Let Others See The Boss In You

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“He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, And he who cares for his master will be honored.” – King Solomon (Proverbs 27:18)

I read an article on CBS News Money Watch about the Top 40 Bonehead Bosses. There you can read the accounts of some the most boneheaded bosses you can imagine. Here’s one just for fun:

I worked as a secretary for a large metropolitan hospital. My son was in daycare at a local church. One day a co-worker ran into the office and screamed: “the church is on fire, the church is on fire”. Immediately, I ran to the church, where I could see the smoke, the fire, four fire engines and people everywhere. I was in a panic. I lost my shoe, tore my dress and dropped my purse looking for my son. After finding him (Thank God!), I returned to work frazzled and disheveled. When I made it back to my desk, my Boss approached me and said “You left your station without permission. You will be disciplined for this!”

Boneheaded boss? I’d say so. And this highlights the age old love/hate relationship people have with their bosses. As a leadership speaker, I hear the stories. And I hear the stories from the bosses about their employees because that relationship cuts both ways.

In his book, Creative Followership, Jimmy Collins, the former COO of Chick-fil-A, outlines his powerful followership principles. Principle 12 states: Let others see the boss in you.

In explaining Principle 12, the underlying philosophy he says, “was to present unified purpose and action. When the people in the organization see management in unity, they are more confident in their own roles.” Creating a compelling vision and mission statement is only as powerful as the people’s ability to have buy-in it and execute it.

Elaborating more, Collins says, “Your work should mirror the quality and character of the boss. Do things in a manner that will meet and even exceed your leader’s personal standard.”

These timely principles are as important now as they have ever been. So let me ask you:, do your colleagues, customers, and clients see the boss in you? Do people see in you an accurate reflection and representation of your organization’s core values and beliefs? Do you back it up with your words, actions, and ethics? As you reflect on these questions, here are a few important reminders for your consideration.

You are the face of your organization

Don’t make the mistake of believing that it’s only your boss who is the face of your organization. Regardless of where you are in your organizational structure, if you are on the payroll, you are the face of your organization. If you can’t proudly be the face of your organization then it’s time to either change your attitude or change your address.

You are an extension of your boss

As an extension of your boss, you carry a great deal of responsibility on your shoulders. How can you rightfully be an extension of your boss if you do not respect your boss? How can you passionately represent your organization in public if you are undermining it in private? As an extension of your boss, make it a priority to develop trust and be in unity with him or her. Develop your consensus in private, articulate your unity in public.

You are part of the ‘why’

Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” It’s a simple and yet very profound statement. Think about the implications of it for just a moment. You are the reason why customers keep coming back or decide to go elsewhere. You are the reason why clients trust you and choose to keep giving you their business or move on. You are the reason why your organization runs efficiently, has a strong work ethic, and has strong morale or you are a part of the reason it doesn’t.

What is really the message of letting others see the boss in you? It’s about raising your own personal standard of excellence. It’s about stepping up as a leader in your own right regardless of your title or position. It’s about ownership and being a standard-bearer for your organization and being a part of a cause greater than yourself.

What are people seeing in you?

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Mixed Signals and the Art of Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. – George Bernard Shaw

Every good leader knows the value and importance of good communication. Leaders succeed or fail based on it. Organizations rise and fall because of it. To say that good communication is essential to your success as a leader is clearly an understatement.

In her book, Fearless Leadership, Carey D. Lohrenz shares a story of just what can happen when communication does not take place as it should:

Failure to communicate effectively can have disastrous results. Consider this true story, not the only one of its kind: A young Navy sailor was working the flight deck at night. Needing to cross the flight deck in the few seconds available between aircraft landing, the sailor signaled the arresting gear officer by waving his flashlight vertically. After getting acknowledgment from the arresting gear officer via the waving of a green flashlight vertically, the sailor sprinted across the pitch black landing area.

When looking to cross back over, the sailor once again signaled to the arresting officer and received the same vertical flashlight wave-only in red. The sailor knew that the vertical waving meant it was okay to cross, but didn’t know that the color of the flashlight was a critical piece of information. On this ship, green meant “go” while red meant “stand fast.” Confusion in communication signals almost cost this sailor his life.

While the decisions you make regarding communication may not carry the same life or death consequences, it does, nevertheless, carry important implications for your team. The last thing they need from those in leadership is mixed signals. Here are some of the most common mixed signals and what to do about them.

Mixed signals occur when you say one thing and do another

This is perhaps the most common mixed signal out there. It’s when you say one thing and do another. As a result, people are not on the same page, goals and objectives become muddled, and trust is compromised.

As a leader, you must develop consistency in your communication and do what you say. If circumstances warrant a change in a previously communicated directive or course of action, clarify it in person and do it in a timely manner. As a leader, you don’t like surprises and neither do your people.

Mixed signals occur when you keep your people apart

Ineffective communication occurs when you keep your team members apart instead of bringing them together. Instead of building a unified and cohesive team, mixed signals occur in communication when your people get their information second or third hand. This is a prescription for disastrous communication and team morale.

If you want to facilitate strong communication within your organization you must bring your people together, not keep them apart. Make it your practice to be a bridge builder. Communication flourishes when people are connected.

Mixed signals occur when you fail to connect on a personal level

The secret sauce of establishing good communication within your organization is being a leader who knows how to connect with his or her people. The good news is that it can happen. The bad news is that it takes a lot of work. But until you are relationally invested in the people you lead you will always run the risk of mixed signals and poor communication.

Whether it’s communication or any number of related issues within your organization, it begins when you learn to connect with your people. it’s out of that connection and the relationships you build that communication works.

Stop with the mixed signals – keep your word, bring your people together, and connect on a personal level. It will make all the difference in the world to your leadership and to your people.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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What Do Your Motives Say About Your Leadership?

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“Men are more accountable for their motives than anything else. – Archibald Alexander

Bob Kuechenberg, the former Miami Dolphin great, once explained what motivated him to go to college.

“My father and uncle were human cannonballs in Carnivals,” he explained. “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.” To be sure, Bob Kuechenberg was motivated to go college and relinquish his future as a human cannonball.

In various ways, as children, we were motivated to get good grades in school or to do our chores. It often had monetary motivations attached to it. As adults, we have our motivations to perform well in our places of employment. We have the opportunity to move up based upon performance and other matrix and we are rewarded with the compensation that comes with it. Simply put, we all have our motivational tipping points.

You have heard the old expression, “check your ego at the door”. It’s sound advice for anyone in leadership. An unbridled ego can create a host of problems for a leader if left unchecked.

In as much as an unchecked ego can cause many problems, so too, can unchecked motives. A leader must be honest and come clean about overt or hidden motives that drive behaviors and actions. Before proceeding with your agenda, why not run them through a filter that will help you determine if your motives are pure. Here are six questions that will help you.

Would I support my plan or idea with the same level of intensity if the idea wasn’t coming from me?

This question is foundational and fundamental. An honest answer will shed light on the real motives you have. It’s not about who wins, it’s about the best idea winning. This is Leadership 101. Until you understand this, your hidden motives will always get the best of you.

Am I out to advance my own agenda and career or advance the good of the organization?

This is typically one of the driving forces behind hidden motives. When you seek the advancement of your own career and ambitions over the good of the organization then what is the real value of your service there? But when your commitment is to the good of the organization, good things will come your way. It all starts with your motives.

Am I territorial, making decisions that benefit me or my department over the good of the organization?

Leaders with wrong motives are all about making decisions that only benefit them or their department. Instead of looking at what is best for the whole team, they stake out their territory which leads to isolation and erodes trust. You will shine brightly as a leader when you are looking out for the best interest of everyone, not just a select few.

Am I guarded and reluctant to help others, or do I gladly share ideas and offer my assistance?

Your motives may be wrong if you are unwilling to help others for fear that they may outshine you, or get credit for something you shared with them. These motives are rooted in jealousy and insecurity and can openly expose your motives for not being a team player. A strong leader will gladly come alongside and help his or her teammates. It’s when you see yourself as colleagues not as competitors that you will have peak performance.

Am I manipulative, overbearing, and drive organizational politics in my favor, or am I a team player looking out for the best interest of everyone?

A leader with hidden motives can come across as overbearing or as a manipulator through office politics. They use this to further their agenda- be it career advancement or something else, they are master manipulators. A leader with nothing to hide is looking out for everyone and the good of the team. In the long run, people do not rally around a manipulator, but they will always respond to a leader who has their best interest at heart

Am I presenting myself one way in public, and another way in private?

Ultimately, this is where your hidden motives and agendas will catch up with you. It’s just a matter of time. Who you are will eventually come to light.

Here’s the rub – will all have our motives for doing what we do. Sometimes those motives are not very flattering while at other times they are good. The mark of your maturity as a leader and as a person is defined by constantly evaluating them, being honest with yourself, and only proceeding when you know they are in alignment with your core values.


What do your motives say about your leadership?

© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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What Millennials Are Teaching Me About Leadership

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“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference”. – Aristotle

He takes to the platform each week in skinny jeans, his shirt is untucked, and he has a shoe collection that would rival that of Imelda Marcos. But this is no ordinary person and it’s not a comedy club on a Friday night. It’s church on Sunday and he is my late 20’s something pastor. Band members are tatted up, some sporting man buns, but all with one thing in common-serving others the best they know how.

That in this stage in my life I would find myself in a church where the majority of the staff are millennials and I am old enough to be their parent, or in some cases their grandparent, is quite surprising even to me. But I am, and I am loving it.

I recently had lunch with my skinny jean-wearing pastor. We talked leadership over pizza and I must admit, I am more encouraged by what I see and hear from Millennials than I have ever been prior.

To be sure, millennials have had their fair share of criticisms leveled against them. Some of it justified, a lot of it not. But as is the case for all of us in leadership, millennials should be given a fair shake as they earn their leadership stripes.

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I don’t presume to speak about all Millennials in all situations, but only to what I personally know, see, and experience on a regular basis. Here is what I am learning from those skinny jean wearing, man bun styling millennials. I think there’s something here for all of us-regardless of our age.

Millennials are teaching me about authenticity

These millennials are setting a great example about being authentic and transparent. It’s quite refreshing to be around people who understand their learning curves and talk openly about their mistakes and flaws, all while pursuing a higher level of excellence. Authentic leadership is hard to come by and way too many opt for wearing a mask. These millennials are teaching me that they care more about being real than they do about false perceptions.

Millennials are teaching me about the value of community

What I am learning from these millennials is that they are all about community and relationships. “Life wasn’t meant to be done alone” is the mantra often repeated. They have tapped into the power of community and discovering that life, just as in leadership, is better when you are part of a community of people who have each other’s backs and that through a community of strong relationships is how we grow. These millennials are teaching me that there is an up-and-coming generation that gets it and works hard to make it happen.

Millennials are teaching me about serving others

One of the bad wraps millennials get is that they are just a bunch of navel-gazing, narcissistic people who are the “entitled” generation. Look around and cherry-pick, and in some cases, you will find it. But the millennials I know take community and servant leadership to a new level. They are invested in their community and are making in-roads in the local schools. Community and civic pride is not the exception, but rather the rule. Millennials are teaching me they realize it’s not all about them, but that true leadership is about serving others.

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Millennials are teaching me the importance of personal growth and development

As my skinny jean wearing pastor and I talked about leadership, we talked about personal growth and development. I was more than impressed by his vast knowledge and familiarity with leading authors, books, and podcasts. He is a student of leadership and works hard to apply it. So does his team. They are taking leadership seriously and are taking advantage of every opportunity to grow.

On the day of his Inaugural Address, a young 43-year-old President John F. Kennedy declared that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…” It was a time of great uncertainty and many questioned the ability of such a young president to lead our nation with the challenges it faced. But he did.

Millennial leaders are rising to the challenge. They are taking up the torch and mantle of leadership and from my experiences with them, we have reason to be optimistic. Their leadership will be tested. They will not always get it right, nor will we who are older. Our life in leadership is a journey- a marathon, not a dash. But it’s when we sit across from the table, eat pizza, talk, and share life experiences that we find that we really have more in common than we realized. But I draw the line at skinny jeans.

©2017 Doug Dickerson

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Recharging Your Leadership

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“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

I had a great pleasure recently to spend a week up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains of North Carolina. As a coastal resident, it was a welcome reprieve. The mountains are my ‘happy place’ if you will.

Be it hiking trails to waterfalls, walking across the infamous swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain, or hiking my way to the observation summit at Mt. Mitchell- the highest mountain peek east of the Mississippi, it was a great time. I live by the motto of John Muir, “The mountains are calling and I must go”.

At waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Provided by author.

The summer months tend to be markers. It’s the mid-point of the year, a time to look at where we’ve come and tweak goals and action plans for the remainder of the year. How is it looking for you?

But before we kick the can too far down the road, let’s take a moment to consider the benefits of summer. It’s an important time in the year for leaders and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to consider what I call the 4 R’s.

A time to rest

Many leaders I know struggle with the thought of rest. They are constantly on the go. Unfortunately, many leaders have subscribed to the notion that to rest is to violate their work ethic. Consequently, they never slow down, they are the first in, last out, and out-hustle everyone else. Noble characteristics for sure.

But even the best of leaders need to rest. A person can only burn the candle at both ends for so long and still maintain any degree of fresh thinking and energy. Do yourself, and everyone else a favor, and embrace the idea of rest. You will be a better leader for it.

A time to recharge

This is the value-added consequence of taking the time to rest. Your body, soul, and mind, can only run for so long and still be useful to you. Rest affords you the opportunity to recharge mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

Recharging your leadership through the lost art of rest will do you a world of good. When you are recharged you give yourself a fresh perspective on the issues at hand and it will give you the energy needed going forward. Rested and recharged you will position yourself for a great second half of the year.

A time to reflect

During down time and rest is the perfect time to reflect. It’s a time to look back at the first half of the year to see where you’ve come- to put it all in perspective. It’s a time to look ahead, not in the heat of the moment when there is no time to properly absorb what is taking place – but to do so in a state of mind that gives you the context you need.

In your time of rest and mid-year reflecting it’s also important to be present in the moment. “We always project into the future or reflect in the past,” says Marina Abramovic, “but we are so little in the present.” How much do we miss as leaders – family, children, memories we can never have again – simply because we were too busy and missed living in the moment?

A time to reconnect

The benefits of rest can be substantial. Times of rest is important for us in ways already mentioned. But the good it can do for you as a leader will make you a better one.

A rested leader is a more effective leader. Your thinking is more clear, your instincts are sharper, and your temperament is more balanced. Yet, none of these benefits would be possible without making the conscientious decision to rest. Rid yourself of the stigma that to rest is wrong, and embrace this important area of your leadership.

© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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Five Ways You May Be Killing Employee Morale

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“Everything rises and falls on leadership” – John Maxwell

Addressing the topic of work many years ago, Indira Gandhi said, “My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.” While there may not be a shortage of people trying to take the credit for work, many a leader faces the challenge of a strong workplace culture and its accompanying morale.

In my research on the topic of employee morale, much of the focus I’ve seen is employee driven. By that I mean the attention leans toward what can be done to make the employee happy (perks- driven), motivated, etc. I see little on what I consider to be the root of the problem which is leadership driven.

In Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Study, as reported on in RYOT, 70 percent of those who participated described themselves as “disengaged” from their work. Only 30 percent admitted they honestly enjoy their job and bosses. Interestingly, the study revealed that workplace perks which have been popular approaches to boosting workplace morale, “do not compare to the employee enjoying and feeling engaged in their work.” Here’s the takeaway – employees and employers desire the same results, but often have two distinctly different means of getting there.

Strong morale is essential to your success as an organization. Leaders need employees who are engaged on all fronts. Employees need strong leaders to show the way.  The last thing you want to do is kill employee morale by ineffective leadership. Here are five ways it could be happening.

You kill employee morale when you ignore input

A leader who won’t listen to his or her people is a leader who is out of touch with his people. If you are out of touch with the people that make your business work then employee morale will suffer. If your people attempt to be engaged and offer their input only to be ignored then you are killing employee morale. A smart leader will make it a priority to listen and to invite feedback from team members. Buy-in begins when you invite them in.

You kill employee morale when you hoard decisions

Killing morale happens when leaders hoard the decision-making process and by-pass those directly affected by the decision. The most successful teams are those whose people are engaged and invested in the well-being of the organization. They are the ones who have bought in and go all out to be successful. A smart leader won’t hoard decisions but will bring others in to help make them. Employees don’t want a dictator; they want a facilitator. Here’s a simple rule to consider: if a decision affects your people then talk to your people.

You kill employee morale when you keep people in the dark

Communication is the life-blood of any organization, but if you keep your people in the dark; especially with things that directly affect their performance, then you are killing employee morale. This weak leadership style not only builds walls but it destroys trust. If you want your people engaged and enjoying what they do then make open communication a practice and a priority.

You kill employee morale when you play favorites

While responsibilities may differ among departments and personnel, it is important not to play favorites with your people. While not everyone’s role is the same, the way you treat them should be. As a leader, it is important to understand the basics of good social skills. The amount of time you spend with the people in your organization will vary depending on assignments, responsibilities, skills, etc., it’s a variable. But not the way you treat your people. If you are perceived as playing favorites you will kill employee morale. Be nice to everyone.

You kill employee morale when you lead from behind

Successful organizations have strong leaders who are not afraid to lead. Employees respect a leader who will confidently lead his or her team. A leader who is perceived to be weak, indecisive, reactionary, or uncertain of their role will kill morale. How can an employee confidently follow a leader who is unsure of himself? Leaders who lead from behind can’t possibly know what direction they are going, the pitfalls in front of them, or how to stay relevant. Leaders; be out front, lead with confidence and with clarity, and you will have employees who will go the distance with you.

What do you say?


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

*This column was originally published in 2015.

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What Makes You A Strong Leader?

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A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. – Lao Tzu

In an Entrepreneur magazine article last year, the question was posed to numerous people on the topic of what makes a great leader. In a word, here are a few of the responses: focus, confidence, transparency, integrity, inspiration, passion, patience, and generosity, to name a few.

Possessing all of the twenty-two qualities listed in the article might be a stretch for most of us. But it is worth considering. Pause, if you will for a moment, and internalize this question: What makes you a great leader? What thoughts, words, or reactions come to mind? Perhaps you’ve never looked at yourself as a leader, much less a great one.

Would your answers change if I substituted the word “great” for “strong”? I tend to reserve the “great leader” distinction for people like Jesus, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., or in my case, Mrs. Montgomery, my 6th-grade teacher who survived having me as a student.

For now, I will reserve attaining the greatness status for another time, and focus on characteristics of developing strong leadership skills. I want to put it in context, and also put it within our reach. Here are six things I think about when I consider strong leadership.

A strong leader focuses on his responsibilities, not his rights

This is a trap many leaders fall into. They think with their title come certain rights- failing to see that in true leadership it’s just the opposite. A strong leader focuses more on his or her responsibilities which will increase and less on his rights which will decrease. Until you understand this basic leadership principle you will never be a strong leader.

A strong leader gives away power, doesn’t hoard it

With leadership comes a certain degree of power. But your responsibility as a leader is not to be on a “power trip”, abusing it and making everyone else miserable. With the power comes responsibility and a certain amount of humility is in order. The strong leader is secure enough not to hoard power and is willing to give it away.

A strong leader concedes the spotlight by putting others in it

How often have you seen leaders seek the limelight, take credit for the good that is accomplished, and throw others under the bus when things go wrong? A strong leader is just the opposite. He takes a little less than his share of the credit when things go well, and takes on more blame when things go wrong. A strong leader is willing to take a step back and put others in the spotlight and let his people shine.

A strong leader grows more leaders, not more followers

A strong leader is not one who is focused on growing more followers. His focus is on growing more leaders. This is, and will always be, the tipping point for strong leaders. Your success as a leader is not found in adding more followers, it’s found the multiplication of growing more leaders. Do the math and think multiplication, not addition.

A strong leader creates margins for his people, not barriers

Every strong leader understands that raising up leaders is a process. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone. And along the way, there are learning curves that must be taken into account. A strong leader will make room for growth and mistakes, and remove barriers that prevent that growth from happening.

A strong leader will give up the good in order to attain the great

One of the strongest challenges you will face in leadership is learning how to say no to the good in order to have the great. Many good ideas, opportunities, and invitations will compete for your time and energy. But you, as a strong leader, must differentiate between what is simply a good opportunity and see how it aligns with your values, vision, and goals. If those good things do not move you in the direction of the great then you should let them go.

These six things I’ve listed are but a starting point. They are markers on the path to strong leadership. What would you add to the list?

© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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