Unseen Leadership

I have been reading Mentor Leadership by Tony Dungy, and I have not read anything I disagree with. Dungy puts a strong emphasis on building relationships and leading through service. He also discusses the importance of investing time in those we lead. However, as I was reading, there was a part that made me consider the idea of leading without knowing that we are leading. I like to consider this “Unseen Leadership”. 

We tend to think about leading as a position or title that one holds. I, however, believe leadership is a way of life and is more about serving those around us. We do not need to have a fancy title or a high paying position to be leaders. Still, there is another level of leadership that is not considered, and that is the idea of leading without knowing we are leading. This is when others, outside of our perceived circle of influence, watch and observe what we do and how we do it. These are the people that read our posts on social media, stand in the background and observe our actions, and are usually people we would never think were noticing us.

This is a real element of leadership we tend to forget or neglect. When I was younger, my dad used to tell me that integrity was doing the right thing even when no one was looking. That definition has always stuck with me. As I have grown older, I have learned that I was missing a part of that definition. Rather than, “Doing the right thing even when no one is looking,” I have found that it should say, “Doing the right thing even when WE THINK no one is looking.”  For someone who tries hard to live a life dedicated to service and leadership, this definition means more and more to me every day. 

We are surrounded by observers, watchers, and eyes unseen all of the time. We are being scrutinized on everything we say, everything we post, and everything we do; whether we think we are or not. This doesn’t mean we live life to appease others. On the contrary, we should be living life more conscientious of our actions and thoughts. We take careful consideration in what we say, what we post, and how we act. It is not to make others happy, but rather to live a life of integrity, honor, and respect. It’s a focus on living life the right way. 

Unseen leadership may be the most powerful form of leadership. It may be easier to do the right thing, serve, honor, and respect those we come into contact with and see face to face, but when we are “alone” in our own world, being observed by others we cannot see, do we still lead as if we can see them? It is during these times that our true character and leadership are shown. Are we living a life of integrity and doing the right thing even when we think no one is watching? We must carefully consider our actions, words, and posts as we traverse our everyday life. Do not let leadership only be when we stand amidst others. Let us live a life of integrity, as we may not know who is watching. Let us consider our unseen leadership in everything we do. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Teachable Moments

“You did what?!?” As a parent and an educator, I have often found myself asking this question. I have also heard individuals in leadership express the same question. However, what we choose to say after this question can either uplift, teach, and grow, or it can break, discourage, and dismantle an individual. We must be careful to choose our words wisely, so that we don’t miss teachable moments. 

I heard a story of a child who was grounded for a month for “burning their sister with a hot pan.” Granted, I don’t know all the details; but a month? What happened to making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. What has this child learned? If I make a mistake, I will be punished. Instead, this could have been a great teachable moment for this child. He could have learned the importance of being aware of his surroundings, taking his time and being careful, the importance of using his words to let people know what is happening, and so many others. Instead, this child has learned that his mistakes lead to punishments.

I will admit, I have gone from zero to sixty with my children or my students, but I will always go back and express my regret on that decision and try to turn it into a teachable moment for myself and my children or students. If the goal in life is to help, serve, and encourage others, then we must refrain from emotionally charged reactions. We must control our emotions, or we will miss a teachable moment. This is not easy by any means, but it is needed to help the individual at fault to become more aware of the consequences of their actions and guided to make better choices. 

In the education world, a teacher who does not perform up to their duties is not fired. Rather, they are placed on a professional learning plan. This plan directly reflects the areas that need to be corrected or strengthened. The teacher on the professional learning plan is also given a mentor to guide them through the process of becoming better. In the end, however, the teacher on the professional learning plan must make the choice to do what is needed to show growth in their areas of weakness. A learning opportunity is presented to the teacher, and it is up to the teacher to take the opportunity to grow. Support is given to the teacher, but it is up to the teacher to listen to and collaborate with their mentor. Ultimately, it is the teacher who will choose their natural consequence and either learn to become better, or choose to ignore the help and guidance that is provided, ultimately ending their career. 

Punishments teach nothing except, “if you make a mistake you will have punitive actions brought against you.” There is a big difference between consequences and punishments. Punishments do not help someone learn from their actions or teach them to understand why their actions were not considered appropriate. Consequences are natural, and should be used to teach lessons. However, for someone to learn, they must be guided to understanding. Consequences can be used as teachable moments to help someone learn and gain a better understanding. Don’t miss teachable moments because of emotional responses.

We must use the mistakes that others make and turn them into teachable moments. Let us not neglect our duties and responsibilities to others and to serve, help, and encourage. Refrain from choosing punishment over consequence. Let us be people who help others learn from their mistakes and guide them in the process of becoming better. Lets not miss teachable moments.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Becoming Better Never Stops

Life is full of choices. Each choice comes with consequences; some positive, some negative. No matter what choices we make, we need to purpose within ourselves to never stop becoming better. We must push ourselves to be the best we can be everyday. We must push off the temptation of excuses, laziness, and self-righteousness. We must humble ourselves and push ourselves to become more. We must set the bar high, and when we reach that bar, we must set it even higher. It is up to us to become better. No one is coming to do it for us.

Mel Robbins, an American lawyer, author, and speaker once said:

‘It’s very, very simple to get what you want, but it’s not easy. It’s your job to make yourself do the crap you don’t want to do, so you can be everything that you’re supposed to be. And you’re so damn busy waiting ‘to feel like it’. And you’re never going to – ever. No one’s coming. No one. No one’s coming to push you; no one’s coming to tell you to turn the TV off; no one’s coming to tell you to get out the door and exercise; nobody’s coming to tell you to apply for that job that you’ve always dreamt about; nobody’s coming to write the business plan for you. It’s up to you.’

We must push ourselves to become better. We must stop pretending that “things will change someday.” Things won’t change unless we do. Our attitude, actions, thoughts, purpose, passions, goals, dreams – you name it – will never change or become reality unless we act. Waiting in hopes that everything will magically change on their own is a pipedream. If we KNOW we need to be better and do nothing to make ourselves better, then we are wasting our potential and building a character of idleness. 

Life is about learning and applying what we learn. Koby Bryant once said in an interview, “The Mamba Mentality is about trying to be the best version of yourself. It means everyday you are trying to become better. It’s a constant quest; it’s an infinite quest.” He goes on to say that he does this by always looking for things to learn from. Learning is not about memorizing information, but rather the application of what we have learned to become better. It doesn’t matter how much we know if we choose to never do anything with that knowledge.

To become better means we must always be in a state of reflection. We must seek out the opportunities to learn, observe, and be like a sponge. We must not look at our faults and mistakes as all ending failures, but rather as opportunities to strengthen our weaknesses. Becoming better starts with being vulnerable and willing. Once we allow ourselves these qualities, we must focus on two more: discipline and consistency. We must change our mindset to push ourselves to become better. We must change how we view ourselves and how we view mistakes and failures, and we must reprogram our thinking to become self-motivating. As Mel said, “No one’s coming.”

Will you have bad days? Absolutely! Will you have days where you fall back into a negative pattern? Probably. But what’s most important is what you do with those days. Do you allow for excuses to keep you from moving forward? Do you see your failures and mistakes as reasons to not keep trying? Your success is solely dependent on you. Only you can change your mindset. Only you can put in the work to better yourself. Only you can force yourself to be disciplined and consistent. There is only one question that still remains: Will you stop trying to become better, or will you never allow yourself to stop becoming better? 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Come Together

There have been many occasions where I have heard people expressing their frustrations because leadership neglects or refuses to come together and have a conversation with their employees. Employees harbor frustration, anger, and  animosity and begin to care less about their job due to the lack of communication they have from their superiors. Employees feel abandoned and dismissed when leadership does not involve them in critical decisions that have a direct impact on their job, their duties, and their livelihood. Leadership needs to learn the importance and value of bringing everyone together and having a sincere, transparent, and honest conversation.

Why do companies and organizations refuse or neglect to involve regular employees in decision making? One reason is because leadership doesn’t feel it is the responsibility of the employees to be involved in certain matters. Another reason is because companies and organizations don’t want to be transparent with their employees on the “How’s” and “Why’s” of their decision making. Some companies and organizations would rather deal with people they know, rather than allow people they do not know, even though they work for them, to be involved in company or organization matters. There are many reasons for why companies and organizations refuse or neglect to involve their employees the opportunity to speak to different professional matters. I believe, however, that most of the reasons are more of a detriment to the overall health, success, and progress of the company and organization.

There is significant value in bringing everyone to the table to have real conversations about the mission, vision, and direction of a company or organization. There is a reason why unions were started. Imagine what would happen if leadership opened the door of the conference room to their employees and invited them to be a part of the decision making process for the company and organization. This doesn’t have to be a required meeting, but a meeting that is organized, placed on the calendar, and open to all employees who want to participate and be involved with the company or organization.

 Imagine the value there would be when budgets were discussed with everyone in the organization. Imagine the enlightenment that might happen on both sides when everyone knows and understands where the money is coming from and where it is going. Imagine the positive changes that could be made when employees are given the opportunity to speak to how money is used and circulated throughout the organization. There is significant value in bringing in employees to listen, share, and problem solve ideas for the organization.

Not only do these meetings open the door for better understanding and communication within the organization or company, it also encourages a team centered mindset. As the saying goes, “United we stand. Divided we fall.” For a company or organization to be united, communication must be constant, open, sincere, and honest. Unity is built on trust. When communication is lacking, trust cannot be built. The idea of “team” is built on trust. Each player trusts the other players to do their job, work hard, and show up. Creating a team centered organization or company starts with communication, honesty, accountability, and transparency. Leadership MUST be the ones that set the example.

I encourage you to make communication and employee involvement a priority in your company and organization. Allow those who work for you to have input, share ideas, and help solve issues within the company or organization. Listen to your people. Build trust through honest, real, and transparent communication. Give your employees a reason to buy into the company and organization by giving them the opportunity to share in the decision making process. Open the door to the conference room and invite everyone to come together.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Stop with the “What Ifs”

We seem to play a game inside our heads whenever we have to make a decision, or whenever we need to take action. This game is called “What If…” This game is one of the most detrimental games we can play, as it leads to hesitation and fear. When action needs to be taken, or when important decisions need to be made, playing the “What if” game keeps you from forward progress and will most likely hurt you than help you. Stop with the “What ifs” and start living the life you are meant to live.

I hear people say all of the time, “What if he…”, “What if she…”, or “What if I…”. This question is indicative of anxiety, fear, and a lack of self confidence. When someone states a “What if” statement, my response is always, “If you live your life in ‘What ifs’, then you will never live.”  The truth is, when we consume our mind and thoughts with the ideas of the fear of the unknown, we will miss opportunities afforded to us because of those fears. As the saying goes, “You’ll never know, unless you try.”

“What ifs” keep us stagnant, never changing. We keep doing the same things out of the fear of what might happen if we did something different or new. Confession time: I took many months off of lifting weights and going to the gym because I kept thinking, “What if I have a heart attack or injure myself so badly I need medical attention.” The irony is that “What if” thinking is what kept me from taking care of myself and got me closer to the possibility of a heart attack and needing medical attention. Yes, I had a legitimate fear of something happening to me in the gym, but my fear held me back and kept me from becoming better and getting healthy. Today, however, I have biked over 800 miles in the course of 6 months, I am more fit, my blood pressure is down, and I have a lot more energy. What did I learn? I learned that “What if” thoughts hold me back from making positive changes, reaching goals, and becoming better.

In order to become more, we must shed our fears and run with abandon. We must stop fearing the “What ifs” and push ourselves to just do. Whatever happens will happen, and having fear of something that might or might not happen will keep you from reaching goals and becoming more. Learn to live in a way that embraces the unknown and the possibilities that the unknown might offer. To fear a hypothetical situation, is to relinquish the sanity and control of your own life. You are the captain of your life. You can either leave the harbor, ride through the storms, and see the most amazing places and do the most amazing things, or you can choose to anchor your ship and miss the wonders of this life.

Don’t let the hypothetical “What ifs” keep you from living a life full of adventure, excitement, and purpose. Don’t listen to the lies of fear. Embrace the unknown and live an adventurous life . Do not allow the “What ifs” to keep you from the opportunities this life offers. Turn your “What ifs” into “Let’s find out.”

As always, stay humble and serve well!

How’s Your Character Doing?

Leadership is a way of life. We don’t need to be in a high level position or hold some fancy title to be a leader. All we need to do is live a life that exudes leadership qualities. There are many qualities that define a great leader, and each quality points back to one thing – our character. Great leadership qualities include learning to listen before we speak, being humble, serving others without looking to be served ourselves, admitting our faults and failures, putting others before ourselves, leading with strength and courage when others flee with fear, and many others. All of these qualities are a direct representation of our character. So I have a question for you – How’s your character doing?

I will be the first to admit that I do not show leadership qualities 100% of the time. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1. I am a constant work in progress and will always make mistakes, but I will never quit trying to improve and be better, 2. I struggle with some leadership qualities, and I am working on becoming better. Even though I might make mistakes and struggle in showing certain leadership qualities, I will never stop trying to become better.

The other day I had a conversation with my nine year old daughter about failure. She came to me and said, “Dad, I failed at writing today in school.” I asked her what she meant, and she said, “I couldn’t figure out the three things a sentence needs.” I asked her if she stopped trying to understand, and she said, “No.” I told her that she didn’t fail; she only made mistakes, which is normal when we are learning. She then looked at me with a puzzled look, and I explained, “You only fail when you stop trying. If you make a mistake and try to correct that mistake, then you didn’t fail. All you did was make a mistake.” 

You’re probably sitting there going, “That’s a nice story and all, but what does this have to do with my character?” No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Humanity seems to see mistakes as failures and many times chooses to stop trying to improve themselves. When we struggle with character qualities, we have two options – stop trying to become better and fail at building a strong character, or continue to work on those qualities even after we make mistakes. Our character is what will last when we are gone. Our title and position in life does not matter. What matters is who we are on a day to day basis, and it’s our character that determines the kind of person we are.

I may be altruistic in saying this, but I don’t believe people have an innate desire to be disrespectful, arrogant, prideful “A” holes. I believe people want to do good and be good. I believe people have a desire, deep down, to be better human beings. The problem is that our society glorifies behavior that promotes bad character traits. When all we see is the glorification of negative, poor character traits, then we begin to consider those traits as normal. In reality, these “normal” traits are anything but good. 

There is an old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.” It took me until my early 20’s to understand what this adage really meant. The more negativity, false doctrine, and lies we allow to permeate our existence, the more we become the very things we know are wrong. If we allow for bad character traits to seep into our being, then we slowly become, and normalize, what we know is poor character qualities. To mitigate this problem, we must be in a constant state of reflection and learning. We must admit our faults and mistakes and do what is needed to become better human beings. Our poor choices and character qualities are nobody’s fault but our own. 

So, how’s your character doing? I challenge you to take a deep, hard look at yourself and determine what character qualities you need to change and work on. And don’t forget, you only fail when you stop trying.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Challenge Yourself

Challenges are never easy. Thus the reason they are called challenges. But we seem to allow challenges to own us instead of us owning them. What I mean to say is that we tend to give up, stop trying, make excuses, etc. We tend to go into a challenge with a winning mindset, but once it becomes hard, tiresome, or painful, we quit. Challenges are something that pushes us beyond what we think our limits are. Challenges push us outside of our comfort zone and force us to become more or better than we were. Challenges can be inspiring, and unless we stay focused, push ourselves, and stop making excuses, every challenge we go through will own us.

Throughout the months of August and September, I found myself being challenged both mentally and physically. What you are about to read is a summary of my challenges and the lessons I learned as I pushed myself through each challenge.  

On a hot August afternoon, I was sitting in my chair in the living room scrolling through my social media feed, wasting time and my life, and came across the Great Cycle Challenge USA. This challenge was to bike ride a specific number of miles throughout the month of September and meet a personal donation goal all in the name of fighting children’s cancer. When I read about the cause and what I was being challenged to do, I couldn’t help but feel a desire to get involved. I clicked on the link, set up a profile, and set my miles at 250. I was given choices of 100, 200, 350, or 500 miles. I felt 200 was too little, and 350 seemed like a lot for my first time, so I chose to set my miles at 250. I then was asked to set a donation amount. I was again given a bunch of choices for how much I wanted to raise, and I chose to raise $1000; mind you, I have never done any formal fundraising in my life.

At the same time that I was setting up my profile for the Great Cycle Challenge USA, an email flew into my inbox that said Elmore County Rescue was hiring. As someone who has been in emergency services before, the want, passion, and desire to help and be part of something bigger than yourself never goes away. As soon as I read the email, I was quick to get online and fill out the application. At the interview, I was told that I would have to pass a physical fitness test, to which I replied, “No problem!”; and then I was told there would be a mile run where I had to run a mile in under 12 minutes. Now for those of you who just said, “Pshh, a mile in 12 minutes? That’s nothing.” You’re probably right, but I’m an out of shape, 300+ pound guy that hates running. However, this was something that I wanted, so I said, “Challenge accepted.”

In the past, I would start a challenge and fizzle out within a few weeks, but for some reason, these two challenges were different. I saw these challenges as personal goals, not only for the cause, but for myself. I wanted to see myself succeed. I figured that 10 miles of biking per day would get me to my goal, and give me 5 days I could miss. I started getting warmed up for the long distance rides in august by biking 7 to 8 miles a day. On top of the riding, I started training for the mile run. I only got 4 days of running due to the air quality that we were having. I was hoping that my biking would also help in my running preparation.

For the last two weeks of August, my body hated me. My legs hurt, I hurt, and I realized how out of shape and unhealthy I really was. My 1 mile run came at the end of August, and as I mentioned before, I was only able to train for 4 days. I did get a mile in each of those 4 days, however each day was well past the 12 minute mark. I took a day off of riding before my mile run to let my legs have some down time. The day of the physical fitness test came and before the run I had to do a 100 foot 165 pound dummy drag, a 10 yard farmer carry with 60+ pounds in each hand, four 200 pound tire flips, and 4 minutes of CPR compressions (2 minutes on, a 2 minute break, and another 2 minutes on). Finally, we finished with a 1 mile run. 

I started the run pretty well and quickly found myself at the back of the pack. I would run as far as I could, fast walk to catch my breath, and then run some more. The rescue team had one of their guys run with us. Sadly, because I was in the back of the pack, he had to stay with me. I felt so bad and embarrassed for being the slowest. I’m pretty sure I apologized for being so slow ten or more times. Benny, the rescue guy running with me, kept encouraging me, telling me my time and pace, and gave me the confidence to keep going. 

I got to about the ¾ of a mile mark, and my body was spent. I was walking more and was feeling the burn in my legs, shins, and lungs. I asked Benny what my current pace time was, and he told me 11:58. I wanted under 12 minutes so badly. I kicked it into gear again a couple hundred more feet and quickly found myself back to walking. Benny said, “Good job. You just knocked off 10 seconds. You are now at an 11:48 pace.” The problem was I still had a ways to go. I kept walking, trying to catch my breath. Benny then said, “You’re back to 11:58.” I asked him where I needed to get to, and he pointed to a truck in a parking lot a good 1000 feet away. I was gassed, but I wanted to make time. I yelled at myself and told myself to suck it up and get it done. With that, I put on the afterburners and didn’t quit running until I passed the truck. I passed the truck at 11:56; four seconds under time. Challenge one complete.

Now it was time for my month long bike riding. September 1st came and I hopped on the bike and rode 10 miles. I did another 10 miles the next day and took the following two days off. For the first full week of September, I rode 5 days for a total of 51 miles. I was feeling proud of myself, and I felt my body acclimating to the rides. That first week got me just under 200 miles. I had 199 miles to go. The second week was a lot of the same, until the day of the 19th. I wanted to push myself. It was my first long ride, and I hit 20 miles in one ride. Not only did I feel great afterward, I was ecstatic for doing something I didn’t think I was able to do. The final week of September was approaching and I still had over 60 miles to ride. I decided to push myself for the last few days and get it done. On Sunday the 26th, I rode 25 miles – 10 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon. This ride put my total at 255 miles with 4 days to spare. 

On top of the miles challenge, I had to meet my donation challenge. I took to Facebook to start posting my progress. I started with a video and a summary of what I was doing. As I rode, I would post updates on the miles I rode, and included a link for people to donate to the cause. I was honored and humbled by the number of people who chose to donate and the amounts being donated. My goal was to reach $1000. Half way through the month of September, I met my goal. The total donations that I received put me over my goal by $300. If it wasn’t for the consistency, updates, and investing in the cause, I don’t think I would have met my goal. If we don’t invest time and energy into what we are trying to achieve, we will never achieve it.

Both challenges pushed me, but they also gave me purpose. I was seeing results and was excited to keep going. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I hurt for a lot of those days. But overall, I was making progress and making myself better. I was feeling good mentally and physically. There were times I wanted to quit, but I had people cheering me on. My wife would give me words of encouragement, my best friend wouldn’t let me make excuses, and my now rescue teammate ran alongside me and kept pushing me to keep going. What this has shown me is the importance and value of having people in your life who will encourage you, push you, and hold you accountable. We fail on our own, but when we have people speaking into our lives and pushing us to be better, we don’t have an excuse to quit. 

In both challenges, I wanted to see progress. I wanted to see change overnight. In reality, progress doesn’t work like that. Progress is made when we take one step after another, or one pedal after another. Progress can only be made through discipline and consistency. If we don’t have these two qualities in our life, we will never see progress. Also, progress is not fast. It takes time. Instead of focusing on the desire for progress, we need to focus on the day to day consistency, and when we do that, progress will come on its own.

I feel the biggest lesson I learned through these two challenges is that nothing will change unless I do. For 38 years, I have always had good intentions of wanting to be healthy, to push myself, and to challenge my abilities. But that’s just it, it was nothing but intention. It wasn’t until I determined within myself to do what I said I wanted to do that something changed. I had to change my actions, my behaviors, and most of all, my mindset. I had to get into a routine and stop making excuses. I had to put in the work. And I will be honest, for the first two weeks, it sucked. I was hurting, but I was also making progress. I was starting to feel good mentally and physically. In the end, I feel much more confident in my abilities, I feel proud of myself for seeing these challenges through, and I can hold my head up high knowing that I conquered the challenges; I owned the challenges. I can make excuses all day long, but excuses will only get me to an early grave.

I want to encourage you to challenge yourself. Don’t live life with good intentions. Turn those intentions into action. Push yourself to be more. You will want to quit, but I’m telling you, don’t! Keep riding through the storm. It’s going to hurt, and when it does, you need to negotiate with yourself to find more strength. Don’t give up because you don’t see results right away. Results come in time; you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable and push you to keep going when you want to give up. Progress only comes if we keep moving forward. Stay the course, don’t quit, be disciplined and consistent, and when you do all these things, you will be able to stand tall knowing that you owned the challenge.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Are You Worth Imitating?

The older I get, the more aware I have become of the responsibilities I have been given as I age. The past two years have taught me more than I thought possible. I know many are sick and tired of Covid, no pun intended, but for me, I have seen it as an opportunity to grow mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I have read more books these past two years than I have my entire life. I have begun writing a lot more. I have started to take my health more seriously. I have pushed myself to become better. Through it all, I am left wondering, “Am I someone worth imitating?”

I am a firm believer that leadership is not a title or position one holds, but rather a way of life in which we conduct ourselves. I also believe that it is a leader’s responsibility to raise up other leaders. When I look at my life and take stock in all of the people I influence on a daily basis, it becomes quite clear that my actions, words, and deeds have a more significant impact than I think. Does what I say, what I do, how I respond promote a way of life worth imitating? I would like to think so, but as I sit here reflecting on past social media posts, conversations I have had with close friends, and even my own parenting, I can’t help but feel a sense of shame knowing that I have missed the mark on many occasions.

I long to live a life that people want to imitate. I want to live a legacy that people will want to be a part of. I want to lead in a way that encourages others to do what is right, live with integrity, be humble, and most importantly, live a selfless life. However, all of that starts with me. I must be the example I want others to follow. I must live in the way I want others to live. I must be a person worth imitating. 

I have made many mistakes, and will probably make more, as I am a continual work in progress. However, this is where humility comes in. I will miss the mark, and I will make mistakes, but I must have a heart and spirit of repentance. I must strive to be better. I must humble myself, admit my faults, and work on becoming a better man, husband, father, friend, and leader, than I was yesterday. 

I need to ask, “What kind of human beings do I want my children, my wife, my friends, and my colleagues to be?” I want my children to grow up doing what is right, having a heart of service, and to be humble in their attitude and actions. I want my wife to do whatever it takes to make our relationship work, be willing to follow me because she knows I have her best intentions at heart, and I want her to be loving and trustworthy. I want my friends to be loyal, trustworthy, and honest. I want them to be respectful and encouraging. I want my colleagues to work hard, be positive, and do what’s best for students.

This sounds like a pretty tall order, but the truth of the matter is that all of that depends on me. What I want from other people needs to be what I do on a daily basis. I need to live a life worth following, and I must hold myself accountable first. It’s more than treating others the way I want to be treated. It’s more about living a life I want others to live. The responsibility lies with me. I must purpose within myself to be an individual, a leader who lives a life worth imitating.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Leadersheep

What makes a great leader? This question has multiple answers depending on who you talk to, what podcast you listen to, or what books you read. 

Joel Farar, from Farar Law Group, says, “Great leaders make the hard choice, and self-sacrifice in order to enhance the lives of others around them.” 

Mike Dan, from SMS Marketing, says, “A great leader does not lead by forcing people to follow. Instead, a great leader motivates people. They encourage others to follow them. They also lead by example, which few leaders do today.” 

Jake Rheude, Director of Business Development for Red Stag Fulfillment, says, “Great leaders are incredibly ambitious, but never for themselves. Rather, they are ambitious for the company and possess the will to do whatever is necessary in service of this greater cause.” 

These are only a few examples that I found from a quick search about what makes a great leader. Can you see the similarities in each of these quotes? A great leader leads with others in mind and not themselves. There are, of course, many other examples, definitions, and opinions of what makes a great leader. However, there is one characteristic that I have found to be fluid throughout all discussions about the qualities and characteristics of a great leader, and that characteristic is courage

A leader who does not have courage is not a leader, but rather another sheep in the herd. We have all seen the picture of the one sheep moving in the opposite direction of all the other sheep, as all the other sheep keep mindlessly wandering toward the cliff of doom. Instead of following the crowd and doing what everyone else is doing, a strong leader has the courage to turn around and do what’s best for their team. They will walk against the current to stand for what is right. They will refuse to be bullied, shamed, or even cancelled into doing something they do not feel is not morally or ethically acceptable. 

There is a significant difference between “leadership” and “leadersheep”. One stands for what is right with courage and tenacity. They don’t back down from a fight and can’t be bullied to follow. They stand for their team and will make whatever sacrifices are needed to ensure their team succeeds. Leadership cannot be bought, cannot be threatened, and cannot be pressured into doing something they know is immoral, unethical, and against what they know is best for their team. Leadership thinks for themselves and has courage to stand under pressure when everyone else falls. These are the people who can spot the wolves in sheep’s clothing. 

Leadersheep are those who are run by money, pressure, threats, and pride. Their focus is on themselves and doing what’s right for them. They don’t look out for the team. They don’t stand in the way of tyranny, but succumb to it and allow it to destroy their people and their company. Leadersheep lead out of fear. They care more about following the masses than doing what is right. Their pride is more important to them than their character or integrity. They fall under pressure and will do what they are told in fear of losing their title, their place in the company, or the money they make. They don’t care what happens to their team as long as they are taken care of. These are the sheep that march toward the cliff of doom. These are the people who will be destroyed by the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I have seen both leadership and leadersheep. I have found that I have more respect for those who take on the role of leadership than I do for those who choose to be leadersheep. I have seen men and women in leadership stand for what is right, fight against immoral and unethical acts, and in the end lose their title. However, they left with their heads held high; knowing that they did not compromise their character or integrity.

Leadership takes courage. Since we are all in a position of leadership, let us lead with courage, stand for what is right, fight against immorality and unethical acts, and most of all, hold our heads high knowing we will NEVER sacrifice our character and integrity to follow the sheep.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

When Does Our Opinion Matter?

The French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, Voltaire, once said, “Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.” Former frontman of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, said, “We have no right to express an opinion until we know all of the answers.” This then begs the question, “When does our opinion matter?”. 

Let me pause for a second and remind all of you that my blog focuses on subjects that I contemplate, wrestle with, and am growing through. I have been known to state an opinion or two on social media platforms. What you will read are personal thoughts and reflections about the question stated in the title. This blog then is a dichotomy, as I am stating an opinion about when our opinions matter. Okay, back to the topic at hand.

With platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc., opinions are freely expressed at any time from anywhere. I believe Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best when he said, “There are as many opinions as there are experts.” Opinions seem to be as numerous as the stars, but the problem is that opinions are just that, opinion. If you Google the definition of “opinion”, you will read, “a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.” I think the last part of this definition should be read again, “NOT necessarily based on fact or knowledge.” But for some reason, we seem to take opinion as fact, or we believe that our opinions ARE fact. Because of this thinking, we are living in a world where opinions outweigh facts.

We also seem to put a lot of weight on other people’s opinions. Chinese philosopher and writer, Lao Tzu, said, “Care about people’s approval, and you will always be their prisoner.” Why do we give so much authority to other people’s opinions? Should their opinions matter? I think Facebook is a perfect example of people allowing other people’s opinions to have authority over their attitude and actions. It usually starts with someone posting an opinion that “offends” someone, and the offended person responds by throwing their opinion’s back. This then leads to a tirade on social media that has done nothing good and has shown more ignorance than understanding. Why do we let people’s opinions control our actions and reactions?

There is a saying that goes, “If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.” Even though this is usually used in a derogatory manner, I believe it holds the key to when our opinions matter. As we all are aware, everyone has an opinion about everything. For example, everyone has opinions on Covid, vaccines, and mask mandates. Everyone has opinions on the current and past presidents. Everyone has opinions on religion, politics, etc. What’s even more is that people from all sides seem to share their opinion freely about these topics on social media websites. Some back their opinion up with “factual evidence”, while others seem to just share their opinion as if their opinions are fact. Either way, opinions are being shared, but do they matter?

I have learned that our opinion matters only when we are asked for it, or when we are standing for what we believe is right. However, our opinion doesn’t matter if we choose to speak our thoughts without having factual evidence to support our opinion. If we share our opinion because we need to share it, then we are showing ourselves to be ignorant and pompous. American essayist, lecturer, and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said it best: “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

Opinions are nothing more than emotional responses to what is happening around us. An opinion does not make us correct, our opinions do not make us all-knowing, and unless we construct our opinions on factual evidence and truth, our opinions show our ignorance more than anything else. Our opinions really don’t matter. We need to learn to close our mouths and open our ears. We need to stop thinking that our opinions matter as much as we think they do. We need to stop sowing discord and start learning how to listen, care, and attempt to understand one another. Does this mean we will always agree? Absolutely not. However, we need to learn to have respectful, knowledgeable, and open minded conversations. We need to stop throwing around our opinion like it’s God’s truth. We need to realize that our opinion doesn’t really matter all that much unless someone asks us to share it. Of course, all of this is just my opinion.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

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