Strong Leaders Thrive with Intuition as they Read People and Situations

Law of Intuition www.thestrongwork.com

Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.

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Some people have a gift, a natural ability, to read people and situations and make insightful decisions based on a gut feeling. They can be convinced of the right action, and often be right, before they have the facts to back up their conviction. This is what John Maxwell calls “The Law of Intuition.”

Dictionary.com defines Intuition as: “direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.” It is this special “perception” that drives natural leaders to make quick decisions while others lag-behind and perceive the leader as being brash & irresponsible, or as a brilliant risk-taker, or perhaps as a possessed fortune teller!

The Discernment of a Counselor

My wife is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has been seeing clients for almost ten years now. She has a special gift in her ability to discern the challenges or emotions people are experiencing. People naturally open up to her, even on their first conversation and even if they don’t know that she is a counselor. This intuition gives her the ability to ask the right questions that help the other person talk through their challenges to reach a conclusion or a new insight.

Just recently, she met a lady at the gym and within 30 minutes they had a very intentional conversation which ended with new insights, emboldened resolve, and even a moment of prayer. This lady later told my wife that their conversation gave her the courage to make a major life decision and that she was full of hope for the future. My wife’s natural intuition to read people provided an opportunity to touch a life in a significant way.

Seeing Through a Leadership Lens

Maxwell says that “good leaders see everything with a leadership bias, and as a result, they instinctively, almost automatically, know what to do when it comes to leading.” They don’t need all the facts and charts and speeches. They read people and situations and know “in their gut” what needs to happen to accomplish the goal or overcome the challenge.

Leaders, by intuition, see the end – the finish line, the end-zone – so they are able to encourage their “troops” and strive for excellence as they march toward that goal. Through intuition, leaders can also bring the best out of people and drive them to accomplish more than they thought possible. Strong, cohesive teams develop around strong leaders as each person is challenged to be their best to accomplish the common goal – which is revealed through the vision and intuition of the leader.

Leaders are Readers…

  • Of their situation – they evaluate on the fly, ask probing questions, and “smell” things quickly
  • Of trends – they take a broad view, perhaps years ahead, and sense trouble or opportunity
  • Of their resources – when faced with challenges they think, “Who is the best person to take this on? What resources do we possess that will help us? How can I encourage my team to success?
  • Of people – they sense what’s happening among people and know their hopes, fears, and concerns.
  • Of Themselves – they know their strengths and limitations and their current state of mind.

What if Intuition Doesn’t Come Naturally?

Maxwell explains that intuition does come naturally to some, but that the majority of people have the potential to develop it over time. With diligence and patience, the leadership ability of intuition can be nurtured so that we understand leadership and it becomes automatic. Personally, I fall into this category. I am on a journey to develop my leadership abilities. I am finding that it requires me to be teachable and disciplined to continue striving forward. Join me on that journey and let’s strive forward together!

Above all, you must care about the people you are leading and have a desire to accomplish the goal. You have to treat people as humans and listen to them in order to read and lead them.

Application Questions:

  1. Are you able to read a situation with a “gut feeling” of intuition?
  2. Do you trust that intuition? Does your initial instinct often come out to be true?
  3. What are you doing to develop your leadership ability so that this law will develop?

Reference:

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

To purchase the book – Click Here.

Suggested Reading:

About the Picture

I took this picture of my wife while we were on vacation in New York City in 2009. This captured her with an upward, forward thinking vision.

The Process of Leadership Development (Law 3)

Marathon training like the Leadership Process

Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

Law 3 of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is The Law of Process. Learn with me as I describe the law and reflect on its application with developing leaders.

Introducing The Law of Process

This law reinforces the primary purpose of the Leaders Journey and is a process I’ve been (mostly) involved in since college – but has really picked up over the last couple years as I have seen value in personal growth. The general lesson is that we need to focus on the long-term process of developing ourselves through reading and being trained so that we will develop into leaders. Whether it is “general leadership” or technical/specific leadership – it takes intentional, disciplined effort through a process to gain a level of ability to provide leadership. 

Marathon Training as a Process

I grew up playing soccer – so I ran a good bit – but didn’t begin seriously running until I was challenged to run a 10K (6.2 miles) about seven years ago. Then I ran my first half-marathon and have run four more and several 15Ks and shorter runs.

 

I have learned that you cannot prepare to run a long distance in one day. It takes deliberate training and a strict diet over the course of a couple months to seriously prepare for a half-marathon – and much longer for a full marathon. Your body cannot handle the strain without intentionally building up toward the final distance of the race.

Daniel David Running a 15K

I realized this in my latest 15K this past March (right before COVID hit). My training was interrupted by a one week cold (I think) that weakened me and put me off my schedule and reduced my pace. I felt pretty good on race day so I decided to run with a group above my pace so I would be challenged. I hung with them until mile 6… then I got slower and slower and ended up with a slower time than the prior year. 

 

In much the same way, we have to engage in the long process of leadership development to gain the ability to be a strong leader. Start now with big goals so they can be realized in the future.

What Distinguishes a Leader?

John Maxwell shares the results of a leadership study – “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.”

Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day’s progress ... If I want to improve, then I’ll engage in a process and stick with it.

John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

Phases of Leadership Growth

  1. I don’t know what I don’t know.  Many people fall into this category, thinking (or not thinking) that learning and developing as a leader is not important or that it is only for those people at the top. They never develop because they don’t know or don’t try and remain ignorant.
  2. I know that I need to know. Then, many people recognize that they need to know something to improve or grow as a leader. They at least recognize that there is a missing piece. 
  3. I know what I don’t know. Recognize what you need to know and develop a plan to get there – even if it takes years and financial investment.
  4. I know and grow, and it starts to show. Put your personal growth & leadership development plan into action over the long haul and leadership will come naturally and your influence will grow.
  5. I simply go because of what I know. This is when you reach the phase you worked toward in phase 4. “That’s when the payoff is incredible. But the only way to get there is to obey the Law of Process and pay the price.”

He closes the chapter with a story about President Theodore Roosevelt. He was a thin, sickly kid but through the challenge and example of his father and others he became strong, knowledgeable, and a great leader due to a determined effort as a life-long learner to improve and develop his leadership ability.

Application

  1. What is your personal plan for growth? What areas are you intentionally developing?
  2. Where do you see yourself in the five phases of leadership growth?

Book Reference:

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

Photo Credit: Link to the original photo and the license.

Recommended Reading:

Leadership is Influence :: Law 2 of John Maxwell’s 21 Laws

Leadership is Influence

Every person has a measure of influence over others. Our leadership ability is measured by how much (and what kind) of influence we have on those whom we lead. 

I found this Law to be impactful because he gets right to the heart of what leadership really is – and isn’t. It challenges me to think about areas where I am leading (or tried to lead) and had influence over the group (and when I clearly didn’t). A position doesn’t provide a measure of leadership ability – your influence does.

The Law of Influence

The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less

John Maxwell - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

He closes the chapter with these sentences, which provides a good summary of this Law. “I love the leadership proverb that says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader.”

Mother Theresa as a Leader with Influence

John opens with a depiction of how Mother Theresa was such a great leader. She was small in stature but had incredible influence because she had faith, vision, and passion – and then worked tirelessly to further her cause. He explains how, after founding an organization and leading a team of over 4,000, she was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C. in 1994. Her speech was pointed and stepped on many toes but, instead of boos, she received respect and applause. John commented – “When a real leader speaks, people listen.”

The Five Myths About Leadership

Leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned.

  1. The Management Myth – “leadership is about influencing people to follow, while management focuses on maintaining systems and processes.” “Managers can maintain direction, but often can’t change it.”
  2. The Entrepreneur Myth – They are not necessarily leaders. They go after opportunities.
  3. The Knowledge Myth – Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” But… knowledge alone does not produce a leader. A scientist in a lab might be brilliant – but they aren’t leading anyone anywhere.
  4. The Pioneer Myth – “To be a leader, a person has to not only be out front, but also have people intentionally coming behind him, following his lead, and acting on his vison.”
  5. The Position Myth – A title or office doesn’t mean that people will follow you (at least not willingly).

Leaders Who Are Respected

To find a leader in an organization, look for who is respected and to whom people listen when he or she speaks. There are some helpful characteristics or factors that help a person gain influence and become a leader.

  • Character Who they are – begins with the inner person – the genuine person (like Billy Graham).
  • Relationships Who they know – building real relationships develops influence
  • Knowledge What they know – doesn’t make you a leader but information is vital to be able to lead.
  • IntuitionWhat they feel – “recognize and influence intangibles such as energy, morale, and momentum.
  • Experience Where they’ve been – gives people more reason to give you a chance.
  • Past SuccessWhat they’ve done – a good track record helps build respect and followers.
  • Ability What they can do - “the bottom line for followers is what a leader is capable of.” On to victory!

Abraham Lincoln as a Leader with Influence

He closes the chapter with a story about how Abraham Lincoln struggled in his early life as a leader without skills and knowledge. He blundered through multiple attempts to lead, only to be met with failure and disappointment. But he was persistent as a leader and his abilities grew so that he was able to influence the nation as the 16th President.

The featured image is a picture I took of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in London. He was so influential, that even the English chose to honor him “across the pond!” 

Application Challenge

Review the above list of leadership factors and rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 to see which one you usually rely on the most to persuade people to follow you. Which factors could you further develop to become a leader with greater influence?

Reference: Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

To learn about the first law of leadership – The Law of the Lid.

To watch a video of John Maxwell teaching on the Law of Influence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrZkVgl6U2c&t

The Law of the Lid :: Law 1 of John Maxwell’s 21 Laws of Leadership

Law of the Lid

I have heard it said that if you think you are leading but nobody is following you – then you’re really just out on a long walk. Have you encountered a moment when you realize that nobody (or very few) are following you? Or that you don’t quite have the leadership ability or authority that you need to influence others? John Maxwell’s book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – starts off with the concept of the “Law of the Lid,” where he explains that each of us have a ceiling on our leadership ability. Recognizing your lid is the first step to raising your leadership ability and becoming a stronger influence in others.

The Law of the Lid

Leadership Ability is the lid that Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness 

John Maxwell

Maxwell introduces the concept by telling the story of Dick and Maurice McDonald – who founded McDonald’s. They had the foresight, ingenuity and drive to open the first restaurant in 1937 and expand to a bigger one in 1948 and develop their “fast food” model. However, when they started trying to open new restaurants or sell franchises – they floundered or failed due to the limitations in their leadership ability. They hired a businessman named Ray Kroc who had a much higher “lid” and was able to make McDonald’s the massive chain restaurant it has become.  

“I believe that success is within the reach of just about everyone. But I also believe that personal success without leadership ability brings only limited effectiveness. Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be. Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others.” 

John Maxwell – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The Logic of the Law:

If you have a low leadership ability (say a 2 out of 10), then you could work really hard and increase your effectiveness some. Or you could raise your Lid by learning to increase your leadership ability – and then exponentially increase your effectiveness in your work and leadership positions.  

He concludes the chapter discussing how sometimes the leadership must change – or improve – in order to propel the organization toward expansion or growth. “When talented teams don’t win, examine the leadership.”  

Short Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmXbrxcnAhM 

Applying the Law of the Lid to your life:  

1) List some of your major goals – and identify which ones will require the participation or cooperation of other people. For these activities, your leadership ability will greatly impact your effectiveness.  

2) Assess your leadership ability – and ask others to rate your leadership.
>> there are tools available in the book for this exercise.    

Read this!! – Strong Leaders Stand for Progress

Reference: Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

(Personal) Independence :: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly!

American Flag: Independence

There are positives and negatives to the pursuit of personal independence. We would do well to learn to strive for the positives and beware the negatives if becoming an “independent” person is our goal.  

There has been a growing trend to desire personal liberty or “autonomy” in American society. See the graph for how Google search trends show a steady increase in searches for the term “autonomy.” People want to “cast off the shackles” of societal or family expectations and be free to do or become whatever they want. We should ask ourselves if this is a band-wagon we should hitch up to.  

  • Will personal independence help us in the strong work we are created to do?  
  • Should becoming independent be my personal goal in life? 
  • And How do I lead in a culture that is driving toward independence and autonomy? 

American Independence as a Case Study

The residents of the British colonies in America felt oppressed, misrepresented, and disrespected by King George and the British Parliament. Representatives from each colony came together and became resolved to declare independence from England on July 4, 1776. Thus, began the new nation of the United States of America. As a case study, what were (some of) the positives and negatives of the American Independence? 

(Granted – these are very short lists, but it is enough to get the point across.) 

The Good of American Independence

  • American people were no longer oppressed or misrepresented. They had the freedom to represent themselves. 
  • They were able to create government with laws according to their own values.  
  • The people felt pride in being their own independent nation, achieving peace of mind from no longer being controlled by British tyranny.

The Bad and Ugly of American Independence

  • The signers of the Declaration of Independence put their lives on the line – and many of them died for their cause.  
  • The nation had to figure out a set of core values as well as how to establish an economy.
  • The people were now separated from their founding nation, England, which before the war gave them strength and protection.
  • The act of separation, which later lead to a declaration of war, was not a peaceful beginning. Many people lost their lives for the sake of their independence.

We can transition from the case study of American independence and relate it to the positives and negatives of personal independence.  

Personal Independence

In his classic work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discussed the fact that the pathway of maturity leads you from dependence to independence. A dependent person requires other people to do things for them or even think for them. A baby is a simple example of dependence since they are fully reliant on their parents for their survival. But many adults never fully mature past this maturity stage, so they continue to be dependent on others – financially, physically, or emotionally.  

Covey says that “Independence is the paradigm of II can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.” (49) 

True independence of character empowers us to act rather be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. (50)

Jordan Peterson is a psychology professor who challenges people to take personal responsibility and focus on fixing yourself first – before you try to fix the world. (Video / Helpful article.) The message is similar. You mature past dependence in order to choose how you live and how you respond to life circumstances.  

The Good of Personal Independence

  • Independent people have the freedom to choose their values, interests, friends, career, etc. 
  • They are not controlled by society and circumstances. Their identity and emotions are not dependent on other people or what happens around them.  
  • Gives the opportunity to have personal pride and grow toward excellence in life. 

The Bad and Ugly of Personal Independence

  • Independence can produce pride, division and isolation from others.  
    • It ends with Simon and Garfunkel’s song I am a Rock where you can say that you don’t need other people and they don’t affect you. (“a rock feels no pain and an island never cries.”) 
  • Someone whose life objective is to be independent does not really care to add value to others.  
  • An independent person might see others as objects who are there simply to add value to themselves.

Interdependence is the Goal

After Covey’s quote above, he said that independence “is not the ultimate goal in effective living.” The goal is interdependence – since reality is interdependent. We live in a society, a community, and a family. Our economy is interdependent (I didn’t raise the chicken who laid the eggs I ate this morning). We are stronger and accomplish more as a community which has risen above independence to proactively add value to others.

As a leader – I strive to develop myself so I can be the best version of myself and better serve my community while adding value to others.  

As a country – the independent United States would do best if we became the interdependent United States. If individuals focused on improving themselves, we could then add value to our society – with the ultimate goal of adding value to the world. We started with a conflict. My prayer is that we mature from that conflict and grow to be a force of reconciliation and peace in the world.  

(Disclaimer: I believe that many people, organizations, companies, and even politicians have embraced this idea currently and in our nation’s checkered history.) 

Application Questions

  1. Is your goal to become independent or interdependent?
  2. Are you taking responsibility for yourself so that you can grow and then add value to others?

Reference: Covey, Stephen. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Fireside. New York, New York, 1989.

Read this post to learn more about living in community as interdependent people!

Moving from Me to We

Moore, OK Tornado

Success or conflict hang in the balance with every relationship due to perspective and attitude. The concept of “Moving from Me to We” was developed by my friend (and pseudo-mentor) Thomas Bookhamer (more on him below) in order to address our approach to relationships, especially in leadership and the workplace.  

The first step to becoming a truly effective leader and having greater influence is learning to be others-focused; this is what I call moving from me to we.

Thomas Bookhamer – The Leaders Factor

Why We Have Conflict 

I truly believe that a person’s perspective of another person, and the communication that occurs due to that perspective, is the core issue that determines the success or failure of relationships. If we have a preconception or bias against a person or a whole group of people (such as in racism, etc.) then your perspective is set against being favorable toward that person.  

It may be subconscious, but you are going to look for ways to support your bias in your interactions with that person. They cannot win! You are rooting for them to fail to support your bias! You aren’t really trying to help or understand them – and indifference or conflict is bound to happen in the relationship.  

In their books, the Arbinger Institute calls this “being in the box” and having a “heart at war” toward that person or group. I wrote about this topic in a previous post – here.

How to Move from Me to We 

However, if we see the other person as an individual who has value and vast potential – and we earnestly desire good for them – then we have the capability to move from Me to We. A relationship has the potential to flourish IF we approach it with the rich, fertile soil of mutual respect, love for humanity, and optimism for success.  

At first, you may have to be intentional about helping others reach their potential. Effective leadership is not about how far we advance ourselves, but how far we advance others. 

Thomas Bookhamer – The Leaders Factor

In his book, Thomas challenges leaders (and all of us lead to some capacity) to have the mindset of desiring to add value to others. If you are focused on yourself – “What’s in it for me” – then you are using people as objects and you are bound to create conflict. However, if you are others-focused, then you can focus on a “We” centered approach and develop valuable collaboration within a team atmosphere.  

The tough step for a leader is to decide to develop and empower others for success. Hear your team’s input. Truly connect with them as individuals. Develop their strengths. Encourage them through challenges, support their limitations, and celebrate their victories. Then you will have moved from Me to We. 

Application Questions:  

  1. Do you know the personality type and the strengths and limitations of your team (or family, group, etc.)? 

  1. When you communicate with them, do they feel that you truly value them and their input? 

  1. What can you change to ensure that you are rooting for the success of others? 

Thomas Bookhamer information: 

Website: https://journey.leadersfactor.com 

Book: The Leaders Factor

Email: thomas@leadersfactor.com 

Story behind the feature image:

In 2013, a massive tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma and left incredible destruction in it’s wake. Organizations and countless volunteers went in to help them clean up and begin to recover. I included this because it is an example of many people moving from Me to We in the relief effort. We can identify with these relief efforts as large groups become “others-focused” and serve those who were affected. 

Below are more photos from our short volunteer effort. The cars in the below images were picked up by the tornado and dropped in the middle of a guy’s pasture.

Thinking Leaders – Solitude for your Mind to Work

Mountain Solitude

Today I would like to discuss the fourth and final leadership principle in the last chapter of The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. I find these principles to be very helpful and practical in my personal season of life – but also for the season we’re in as a nation. We need to develop as leaders to come out of this pandemic with more strength than we had before because the challenges will be that much bigger! 

Principle 4: Take time out to confer with yourself and tap your supreme thinking power. 

Many of us, myself included, have the problem of crowding our minds with busy schedules and distractions. If we’re always jumping from one thing to the next or allowing (or inviting?) screens and noise to fill our eyes and ears, then we never have time to think. Perhaps we believe that thinking is a waste of time. Or perhaps we are subconsciously afraid of our own thoughts and to feel alone in our minds. However, I think that many people simply haven’t been taught or encouraged to have a habit of intentionally stepping into solitude to think and meditate.  

Without spending time in thought, we become increasingly shallower and lack stability and firmness of purpose. We need to step away and think through big life decisions, consider our identity and purpose, and even to draw small(er) conclusions for work and relationships. 

My experience today:

Before writing this today, I decided to spend some time thinking and meditating – in order to practice what I was about to preach. BUT I WASTED some of that precious time by being distracted by something on my phone. I recognize that I need to break away from the distractions in order to be successful in this habit! 

Advice from Dr. Schwartz

David Schwartz provides very helpful advice as he supports his claim that “successful leaders tap their superpowers through being alone.” And he challenges us by saying that, “You can, too!” 

He reminds us that the great spiritual leaders – “Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Gandhi” – spent much of their time alone in solitude. There is also the example that many of the evil masterminds of the last century spent time in prison before enacting their destructive plans (Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Marx). These examples, and many others, demonstrate to us that we have a powerful tool at our disposal (our mind) – but we must tap into it more often in order to reap the benefits it can provide.  

Okay! I get it. But HOW?

(glad you asked – here are some ideas) 

  1. Schwartz says to “resolve now to set aside some time each day (at least thirty minutes) to be completely by yourself.”  
    1. This could be directed – with a specific topic or problem in mind. 
    2. Or it could be undirected – and you simply allow your mind go where it wishes and you chase ideas to their conclusion.  
    3. This could be one block of time or split between different times – say the beginning and end of the work day.  
    4. It would be beneficial to journal your ideas and conclusions.
  1. Take a solitude day or weekend once a quarter (or year).
    1.  I found great benefit in removing distractions and being in solitude for an entire day on a few occasions. I had a plan for the time and resolved to make it productive – and it was great! 
  1. Meditation and Self-affirmation 
    1. These are practices I am stepping into more recently.  
    2. Too much to be said here – so I will provide more in a near future post. 

Questions: 

  1. Is this a practice that you would benefit from? Will you start today? 
  1. If you have practiced “solitude for the mind” before, please share your ideas and tips on the topic.  

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/

Thinking Leaders – Stand for Progress!

Non-progress in India

Previously, I wrote on the first two leadership principles in the last chapter of The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. They were to “trade minds with the people you want to influence” and to ask yourself “What is the human way to handle this?” This week I want to discuss the third principle on “how to think like a leader.” 

Principle 3:  Think Progress, Believe in Progress, Push for Progress. 

Experience with non-progress:

I have had the privilege of traveling in India on three occasions over the past decade. On each of those trips, I was able to experience the life of Indian people in a very rural context (small villages, back woods, dirt roads). One of the aspects of these people and towns that struck me over and over was the fact that so many of them were using tools and methods that their ancestors would have used over a century ago. They were content to keep using short, homemade brooms that caused their backs and knees to hurt. Some used wooden, ox-driven carts to carry hay for their water buffaloes while the younger generation zips around on small motorcycles or plays games on their iPhones. Everywhere I looked, I saw examples of people who were not progress minded – and just continued doing what they had always been doing.  

Turning this personal:

But then I think about myself. Am I always progress-minded? Do I believe that I can and should improve? That there is opportunity for progress in our company or my family? I am recognizing that I need to “think progress” – or I might drift on the status-quo and be stagnant like all those people I encountered in India.  

Guidance from Dr. Schwartz:

David Schwartz provides helpful guidance as he said, “there are two special things you can do to develop your progressive outlook:  

  1. Think improvement in everything you do. 
  1. Think high standards in everything you do.” 

He tells a story of a teacher he had one year that did not believe in progress. She didn’t seem to care about the students or really believe that they could improve. She was not respected and the students ran over her all year long. Not much progress because there wasn’t a belief in progress. The teacher he had the next year (with the exact same set of students) set the tone from day one that she loved the students, believed in progress, and expected excellence from each of them. She received respect all year long – and progress was made. She “thought” improvement and had high standards.  

We are challenged to remember that the team, group, or family you lead will “adjust themselves to the standards you set” (and example you provide). They want to know if you think progress and what level of progress you expect of them.  

Helpful quotes to remember:

“Check the example you set. Use this old but ever-accurate quatrain as a guide: 

What kind of world (company/group/family) 
would this world be, 
If everyone in it
were just like me?”  

“The simplest way to get high-level performance is to be sure the master copy is worth duplicating.” 

Wow! That quote is good. I just wrote that down in the back of my planner!  

Application Questions:

Are you a progressive thinker? Or do you drift in the status-quo?  

  •  I know that it is a mix for your spheres in life – so think about progress opportunity in each life domain.  

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/

Thinking Leaders – Trade Minds and Be Human

Skiers following a leader

I just finished The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. Great book for you to put on your reading list. Yes… it is a “self-help” book – but it was written in 1959 and has sold millions of copies – so it is time tested and still standing! I found it to be very relevant and had many topics that were personally encouraging or challenging. I really liked the final chapter so I decided that I will discuss it with you through three messages (so I don’t write one that is way too long!)  

The closing chapter is titled “How to Think Like a Leader” and provides four leadership principles to consider as you engage in any form of leadership. We’ll dissect and discuss the first two today and attack the other two in the following weeks.  

Principle 1 – Trade minds with the people you want to influence 

This principle is really about seeing other people as significant individuals who have their own hopes, fears, interests, values, etc. They are not an object and they are not exactly like you or me. We cannot put people in cookie-cutter boxes and expect to be a driving influencer for them. We have to “keep this question in mind: ‘What would I think of this if I exchanged places with the other person?’” We will have more success in leading others, selling something, or gaining approval if we first “think of the interests of the people we want to influence.”  

He tells a story of a young lady who failed in retail procurement because she always purchased clothes that she liked for the store. Turns out, her taste in clothes and expectation of price was not even close to that of the store’s typical customer – so the clothes didn’t sell and she lost her job.  

Schwartz also provides some helpful situational questions to ask yourself. Here are a couple: 

  • The way I give orders – “Would I like to carry out orders if they were given to me the way I give them to others?” 
  • Preparing a speech – “Considering the background and interests of the audience, what would I think of this remark?” 

Application Question: What area of your life would benefit from implementing this principle? How would you do it? 

Principle 2 – Think: What Is the Human Way to Handle This? 

He starts off saying that there are three approaches to leadership situation – as the Dictator (who never involves subordinates in decisions), as the mechanical “rule-book-operator” (who is a manager by the book, no questions necessary), or as what he calls “Being Human.”  

The leader who takes the “be human” approach makes his actions say, “You are a human being. I respect you. I’m here to help you in every way I can.” Your approach in all circumstances shows that “you put people first” – because you’re all human and can address situations as humans would.  

Schwartz tells an impactful story about a business leader who saw every one of his employees as being “under his protection” and would go out of his way to serve his staff. When he needed to let an employee go who was not well suited for the position, instead of just kicking them out, he made connections and assisted the person in finding another job so they were able to transition directly without unemployment. Now that’s a high standard worth emulating! 

“Practice praising people. Rub people the right way. Be human.”  Or I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it – “be a good infection” in your relationship with others.  

Both of these principles have a striking similarity to the Golden Rule spoken by Jesus – “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” (or “treat others the way you want to be treated.)  

Application Question:  With whom can you “be human” today? What would change in your relationship? 

 

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/

Developing a Life Plan

Life Pathway

I started a bit of a journey last year through a process of developing my “Life Plan.” I listened to a book called “Living Forward” by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. They teach about how to avoid the common problem of drifting through life without a plan or driving purpose. They challenge you to honestly evaluate your current situation and develop a vision for what kind of person you want to become and the legacy you hope to leave with others. I went through this exercise on my own, so I wanted to share parts of the process with you in hopes that it encourages or helps you. 

A summary of Living Forward by Michael Hyatt

  • Step 1 – complete an online assessment. 
  • Step 2 – write your Eulogy and Legacy statements. 
  • Step 3 – choosing and prioritizing your Life Accounts 
  • Step 4 – developing an Action Plan for each Life Account. 

Resources/Downloads – http://www.livingforwardbook.com/resources/ 

Step 1: Assessment

The first step in the process (besides reading the book) is to complete an online assessment to get you thinking about what they call “life accounts.” The assessment is a really helpful guide that helps you think about your passion and progress levels for each life account. I encourage you to complete the following assessment. It will take about 15 minutes. 

Living Forward Assessment – https://www.livingforwardassessment.com/ 

Michael Hyatt also wrote a book called “My Best Year Ever” and he created a shorter assessment for that book. So… if you’re thinking that you absolutely won’t do the first one – please do this one. 

https://bestyearever.me/

Step 2: Eulogy and Legacy

Step 2 in the Life Plan process is to write your Eulogy and Legacy statements.  

Eulogy

This is a tough but revealing exercise. The idea is that you should write your eulogy or the speeches that would be given at your funeral if you were to die today. Who would be there and what would they say?  

  • Don’t sugar coat it. Be honest about what you believe they would say about you – good and bad. This is the gut-check of where you stand today with your relationships.  
  • Don’t be too detailed with the list of who is there and who speaks. My list includes my wife, kids, parents, brothers, colleagues (that’s you!), friends, and mentees/students.  
  • My eulogy section is about 1.5 pages but could have been much longer.  

Legacy

In this section, you are answering the question – “How do I want to be remembered?” 

  • Write it in the first person (your point of view) and start each section with something like “I want (person/group) to know that…” or “…to remember me as.”  
  • The people or groups should be similar to your funeral groups. Mine are God, wife, kids, parents, colleagues, friends, mentees/students. 
  • Again – don’t be too lengthy. Otherwise, this could turn into an entire book! My legacy statement is about one page. 
  • The purpose of this exercise is to provide a vision for who you want to become and how you want to foster the important relationships in your life.  

Step 3: Establish Life Accounts

Step 3 is about Life Accounts. The idea is that you have different segments or categories of your life that require attention and can be prioritized and planned out. There is a “balance” in the account to gauge how healthy the account is, what progress is occurring, and what are your goals/vision for the future. The assessment in Step 1 already helped you think in that direction.  

So – you need to list out your life accounts and prioritize them. Below is my list – which generally followed the suggestions from the book, but I applied my own twists. Some of the accounts are difficult to find the right priority order – but in the end it doesn’t matter much – so just run with what makes sense. 

What matters most? 

  1. My Faith – God’s will, His truth, and my relationship with Jesus Christ. 
  2. Being a witness and disciple-maker through all of the following priorities. 
  3. My physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being 
  4. My wife 
  5. My children 
  6. Extended family – parents, brothers, cousins, etc. 
  7. My vocation  
  8. Church and Ministry – outside of my vocation 
  9. Friends 
  10. Finances 
  11. Hobbies 

It might feel “selfish” to place yourself at the top of the list. We often hear the phrase that you should “put yourself last.” However, a wise man I know has told me multiple times – “The best thing you can offer your wife and kids is a healthy, well-adjusted, spiritually mature Daniel.” If I literally put myself last – then I would not be a very good husband, dad, friend, or employee. All my other priorities would suffer if I don’t take care of myself – my faith, mind, and body.  

Step 4: Life Plan Goals

This is the hardest and longest part of the process. You get to evaluate each of your Life Accounts and answer the question: “How can I get from here to where I want to be?” 

Here is the structure you should apply to each Life Account and a little bit of coaching for each section.  

Account 1: [Write your first account heading.] 

  • Purpose Statement: 
    • Short and to the point. What is your purpose or mission in this life account?  
    • Start with “My purpose is to…” or “My purpose in {life account} is…” 
  • Envisioned Future: 
    • What do you want for this life account?  
    • Write it as if you have arrived in that ideal future. Make it an “I am…” statement.  
    • Who are you in that future? What have you accomplished? What is your character? 
  • Inspiring Quote: 
    • They say this is optional – but I can see how it is helpful.  
    • Might be a Bible verse or a motivational speaker or from a favorite book. 
  • Current Reality: 
    • Reality check on where you currently are in this life account. The good, bad, and the ugly! 
    • Make it a concise bullet list – don’t want to write a book here! 
  • Specific Commitments: 
    • What are your short term and long term goals in this account? 
    • Make them SMART goals if you can – and keep the count limited or at least not too many overlapping goals.  

Once you fill this in – which will require multiple hours to complete – your challenge now is to read & revise it on a consistent basis. And to put the goals/commitments into practice. Finding someone to hold you accountable to following through is key to this.  

Photo: Taken by Daniel David in New Hampshire in the fall. We went to see the fall leaves and do some hiking with friends.