#224: Effective Leadership: Employ, Equip, Empower, and Get Out Of The Way!

As the Bob Dylan song goes, “the times they are a changin.” Managing a business in today’s world is an exercise in managing change. What worked phenomenally well in 2010 won’t work in 2020.

Effective Leadership

To meet the challenges that lay before us, leaders must learn new, more effective ways of managing rapidly changing, diverse groups of employees.

Way back in 1966 Peter F. Drucker wrote The Effective Executive, in which he makes the point that to be effective executives must learn how to harness worker resources like intelligence, imagination, and knowledge, and convert them into results.

The Effective Leader

So, what can you do to develop the future-oriented effective leadership style? You need to learn how to employ the right people, put them in the right jobs, give them the right training, empower them to get the work done, and most important of all, get out of their way so they can work!

1. Employ

The first step of the effective leader is to learn how to hire the right kind of people. In companies where employees are empowered, the employees are often responsible for the first one or two interviews. Team interviews that include employees and managers are becoming more common. After all, who knows the work better than the people doing it every day? Employees can be a valuable resource in hiring people who will fit the corporate culture and strategy.

Companies that are still relying on just the Human Resources manager for all hiring decisions are not utilizing the employee assets within the company. A real disaster is set-up when upper management takes control of hiring decisions at entry levels, to the exclusion of input from employees and first level managers. Hard as it may be to believe, this is still being practiced by some Fortune 500 companies today!

2. Equip

The second in becoming an effective leader is to get the right people in the right jobs. Paul wrote to the Romans, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).

Clearly, we need to be sensitive to people’s gifts and skills and do our best to match them to jobs that use their skills.

Once you have your people in the right jobs and you are focusing their talents on their jobs, you need to train them to do the best job possible.

In a recent survey of training costs, it was found that companies had budgets for training that ranged from $50 per employee per year to $4,000 per employee. Whose employees do you think are the best prepared to meet the challenges of the future?

Training your employees is a two-step process. First, there is the industrial training that keeps the employee up to date on your industry. Second, there is skill improvement training. Neither one of these is a one-time investment. Rather, it is a continual process that must be kept up over the life of the employee.

Ecclesiastes gives us an excellent view of the importance of training, “If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success” (Eccl. 10:10). If you have ever chopped wood with a dull axe, you know how much work it is. You work harder, it takes longer, and it requires much more determination to get the job done. Training will keep your employees like sharpened axes; capable of doing more, in less time than your competition.

3. Empower

Companies are getting the word; teams can be more productive than individuals. The rebirth of America’s large corporations has upper managers talking about making their employees intrapreneurs; people empowered to make decisions without approval from five levels of higher managers.

In America’s small companies we are hearing about “virtual corporations” where a handful of employees run big businesses by outsourcing talent, subcontracting, and making decisions without the safety net of expensive layers of higher managers.

The crucial steps in empowering your employees include;

  • hiring the right people, to begin with,
  • making sure that they are in jobs that best utilize their talents,
  • training them until they are the best they can be (and keeping them well trained), and finally,
  • making them accountable for decisions that affect their work.

Employees who are responsible for the productivity of their work group are more likely to take an interest in the output of other employees. If they understand that all sink or swim together, as a team, they will fight to survive.

4. Get Out of The Way

The biggest single reason that efforts to empower employees fail are that managers do not get out of the employee’s way and let them get the work done!

The manager “mother-hens” the employees, second guesses them, and sets-up their decision making so it comes out the way he wanted all along.

According to Mr. Webster, empowerment means to give someone authority. The definition does not suggest that a manager is to abdicate responsibility. And it is between giving authority and maintaining responsibility that most managers fail.

You must start by giving employees the right information, giving them the time and the resources to analyze potential decisions, and the support of management to carry out plans.

What constitutes the right information? For every company and every situation, the answer is different. Think about what information you would need to analyze a problem and decide. If you are managing a factory, giving workers production and profitability numbers for their department would be a good start.

One caveat from companies who have tried this. Break into employee empowerment gradually if you can. This is a new skill area for most employees, and they will need some practice to get good at it. Let them work on a few focused issues to build their confidence.

One Last Thought

Effective leaders of the future have difficult shoes to fill. The world is a complex place, and the rules of the game are changing all the time.

As difficult as this work is, remember Paul’s instruction to the Philippians, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Effective Leadership: Employ, Equip, Empower, and Get Out of the Way!

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of how to develop as an effective leader of the future:

  • 9 points of contrast between the past and the current/future work environment.
  • Two steps managers need to take to meet the challenge of the changing environment.
  • A broader description of the four elements of being an effective leader in the future.

You can download the whitepaper here: Effective Leadership: Employ, Equip, Empower, and Get Out of the Way!.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. How has the work environment changed in your industry over the past few years? How has your own leadership changed to meet the needs of the changing work environment?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development


#213: 7 Things Bad Bosses Taught Me About Being a Good Leader

Thank goodness for bad bosses! I know that seems like an odd thing to proclaim, but it’s true. I am thankful for bad bosses.

Good leaders


Because bad bosses can teach us a lot about being a good leader. If we learn something from the example of a bad boss then they are a fulfillment of Paul’s proclamation in Romans 8:28, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

A bad boss may be miserable to work for today, but if you learn something from them that makes you a good leader, then it makes enduring them worthwhile.

Last week I wrote about two bad bosses in my life (you can read about them here). This week let’s dig in and look at a few of the things I learned about being a good leader from these two bad bosses.

1. Lead by Example

All leaders lead by example. The issue is, are you setting a good example or a bad one? Peter, writing to the elders (1 Peter 5:1-4), admonished them to be willing, servant leaders not taking advantage of those they lead.

Paul writing to his young protégé, Timothy, said: “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (Timothy 4:12). That’s the kind of example good leaders set.

2. Trust Those You Lead

David wrote that it is better to trust in the Lord rather than in men (Psalm 118:8-9).

Yes, our ultimate trust must be in the Lord, but I have found that if people see that you trust them, they will return your trust. On the other hand, if people feel that you don’t trust them they will become untrustworthy themselves.

3. Get Out of Their Way

One sign that you trust your people is that when you give them an assignment, you get out of their way and let them work. Being a micro-manager who hovers over your people makes you a poor supervisor, certainly not a leader.

General George Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

It’s been my experience the more you tell people what to do the more you restrict their creativity. The more you restrict someone’s creativity, the less they have invested in your success.

4. Take Responsibility

Leaders take responsibility when things don’t go according to plan. Solomon wrote, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

If you are a good leader, you don’t throw your people under the bus when results don’t come in as expected. It was your job to lead. It was your job to anticipate and deal with problems. So, if things go haywire, it was your fault. Take responsibility.

5. Give Credit

When things go well good leaders know the results accrue to the hard work of the team and they give the team credit.

I learned early in my management career the quickest way to build morale in the organization is to build up the people who did great work. Shout their achievements from the rooftops. Let everyone know how great your team is.

Andrew Carnegie said, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.”

6. Don’t Play Favorites

Good leaders do not play favorites. I know it’s hard not to have favorites sometimes. There are some people you like more than others. Some are kindred spirits that you click with the minute you meet. Others make you tense up the minute they come into the room.

But good leaders avoid the temptation to play favorites. Solomon warned against playing favorites when he said, “To show partiality is not good” (Proverbs 28:21a).

James also warned against playing favorites when he said, “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:9).

7. Listen for Understanding

One of the most valuable skills any leader can have is the ability to listen. Learn to listen, not just to hear, but to understand. Often understanding comes from comprehending that which is beyond what is said.

James exhorted fellow believers saying they “should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). You cannot listen for understanding if you are readying your response while the other person is still talking.

These are just seven of the leadership traits of good bosses I learned from my bad bosses. If you are already a leader, make sure you exhibit each of these traits. If you are on the road to leadership, make sure you make each of these traits is part of your leadership character.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. If you’ve worked for a bad boss what did you learn from them about being a good leader? Are there any of these leadership traits you need to work on?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development




#211: 13 Traits of Remarkable Biblical Leaders You Should Have

Plus a Bonus Whitepaper

What does it take to be a remarkable leader? The Bible provides many examples of both strong and weak leaders.

Biblical Leaders

Characteristics of remarkable Biblical leaders capable of meeting the needs of the people include loyalty, courage, desire, emotional stability, empathy, decisiveness, risk-takers, a sense of timing, competitiveness, confidence, accountability, trustworthiness, and a servant’s heart.


Loyalty between master and servant, and between servant and master is a reciprocal relationship common among strong leaders.

Elisha was loyal to Elijah to the extent that even though Elijah encouraged Elisha not to follow him, Elisha refused (2 Kings 2:1-12). On three separate occasions, Elisha restated his desire to stay with his master until the very end. His reward for this loyalty was to inherit Elijah’s powers and responsibilities.


Leaders must have courage. The job of leadership is often a lonely one, confronted with obstacles and adversity. A good leader must have the courage to bear up under these difficulties.

One of the most powerful pictures of courage in the Bible is the young boy David who steps onto the battlefield to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17). David was a shepherd whose only weapon was a sling. He faced Goliath, a giant over nine feet tall, who was a professional soldier.


Strong leaders have a desire to lead that is inescapable. They would rather lead others, affect the outcomes of events, and change processes than anything else.

Consider the example of Paul, who by his own account was shipwrecked, flogged, and thrown into prison for years. Paul endured this because of his intense desire to see the job he was commissioned to do completed.

Emotional Stability

Ever increasing levels of responsibility bring more and more stress. Good leaders have the ability to maintain composure in the face of adversity. They can recover quickly from the disappointment of failure with their perspectives clearly in focus. This kind of emotional stability and resilience are marks of a strong leader.

Job provides a wonderful example of a man, who in the face of adversity, maintained his emotional stability through his faith in God.


Leaders must be able to appreciate the differences between people’s values and other cultures. Empathy brings about a unique understanding that is required to be able to meet people’s needs.

Jesus is the greatest example of a man who understood and valued the differences between people. In the selection of the apostles he chose a wide variety of people; a Pharisee, a tax collector, Jews, Greeks, young, old, well-educated, and those with no education. He chose them all with a complete understanding of how they would work to complete the missions assigned to them.


Leaders must be able to make decisions. Wishy-washy procrastinators confuse and discourage subordinates.

Jesus never had any trouble making decisions. When He encountered the moneychangers at the temple, He immediately overthrew their tables saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” (Mat 21:13).


Leaders are willing to step out and take risks when others retreat to the comfort of stable security.

Paul’s life during his three missionary journeys, conducted over a twelve-year period, are a testimony to a man willing to take risks. He willingly placed himself in circumstances of great risk to fulfill his commission to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13-28).

A Sense of Timing

A leader must develop a sense of timing. The ability to know how and when to make a decision, when to make announcements, when to make changes, etcetera.

Jesus provides many examples of a perfect sense of timing. He always knew the right word or the right lesson, and the perfect time to deliver them.


Leaders have an intense desire to win. Second place is not good enough. Although no one wins all the time, strong leaders know which races are the most important to win.

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor 9:24). Paul encourages the Corinthians to understand which races are important and not settle for second best.


Strong leaders exude confidence. Despite personal doubts, they appear confident of their ability to succeed at all times, and this confidence carries over to subordinates.

Moses provides an example of outward confidence and inner doubt as he said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).


Leaders understand the need to praise others for their work and take responsibility for failure. Strong leaders not only give credit where credit is due but take responsibility for the failures of their subordinates.

Remember the parable of the talents that Jesus taught the disciples (Matthew 25)? The master gave three servants five, two, and one talent of money to invest on his behalf while he was away. When the master returned, he rewarded the men who invested well. The master held the man who did not invest well accountable for his actions.


A leader has the trust of friend and foe alike. His word is his bond. His yes means yes and his no means no.

Jesus provides an important lesson about trust saying, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).


Above all else, a leader knows that it is his or her job to serve. There is no need for a shepherd if there is no flock.

Certainly, no one can be seen as more of a master and a servant in the Bible than Jesus himself. Among the dozens of examples of how He cared for His flock is a simple but dramatic example of when He abruptly stopped eating dinner to wash the disciples’ feet. He did this to provide an example of how He wanted them to serve and care for others (John 13).

One Final Thought

In his book, Leadership Is an Art, author Max Dupree notes, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”

If we are not the quintessential leader that we might hope to be, we can study great leaders, understand their strengths, and try to emulate them. Eventually, with experience and dedication, you can develop the leadership skills you desire!

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled, 13 Traits of Remarkable Leaders You Should Have.”

This whitepaper includes an expanded discussion of each of the 13 Biblical leadership traits and three lessons about leaders from the life and experiences of Ezekiel.

You can download the whitepaper here: 13 Traits of Remarkable Leaders You Should Have.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of the 13 traits of Biblical Leaders are your strengths and which are areas where you want to improve?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Skills | Leadership Development


#198: Build Performance by Learning How to Use Leadership Styles Effectively

Plus a Bonus Whitepaper

There are dozens of books about leadership and developing your leadership style. Authors have compared leadership styles to animals (lions, tigers, bear, beavers), and military generals (Napoleon, Attila, Sun Tzu, Alexander) all to help managers sort through the tough task of understanding what a good leader is.


Business View

Most of us have been trained that the function of a manager is “Getting work done through others.” The more work, the better, preferably at the lowest possible cost. Inherent in this school of thought is the idea to use power to “control” others.

An example of this “controlling” style of leadership is portrayed in Matthew, “You know the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them” (Matthew 20:25).

Jesus is not condemning a leadership style that seeks to control. Rather, He is showing that it is inappropriate for the relationship between the disciples and Israelites.

Biblical View

Over 40-years ago in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices Peter Drucker noted,

“to make the worker ‘achieve’ demands that managers look upon labor as a resource rather than as a problem, a cost, or an enemy to be cowed. It demands that managers accept responsibility for making human strengths effective.”

Drucker’s point is that as managers we must change our focus from managing personnel to leading people.

One can summarize this philosophy as “Getting work done with others.” The idea is to use power to serve others; to enable them to do their work more effectively.

Jesus explains this requirement for leadership; “Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mat 20:26-28).

To the disciples, the “Gentiles” that Jesus referred to, were quite likely Roman leaders or soldiers. Imagine how revolutionary this concept must have seemed to the disciples; give leadership responsibilities to servants and slaves! From this single passage, we see the definition of a participative leadership style that emphasized the importance of relationships.

Styles Defined

There are four styles of leadership prominent in business today; Dictator, Authoritarian, Consultant, and Participative. Here are profiles of “pure” examples of each style:

Dictator. The dictator answers all the questions of who, what, when, where, and how work should be done himself. Opinions contrary to that of the dictator are not allowed.  The dictator’s biggest weakness is that he could care less about the people around him or the consequences of his actions on others. The dictator’s biggest strength is his ability to quickly summarize a situation, determine a strategy, and to act.

Authoritarian. The authoritarian usually answers most of the who, what, when, where, and how questions himself because he holds his own opinions in high regard. An authoritarian’s biggest weakness is his lack of regard for the skills of the people around him; either in using these people effectively or in recognizing the work they have done. The biggest strength of an authoritarian is their ability to gather information, decide, and act quickly.

Consultant. The consultative leader usually seeks input from others to answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. But make no mistake, he usually makes the decision himself. The biggest weakness of the consultative leader is that their decision-making process is slowed by searching out and evaluating opinions from others. The biggest strength of the consultant is that their people are very loyal and perform at or near peak levels.

Participative. The participative leader seeks input from the balance of the “team” before answering who, what, when, where, why and how questions. The biggest weakness of a participative leader is that they are often incapable of deciding on their own. The greatest strength of a participative leader is that their workers are fiercely loyal, hardworking, and performing at peak capacity.

Which Style Is “Right”?

Some writers would have you believe that only the participative team style is biblically correct. But filtering this notion through the record of Scripture yields a different answer; there is no one style that is always correct, but there is probably one best style for any given situation. Consider how Moses demonstrated each of these leadership styles:

Dictator. Moses exhibited a dictator style in several situations. In Exodus 32 we have the account of the Israelites making the golden calf. Moses immediately has the calf burned, ground into powder and thrown into the water. He then made the Israelites drink the water. Moses showed no hesitation. He took immediate action to stop the blasphemous activity.

Authoritarian. Moses exhibited an authoritarian style in Exodus 18. Here Moses listens to his father in law, Jethro, who explains to Moses that Moses should set up a hierarchy of judges to settle disputes among the people. Moses listened to Jethro and immediately set up a hierarchy of judges within each family so that only the most difficult cases would be brought before him for a decision.

Consultant. Moses exhibited a consultative style in Exodus 35-39. In these chapters, Moses related to the Israelites the preparations needed for the building of the tabernacle. Moses gave specific instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and its implements. He allowed each skilled worker to complete their work. But ultimately Moses inspected their work to see that they had done it correctly (Ex 39:43).

Participative. Moses used the participative style in Numbers 13. Here Moses prepares a group of 12 leaders (one from each tribe) to explore the country of Canaan. He gave the men specific instructions about where they were to go, and a list of eight questions he wanted to be answered. When the men returned from their scouting expedition Moses debriefed them. Ultimately, Moses even let the decision of the scouting party override his own opinion.

One Last Thought

An effective leader is one who can adeptly change his management style to suit a given situation. A dictator when fast, decisive action is required, An authoritarian when fast action is necessary, but there is some latitude in how to accomplish the task at hand. A consultant when working with experienced people on complex problems. Or participative when working with highly trained people on issues that require creative problem-solving.

Regardless of the leadership style you find yourself using, remember, you are a servant to the people you are responsible for leading. It is your responsibility to find out what their workplace needs are and to help fill them. If you do, you will build the performance levels of bosses, subordinates, and peers!

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Build Performance by Learning How to Use Leadership Styles Effectively.”

This whitepaper includes a discussion of:

  • A broader description of each of the four styles.
  • When it is appropriate to use each style.
  • Leadership style versus group size.
  • The importance of the servant’s heart demonstrated in all four styles.

You can download the free 8-page whitepaper here: Build Performance by Learning How to Use Leadership Styles Effectively.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have worked for or with someone who demonstrated only one leadership style? Was it appropriate for the situation? What was the impact on the organization?



Category: Skills | Leadership Development

#183: The Dirty Bird Theory of Superior Organizational Development

I can’t believe I had never heard of the Dirty Bird Theory of Organizational Development until a couple weeks ago. It was explained to me by a retired policeman who also served in the military.

Dirty Bird

As soon as I heard the Dirty Bird Theory, I realized it applies to every organization I have ever been a part of.

The Dirty Bird

Here’s how it goes…

You are a leader with 10 soldiers in your unit. Four of the soldiers are outstanding, three are pretty solid day in, day out, and three are less than satisfactory. Of the three poor performers, one is a hot mess; always deficient and always causing trouble for the unit.

If the leader chooses not to do anything about the screw-up, the other two marginal performers decide there is more fun to be had in following the example of the screw-up so they too become complete screw-ups.

Now the leader has four outstanding soldiers, three solid performers, and three screw-ups.

After a little while, the three solid performers realize they are working hard but the screw-ups are doing nothing. Since nothing is happening to them the three solid performers decide it’s no longer worth expending the effort to be a great performer.

Now the leader has four outstanding performers and six soldiers who are screwing up on a regular basis.

When it comes time to re-enlist, the four outstanding soldiers are fed up and decide to leave the unit because they don’t want to be associated with a group of slackers.

Now the leader has to replace the four outstanding soldiers with new recruits. The four new recruits are surrounded by six screw-ups and quickly learn to perform at sub-standard levels.

The leader who had one screw-up now has a full unit of ten screw-ups all because he refused to take action with the one original screw up.

This is the Dirty Bird Theory of Organizational Development.  The result of not attending to the one “dirty bird” eventually yielded an entire unit of screw ups.

Change the Narrative

If we flip the narrative around, we see a completely different outcome.

Assume once again you are a leader with 10 soldiers in your unit. Four of the soldiers are outstanding, three are pretty solid day in, day out, and three are less than satisfactory. Of the three poor performers, one is a hot mess; always deficient and always causing trouble for the unit.

Instead of ignoring the screw-up, you reassign him to a position that is more aligned to his skill sets or you get rid of him completely.

Now you have nine soldiers; four are outstanding, three are pretty solid, and two that are less than satisfactory. But, the two poor performers see what happened to the screw-up and they work harder because they don’t want to be the next one shown the door. Now you have four outstanding soldiers and six who are pretty solid.

You bring in a tenth soldier and he hears what happened to the screw-up. He doesn’t want that to happen to him so he works hard emulating the four outstanding soldiers.

Now you have five outstanding soldiers and five pretty solid soldiers. The five pretty solid soldiers see even the new guy succeeding along with the other outstanding soldiers and they work harder to be better.

The odds of all five of the pretty solid soldiers all becoming outstanding soldiers is low but they are all working harder than ever and reaching goals they never thought possible before.

The leader who attended to the lone dirty bird right away now has a high performing unit of five outstanding soldiers and five who are trying harder than ever to be the best they can be.

It Happened to Me

At the mid-point of my career at Procter & Gamble, I was offered an opportunity to switch from sales management to marketing management. I attended my first quarterly meeting of marketing managers even before I was officially in the role.

At this meeting, our executive vice-president of marketing stood up in front of a room of 140 or so marketers and said, “If you don’t love this work, leave, and go find something else to do. In fact, leave now.”

I was shocked. Never before had I heard any manager, let alone a senior executive, tell people to get with the program or leave, literally right now.

But, he went on to explain that life is too short to short-change yourself by doing work you don’t love. So for your own sake and the sake of the organization, find work you love and go do it!

This executive was putting an important Biblical principle into practice. Paul, writing to the Colossians admonished them saying, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Whatever work you are doing, work with all you heart because you are working for the Lord. Your example to other workers is one way you can honor the Lord for the blessings and talents He has given you.

If you are a leader, it is your duty to the organization you lead to make that organization as highly skilled as possible. You can’t do that if you let one “dirty bird” bring down the performance of the rest of the group.

Paul said it well when he told the Galatians, A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough” (Galatians 5:9). One “dirty bird” can end up ruining an entire organization.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked in an organization where one “dirty bird” brought down the performance of the whole group? If so what happened?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development

#154: Are the Best Executives, Leaders or Managers?

Are the best executives, leaders or managers? The quick answer is “no.” The best executives are neither managers nor leaders, but possess a unique blend of skills of both the leader and the manager.

Leaders, Executives

Mr. Webster defined management as “the act or art of managing”, and he defined managing, “to handle or direct with a degree of skill.” Peter Drucker took eight pages to provide an overview of the terms, manager and management, in his book Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. Simply stated, Drucker defined the work of a manager as “planning, organizing, integrating, and measuring.”

Turning to Mr. Webster again, he defined leadership as, “the office or position of a leader, the capacity to lead.” He defined lead as, “to guide on a way, especially in advance.”

None of these definitions create a very clear sense of the difference between managing and leading. They do not even give a good sense for why a distinction is important.

A look at the “activities” of a manager versus a leader provides a clearer distinction between the two:

A manager is concerned with planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. A manager is responsible for getting things done on time and on budget.

A leader sets direction, creates vision, communicates to and aligns constituents, and motivates and inspires the group. A leader produces dramatic, significant change.

Being a good manager certainly doesn’t make someone a good leader, just as being a good leader doesn’t make someone a good manager. The reason is the skill sets are completely different!

Think for a moment about the training you have received in your career. Was it focused on management activities or leadership activities? Only a very fortunate few have had any leadership training at all. Our educational systems and our corporate training focuses on building management skills not on developing leaders.

Mr. Drucker noted in Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, “There are, in developed society, thousands, if not millions, of managers––and leadership is always the rare exception and confined to a very few individuals.”

But so what? Does it really matter if we don’t have many leaders as long as we have lots of strong managers? A recent survey of top executives showed that there were far too few executives who were strong leaders and managers, far too many who were strong managers but weak leaders, too few who were strong leaders but weak managers, and too many who were weak leaders and managers.

A company trying to succeed in the future will have difficulty if the organization is comprised of anything but employees who have strong leadership and management skills. The effect of these skill imbalances in business is easy to spot:

Strong Management, Weak Leadership. The company with an excess of this type of executive is known for their high levels of bureaucracy, and a work atmosphere that stifles initiative and creativity. Some of our older companies fit this model; our steel and automobile industries, some computer companies, and several household goods companies.

Many companies with strong management and weak leadership are the ones you’re reading about that are restructuring and reengineering in a frenzied effort to survive. Many have already gone by the wayside.

The employee who is a strong manager but a weak leader is best described as the “Seagull”. The “Seagull” manager flies into town, flaps their wings, squawks a lot, eats everything in sight, marks their territory, and then flies back from whence they came. In a word, the “Seagull” manager is an expert at “over-control.”

Strong Leadership, Weak Management. This company has a strong vision, but lacks a grip on reality. Entrepreneurial startups most often fit this model. The vision is supplied by the person who started the company; a dynamic inventor who created a product, developed it, and succeeded in bringing it to market, but who lacks an understanding of how to monitor and control work processes.

An employee who is a strong leader but a weak manager can be described as “highly motivated chaos”. They are the “ready, fire, aim” people. They expend lots of energy, but often achieve little in terms of results. Simply put, they are “out of control.”

Somewhere between these two extremes of “out of control” and “over-control” is a highly effective executive who is a strong leader and a strong manager.

Getting Started

Building an executive that is a strong leader and strong manager is not easy but it can be done. The natural leader must learn how to manage, and the natural manager must learn how to lead. Each must combine the other into a balanced style. Here are six traits of an executive who manages by leading:

Sets Direction. Before setting direction, the executive starts by getting input from customers and key corporate functions. Direction is then set that focus’ on the end state, challenges the status quo, is flexible, and considers the systems that will be needed to complete the work.

Enrolls Others. Customers and employees need to be enrolled. This is done by communicating the end state, securing commitment, developing role models, removing systemic barriers, developing the capabilities of the organization, and maintaining open communications.

Planning. A good plan will create order even in the midst of chaos. Plans need to consider the allocation of resources, who will do what work, the establishment of objectives, and setting budgets.

Organizes. The workplace must be organized in such a way that it contributes to the accomplishment of our goals. Systems to monitor results are needed, the organization must be staffed, and policies and procedures to control the processes need to be in place. Systems, policies, and procedures must all be clearly communicated to workers, and line up with customer objectives.

Enables Others. This is power the step. Organizations who succeed in enabling their workers have a competitive advantage. Barriers of all kinds need to be eliminated; people must be empowered to work in the best interests the organization. We need to encourage risk-taking, leverage diversity, motivate and inspire our workers, and recognize and reward success.

Measure Systems. Monitoring results will help identify systems that are out of control and provides an opportunity to solve problems. Measuring the effectiveness of our systems allows us to direct our energy and resources at critical parts of the system and provides an opportunity to predict results.

The six steps listed above provide a balanced approach to managing and leading. Most executives have a tendency to do what they are comfortable with and pay little attention to the rest. That kind of short-sighted approach will not work in the future. We must become strong leaders and strong managers to be successful.

One Final Thought

The world is a global market. We no longer think about products that can be made and sold only in our home country. Rather, most successful, growing, vibrant companies consider how to build manufacturing and distribution systems on a global basis. This globalization of business has increased competition tremendously, and competition is the engine that drives change.

Managers, with their sense of control, are not well suited to manage change, but leaders are. Leaders are the people who will create new visions; who will create alignment within the organization; and who will motivate and inspire employees. Once this has been done, management skills will keep the organization in a state of control running efficiently.

Which boss would you rather work for? Which would you rather be; the manager or the leader? Hopefully, you said neither. Neither one is capable of running and organization effectively. Hopefully, you want to work for and be a person who has well-balanced skills at both managing and leading. If you don’t have these skills now––get them.

The most valuable employees in the future will be the ones who can lead people to aspire to new heights while creating and managing the systems needed to help them get there.

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the free 5-page whitepaper, Are the Best Executives, Leaders or Managers?It includes seven steps you can take to encourage leadership in your organization.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for executives who were unbalanced in their strength as either a strong leader or as a strong manager? What was the effect on the organization?

I’d love your helpThis blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Skills |Leadership Development

#153: Leaders are Readers: My Book List for 2016

You may be familiar with the quote by Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States; “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Leaders Readers

I like to read, but often my reading list gets pushed down on my to-do list. It doesn’t seem like sitting and reading is actually “doing” anything. So I decided to do some research to see if reading really is important for leaders.

Of course, it took only seconds for Google to bring me an article from the Harvard Business Review that supports the thesis that leaders are readers. In this article, For those Who Want to Lead, Readauthor John Coleman, cites 10 purported benefits for leaders who are readers. Among them:

  1. Reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight.
  2. Reading builds your vocabulary.
  3. Reading increases abstract reasoning skills.
  4. Reading is an efficient way to acquire and assimilate new information.
  5. Reading across fields is a good way to increase creativity.
  6. Reading increases the likelihood that you will be innovative.
  7. Reading can make you more effective in leading others.
  8. Reading can increase your verbal intelligence making you a more adept and effective communicator.
  9. Reading can improve your empathy and increase your organizational effectiveness.
  10. Reading can help you relax, reduce stress, and improve your health.

I’m sold. Reading is important for leaders. Reading more will help me be a better leader. It seems what you read, in terms of genre, is not nearly as important as just reading!

I’m going public with my reading list for 2016. My goal is to read at least 10 books during the year. I’ve got 14 books on my list so far, and I hope to get some books recommended to me that I can add to my list:

  • “Turn the Ship Around—A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” by L. David Marquet. Marquet is a Navy submarine captain who tells how he turned one of the worst performing submarines in the fleet, into the best.
  • “The Obstacle is the Way—The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday. This book was recommended to me by a reader of this blog who leads every day in his role as a police chief (thanks, John!).
  • “Quarter Life Calling—How to Find Your Sweet Spot in Your Twenties” by Paul Sohn. OK. Full disclosure, I have already read this book twice. The first reading was Paul’s draft. The second reading was the galley proofs. The finished print version released January 18, 2016 and I can’t wait to read it again!
  • “Will it Fly—How to Test Your Next Business Idea so You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money” by Pat Flynn. I am a Pat Flynn fan. He is a wonderful young man who is among the most successful internet business men around. The book will be released in February 2016.
  • “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics” by John Maxwell. I admit, I am a Maxwell fan. I’ve read several of his books and enjoyed them all immensely. A book on ethics seems like an especially important read after some of the news this year.
  • “Marketplace Christianity” by Robert Fraser. I started this book some time ago, and for some reason set it aside so I’m going back to chapter 1 and starting over.
  • “Do Something—Make Your Life Count” by Miles McPherson. Miles delivered a powerful sermon as a guest pastor at our church. When I found out he had written a “motivational, get yourself in gear” kind of book I ordered it. Sometimes I need a little motivational kick in the backside!
  • “Leadership Beyond Reason—How Great Leaders Succeed by Harnessing the Power of their Values, Feeling, and Intuition” by Dr. John Townsend. I received this book as a gift after Dr. Townsend spoke at gathering of business people at our church. After hearing him speak I can’t imagine this book will be anything short of fantastic.
  • “Business as Mission—The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God” by Michael R. Baer. Baer’s premise is Christian businesses have an opportunity to impact the world for Christ in a remarkable way. I agree wholeheartedly and I want to learn what he thinks about how this can be achieved.
  • “The Gospel Goes to Work—God’s Big Canvass of Calling and Renewal.” by Dr. Stephen Graves. I’m not sure how I came to hear about this book, but since I am in the middle of rediscovering God’s calling on my life I am looking forward to what I learn from this book.
  • “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years—How I Learned to Live a Better Story” by Donald Miller. I first learned about Donald Miller when I watched an interview Michael Hyatt did with him. The interview was fascinating and I expect the story he tells in this book will be exceptional.
  • “Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. This book has been recommended to me by friends at least 4-5 times over the past year. Perhaps my friends are trying to tell me something! Anyway, this book comes with rave reviews so I am looking forward to reading it.
  • “Start with Why—How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. This is another book that came to me via recommendations of friends. I watched Simon’s TED talk, and I was enthralled like millions of others who have watched it on YouTube. A quick look at the jacket cover suggests this could be a life-changing read.
  • “Dance Until It Rains—Inspiring Stories of Everyday Persistence” by various authors. This book is a compilation of stories written by a variety of authors telling someone else’s inspiring story. This could be a tear-jerker.

Well, that’s it for now. My list of books to read in 2016. I suspect if this year is anything like last year, I will add several books to the list during the year. If I don’t get them all read this year, they’ll roll-over to next year. It’s all about being a learning leader who reads.

If you have a favorite book that you’ve read recently let me know!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Never was that more true than this week. I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read recently that you really enjoyed.


I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development |

#128: Running the Great Race

11 Qualities of a Winner

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  (1 Cor. 9:24)”, they knew very well what he meant.

Winner Running Race

The citizens of Corinth were familiar with athletic contests since their annual Isthmian games were second only to the Olympic games.  They knew that to win a runner must stay on the course, focused on the race, and keep going until the race was over.

How do we, as Christians, run the race in today’s marketplace, in such a way that we “get the prize”?  You don’t have to go far to find people willing to give you the answer.  Bookstores are full of books that proclaim methods sure to harness your inner powers to win; to be successful in life.  Entire magazines are devoted to teaching you the secret power of your inner-self on a monthly basis.  The problem with these self-help volumes is that they focus on how you can serve yourself and they call that “winning”.

Sadly, there are millions of people who accept this advice, focusing on their own pleasures and success, but suddenly they find a great emptiness in their gut.  The title and corner office at work, the luxury car, the nice house, none of these visible signs of winning bring true satisfaction.  So how can you live your life so as to “win” the race?  How can you serve God and win the greatest prize of all?  Here are eleven qualities of winners that will get you started.

Continue Reading »

#121: Do You Lead Like a Trail Boss or a Shepherd?

When I was a young manager I was a trail boss. Now that I am a bit older (and hopefully wiser) I am trying to be a shepherd.

Shepherd leader, sheep

What’s the difference you ask?

The trail boss is the guy in charge of the cattle drive. He bosses the cowboys around and is responsible for getting the cattle to wherever they need to be. As the name ‘cattle drive’ implies you ‘drive’ cattle. You get behind the cattle and drive them, push them, and holler at them to keep them going in the direction you want them to go. When some of the cattle split off in another direction you round them up and drive them back to the herd.

Before I became a Christian I was a trail boss. I tended to drive my employees, push them, and yell and holler to get them to do what I wanted them to do.

A shepherd, on the other hand, moves the flock of sheep by leading them. Sheep are social animals who don’t like to be alone, they have good memories, they are followers by nature, and they don’t like loud noises and yelling.

As a Christian, I kept running into Bible verses about Jesus being a shepherd, and Jesus telling the disciples to be a shepherd. In John 21:16, Jesus tells Peter to “shepherd my sheep” (some translations say “care for” or “tend my sheep”).

Since most of us have had limited experience tending sheep it’s a bit hard to really understand what it means to shepherd sheep. Tending sheep is more than feeding, it includes caring, leading, guiding, and protecting the sheep.

Peter provides the elders with a great description of what it means to be a shepherd leader. He is speaking to the elders as an elder—he is one of them, but he comes with the authority of being an apostle of Jesus Christ.

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

There are four characteristics of a shepherd leader in this short verse:

1) Shepherd Leaders recognize their role is to be a shepherd

To be a shepherd caring for a flock means to feed, care, lead, guide, and protect the sheep.

Lesson for Us. Being a shepherd leader means our role is broader than often construed in the secular world. We need to care about the whole person, guiding, leading, and protecting them.

2) Shepherd Leaders know the flock belongs to God

The flock may be your employees, but they were created by God, and in that sense are all His children.

Lesson for Us. Shepherd leaders realize that they are ultimately responsible to God to care properly for His created beings.

3) Shepherd Leaders serve as shepherds for the right reasons

Godly leaders serve voluntarily, not because of what they receive, and not begrudgingly or out of obligation.

Lesson for Us. Shepherd leaders lead out of a sense of duty to serve, not out of a desire to make themselves rich and powerful.

4) Shepherd Leaders serve as an example to the flock

Godly leaders are not “do as I say not as I do” leaders. Their walk matches their talk.

Lesson for Us. Shepherd leaders lead by example, following the example set for us by Jesus.

People in our organizations are not like a herd of cows that can be driven from point to point. Instead of leading like the trail boss we should lead like shepherds who love and care for their flocks. If we lead like shepherds we will let our light shine before men so that others will see it and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which type of leader are you, a trail boss or a shepherd?  Which type of leader do you prefer to work for?


I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development

#119: Through the Looking Glass

How do your employees view you as a manager?

On the minds of most managers is the question, “What are my strengths and greatest needs for improvement?” Second, managers want to know, “How do my employees view me as their leader?”

Both of these questions relate to self-image. How you view your own performance has a significant impact on your relationship with others.

The Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz only appeared green because of the green glasses everyone wore. Similarly, how you view yourself as an employee and a manager creates a “filter” through which you evaluate other relationships.

The self-image filter affects us in many ways; it provides motivation for our work, it shapes the way we perceive the world, it provides a way to judge our own behavior, it is projected in the way we deal with others, and it is the cornerstone of something we all want – self-respect.

Psychology 101 taught us two important things about self-image. First of all, it is learned. Self-image is not something we inherited from mom and dad. Second, self-image comes from feedback. Feedback is the report card that we get from others in response to our actions.

For example, someone tells you you’re good with computers. Pretty soon you get a reputation as someone who can provide help with computer questions. You find yourself working harder to stay ahead of the pack to maintain the self-image of someone who has great computer skills.

As your confidence grows, desire to improve increases, your skills improve, and your self-image is enhanced. It becomes a circle of constant skill development and improvement.

On the other hand, someone says you’re not very good at public speaking. The next time you have to give a speech this thought keeps repeating itself in the back of your mind. Suddenly, you can’t string three words together into a coherent sentence.

These types of positive and negative examples of self-image have affected all of us. What they teach us is that since self-image is learned from the feedback we receive we can adapt; we can strengthen what we do well, and work on areas where our skills are not so strong.

What does all this self-image stuff have to do with the manager/employee relationship? Plenty!  The image you have of your employees and theirs of you provides the filter through which your relationship is developed. If the image is strong the relationship is positive, if the image is weak the relationship is negative.

11 Factors Influencing Your Image

The following eleven factors play a significant role in the development of image between a manager and an employee. Understanding these image builders will make you more effective as a leader in your organization.

Frequency of Contact/Availability

If someone were to ask one of your employees how they see you as a boss would they say, “I don’t know, I never see him”, or “I only see her when there are problems.” Or would your employee answer, “I see her all the time, she’s always available to help. I like her and trust her.”

Nothing can substitute for a manager who is seen frequently and is available to their employees.


Employees must be able to get in your door and feel comfortable talking to you. Do your employees know when the best time to see you is? The more an employee feels they can bring any problem to you the more likely they will seek your assistance.


Sam Walton’s famous trips to visit his stores have heightened awareness of the importance of meeting employees in their workplace. Employees feel important when the boss comes to them and communications are more open.

Open Door

Some managers make a pretense of having an open door policy; they smile, they talk a great game, and they say they want to hear about your success and your failure. In reality, they only want to hear the “company line – no real problems please”. It doesn’t take an employee long to learn not to seek advice from this kind of boss.

Open Communications

Open communications in the office are absolutely necessary. If an employee can find you and can get past your secretary to see you, but can’t communicate openly with you for fear of recrimination, you’ll soon lack vital information you need to keep the business profitable.

Clear Expectations

Do a survey about what employees want from a boss and the answer in more cases than not will be, “I want to know exactly what he wants me to do.” This doesn’t mean the employee can’t or doesn’t want to be self-directing, but it does mean they need clearly defined boundaries, and clearly defined goals and objectives.

Fair Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are usually conducted quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. They are the formal opportunity for the manager and the employee to discuss performance related issues.

If you’re doing a good job of providing feedback to your employees, nothing said in the formal performance review should ever come as a surprise to the employee.

Subordinate Review

Subordinate review of the manager is becoming a common practice. Usually linked to the performance review process, it is the employee’s opportunity to provide feedback to the boss.

Provide Recognition

Barnabas was known as the “encourager”. As a manager, you should look for ways that you can provide encouragement to your employees.

Share Information

If employees understand how the work they do contributes to the company vision, they will make better decisions in their day-to-day work. There’s nothing like an employee who understands the effect on the pocketbook of having a 10% reject rate when a 1% rate is achievable.

Employee Development

Knowledge translated into a technology that brings a new product to market will be the lifeblood of companies that survive and prosper in the 21st century. Providing continuing education and training for all your employees will be the only way to ensure a steady flow of new ideas and competent workers.

Getting Started

How do employees and peers view you as a manager? Ask yourself the following questions.  As you consider your answers think about how you really come across to people, and how you usually react to different situations.

If you’re really honest about the answers you’ll know how your employees and peers view you as a manager.

  • Do you have frequent contact with your employees?
  • Do your employees feel comfortable coming to you?
  • Do you have contact with your people at their workplace?
  • Do your employees freely discuss difficulties with you?
  • Do you seek input from your employees?
  • Do you always make sure that job expectations are clearly communicated and understood?
  • Do you provide your employees with fair, constructive job performance reviews?
  • Do you ask your employees how they see you as a leader?
  • Do you support your employees by giving credit for jobs well done?
  • Do you share relevant, important information about the company with your employees?
  • Do you encourage your employees to continue to develop their skills through work-related training?

We need to take a serious look into the “looking glass” to discern how others view us. The eleven questions above will provide a start.

As Christians, we are to let our light shine before men in such a way that they see our good works and glorify our Father (Matthew 5:16).

To provide this light in the workplace is our greatest opportunity for ministry. Don’t treat this responsibility lightly, people’s salvation is at stake.

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the Through the Looking Glass  6-page whitepaper.

Bonus Whitepaper–Through the Looking Glass

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you looked through the looking glass to see how your em,employees viewed you? Did you like what you saw?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development