Five Traits of Extra Mile Leaders


There are no shortcuts on the extra mile – Zig Ziglar

Bob Kuechenberg, the former Miami Dolphins great, once explained what motivated him to go to college. “My father and uncle were human cannonballs in carnivals. My father told me, “go to college or be a cannonball.” Then one day my uncle came out of the cannon, missed the net and hit the Ferris wheel, I decided to go to college.”

The way you tap into your motivation as a leader may not be as drastic for you as it was for Bob Kuechenberg, but tapping into it is necessary nonetheless.  Going the extra mile as a leader is what will set you apart from the rest of the pack and will take you farther than you could have without it.

So what traits do “extra mile” leaders possess? Here is a sampling of a few that I believe are essential. It’s not an exhaustive list but is a good place to start.

Extra mile leaders are proactive

Extra mile leaders take the initiative in getting things done. They prefer to tackle issues head-on rather than assume a reactionary posture. Extra mile leaders are out front on understanding the culture of their organization and the needs of the people they serve. They don’t wait to be told or asked, they see what needs to be done and they do it.

Extra mile leaders possesses a contagious enthusiasm

What sets extra mile leaders apart from mediocre leaders-every time, is a passion and enthusiasm for what they do. Their attitudes are positive and their temperament is even-handed. An extra mile leader in your organization with enthusiasm and passion will be the benchmark for the rest of your team. Without extra mile leaders your work will be hard but with them your team can see extra-ordinary results. Extra mile leaders bring out the best in those they serve.

Extra mile leaders put the team first

Extra mile leaders by and large are selfless in that their motivation and their proactive ways are done with the intent of benefitting the team. Yes, there can be exceptions when what motivates an individual is selfish in nature. But by and large, extra mile leaders have a broad understanding of the mission and vision of the organization and their extra mile sacrifices are for the benefit of the group. Of course, it pays dividends in the long run as all hard work and effort does, but it’s not the prime motivation. Extra mile leaders put their colleagues first.

Extra mile leaders have an attitude of excellence

Extra mile leaders are not satisfied with the status quo nor do they settle for what is merely acceptable. Extra mile leaders have a compelling desire to be the best personally and professionally. At times it can be misinterpreted by those without the extra mile mentality as self-serving, grand-standing, or posturing, etc. but at their core, the extra mile leader cares deeply and truly wants to advance the team in the right direction.

Extra mile leaders have found their purpose

Extra mile leaders have not only tapped into their passion but have taken it a step further in discovering their purpose. Extra mile leaders intuitively understand that it’s not about what they “do” that defines them or motivates them to go the extra mile. Extra mile leaders are those who have embraced the blessing and gift of their Creator and have committed themselves to living their life in such a way that honors it.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.”

What you are capable of becoming as an extra mile leader is realized when you worry less about what you do and care more for the life you have to live and the ways in which you can serve others. When you do, the results will speak for itself.

Are you an extra mile leader?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson






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People Business 101


The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog – Frederick the Great

Writing in The Book of Business Anecdotes, Peter Hay shares a story that back in the 1950’s, marketing whiz Stanley Arnold was working at Young & Rubicam, where he was asked to come up with a marketing campaign for Remington Rand. The company was among the most conservative in America. Its chairman at the time was a retired General Douglas MacArthur.

Intimidated at first by a company that was so much a part of America, Arnold also found in that phrase the first inspiration for a campaign. After thinking about it, he went to the New York offices of Merrill Lynch, Fenner and Beane, where he told the broker, “I want to purchase one share of every single stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange.”

After a vice president tried to talk him out of it, the order was finally placed. It came to more than $42,000 for one share of the 1098 companies listed at the time. Arnold now took his diversified portfolio into a meeting of Remington Rand’s board of directors, where he argued passionately for a sweepstakes campaign with the top prize called A Share in America.

The old gentlemen shifted around in their seats and discussed the idea for a while.  “But Mr. Arnold,” said one, “we are not in the securities business.” Another said, “We are in the shaver business.”

“I agree that you are not in the securities business,” said Arnold, “but I think you also ought to realize that you are not in the shaver business either. You are in the people business.” The company bought the idea.

As a leader when you grasp and understand this simple but sometimes elusive reality of business it will be a difference maker for you. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day procedures and maintenance of business (the what) that we forget the why (vision and values) and fail to nurture the who of business – people. Here are three essential reminders to help you stay focused.

People are the purpose of your business; serve them.

At times this is a concept lost on many leaders. Crystalizing a key point on this topic is the former president of Starbucks International, Howard Behar. In his book, It’s Not About The Coffee, he writes, “At Starbucks we’re in the human service business, not the customer service business.” That’s the distinction. Behar adds, “I’ve always said, we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee.”

It’s when you serve people and treat them the way you would like to be treated that you will be fulfilling the tenants of excellent customer service. But it’s a point so simple we often overlook it. When your focus is on people and not your product the people will take care of your product.

People are the fuel of your business; invest in them.

In his book, Up, Down, or Sideways, my friend Mark Sanborn explains, “Selling creates a transaction. Service–how we treat and care for that person-creates a customer. Without the customer, all is lost. Remember: no customers, no profit. Know customers, know profit. So making a connection with the customer becomes vital to the initial transaction and, more important, to the continued loyalty to your organization or brand.”

Smart leaders are all about building relationships. A person’s association to your product will take a backseat to their relationship with you as a person. When you nurture relationships above all else you are placing value where it belongs. Invest in people and they will invest in you.

People are the future of your business; be faithful to them.

If not careful, leaders can have a narrow view of loyalty and only see it flowing one way – towards them. But may I remind you that loyalty is a two-way street and the best way to receive it is to give it. Be loyal to your people and they will be loyal to you. It’s that simple.

Og Mandino said, “Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” Leaders who deliver their service with a servant’s heart will never go wrong. Faithfully deliver your best and the people you serve will reward you.

Are you a people person?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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Three Crutches That Will Sink Your Leadership


I don’t know any other way to lead but by example – Don Shula

A turkey is chatting with a bull, “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well,” replied the bull, “why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings? They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. But he was promptly spotted by a hunter, who shot him down out of the tree.

The moral of the story: BS might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

One of the worst mistakes aspiring leaders make is the quest to get to the “top” without the benefit of the wisdom and leadership skills necessary to sustain them once they do. So instead of relying on strong leadership and relational skills they fall back on crutches that do more harm than good. Here are three of the most common crutches that will sink your leadership.

The crutch of your position

This is perhaps one of the most common crutches aspiring leaders depend on. It’s much too easy to throw your weight around as a leader by playing the “positon” card rather than putting in the time to develop stronger leadership skills. It’s much easier to issue decrees from behind closed doors than it is to get out from behind the desk and build relationships and get to know your people.

Your position is not the end game of your leadership – it’s the beginning. Your position is not your destination. Positons come and go and at the end of the day what matters is that you have skill sets in place that render your position or title as secondary compared to the extra-ordinary influence you have that is born out of relationships.

Leadership Tip: The harder you work at developing your skill sets with people the less you will have to rely on your position.

The crutch of entitlement

The crutch of entitlement is the by-product of the crutch of your position. Once a leader has bought-in to the belief that he or she has arrived simply based upon a title is the day he or she begins to develop a sense of entitlement that they believe their title confers. This is a devastating view of leadership.

Here’s the truth- the higher you ascend in your organizational structure and the more your leadership influence will grow and the more responsibility you will have. It’s not a power grab for your personal entitlement, it is a call to servant leadership. It’s not about what’s in it for you, it’s about growing others around you.

Leadership Tip: The measure of your leadership is not about what you believe you are entitled to but in how you can serve others more effectively.

The crutch of the rule book

The crutch of the rule book is one of the most detrimental crutches that a leader can evoke in his or her organization. It is the crutch that stifles creativity, which builds walls instead of bridges, and puts the lid of growth. The crutch of the rule book lives by “the manual says…” instead of igniting creative and imaginative thinking.

Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks International, espouses a “play book” instead of a rule book, and I agree. It’s when your people are empowered and trusted that they will shine the brightest. A play book is empowering and is based on trust. Beyond that, it gives you options. A rule book locks you in and is tightly controlled.

Leadership Tip: Develop a play book with your team. Foster a culture of innovation and creativity. Be a leader who unleashes the potential of your people.

Here’s one last take-away about leadership and crutches that I’ve learned over the years. Getting rid of the crutches is like taking the training wheels off a bike. At first, you may think you can’t ride the bike without them but in due time you will wonder why you held on to them for so long.

Whatever your leadership crutch may be- dare to identify it, and dare to let it go. You will be glad you did.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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On Becoming a Relevant Leader



There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way. – Nelson Mandela

When Irving S. Olds was chairman of the U.S. Steel Corporation, he arrived for a stockholders’ meeting and was confronted by a woman who asked, “Exactly who are you and what do you do?” Without batting an eye, Olds replied, “I am your chairman. Of course, you know the duties of a chairman–that’s someone who is roughly the equivalent of parsley on a platter of fish.”

The pretense in Irving S. Olds answer may have satisfied the inquisitive woman, but it is a relevant question for leaders today. Understandably, the people you lead need to know who you are and what you do. If not, they will not follow you. But beyond that, it’s imperative that you know the answer.

The fact is, every leader wants to be relevant. I’ve yet to meet a leader who did not want to be at his or her best and make an impact. The issue of relevance however is not about satisfying your ego or building yourself up at the expense of knocking someone else down.

The measure of your relevance as a leader may be open to subjective interpretation by some people. That being said, the measure of your relevance is not about how others see you but how you answer these four questions. It’s not an exhaustive set of questions by which to gauge your relevance as a leader but it’s a good place to start.

Do I know my “why?”

Simon Sinek popularized the idea in his book, Start With Why, and it has revolutionized the lives of many with the discovery. So the question is, “Why do I do what I do?” Put another way, “What drives and inspires you?” It’s a question every leader must answer.

Until you know the answer it will be hard to lead and consequently it will be hard to be relevant. Until you know the “why” of your life in leadership it will be difficult for others to know why they should follow you. Being relevant in the lives of the people you lead begins by being honest with yourself. Know your “why”.

Are my values clear?

Having a clear set of values is what keeps you grounded as a leader. When your values are clear then decision-making becomes much easier. Values-based decisions are made not by what is expedient or popular but by a governing set of principles.

Unfortunately, some leaders fall into the trap of confusing being popular for being relevant. The two could not be more different. If you want to be relevant as a leader in the 21st century then be a leader with a clear set of values and stick to them. If your values are not clear then your leadership will be uncertain. Relevance begins with clearly defined values.

Am I building relationships?

Leaders are busy people. I get it. But the day you become too busy to connect and build relationships with your people is the day you become irrelevant in their eyes. Building relationships is time consuming and is hard work. But consider the consequences if you don’t.

Your relevance as a leader is tied to your ability and desire to build relationships with the people you lead. The greater the desire and effort the greater relevance and impact you will have. It’s not complicated. I realize you will not have deep personal relationships with everyone on your team, but as a leader you should always remember that people are your most appreciable asset. How you connect and build relationships will make a world of difference. If you want to be relevant to your people get connected to them. There are no shortcuts.

Am I still growing?

Your ability to connect and be relevant with your people hinges on your growth and development as a leader. How are you growing the leader within you? The simple truth is this: you can’t give what you don’t have. If you are not growing as a leader your relevance as a leader will suffer

Be proactive and intentional in your growth as a leader. Make reading good leadership books a priority, find good leadership podcast to listen to, subscribe to good magazines to read such as Success. Your growth and development as a leader will set you apart as a leader. Your relevance as a leader depends on it.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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Six Ways to Rise Above Your Critics


To escape criticism- do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard

A story is told of Winston Churchill and his extraordinary integrity in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill. They say he is getting senile. They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”

Critics. Every leader has them and every leader will. How you respond to critics is an important component of your leadership development. It’s all too easy to get defensive when critics rub us the wrong way or misunderstand us. But can you appreciate a critic when he or she is right? Rising above your critics takes courage. Here are six ways to do it.

Keep a positive attitude.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude,” is a famous Zig Ziglar quote. How high and how far you go as a leader will be determined by your attitude. Nothing will give you a bad attitude any quicker than a wrong reaction to a critic. Basic things you will want to know regarding a critic are the source, the accuracy, the ramifications, and your reaction – if there even needs to be one. Regardless, stay positive and focused on the big picture.

Stay true to your values.

Don’t allow your critics to throw you off of your game. Stay grounded and connected to the values that have guided you to where you are. Values do not change but are guideposts when your circumstances do. The values and principles that brought you to where you are will keep you there so handle your critics with that in mind.

Speak no evil.

Seriously? Yes. Engaging in mud-slinging with your critics only hurts you in the long run. Unless what they have spoken or done is libelous then don’t waste your time in a verbal battle. Be content in knowing that the truth is on your side. There is no greater satisfaction than in knowing that you can look yourself in the mirror and lay your head down at night with a peace that comes from knowing you did the right thing regardless of how others behaved.

Don’t retaliate.

There will be times when you will want (and those close to you) to retaliate against critics. There is something about human nature that wants to fight back and get revenge and settle the score. I get it. But again, the end result will never be good for you. As hard as it may be there are times when you just have to let it go. Don’t worry if you lose a battle today, you are going to win the war if you keep your heart right.

Give them more ammo.

Most of the critics you will encounter are simply those who have some kind of vendetta or jealousy directed toward you. As opposed to stooping down to their level why not give them more ammo? As you do the right thing by continuing to work hard and by exhibiting good leadership, you will only become more successful. Nothing will annoy your critics more than your continued success.

Don’t lose your sense of humor.

One of the most important leadership skills you can develop is a sense of humor. Churchill exhibited it towards the men who spoke ill of him. Bill Cosby said, “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” Your critics will stir up a wide range of emotions and reactions that you will want to run with. But if you laugh – at them, and at yourself, half the battle is won.

What do you say?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson


*This column is a “Best Of” and was originally posted in 2015.


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Leadership Toolkit: When the Visionary Leader Meets the Strategic Leader


Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. – Warren Bennis

About 350 years ago, as the story is told, a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build the road westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome hardships to get there. But in a few short years were not able to see five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision.

Visionary leaders (those who see the big picture) and strategic leaders (those who create the plan) are essential for the future growth and development of any organization. But can the two co-exist? It can be a challenging relationship but not an impossible one if you follow these basic rules of engagement.

Embrace your differences

Visionary leaders tend to be your charismatic type leaders who can cast the vision with great enthusiasm and confidence. They have a clear picture in their heart and mind of where they are going and why you should too.

But visionary leaders can at times be hard to work with. In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan M. Webber writes, “Great idea people are rare- and also frequently hard to live with. They see things the rest of us can’t see, which is their gift. They can’t see what you and I see easily, which is their burden. Still, you need them and they need a home where they can contribute.”

Strategic leaders can be a great asset to the visionary leader by breaking down the vision into doable and measurable action steps which creates the vision. The strategic leader is the one who puts the puzzle together.

Leadership key: Your differences are your strengths. Embrace them and work together. You need each other.

Build a bridge

What strategic leaders and visionary leaders need is a way to connect. The divide between ideas and implementation must be joined. There has to be a way as Webber says to “build a bridge the great ideas can walk across from those who have to those who can make them real.”   For the vision to materialize this is a necessity. So what is a leader to do?

The vision needs a strategic plan. It has to be clearly communicated and thoroughly understood before the pieces of the puzzle can be created. From there roles can be assigned and teams put into place, and the execution can begin. The hard part will come later.

Leadership key: Before you build your vision build your relationships. The vision rises and falls on the strength of your communication and relationships.

Give each other space

The role of the visionary leader is not the same as the strategic leader, and vice versa. The relationship is one of isolation and interdependency. Boundaries must be set, observed, and protected while at the same time staying bridged with a unified goal and vision. It’s tricky.

The temptation of the visionary leader is to tinker, mettle, and tweak. Their greatest asset can now become their greatest liability. While they are excellent at creating the vision they can be terrible at designing the plan. As long as they keep interjecting themselves into the details of execution they will stifle the execution.

Strategic leaders thrive on creating the plan and seeing it come into existence. The visionary leader has to learn to give this person the space they need to work. It is a relationship of necessity, one of complexity, but most of all trust. The partnership will only survive if it’s built on mutual trust. The respective leaders have to know how to embrace a shared vision but then give each other the space needed to bring it to pass. When they do it can lead to overwhelming success.

Leadership key: Out of respect give each other space. Out of trust let each other work.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

  • This is a “Best Of” column originally posted in 2015.
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Five Keys to Engaging Your Team


Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. – Bill Bradley

A recent Gallup story ( revealed that less than one third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. While that was an improvement over 2013 figures, a majority of employees, 51%, were still “not engaged” and 17.5% were “actively disengaged” in 2014 – according to the story.

It goes without saying that employee engagement is critical to the success of any organization. But with numbers like these it makes the leadership challenge more pronounced. How you position yourself as a leader is essential. Your engagement can’t be underestimated.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” The secret to your success is your people. They secret to their success is you–getting out of their way. Walking the tightrope of leadership is definitely a challenge but not impossible if are ready to get in the trenches and engage your people. They need a compelling reason to be engaged. Here’s where to start.

Your team needs a compelling leader

Before your team can buy in to your vision they first must buy in to you. If you do not inspire them to dream beyond their own limitations and work for a greater cause and purpose then don’t expect them to be engaged in something that makes no sense to them. If your people aren’t connected to you they won’t be connected to your vision.

Your team needs a compelling vision

Your team members must have a compelling vision if you want them to be engaged. When your people know the purpose behind what they are doing they will do it with passion. The formula breaks down like this:  T (tasks) +P (passion) = E (engagement).  T (tasks) – P (passion) = W (work). Passionless work leads to disengaged teams. Your team needs a clear vision of where they are going and why.

Your team needs a compelling example

Your team members need a leader who not only points the way but walks the road with his or her people. They need a leader who sees what they see, hears what they hear, feels what they feel, and shows by example that they have skin in the game. Bridging the gap with disconnected team members and you as a leader begins by setting the example. If you are not engaged then why should they be?

Your team needs a compelling trust

Your team needs to know that you trust them and that you have their backs. Nothing will lead to disengagement faster than a leader who does not empower and trust his people. It is your responsibility as a leader to set the bar high and hold people accountable. When your level of trust exceeds your level of expectation then your people will outperform your dreams. Empower your people with trust and engagement will rise with it.

Your team needs a compelling culture

It’s not a secret that the key to any thriving organization is one that is built on strong community. Strong relationships are the key to your success. When your team is centralized around strong leadership that sets the example, when your purpose is clear, and trust abounds, you have a culture that is ripe for success.

An engaged team needs compelling reasons for the journey. Begin with the ones I’ve outlined and build upon them. Your success depends upon it.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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