Being Present: Why It Matters To Your Leadership

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“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment” – Henry David Thoreau

One of the great challenges in leadership today is having leaders who are present in the moment. It’s a struggle for many leaders. In fact, when was the last time with intentionality you set aside even a small amount of time just appreciate the moment and reflect?

Healthy leadership is essential to your success. But what happens when the pace of your leadership is greater than your ability to be present in the moment? What is the tipping point between activity and action that does more harm than good? Why does being present matter? Here are a few reasons why being present matters to your leadership.

You can put your past in perspective

In order to effectively know where you are and where you are going, it helps to put your past in perspective. What knowledge and skills have you picked up along the way is working? What do you need to let go of? What changes do you need to make today to make for a better tomorrow?

Only being present in the moment allows you the opportunity to reflect in such a way as to appreciate the moment and put your past in perspective.

You can put your priorities in order

It’s when you are present in the moment that you can evaluate your priorities and put them in order.No leader intentionally sets out to mess up their priorities but it happens. Being present in the moment is as much of a priority for you as a leader as anything else you do. If your priorities are out of balance then the decisions you make will have consequences you hadn’t planned for.

Only being present in the moment can you see what corrections you need to make with your priorities. It’s when you are present you can make adjustments.

You can reconnect with your people

A leader not present in the moment is not the leader his or her people need. The unintended consequences can be irreparable if not careful. The graph below highlights the communication issues employees have with their leaders. Take a look at how many complaints there are on the list that could be avoided if only the leader were present in the moment among his or her people.

Being present in the moment puts you where your people need you. Being in the moment is all about leadership at the moment.

You can lead more effectively

Ultimately, being present in the moment is about more effective leadership. It’s about giving of yourself without all the distractions that come with priorities that are out of order and by being disconnected from your people.

Being present in the moment can be a challenge. Our minds are racing and thinking of a dozen other things that need our time and attention. I get it. But all you have is this moment. And in this moment, you can do something that will impact your leadership in a positive way. Be present.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Why People Fire Their Leaders- And How to Stop It

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People quit people, not companies – John Maxwell

I remember my first job out of college. I was excited and filled with great enthusiasm. But it played out like A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I was surrounded by people I genuinely liked with many friends. With a great team in place, we made great strides in the community we served. But I had “the boss from hell” who made life hell. So, I fired him.

I had flashbacks to those early days after reading the findings in a study in Inc. that highlighted the worst boss behaviors. The Top 5 characteristics that caused employees to leave their jobs were:

  • Management style — 37 percent
  • Condescending attitude — 30 percent
  • Mean or bad temper — 30 percent
  • Inappropriate behavior — 26 percent
  • Harassed employees — 24 percent

Speaking of bad boss behavior, here is a sampling of what respondents called unacceptable or deal breakers: Your boss takes credit for your work 63%, your boss doesn’t trust or empower you 62%; your boss doesn’t care if you’re overworked 58%, your boss doesn’t advocate for you when it comes to compensation 57%, your boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people 56%, your boss doesn’t provide proper direction on assignments/roles 54%, your boss micromanages and doesn’t allow you “freedom to work” 53%, etc.

“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” has been a mantra of John Maxwell for years. And as it relates to employee engagement, bad bosses, company morale, and corporate culture, he is spot on. A boss without strong leadership skills will drive his or he people away.

I’ve said it in this space before: Building the type of organization that your people would never dream of leaving begins by being the type of leader everyone wants to follow. Let’s explore three basic ways in which you can build that type of culture.

Serve your people

The higher you ascend in your organization the more responsibilities you take on – not more rights. This is where many a boss drops the leadership ball. Think of a pyramid. The old way of thinking is that at the bottom you have many rights and at the top, few responsibilities. Now flip it- when you do, the opposite becomes true. You now have more responsibilities as the leader/boss and fewer rights. Now, start acting like it.

You will build the type of organization people would never dream of leaving when you develop the mindset of servant leadership and by empowering your people at every opportunity.

Empower your people

Employee engagement is directly tied to empowered employees. The cited survey, along with many others drive this point home. If your people are micromanaged, underappreciated, and not given credit for their ideas and work, is it any wonder they are firing their bosses?

Billy Hornsby said, “ It’s okay to let those you lead outshine you, for if they shine brightly enough, they reflect positively on you”. The boss who makes for a good leader understands that when his or her people are empowered it makes them look good. You will build the type of organization they would never dream of leaving when you empower them to reach their full potential.

Engage your people

Employee engagement is only as meaningful and effective as the leader who engages on this level. The boss who only sees employee engagement as something “they do” may have the work of his employees’ hands, but will never have their hearts. If you want to stop your people from walking out the door, then you must open yours. You must be among your people, know your people, and serve them.

Building the type of organization people would never dream of leaving begins when you understand that they are the most appreciable asset you have. Simply put, employee engagement begins at the top.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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Embracing The Leadership Process

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Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. – Jack Welch

For the baseball fan, everyone is familiar with the great Ted Williams, the Hall of Famer from the Boston Red Sox. Known as “the slugger”, he was once asked about his ‘natural ability” to hit the ball. He’s said to have replied, “There is no such thing as a natural born hitter. I became a good hitter because I paid the price of constant practice, constant practice.”

For the leader, Williams’ answer is an accurate summation of what good leadership looks like. It’s about stepping up to the plate, it’s about the daily grind of practice. In short, it’s about commitment. It’s all about embracing the process.

But for many aspiring leaders and even for those who’ve been around a while, the process is the pitfall.

Writing in the book Rooted – The Hidden Places Where God Develops Us, author Banning Liebscher makes this observation:

“God always develops us before He develops our vision. If we don’t understand this, we will resist Him, get frustrated, and ultimately end up disappointed and disillusioned. But if we expect and embrace God’s root-building process in our lives, guess what? We will not only set ourselves up for success, but we will set ourselves up to thrive in that process. So let’s embrace the process.”

While specifically addressing the development of your faith, this principle is transferable and speaks volumes about the leadership process.

When we short-circuit the leadership process we cause harm to ourselves, and to those we are trying to lead. We want to avoid, rush past, or skirt the teachable moments – moments that could be unpleasant perhaps, but in doing so, we fail to properly develop the leadership skills that come with it. The result? We tend to move up as leaders with deficiencies in key leadership skills we need. So what’s the solution? Embrace the leadership process.

Here are a few leadership skills that you will not want to rush in their development. In fact, most of these will be ongoing over the long haul of your leadership. Here are just a few of them.

Embrace the process of reflection and reading

The truth be told, this is a skillset in leadership that you will always carry with you. Developing this skill in the formative years will serve you well in the latter years. Make the time to read, reflect, and expand your horizons. The old adage is true, “leaders are readers”, and leaders are always learning. I will add that prayer is an essential ingredient to the development of this skill set. Mark Batterson summed it up this way, “One God idea is worth more than a thousand good ideas’. 

Embrace the process of time management

Jim Rohn was spot on when he said, “Either you run the day, or the day runs you,” and you must embrace the process of learning this skill. There are many tools and technologies to help you with the implementation of this skill, but ultimately it’s a discipline you have to master and I don’t think there’s an app for that. It’s on you. Time management is too crucial to your success as a leader so embrace it quick.

Embrace the process of conflict resolution

Most people I know avoid conflict. They avoid it at all costs. But if you are going to succeed as a leader, you must learn and develop this delicate but essential leadership skill. You will have to dig deep to pull off sharp conflict resolution skills such as its timing, knowing what to say, what not to say, tone, and moving toward your desired outcomes. As a leader, you will need this skill. Embrace it and learn it.

Embrace the process of people skills

It’s been said in many ways and by numerous people – people are your most appreciable asset. Simply put, no shortcuts are allowed in the process of developing your people skills. It will make you or break you as a leader. If you don’t fully embrace the process of learning and developing your people skills, you are setting yourself up for failure. How smart and talented you are mean little if you don’t know how to treat your people and if they don’t respect or trust you.

Embrace the process of personal growth and development

All of these skills that I have presented, and more, all about your personal growth development as a leader. But know this, first and foremost leadership is an inside job. You must learn to lead yourself before attempting to lead others. This is why the process must be embraced.

Leaders are not grown overnight. It takes time. It’s a lifelong commitment to learning and growing. School is always in session for the leader. Embrace the process! 


©2017 Doug Dickerson


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Start With Low Fences

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“I work on the same principle as people who train horses. You start with low fences, easily achievable goals, and work up. – Ian McGregor

Developing your skill sets as a leader is not an overnight process. It’s something that takes time and commitment. It’s a process.

I liken the process to one of my favorite hobbies – photography. Back in the day of first learning my photography skills things were much different from today. It was all manual. Various photography classes back then taught me the fine art of things like shutter speeds, f/stops, dark rooms, lighting, composition and more.  You had to learn the skill in order to be good.

Nowadays with a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a fully automatic camera that takes all the guess work out of it. Ask the owner to switch to manual mode- not to mention the rule of thirds, negative space in composition, etc.  and take a picture, most would be at a loss on where to begin.

Here’s the problem. With that expensive fully automatic camera in your hands, it can make you look better than you are. You can have the fancy equipment, but without the training on how to use it, you are creating a false impression.

One of the dangers in leadership is bypassing the learning process and securing the foundational principles needed for growth and maturity. This is why many an aspiring leader never reach their full potential. They rush the process. But with an open mind coupled with the attitude of a student, your leadership skills can be developed and you can rise to the next level.

It’s when you start with the low fences that you earn your leadership stripes. Here are a few low fence concepts worth considering as you think about your future and growth as a leader.

The low fence of humility

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Aspiring leaders can blur the lines when they think their degree conveys wisdom. Your formal education is your right of passage to your real education. A strong dose of humility is in order starting out and is well worth remembering when you are older. There’s always something new to learn.

The low fence of dependability

There are no shortcuts on the path to proven leadership. It takes men and women who are willing to roll up their sleeves and earn their stripes. If you can’t be counted on in the low fence things of your leadership how can people raise their expectations of you for greater things? It’s in the daily grind that you show yourself dependable.

The low fence of flexibility

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Sometimes in leadership, you have to throw out the script. Your growth and sanity as a leader will be tested with this low fence skill in more ways than you can imagine. If you can learn this low fence skill early it will save you a lot of grief later.

The low fence of loyalty

Loyalty is one of the pillars of leadership. All the creative powers in your arsenal of skills will not amount to much if loyalty is an afterthought. Faithfully striving to represent the values, mission, and vision of your organization should be the focal point of all that you do.

The low fence of service

The heartbeat of leadership is service. It’s about adding value. It’s about lifting others up, not tearing down. It’s servant leadership. The beauty of this skill set is that you never outgrow it. But with your growth and development as a leader comes the opportunity to have a greater impact. Develop this skill early while the fence is low. But never forsake it. The more you give and the more you serve, the greater the influence you can have.

Just as low fences are the starting points for training horses, it’s where you begin as a leader. But you are not designed nor destined to stay at that level. You have a higher destiny that you need to walk in. Low fences are where you start, but they are not where you should stay. You must raise the bar.


©2017 Doug Dickerson


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Leadership In Times Like These

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“Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” I Chronicles 12:32

There’s no question that we live in peculiar times. As a leader, it is more important than ever that you have clarity of heart and mind in order to lead effectively.

Our country is torn by many great divides. Tensions are high and divisions are running deep. People are looking for answers. It’s important in times like these, as it was in the days of Issachar, that we as leaders are people who understand the times and know what to do.

I realize this is somewhat of a departure from my customary tone of writing that I deliver each week, but perhaps I am looking at our world these days with a different perspective.

My first grandchild is turning one year old, and I am thinking about the kind of world he is growing up in and the type that he will inherit. As our family celebrates this momentous and joyous occasion it is causing me to take a step back and put leadership in a sharper context. What type of world do I want him to know and inherit? Here are a few thoughts on how we get there.

In times like these, we must lead with love

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said John Maxwell. And this is the rallying call for all leaders today. If our leadership is going to amount to anything worth espousing it must be done with hearts of love. Enough with the hatred and vitriol, it’s time to lead with love.

In times like these, we must espouse servant leadership

For many in leadership, it’s all about the quest to get to the top. It’s a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. Yes, it’s self-serving, and yes, it’s everything that is wrong with leadership. Servant leadership is about adding value. It’s about enriching the lives and growing the leaders around you. It’s about raising others up, not tearing them down. It’s about contentment in being second in a “me first’ world. It’s about a “what can I give?” attitude in a self-absorbed world.

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In times like these, we must lead with humility

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less,” said Rick Warren. What a powerful thought. We have enough leaders thinking more about themselves than perhaps they should. Perhaps it’s in times like these we need to be thinking less of ourselves and more about those we can serve, those we can lift up, and how to bring people together.

In times like these, we must lead with open hearts

If there was ever a time for us as leaders to open our hearts to those around us it’s now. We must stop talking and screaming past one another and learn once again to listen. As leaders, we must be the change we seek. We must open our hearts and see that we all have a stake in the outcome of the type of the world we want to know and leave behind.

In times like these, we must lead with clarity

The men in the day of Issachar were men who understood the times in which they lived. It’s up to us as leaders to do the same. Our voices, the lone ones in a sea of instant reactions and opinions, must be the calm ones in the storm. In times like these, we must lead with a steady hand and moral clarity, and with the courage of our convictions. Our voices need to be heard and our message delivered with love and humility.

In times like these, we must think long and pray hard.

It’s no secret; leadership is hard. It’s hard in the good times, not to mention in times of difficulty. We need more leaders who think long. We need leaders who know how to look at the big picture and see into the future. But, we would all be amiss if we thought we could do it alone. We must be leaders who understand the power and necessity of prayer. Understanding the times in which we live comes with a price. We must seek wisdom from outside of ourselves when we know it’s not within us. We need God’s help.

The times in which we live present us as leaders a tremendous opportunity. Are you ready to lead in times like these?


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Connecting Your Dream To Your Reality

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“If your dream doesn’t scare you it’s too small” – Mark Batterson

Vincent Van Gogh said, “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”. Certainly, Van Gogh is one who made the connection between dreams and reality. We’ve been inspired by his dreams ever since.

But as inspiring as that may have been for Van Gogh, for many others, there is a disconnect between dreams and reality. And reality hits where dreams end. And the unfulfilled dreams of our youth turn into the regrets of our old age.

In leadership, as in other parts of our lives, we hear much about dreams and goals. For some, it is to land the dream job. For another, it may be to write a book, raise a family, start a business, or travel the world. What is your dream? What is the one passion or desire that you think of often? What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

Much has been written about goals and dreams and this will certainly not be an exhaustive list nor necessarily new ideas. But I want to put forth these simple keys to serve as reminders that your dreams do not have to go unfulfilled. It simply takes courage to pursue them. Here are six things you will need to do in order to turn dreams into reality.

Face down your fears

This is perhaps the most obvious obstacle that causes most dreams to go unfulfilled. Fear. What if I fail? What will other people think? In the end, what happens? We talk ourselves out of the one thing that truly inspires us. Until you face down your fears, your dreams will never become a reality. It’s time to own your fears and put an end to it.

Face up to your challenges

Depending on the size of your dream, you are going to have to face up the challenges your dream or goal presents. What resources will you need? You will have to flesh out exactly what your dream or goal looks like in real life. What will be required of you? What sacrifices are you willing to make? There’s always a trade off, are you willing to embrace it?

Define your path forward

Your dream becomes a reality when you know what it is, and when you have a clear path forward. It won’t just happen because you dream it. Now you have to live it. Now you must own it. Now comes the time to put pen to paper and chart a course. Do you have the resources you need? What partnerships do you need to form? Connecting your dream to your reality begins when you spell it out.

Consider the risks

No dream worth pursuing will come without risks. What is your threshold for risks and rewards? This is why thoughtful planning is important to you. And this where most people come up short on their dreams becoming a reality. It’s hard for many to reconcile the notion that they need to overcome their fears and take a risk. After all, the risk is one of the fears. But you will minimize the risk and quash the fears when you do your homework. It’s then your faith kicks in and you are able to make the leap.

Go for broke

Once all your homework has been done, your risks assessed, your plan charted, then you can take that step of faith and go for broke. It may be baby steps at first, but al least you are moving in the direction of your goals and dreams. One of the greatest challenges you will have to overcome is dreaming too small. As the old saying goes, “Shoot for the moon, Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars”.

Never stop dreaming; never give up

The secret to connecting your dream to your reality rests in your persistence and perseverance. Will you fail? Will you have setbacks? Will you have fears and at times even question whether your dream was actually a nightmare? Yes!

“Many of life’s failures,” Thomas Edison said, “are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Connecting your dreams to your reality happens when you don’t give up.


©2017 Doug Dickerson

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