Strong Leaders Thrive with Intuition as they Read People and Situations

Law of Intuition www.thestrongwork.com

Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.

John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

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.

Hamilton :: 5 Leadership and Life Lessons from the Musical

Hamilton Theatre

What are the leadership and life lessons we can learn from Hamilton?

Hamilton has hit our country by storm since its arrival as a film on Disney+. The musical is phenomenal and original on its own, but the timing with current events makes it all the more compelling and relevant. As I reflected on the film, I recognized a number of leadership virtues and life lessons that can be learned.

My hope is that you gain value from my reflection on the musical. I would love to hear all the virtues (and vices) that you would contribute to this list!

Have a Definite Purpose – “Not Throwing Away My Shot”

Hamilton was driven through life with a definite purpose toward big goals. He had invested in his studies and personal development. He chose not to be a victim to circumstances which would lead many to a life of poverty and insignificance. He knew that he had a shot at living a significant life – and was “not throwing away [his] shot!”

He was resolved to do everything he could to secure independence from England and successfully establish the United States as a strong nation. He surrounded himself with men who were equally driven with the same desire and resolve toward their extravagant goals. They were proactive, relentless, optimistic, and ready to jump on opportunities and strive for progress.

Why do you write like you're running out of time? …Ev'ry day you fight, like you're running out of time.

- “Non-Stop” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

I have been going through a journey to discover my own “definite purpose” in life so I can proactively strive toward big goals with excellence. A step in that journey is described in this post about developing a life plan.

Leave a Legacy – “Blow Us All Away”

The closing words of the musical are “Who tells your story?” This final song highlights that each of us leaves some form of a legacy and we cannot control how our story will be told and who chooses to tell it. Alexander Hamilton had a drive to protect his reputation and build a lasting legacy.

Hamilton and Burr share a split-stage song (“Dear Theodosia”) where they separately sing for their respective new-born children. Each of them dotes over his child and dreams of how he or she will carry on the legacy of the father. They exclaim that their respective children will “blow us all away.”

If we lay a strong enough foundation - We'll pass it on to you, we'll give the world to you - And you'll blow us all away

- “Dear Theodosia” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

Contemplating your own legacy is a vital part of becoming the strong person you are created to be. If we begin our journey with the desired end in mind, then we know which steps to take in order to reach that end. Choose your legacy now so it isn’t left to others to “tell your story.” This is an important part of building your life plan.

Have Patience – “Smile More, Talk Less”

Aaron Burr provides a constant word of caution to Hamilton, which he mostly ignored and disrespected, that would have provided some wisdom for his overzealous pursuits. Alexander would have made less enemies and created more unity if he had heeded Burr’s advice to be patient and friendly.

All of us could learn to smile more, talk less, and begin to truly hear people as we recognize and validate their worth and potential. This does not mean that we should be idle and passive, especially in urgent times that call for action, but it is usually unwise to brashly march ahead into “battle” without counsel or unified support.

Sometimes we need a paradigm shift in how we perceive and relate with others. Recognizing the worth of others is a valuable virtue in any leadership role.

Invest in Your Inner Circle – “That Would Be Enough”

A repeated theme in the musical is the cry for Hamilton to be content with spending time with his family. His wife Eliza clearly yearned for her husband to be home with her more often, especially during her pregnancy and the birth of their son, Phillip. Alexander was away from home so much during the revolution and the early years of the country that he failed to invest time and love into his family. The evidence of this came in two of his major life failures – his adulterous affair and the death of his son. He did not take seriously his responsibility to be a steward over his wife and children, and he paid dearly for his mistakes.

One of my great passions and life purposes is to be responsible in my role as a husband and father. I will continue to invest in my “inner circle” – my family, friends, and church community. Through my career and academic pursuits, I have found it necessary to often tap the breaks on my desires so that I can be present and strong within my close relationships.

Choose Forgiveness over Revenge – “Forgiveness. Can you imagine?”

There are moments that the words don’t reach - There is a grace too powerful to name - We push away what we can never understand - We push away the unimaginable - They are standing in the garden - Alexander by Eliza’s side - She takes his hand - … Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

- “It’s Quiet Uptown” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

The most moving part of the musical for us was when we experienced Alexander and Eliza grieving the death of their son. Hamilton had done so much to hurt his wife, but she chose to forgive him and reconcile their marriage through the journey of grieving together. They accomplish the unimaginable together because of her choice to forgive him. Her genuine forgiveness is evident in the final song as she describes all the work she did to further Alexander’s legacy after his death.

Aaron Burr and Phillip Alexander both chose revenge instead of forgiveness and that choice ruined and ended their lives, respectively.

Choose to Forgive

We have the choice on a regular basis to hold grudges and take revenge on others who have wronged us – OR to extend grace and forgive them. Revenge produces destruction. Forgiveness opens the door to healing and reconciliation. Holding a grudge hurts yourself more than the other person. Choose forgiveness and free yourself of the burden of anger and revenge.

If this is a topic you would like to further explore – please email me at thestrongwork@gmail.com

Your Opportunity to Contribute

I realize that the life of Alexander Hamilton provides many more lessons of virtues and vices. Reflecting on the lives of significant men and women enables us to learn from their success and mistakes. Please provide your own examples of lessons from the musical through the comments section below this post. Two ideas to start with are – 1) Have a Character of Loyalty and not Deception and 2) Take Responsibility for your Mistakes.

Reflective Questions:

  • Which of these virtues is most valuable to you?
  • Did you see yourself in one of Hamilton’s vices? Is that a potential area of growth for you?

Links to Images Used:

The Practice of Meditation

Meditate on Kayak

Last week, I wrote about the importance of solitude – and then I was able to go practice it on Monday, Memorial Day, as I went for a lone kayak on the lake and ended up in a quiet corner for almost an hour. It was peaceful to sit still and be mindful of the sights and sounds of nature. I took the time to reflect, meditate, and pray – and felt so rejuvenated after. The feature image for this post is a photo from my kayak outing.  

A beneficial activity to go with solitude is the practice of meditation. I’m relatively new to meditation, so I will provide you with helpful advice and comments from my experience.  

Release Meditation Technique 

This technique was developed (or probably adapted) by author/speaker Brendon Burchard. I have enjoyed learning from his books and YouTube channel, so I decided to give this technique a try. For the past few weeks, I have been working on developing this practice – but (being honest) I need to improve my consistency and length of meditation. It is a work in progress – but, as he says, the most important thing is to start trying and steadily improve until it is a habit.  

I always benefit from breaking away from work/life for a bit and forcing myself to be quiet and meditate. I know that it can be challenging since we are already so busy – how in the world can I spare 10-20 minutes to just sit and “accomplish nothing.” The secret… is that you accomplish more and you are happier during the rest of your time when you take time out to be in solitude and meditate. 

Brendon Burchard’s Method Explained

Brendon explains the benefits and method of the technique in the below link. There is also a helpful video where he talks through the method and then actually coaches you through a meditation session.  

Link: https://www.success.com/the-easiest-meditation-technique-youll-ever-try/ 

Brendon has you repeat the word “release” – but personally, I sometimes choose other words that are more meaningful to me. Words such as “Jesus” or “alive” bring more spiritual depth to the session. As a Christian, I also always start it with a prayer and invitation for the Spirit to speak or make the time meaningful.  

Music for Meditation

If I’m able to, sometimes I also play ambient music in the background while I meditate. A few of my recent favorites are below. You can probably find them on streaming services. (I use Amazon Prime Music) 

  • Sigur Ros – Liminal Sleep 
  • Future of Forestry – Union 
  • Lambert – Sweet Apocalypse 

Religious/Spiritual Meditation Practices 

Entire books have been written on this topic – but I wanted to mention a couple things on this topic before I close this post. 

Christian meditation is not mindlessness or “emptying of the self.” It is active contemplation that includes Scriptural reflection and prayer. It also can involve active listening for Christians who believe that God can speak with them. We often cloud our mind with so much noise that God’s voice or at least His guiding “nudge” does not break through.  

I have Hindu and Muslim friends who have different meditation practices. If you come from another faith background – please comment and share your insights with this community. 

Application Questions:  

  1. If you have engaged in meditation – reflect on how it has been beneficial for you. Please share! 
  1. If you have not, will you take Brendon’s (and my) challenge to give it a serious attempt for at least 10 days?  

Photo: By Daniel David on his Samsung phone on May 25, 2020 on Lake Athens – in Texas.

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/

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.