your why it will keep you grounded and it will keep you focused.

The anchor of friends

When you surround yourself with good friends they will, like family, keep you grounded, keep you humble, and call out the best in you. Have friends around you that will speak truth to you, believe in you, and be that friend in return. I am thankful for so many friends that have been there for me through thick and thin.

Anchor quotes

“Have an anchor so that life doesn’t toss you around.” – Debby Ryan

“Cast your cares on God; that anchor holds.” – Frank Moore Colby

“If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values- that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.” _ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett

A final word

The anchors we need in life and in leadership are not mutually exclusive. One serves to the benefit of the other. Learning how to incorporate them into our lives and what anchors we need is the question. No matter what the trial or difficulties you may face, remember what Phil said, “anchor deep”.


©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In a Word: Disappointment

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Sometimes when you get disappointment it makes you stronger. – David Rudisha

A word about disappointment

In 1858 the Illinois legislature–using an obscure statute–sent Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had won the popular vote. When a sympathetic friend asked Lincoln how he felt, he said, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.”

Lincoln’s reaction is a good reminder that we all at times can feel the sting of disappointment. In leadership, it’s much the same. We have those times when we feel let down or disappointed when things don’t turn out the way we planned. In short, life happens.

When disappointments come your way as a leader, here are three truths you need to remember.

Disappointments are inevitable

That statement is not meant to discourage you but rather to motivate you. No leader is immune from times of disappointment. It comes with the territory. So here is what you need to know – you are not the sum of your disappointments, setbacks, or failures. They are not your roadblocks, they are your stepping stones. The inevitability of disappointments coupled with the right attitude and outlook will set you up for the inevitability of your success. Don’t give up!

Disappointments are proportional to your risks

Simply put, the more risks you take, the more disappointments you will experience. Thomas Edison knew about this first hand. He suffered many setbacks and losses. It was his attitude in the face of those disappointments that set him apart. Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. It was his positive attitude that caused him to succeed even in the face of adversity. Don’t allow the size of the risk or disappointment keep you from chasing after your dreams.

Disappointments are opportunities to regroup

The outcome of every disappointment is not meant to be fatal. Sometimes there is a greater purpose to the disappointment – something beyond what you see at the moment. Don’t allow your present negative feelings to cloud your thinking or how you can make your situation better going forward. Let the disappointment be your teacher, and move forward with the wisdom you’ve gained.

Disappointment quotes

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” – Robert Kiyosaki

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” – Thoreau

“Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead.” – Les Brown

A final word

Thomas Edison also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Disappointments will come your way as a leader, but don’t be discouraged or sidetracked. See the big picture and know that your disappointments are only momentary.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

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