Choose One Chair – Becoming a Leader of Destiny

Credit: Google Images

Credit: Google Images

“Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.”- “Yesterday”, by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

In Guidepost magazine a number of years back Luciano Pavarotti relates a story from when he was a boy and his father introduced him to the wonders of song.  He recounts, “He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’ “‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’ “I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book–whatever we choose–we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”

At some point every leader has that moment of awakening when one chair wins over another. The process of getting there will vary person to person, but that day will ultimately come.

Your growth and development as a leader is a fluid process. Foundational character principles that guide you on your journey will not change, but for the sake of future growth and development as a leader you must be open to change and new ideas.

As leaders we also know that the only constant is change. What worked for you in years past may not be sufficient today. If you are content to just “phone it in” and coast as a leader on how it was done in years gone by then you may like have lost your edge. So what is a leader to do? Here are three basic questions you need to answer. Reaching your destiny as a leader may very well depend on it.

Is yesterday’s passion enough?

Passion is the fuel of your leadership. With it the sky is the limit in terms of your potential and destiny. It’s what keeps you up late at night and gets you up early in the morning. It’s the “why” that gives your life meaning and purpose.

Yet perhaps the wear and tear of the daily grind has taken its toll on you. Perhaps your dreams haven’t been realized and you feel there is no use in going forward. Let me encourage you today to buy-in to the words of Joel Osteen when he said, “If you’re alive and breathing, you can still become everything God has created you to be.” Becoming a leader of destiny requires a new passion going forward. While the passion you started out with may have been sufficient at the time; today’s goals, dreams, and destiny will require more.

Is yesterday’s attitude adequate?

If passion is the fuel of your leadership then your attitude determines your mileage. How far you go is about possessing the right attitude. Your attitude in years gone by may have served you well up to a point, but to get to the next level you may have to step it up a notch.

Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine you altitude.” And that is the secret to achieving your leadership destiny. Leaders who have stood the test of time understand the importance of a positive attitude. Every leader has also dealt with the challenges-both internally and externally, of right thinking. Your attitude will cause you to reach your destiny as a leader or it will prevent it. Be sure it’s a good one.

Is yesterday’s mindset working?

One of the greatest threats to your leadership today is holding on to a “this is the way we’ve always done it” approach of years gone by. Evolving as a leader is not about disrespecting the past but has everything to do with letting it go for the sake of your future.

While values are timeless your methods must be current and relevant to today’s world. Are you still open to new ideas? Do you still have the attitude of a student who is humble enough to learn? Don’t forfeit the destiny that could be yours because of limited thinking. Stay current, be relevant, and keep growing.

When Pavarotti chose his one chair it changed the course of his life. It was that singular decision that put his destiny in motion. In like fashion you must choose your one chair and make sure that you have the right levels of passion, attitude, and mindset to take you to the top.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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What I Wish I Knew About Leadership 30 Years Ago

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare

One of the benefits of aging (not that I am old) is attaining a certain amount of wisdom that can be garnered from it. Being able to look back over a certain span of time and reflect on where you’ve come and lessons learned can be instrumental in how you look to the future. Sharing those life lessons to a new generation of leaders can be invaluable.

The late George Burns once said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” That’s a great philosophy. But the aging process ultimately takes a toll on all of us.

What are some of the signs that you are getting older? Here are a few I came across that are my favorites: You know you’re getting older when… everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work; the gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals; when you feel like the morning after and you haven’t been anywhere; your children begin to look middle aged; your favorite part of the newspaper is “20 Years Ago Today”; you sit in a rocking chair and can’t get it going; and finally, your knees buckle and your belt won’t.

I’ve been reflecting lately on the things about leadership I wish I knew back in my twenties that I now know. If I had understood them better it would have saved me a lot of grief and heartache along the way. Here are a few things about leadership I wish I had known.

I don’t always have to be right.

I know many in their twenties who think they know it all. I was one of them way too often. With the passing of time I have learned how much I don’t know. What I wish I knew back then was that my formal education was only the beginning. The real educational experience began after graduation –it’s called the real world. I wish I knew in my twenties just how little I knew, and that I didn’t always have to be right.

Building bridges is more practical than burning them

I wish I knew in my twenties the depth and breadth of how important relationships are in leadership. Sadly at times, it was a “my way or the highway” attitude that culminated in sad endings. As I’ve grown older the more I understand and care about building healthy relationships. I’ve grown to appreciate connecting with like-minded people and building more bridges between them and others.

Titles don’t mean a lot

What I thought was important in my twenties was acquiring a title- that somehow that validated my leadership. With that was the idea that my position commanded respect, admiration, and approval. I was wrong. In hindsight after 30 years I understand that a position without respect, trust, and integrity are meaningless. I’d stop chasing titles and positions and focus more on serving others.

Forgiveness is a virtue

Taking up the mantle of leadership is risky business. With all of the joys and rewards associated with it, also come disappointments and frustrations. In my twenties when I was wronged it was hard not to take it personal and not hold a grudge. What I wish I had known back then was that my unforgiveness was not hurting the person who offended me, it was hurting me instead. Life is too short to hold grudges and be mad. Forgive and move on. And remember, you will need to be forgiven at some point.

It’s not about me

The narcissism of my twenties has given way to the “selfie” narcissism we see in today’s culture. Back in my twenties, of course, there were no cell phones, internet, Facebook, etc. But the leadership principle remains. What I wish I knew then that I know now is that the ultimate act of my leadership is not what I do for myself but in what I do for others. My leadership is not meant to be self-serving but rather what I can do to add value to the lives of those around me.

One thing is certain–life in leadership is a continual learning process. Wherever you are on your journey, never stop growing.

What lessons have you learned?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

*This column was originally posted in 2015. This upcoming week is my birthday week and I share this from a nostalgic point of view.

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone – Stepping Into Your Destiny

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Leadership is all about taking people on a journey. The challenge is that most of the time, we are asking people to follow us to places we ourselves have never been. – Andy Stanley

In our respective leadership circles we hear a lot about stepping out of our comfort zones. “It’s where the magic happens,” we are told. And yet for whatever reason we are reluctant to leave the comforts of what we know and fail to experience all that we could. Sound familiar?

Peter was such person in Scripture that a lot of us can identify with. He was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus to follow Him. That alone is an impressive resume builder. More than that, Peter was one of three (Peter, James, and John) who were really close to Jesus. That made him uniquely special. He was part of the inner circle.

For all of these impressive qualifiers there is also a side to Peter I am more prone to identify with. Peter is very much human- a hot head, one who likes to speak his mind. Jesus had a knack for choosing ordinary people. I like that because it gives me hope. They were a ragtag group of fishermen and a tax collector. A traveling band of brothers. World changers.

In Matthew 14 we read a story where Jesus had his disciples get into a boat and go before Him to the other side of the lake. While making their way to the other side a storm developed and the guys were scared. Get the visual here—they were fishermen by trade. Being in a boat with a developing storm was not new to them. It must have been bad.

In the fourth watch of the night Jesus appeared to them walking on the water. Now they are really afraid. They think they are seeing a ghost. But Jesus speaks to them and tells them not to be afraid (vs.27).

Comfort zones. Think about yours for just a moment. Have you become too comfortable? Have you become too predictable? What is the appeal that keeps you there so that you are not willing to venture out of it? Every possible concern and question Peter faces in this moment are ones you and I can identify with. Let’s explore them.

You will have doubts (vs. 28) “Lord if it is you…”

From the confines of the boat at night during a storm Peter has his doubts. That makes sense. No one is going to fault him on this one. Peter is keeping his cards close to his chest and erring on the side of caution. With his doubts firmly in place, he says to Jesus, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you.”

As leaders we all have our doubts. What will people think? What will they say about me if I try this and fail? What if I screw things up? How will it make me look to my peers? We can massage our doubts in our comfort zones or we can set them aside and get out of the boat. Either way, we will have doubts just like Peter.

You will be challenged (vs. 29) “So He said, ‘Come’…”

For Peter this falls under the category of “be careful what you ask for”. Peter has really stepped in it this time. Jesus takes him up on his offer and commands him to come to Him. What is Peter going to do? In front of his peers Peter makes this appeal and Jesus calls his bluff. Peter has to act.

All leaders face times of testing and challenges. And when you do there comes a time for talk and there comes a time for action. For Peter, the time to act was at hand. Your comfort zone will either keep you in the boat or you can step into your destiny. It’s all up to you.

You will have fears (vs. 30) “He walked on the water…he was afraid…”

Peter takes Jesus up on His offer to step out of the boat and starts walking. Pretty impressive I must admit. I am not so sure I would have done that in the middle of a storm at night. But when he begins to walk he is distracted by the winds and waves. Ya think? As a result, Peter begins to sink.

As leaders we begin to sink when we take our eyes off the ball – the goal, dream, vision, our mission. When all we see is our fears and all we listen to are the voices telling us why it can’t be done we tend to lose our way. When we take our eyes off Jesus we do the same. I don’t fault Peter for his momentary slip. I admire him. He faced his fears and got out of the boat. What fear is keeping you in your comfort zone?

Here are a few take-aways that are important to remember as a leader:

God knows where you are

That the disciples would be in the boat and a storm would come was not lost on Jesus. He knew. And today He knows right where you are. You might be full of doubts, and fears, – even questioning your own abilities, but this is not about you. It’s about placing your hopes, dreams, and goals into more capable hands than yours and trusting Him to do with it what you can’t.

God knows your struggles

We all have struggles as leaders. We all have our imperfections. We each have our own set of doubts, fears, and questions we wrestle with. He knew about the disciples in the storm and He knows what you are up against. God wants to disrupt your comfort zone and stretch your faith as a leader.

God’s timing is perfect

The disciples had been in the boat battling the storm for a long time. You too might be facing opposition, doubts, and difficulties. You might be on the verge of giving up. Jesus didn’t come to the disciples when they wanted Him to, He came when they needed him the most. It’s when we come of the end of ourselves that God shows up and takes us places we never imagined. How different would your comfort zone look if you invited God into it?

Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and into your destiny? Take the first step.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson


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Plowing Through Adversity

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. – Napoleon Hill

An old farmer had plowed around a large rock in one of his fields for years. He had broken several plowshares and a cultivator on it. After breaking another plowshare one fall, and remembering all the trouble the rock had caused him through the years, he finally determined to do something about it. When he put his crowbar under the rock, he was surprised to discover that it was only about six inches thick and that he could break it up easily.

As he was carting it away he had to smile, remembering all the trouble that the rock had caused him and how easy it would have been to get rid of it sooner. There is often a temptation to bypass small obstacles when we’re in a hurry to get a large problem solved. We simply don’t want to stop and take the time to deal with it now. Like the old farmer, we “plow” around it.

If you hang around in leadership long enough you will face more than your fair share of adversity. It comes with the territory. While adversity is part of leadership, so too, is our response to it.

The old farmer teaches us a few leadership principles we should consider as we face adversity. His responses are not unfamiliar. His choices are ours. When it comes to adversity here are our options.

Avoid it

I’ve yet to meet a leader who thrives on adversity. We like to think that our leadership is such that everyone likes us and no adversity will ever come our way. But that’s not the world we live in.

Year after year the old farmer plowed around the rock. It was an obstruction and he avoided it. Sound familiar? To understand the old farmer and his decision is to understand ourselves. How often as leaders do we just plow around issues because we don’t want to deal with it? We don’t want to make the hard decisions or ruffle the wrong feathers. We know we have an issue but we just side-step it.

How’s this approach working for you? Avoidance of adversity doesn’t make it go away. It makes you miserable.

Confront it

One day the old farmer had enough. The time for action was at hand. And what he discovered shocked him. The rock he plowed around for years could have easily been removed a long time ago.

I am not suggesting that every adversity you face will be as easily resolved as the one for the farmer. We know life doesn’t work that way. But until you face your adversities head-on you will never know. Often the problems we face are magnified over time and we become the victims of our own imaginations.

Allow me to encourage you to be like the old farmer. Get off your tractor, lift up the rock, and find out firsthand what you are up against. Don’t assume year after year that the adversity you are up against can’t be removed. The truth is, you will never know until confront it.

Overcome it

What is your tipping point with adversity? What will it take for you to come off the tractor like the old farmer and take a crow bar to the rock of your adversity? At what point do you make your declaration, “No more!”

That is both the challenge and the test to your leadership. It’s how it works. There are no exceptions.

How long it takes to plow through your adversity is hard to predict. Longer of course if you take no action. But adversity in leadership will always be your companion. It will always be nipping at your heels. It’s the price you pay.

In closing let me remind you that on your leadership journey you don’t walk alone. There is hope and your adversity is making you a stronger leader.  Be encouraged by this Franciscan blessing:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson


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Are You Running On Empty?

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary. – Edgar Allen Poe

A first-grader wondered why her father brought home a briefcase full of work every evening. Her mother explained, “Daddy has so much to do that he can’t finish it all at the office.” “Well, then,” asked the child innocently, “why don’t they put him in a slower group?”

Have you ever had one of those days you wish you could be placed in a slower group? I think perhaps we’ve all had one.

It should come as no surprise that there is a high number of people who report burnout at work. A report from Statista ( reveals that as many as 62% of North Americans report high levels of stress. Of course it doesn’t help that workload ranks as the top source of stress for those employees.

So how are you doing? A little weary? Are you feeling the stress? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed? Are you running on empty? What you need is some R.E.S.T. Here are four simple reminders every leader needs to take to heart.

Remember you are only human. As leaders we like to pride ourselves in the quantity of our work. We equate success with how much we produce. But if we are not careful along the way we can take our eye off the ball and the quality of our work begins to suffer. Not good.

Our bodies need time to rest and recharge. As leaders we like to pride ourselves by being the first to arrive and the last to leave and outpace everyone. But we all have our limits. As a leader you are on a journey, not a 50-yard dash. Set your pace, work hard, but don’t forget that you are only human. It’s OK to rest.

Examine your priorities. “Either you run the day,” said Jim Rohn, “or the day runs you.” That is powerful advice for any conscientious leader. Intuitively we know it to be true. But how intentional are we in making it happen? I think sometimes as leaders we can be guilty of bringing much of our fatigue on ourselves because our priorities are misplaced.

How much time do you spend during the course of a day dealing with things that easily could be delegated? The most precious commodity you have is time. Using it wisely can make a world of difference. When you put your priorities in order you can save a lot of time and energy. Get this straightened out quick.

Set boundaries. One of the hardest things a leader learns is how to set boundaries. Perhaps it’s a pride thing. We like being needed and freely dispense our wisdom to anyone who cares to listen whether it makes sense or not. We take on more than we possibly have time for just because we feel like “it’s the right thing to do.”

But here’s the rub- our good intentions don’t always measure up to our energy level. Just as we have to set our priorities we also have to protect our boundaries. So along the way we have to say no to good ideas. We have to take a pass on that extra-curricular activity that competes for our time. Establishing your boundaries is not a task to delegate; it’s a task you own. Are you tired of running on empty? Are you tired of being drained physically, mentally, and emotionally? Define your boundaries and draw your line in the sand. No one is going to do it for you.

Take action. Running on empty? We’ve all been there. Feeling burned out? I know how you feel. No one is immune from these seasons in life, work, and in leadership. But we are not powerless on our path forward. We do have choices.

It’s up to you to know your limitations and act accordingly.

It’s up to you to set your priorities and stop wasting your time and energy.

It’s up to you to protect your boundaries and learn to say no. No one is going to do it for you.

Are you tired of running on empty? Are you sick and tired or being sick and tired? It’s time to fuel up. It’s time to get some R.E.S.T.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson




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The Most Important Person in the Room is Not You

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people- Mary Kay Ash

At age 16 Andor Foldes was already a skilled pianist, but he was experiencing a troubled year. In the midst of the young Hungarian’s personal struggles, one of the most renowned pianists of the day came to Budapest. Emil von Sauer was famous not only for his abilities; he was also the last surviving pupil of the great Franz Liszt. Von Sauer requested that Foldes play for him. Folds obliged with some of the most difficult works of Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann.

When he finished, von Sauer walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead. “My son,” he said, “When I was your age I became a student of Liszt. He kissed me on the forehead after my first lesson, saying, ‘Take good care of this kiss–it comes from Beethoven, who gave it to me after hearing me play.’ I have waited for years to pass on this sacred heritage, but now I feel you deserve it.”

The young Andor Foldes experienced what the average person in your office/organization wants to experience (no, not a kiss!) but validation and approval.

In fact, a report by the American Psychological Association ( found that those who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to be motivated to do their very best (93 percent vs. 33 percent). So how are we doing?

Value. It is a word as leaders we like to kick around. We want to “add value” we say, but in reality, do we? Really?

Are you running a deficit on people skills and showcasing the most important people in your organization? Here are three simple tips that you can put into practice right away that can make all the difference in the world to your people.

Say it

Your people are the most appreciable asset you have. As you interact with your team members, look at them with that invisible sign around their neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ How about a compliment? How about word of encouragement? How about a pat on the shoulder, a look in the eye, and a sincere “Thank you for all that you do. We really appreciate all of your hard work!” Who wouldn’t feel important after an encounter like that?

Leadership tip – Your people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Tell them!

Show it

Your words are nice and your words are important. But you can also make them feel important by your actions. Take time to celebrate your victories along the way and give honor where honor is due. You don’t have to break the bank to make your people feel important but you should be willing to acknowledge your people and the sacrifices they make. Make your people feel important giving them a hand-written note of appreciation with a gift certificate enclosed to their favorite restaurant. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but the acknowledgement lets them know they are important.

Leadership tip – Leaders who are invested their people will have people invested in their leader.

Share it

Making team members feel important is essential to you as a leader. It does wonders for morale and the sense of shared accomplishment is elevated. But you are not the only one who looks upon your team members and sees their value. After 25 years of service one company I know of gives their employees and spouse an all-expense paid dream vacation. Behind every great team member is a significant other who shared in the sacrifice you benefited from. The circle of your success is far more reaching than you might imagine.

Leadership tip – The most important person in the room is not you. It’s everyone who has joined with you, bought into your vision, share your passion, and have cast their lots with you to carve out a future together. It’s them.

Who have you made feel important today?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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In Praise of Second Fiddle Leaders


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Expressions of servant leadership are found when you concede being in the spotlight by putting someone else in it.

Where were you on April 8, 1974 at 9:07 p.m. EST? It might be a stretch for some to remember where they were last weekend, much less on this date 42 years ago, if indeed you were even alive. But I remember the date and time like it was yesterday. I was glued to my TV watching one of my sports heroes make history.

The stadium in Atlanta, Georgia was filled with 53, 775 joyous fans. It was in the fourth inning with a runner on first, when finally it happened- with one powerful swing of the bat – baseball history was made. Hank Aaron hit homerun number 715 into the Braves bullpen in left field. Babe Ruth’s long-standing record was finally broken.

But there is another part of the story that is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Right off the top of your head, can you name the pitcher who threw the ball to Aaron? What team were they playing? On that April night, someone had to be the hero, and someone had to make it possible. That person was left-handed veteran Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Downing had a career ERA of 3.22 with a Win-loss record of 123-107. On this historic night, Al Downing was second fiddle.

Second fiddle. Not a very glamorous sounding title is it? But were it not for untold thousands of people who courageously bear the name, we would not have our heroes to idolize. To be sure, – every quarterback needs a center, every NASCAR driver needs a crew chief, the boxer needs a trainer, etc. Behind and beside every successful person is a second fiddle who helps make it all possible.

Who are the second fiddle people in your organization? Chances are you have already identified this person. They are your most reliable go-to people who make things happen without being asked or told. They have an intuition of what needs to be done and take action. They prefer the shadows over the spotlight and whose job, when completed, make you look better than you are.

I contend that what we need today are more people who play second fiddle. Yes, we need strong leaders out front casting vision, defining the mission, and leading the way. And yes, we need our heroes to cheer who inspire us to be our best. All of my teammates in Little League wanted to be like Hank Aaron.

But in a culture where people clamor for the spotlight perhaps a second look is in order. The backbone of every successful leader, organization, business, and any other worthwhile cause is a dedicated group of people who play second fiddle- the unsung heroes, the real leaders.

So here is to all the second fiddle leaders out there – I write in praise of your leadership. You have conceded the spotlight by putting others in it and by doing so have shown what servant leadership is all about. People may not know your name, or see the tireless contributions you make, but none of it could be done without you.

Al Downing may be a tiny asterisk in the annals of baseball history. But were it not for Al Downing on that April evening 42 years ago you wouldn’t know the history of Hank Aaron. We need more players willing to step up the big leagues and play second fiddle. Are you game?

By the way, the Braves won the game 7-4.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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