Leadership In A Word: Yesterday

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Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, Now it looks as though they’re here to stay oh I believe in yesterday – John Lennon

A word about yesterday

In his book, No Limits, John Maxwell presents a most thought-provoking question that is worth some consideration. He asks: “When was the last time you said goodbye to something that was special that no longer works today?”. It is a truly intriguing question.

Perhaps in our more nostalgic moments, we look back with some degree of fondness and recall a particular time in our leadership journey that was important to us. Maybe it was a particular success or big win that propelled you to where you are today.

But if we are not careful, we can get stuck in a place, time, and mindset that no longer serves us or the people around us very well. We become stagnant and are looking backward to the “good old days” rather to the future. Sound familiar?

Maxwell continues by asking, “Are you willing to let go of some things you love? If not, you’re going to have a hard time being creative and becoming any better than you are today”. Now, that truly is thought-provoking indeed.

Obviously, reading this caused me to think about my own practices, routines, and my mindset. Have I been guilty of this? Am I guilty of this? In what ways is this mindset hurting me?

My reflections led me to these conclusions. Perhaps you will relate. Perhaps you could add to the list. But here are just a few of my observations.

Yesterday’s creativity will not sustain me

Creativity is the life-blood in leadership. The creativity I had thirty years ago when I was first starting my leadership journey may have served me well then, but it has no bearing on the creativity I need to succeed today. The landscape today is much different.

Leadership Checkup: Are you availing yourself of every opportunity to grow and learn new things?

Yesterday’s structure will not carry me

Leadership and management styles have drastically changed over the past few decades. The flow charts of top-down, bottom-up have mostly been replaced by more lateral lines with collaboration as the approach of choice by many.

Richard Branson observed: “People often remark to me that it’s great how Virgin thinks outside the box. They are genuinely surprised when I tell them, “Actually we don’t! We just never let the box get built in the first place.’”

Leadership Checkup: Are you relying on yesterday’s structures to guide you today or are you finding new approaches to new problems?

Yesterday’s attitude will not equip me

The attitude, faith, and mindset I needed all those years ago may have been sufficient at the time, but no longer. Not because I have arrived, but because my goals, dreams, and aspirations of today demand it. Going to a higher level of achievement requires an exchange. And it will be required in your leadership as well. The exchange will be to give up some things from the past that you loved in order to have the growth and success you desire today.

Leadership Checkup: What attitudes and mindsets of the past do you need to let go? Are you still surrounded with people whose mindsets are holding you back?

Quotes about yesterday

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, I was a different person then”. – Lewis Carroll

“What worked yesterday doesn’t always work today”. – Elizabeth Gilbert

“…But this one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”. – Philippians 4:13

“You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re thinking about yesterday”. – Charles Kettering

“Yesterday was not your defining moment. The calendar moved forward; why not you?”. – Steve Maraboli

A final word

We gain wisdom, understanding, and perspective from our past, For better or for worse, our past shapes us. While it’s certainly appropriate to reflect on the good things in our past, we must live in the moment and be forward in our thinking. It’s also time to let go of the past with all of its mistakes and failures and seize the moment that a new day brings. The challenge in leadership is to never stop growing, learning, adapting, and applying all that we can.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In A Word: Listening

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One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill

A word about listening

Listening. Yes, I know, it’s a leadership topic that’s been tackled by the best of them for a very long time. But read up on any of the current writings about employee engagement, bad bosses, what causes people to leave their jobs, etc., and usually in the mix somewhere is the issue of listening – or the lack thereof.

At its core, listening is one of the most basic soft skills in leadership. If offered, it would be a 101 leadership course in college. Unfortunately, it’s not.

I asked an aspiring manager in a prominent retail chain some time ago what was the most frustrating thing she dealt with as it related to her direct reports. Without hesitation, she conveyed that they just don’t listen. How many of you can relate to her plight?

As leaders, intuitively we know that listening is a priority. Yet, our lives are structured in such a way that listening is an afterthought. Simply put, we are just too busy. Unfortunately, many leaders make the mistake of believing it’s more important that they are heard, therefore, failing at one of the most important things that they can do – listen.

Here are three reminders on why listening is a key ingredient to your leadership. I hope that it is helpful to you.

Listening empowers your people

If you want your people to feel empowered then listen to them. So long as they feel that they have a voice and it’s being respected and heard then you will win them over. When your people are empowered they will go to great lengths to serve you and your organization. Listening creates buy-in. It’s a momentum builder. If you want to empower you people listen to your people.

Listening keeps you grounded

This is the trap that far too many leaders fall into. It’s when you stop listening that you lose touch with what’s going on around you. When you stop listening to all voices and only a few voices, then how can you truly benefit? Soon, the only voices you hear are the ones telling you only what you want to hear. When this happens, your leadership is diminished. Keep the doors to your leadership open with your ears and with an open mind. Often time the best ideas and input flow into your office, not out of it.

Listening keeps you connected

Much like staying grounded, listening keeps you connected to your people. You never want to be so far removed from your people that you don’t hear their heartbeat. To listen to your people is to know your people. When you stop listening to your people, you stop knowing your people. Don’t be so far removed from their heartbeat that they no longer hear yours. Because if you do, then you are only presiding over your own demise as a leader. Stay close, stay connected, and keep listening.

Listening quotes

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemmingway

“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak”. – Simon Sinek

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. – Stephen R. Covey

“If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear”. – Winnie the Pooh

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking”. – Bernard M. Baruch

A final word

The only way listening becomes a strong leadership skill is when we become intentional about it. Remove distractions. Show respect. Put your cell phone away. Look your people in the eye and let them talk. These are just basic courtesies that we need to return to. But we have to look past the basic “how-to’s” and get to a deeper understanding of the greater benefits and how listening impacts us as leaders.

What do you say?

©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In A Word: Vulnerable

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I found that the more truthful and vulnerable I was, the more empowering it was for me. – Alanis Morissette

A word about being vulnerable

I read where Will Rogers’ stage specialty used to be rope tricks. One day, on stage, in the middle of his act, he got tangled in his lariat. Instead of getting upset, he drawled, “A rope ain’t so bad to get tangled up in if it ain’t around your neck.” The audience roared. Encouraged by the warm reception, Rogers began adding humorous comments to all his performances. It was the comments, not the rope tricks, that eventually made him famous.

As leaders, we tend to get ourselves into predicaments that are hard to escape precisely due to our obsession with protecting our image. Our greatest leadership strength can be found not in faking perfection but in embracing our own vulnerabilities.

Think for a moment about how different your leadership would look if you dropped the pretense of perfection and having all of the answers in exchange for authentic leadership. Imagine how different your life would be.

Allow me to explore a few ways in which being vulnerable can strengthen your leadership and why it matters.

Vulnerability empowers you as a leader

Think for a moment about the qualities you look for most of the leaders in your life. Melanie Curtin identified the top four qualities that millennials are looking for in an article for Inc. The top four qualities were mentoring, a gentle spirit, authenticity, and integrity,

All four of those qualities are essential to good leadership. When a leader is vulnerable these qualities will shine through. After all, how can you be an authentic leadership without being vulnerable?

If you want to gain respect and earn the trust of the people you lead, you will have to drop the mask and forget about the glittering image and get real.

Vulnerability puts the humanity into your leadership

Some of the most impactful lessons I have learned in leadership over the years from my mentors were not the great success stories they shared. It was the stories of their defeats, failures, and setbacks that inspired me. Why? Because they failed? No. It was inspiring because it allowed me to see them as human and that if they can fail, recover, and succeed then I could as well. It built my confidence.

Being vulnerable as a leader doesn’t mean that you make excuses for your failures or that you lower the bar on your goals or aspirations. Being vulnerable means that you allow your people to see the good, the bad, and the ugly, and still be inspired by your leadership.

Vulnerability creates connections in your leadership

Vulnerability opens up a whole new realm of leadership for you that just doesn’t come any other way. So long as you are guarded, distant, and protecting your image, then your people will always be made to feel they can never measure up to your example- or at least make it feel it’s out of their reach.

Vulnerability creates connections and builds bridges with your people that will open up doors and relationships that could not happen otherwise.

If you want to grow your influence as a leader then it’s time to be real, time to be genuine, and time to be vulnerable. Most people can spot a phony a long way off.

Vulnerability quotes

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” – Brene’ Brown

“We are at our most powerful the moment the moment we no longer need to be powerful.” – Eric Micha’el Leventhal

“Developing people by investing in them doesn’t mean pretending you have all the answers.” – John Maxwell

“Getting in touch with your true self must be your first priority.” – Tom Hopkins

A final word

Vulnerability in leadership is essential to good leadership. It’s not an expression of weakness, it’s an expression of being empowered as a leader and comfortable in your own skin. Embrace being vulnerable and watch your influence grow.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In a Word: Rest

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Rest and be thankful. – William Wordsworth

A word about rest

Rest -it’s a  sometimes elusive concept for many leaders. Intuitively, we know it to be important, but making the time for it is not easy. The demands on our time tend to overwhelm the best of us. Be it the obligations from work, home, children, etc. it’s a cycle that no one is immune from. Sound familiar?

An article in Entrepreneur magazine highlighted the fact that many employees are less productive due to a lack of sleep. It reported ”that 58 percent of 32,000 workers surveyed said they weren’t getting enough sleep, and 61 percent said that sleep deprivation affected their work. For some, it’s a vicious cycle: 44 percent of workers said that just thinking about work kept them up at night”.

As leaders, we know the value and importance of work. But in the process could it be that we have lost the value and importance of rest? Have you?

As you take into consideration all of the demands of your time perhaps it is also time to take into consideration why rest is such an important element of your leadership. Here is a few reasons worth your consideration.

Rest gives you time to recharge

There’s nothing scientific here that needs to be explained. You simply must remember that you are not invincible and that your mind, body, and spirit needs time to recharge. Give yourself permission to recharge – and be sure to promote it among your team.

Rest gives you time to refresh

A change of pace or location can give you time to not only refresh your body but to refresh your mind and thinking. A refreshed mind can help you see the things going on in your life through a fresh lens.

Rest gives you time to reflect

Every leader needs to take the time to reflect on where he or she is, evaluate how things are going, and what adjustments might need to be made. A tired mind and body can’t properly do this. Make sure you set aside time to rest in order to reflect. Your leadership will benefit greatly from this time.

Rest quotes

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” – Alan Cohen

“Each person deserves a day in which no problems are confronted, no solutions are searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” – Maya Angelou

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

“All that is important comes in quietness and waiting.” – Patrick Lindsay

“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax.” – Bryant McGill

A final word

The buzzwords in most leadership circles revolve around productivity and maximizing the day – getting the most out of it. Afterall, as leaders, it’s what we do what we pride ourselves on. But along the way, don’t lose sight of the fact that you need rest in order to make it happen. Rest for the sake of your leadership and the productivity you desire.


©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In a Word: Wisdom

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The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. – Socrates

A Word about wisdom

In leadership, as in any other discipline, there’s an abundance of available knowledge. There are more voices speaking on the topic today as never before. Be it books, magazines, podcasts, or blogs, the supply is endless.

While that may be great for the consumer, the real challenge rests with its usefulness- how do we bridge the gap between knowledge and application? How do we resolve the disconnect between resources at our fingertips and the wisdom required to apply it?

It reminds me of the story of automaker Henry Ford. He asked electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory.

One day the generators ground to a halt, and the repairmen couldn’t find the problem.  So Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life–but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz. Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted car maker inquired why the bill was so high.

Steinmetz’s reply: “For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990”. Ford paid the bill.

Leadership comes with many challenges and moving parts. Knowing where to tinker is the byproduct of good leadership – knowing the why and when, is the wisdom of leadership.

So as you consider the necessity of wisdom in leadership, take these points into consideration.

The wisdom of your leadership is found in thinking long

Thinking long gives you the opportunity to thoroughly vet new ideas and solidify long range goals. It puts things in its proper context. The value of thinking long is that it gives deeper perspective. It can also save you from the fallout of uninformed flash decisions.

The wisdom of your leadership is found in sound judgment

No leader wants to be behind the curve as it relates to change, new ideas, and being relevant. While it’s tempting to run with the latest trends, the wisdom that you need in leadership helps you to discern whether it’s the right time or even worth pursuing.

The wisdom of your leadership is found in knowing where to tinker

Acquiring the knowledge of leadership is easy. Knowing where to tinker is wisdom. There is some knowledge that can only be attained from experience and in some cases the “school of hard knocks”. Whenever we try to rush the process or think we know it all, we set ourselves up for a fall.

The wisdom of your leadership flows from the heart

Wisdom comes from learning and experience. We must bridge the gap between what we know in our heads and get to the heart of leadership. This takes time and can’t be rushed. There are just some things about leadership – how to lead people, build relationships, etc., that come no other way. (Read “Start With Low Fences” where I give advice for young aspiring leaders).

Wisdom quotes

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you, love her, and she will watch over you”. – Proverbs 4:6

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”. – Henry David Thoreau

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them”.- John Maxwell

“There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart”. – Charles Dickens

“Patience is the companion of wisdom”. – St. Augustine

A final word

Wisdom is a necessary companion to leadership. It will help you, protect you, and serve you well. Don’t get so caught up in what you know or think you know, seek to gain wisdom because it’s the one thing that will keep you grounded and humble.



©2018 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership In a Word: Limitations

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Life has no limitations, except the ones you make. – Les Brown

A word about limitations

One of the challenges in leadership is learning how to leverage your limitations. The more you grow as a leader, the more responsibilities you acquire. This means you give up certain rights in the process. It’s taking the old-school leadership pyramid where the leader is at the top and turning it upside down.

When one normally thinks of limitations it’s done so in a negative connotation. It often implies some type of handicap or restriction is holding you back. But that is not necessarily the case.

As a leader, having limitations does not mean you won’t be successful. It just means that success it will look different to you. It will come in different ways. It’s all about how you leverage your limitations. But how? Here are two different ways to think about leveraging your limitations.

Limitations help you to share the responsibilities

As you come to understand your role as a leader, which is fewer rights and more responsibilities, you come to learn how to include more people in the process. You are now in a position extend and expand your influence. When you do this you become stronger as a result.

Leveraging your limitations is about bringing people together to do what you can’t do alone. What may be a limitation for you is now a tremendous opportunity for the team. Where once before it was about leveraging yourself for success, you are now positioning your team for success. It may seem inconsequential, but the payoff can make a huge difference.

Limitations help you discover your strengths

The traditional view of limitations bends toward restrictions placed on a person- what they can’t do. But I believe that your limitations can expose you to your strengths – what you are really good at. It’s all about your point of view.

Reader’s Digest some time ago shared a story about George B. Dantzig. During his first year of graduate study at the University of California at Berkeley, he arrived late for a statistics class. He saw two problems on the blackboard. Assuming they were homework, he copied them and a few days later turned in his solutions. One Sunday morning six weeks afterward, the professor appeared at Dantzig’s door, waving a manuscript. It turned out that the professor had merely written two examples of unsolvable problems on the blackboard. The manuscript was Dantzig’s work readied for publication.

Fortunately for Dantzig, he was not in class when the professor told the students that the problems could not be solved. You leverage your leadership and your limitations when you discover your strengths and stop listening to people who tell you what you can’t do or accomplish.

Limitation quotes

“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” – Amelia Earhart

“Set high standards and few limitations for yourself.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

“There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge.” – Napoleon Hill

“”Out of limitations comes creativity.” – Debbie Allen

“If we can see past preconceived limitations, then the possibilities are endless.” – Amy Purdy

A final word

Often time the greatest limitations we have are the ones we create by our mindsets and attitudes. If you want to overcome your limitations begin there. Every other limitation you face is a creative opportunity to increase your leadership and influence. Don’t allow your limitations to define who you are and who you can become.


© 2018 Doug Dickerson

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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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