Leadership Key #20

The Key of Being Set Apart


You will forever have trouble being a leader if you are constantly following the crowd. Leader by it’s very description refers to someone who is set apart. I’ve heard it said that, “It’s lonely at the top”, and although that can be true it doesn’t have to be. A gentleman once said to me that, “he was alone with his thought”, but I never got the impression that he was lonely.

My point, if you need the crowd to be a leader then you’ll never lead the crowd because the crowd will be leading you. In politics I’ve heard the reference to, “populist leader”, used many times. A populist leader is someone who figures out what the crowd wants and does that. They appear like they’re leading, but in reality they are being led by the popular idea of the crowd. A leader can become popular through innovative ideas and systems that give people what they need and not necessarily what they think they need.

What people actually need and what they think they need are often two very different things. Sometimes what they want can just be a mask to cover up what they really need. They think that if they get the thing they want it will replace the thing that they really need. A pace setting leader understands this and can be in the midst of a crowd without being directed by the crowd. They do it through, purpose, vision, understanding and wisdom. A pace setting leader understands that they can have a relationship with the crowd and still be set apart to lead the crowd. In order to do this a leader must understand four simple truths.

4 Simple Truths:

Loneliness Is An Attitude, Not An Actuality

If you are not comfortable with your own company you will always be lonely. If you constantly need to be in the midst of the crowd you are probably trying to draw something from them for your self-worth. A leader needs to find their worth somewhere other than in the dictates of the crowd or their life will always be filled with a need for the crowd. If you don’t think you’re worth spending time with, why should anyone else. This doesn’t mean a leader should spend a solitary life; it means that a leader’s worth comes from within and not from without. We must always check out attitude in regard to this or with will seek leadership for the wrong reasons.

It’s Possible To Be Alone In The Midst Of A Crowd

Being surrounded by people doesn’t automatically cure a sense of loneliness. The crowd is not the answer to loneliness because often times everyone in the crowd is seeking the same thing. They are not thinking about alleviating your loneliness they are thinking about alleviating theirs. Looking to the crowd to fill a void is often fruitless. A leader needs to build the right crowd around themselves so that the support they need is found in the strength of others rather than the weakness of others. When we draw strength from the right crowd we will no longer be alone in the crowd.

It’s Possible To Lead While Being Surrounded

You don’t have to isolate yourself in order to lead people. Although leaders need to be comfortable with their own company they don’t have to be isolationists. Who you’re surrounded with becomes the important factor. Strong healthy relationships need to be built by every leader so that they have support, input and accountability. You can lead the people who are surrounding you without isolating yourself from them, but you do need to use caution when allowing them to get close.

Leadership Arises From Competence Not Circumstance

Although circumstances can provide opportunity for leadership, circumstances don’t automatically make leaders. Lot’s of people can be involved in the same circumstance but that doesn’t mean that they will all surface as leaders. When circumstance provides opportunity then those who are competent should be the ones to rise up and lead. Their competence and their character should set them apart. Others may try to surface for the wrong reasons and lead from a populist position, but this is where true leadership needs to arise. The leader who does this will set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd.

The Results:

The results of understanding these things will be that the right people end up in leadership. They will set the right pace in the right direction for all the right reasons and not just because the crowd wants something. A leader who is set apart is more interested in what people need than in what people want.


Leadership Key #19

The Key of Dealing With Failure

John Maxwell wrote a book called, “Failing Forward” which, like most of his writing, is an interesting and helpful read. Although I’m not going to try to summarize the book for you, the title should be an indicator of the direction that he takes. If you’ve never read the book, I recommend that you do, because sooner or later as a leader you will face failure. In fact, if you are a successful leader right now, you have faced many failures and if you’re just getting started as a leader, you may want to brace yourself. Being a successful leader is not a joke and it certainly isn’t an accident. If you’re a successful leader right now, you’ve dusted yourself off a few times and moved forward despite the failure.

The Prophet Micah said,

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise;

(Micah 7:8)

As a leader, remaining down when a failure has knocked you down is not an option. You have but one option and that is to get up and move forward. Leaders are knocked out of the game when they get knocked down and don’t get back up. If leaders want to keep leading, their attitude must always be, “I’m either up or on my way up”. Success doesn’t mean that you get things right every time; success means that you get back up every time. For every leader who gets back up, there are many who don’t. Failure takes them out and disqualifies their leadership instead of strengthening it. The key is to get back up and move forward; as long as you can move forward, you can lead.

So How Does That Happen?

You Have To Keep The Machinery Operational

What’s still working after the failure? During WW2 when a factory was bombed they couldn’t just surrender. They had to decide which machinery was still working and which wasn’t. Then you get the working machinery going and fix the machinery that isn’t. In a business setting there will still be functional things that weren’t destroyed because of the failure. Keep those things moving and reinforce them so that the failure doesn’t destroy the entire structure. Once the functional area is secure, then move on to fixing the area that failed. This will keep production flowing while you recover from the failure that you just experienced.

You May Have To Learn A New Skill

In order to recover from a failure, you may have to increase your knowledge or understanding in a certain area so as not to repeat the mistake. Many things can cause failures, but lack of knowledge, understanding and skill can be some of the most prevalent. Failing feels bad enough the first time without repeating it because you didn’t take the time to figure out what cause it in the first place. Often, it will be in the area of skill, either yours or someone else’s. The idea or initiative that led to the failure may have been good, but the execution failed because the right knowledge, understanding and skill were not in place first. You may never be 100% prepared, but you want to be as close as you can be to that.

Remember That Assigning Individual Blame Seldom Helps

Although one weak link can cause a failure in the chain, you have to look at how that link got there in the first place. A piece of steel goes through a process before it finds its way into a chain as a link. It serves no purpose to blame an individual link for the failure when it’s only one element in the process of making a chain. You are better off if you can figure out where your process failed in the first place and then identify the people who can fix that. Once you’ve gone through that process, then you can do what you can to minimize future failures. The machinery and structure of any organization is only as good as the individuals running the equipment so it’s wise to put your attention on them. Fix the breakdown in people development and you can fix the breakdown in structural development.

The Results:

Failures can really mess with your confidence as a leader. It’s good wisdom to minimize them, but it’s almost impossible to completely eliminate them. As a leader, failures teach you many things and it’s foolish not to learn the lessons, either from your own experiences or from someone else’s. The results of not learning the lessons can be more catastrophic than the initial failure itself. Successful leaders will always find the silver lining in any cloud and turn it into gold.

Leadership Key #18

The Key of Believing

If you don’t believe that you can do something, then it’s very likely that you can’t. believe-image2Even if it’s something that you should be able to do, but you think that you can’t, then you’re probably not even going to try. This is the fate of many projects and people. They don’t believe that it’s possible so they don’t even try. If everyone thought that way, nothing would ever get done. I for one am glad that there are people out there that believe all things are possible.

Mark 9:23

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”


When I was about twelve years old, I believed that I could jump my bike over a pit filled with dirty spring water and all kinds of garbage. None of my friends believed that it could be done. It was believe-image1about ten feet across and two feet deep with a mound of dirt on either side. It was a windy day and I believed that with the wind at my back I could generate enough speed to make the jump. Well, the story doesn’t really end well. Although I had enough speed to clear the water I didn’t quite have enough to clear the mound of dirt on the other side. When the crash, which was supposed to be my landing, ended, I was in a heap on the ground bleeding from several lacerations and my bike was bent up pretty bad and my friends were in hysterical laughter. I believed it was possible and I tried to do it and I was the only one my friends who did.

Why tell you this crazy story? Well, there are some lessons that can be learned from my experience. Although my attempt ended in a crash, and several well thought out lies to my parents about why I was all scratched up with a bent bike, it actually was a successful jump. The landing on the other hand was not so eloquent and no one else followed my lead. So what things can we take away from this story.

3 Key Things To Take Away

Following What I Believed Set Me Apart

If you want to lead people, you have to give them something that they can buy into. My stunt didn’t increase my leadership ability; it simply set me apart. I once rode a toboggan off a ski jump and I believe-image3once went down something called, suicide hill, sitting backwards on a toboggan with my toque pulled over my head. I believed that I could do and I did it, but it didn’t increase my leadership, it just set me apart. People couldn’t buy into what I believed I could do, so doing it didn’t make me a leader, it made me reckless. Eventually we must learn that people don’t simply follow anything; they follow what they can believe in. Nobody followed me because they believed that it either couldn’t be done or it was just a reckless stunt. Good leaders learn to discern between things that carry some risk and reckless endeavors. Virtually any worthwhile endeavor will carry some risk, which is why the leader needs to be wise rather than reckless. Today I thank God for two things, 1) that I survived my reckless stunts and 2) that none of my friends followed me in them.

Partial Understanding Gave Me Partial Success

Lots of people have jumped lots of things, but in the end, they are only surrounded by spectators. My crash was the result of partial understanding, and my inability to lead others was a result of that partial understanding. I thought that, if my friends saw that I was gutsy enough to try it that they would follow me in it. This is seldom the case. If I truly had understanding of the dynamics involved in those things I probably wouldn’t have done them. My lack of understanding produced a partial success, which could have severely injured me. Leaders must gain an understanding in their areas of endeavor before they lead others in doing what they believe can be done. Wisdom is the proper application of understanding and it becomes a foundation of trust that other people can buy into. They partner with you because they know that you’ve done your homework in regard to what you believe can be accomplished.

The Lessons Were Not Free

Lessons like the ones I learned were not free. The pit stunt cost me a bike and the ski jump cost me a toboggan and that’s not even factoring in the long-term effect of the injuries and the reckless reputation. Leaders can’t afford reckless endeavors; the cost is too high. Leaders need to consider their actions carefully or it could cost them their best people, their reputation and their resources. It’s important to do the right things, the right way for the right reasons. By doing this, you can save yourself the expensive lessons and build a more productive team with a good reputation. Leaders need to make sure that they get the best value from their resources in order to maintain their operations and being reckless doesn’t do that.

The Results:

When leaders take the time to truly think things through and cover as many bases as possible, they have better results. You can look really good when you pull off a reckless endeavor, but you can look really foolish when it goes wrong. It’s always better for business when things go well and projects come off the drawing board and work. This results in a more confident team with a good reputation and it is simply better for business.

Leadership Keys #17

The Key of Learning

Proverbs 1:5

A wise man will hear and increase learning,


learning-image1We have taken learning and institutionalized it. We have built schools everywhere and when we want to help a developing country, we build schools. There is nothing wrong with this, unless we think that those institutions have a monopoly on teaching and learning. We call this; “The education system”, and those who run it determine what is taught to the students. The students then learn what that particular institution wants them to know. The inherent flaw in this type of system is that, what if the person teaching has a particular bias that permeates the entire curriculum? Or, they deviate from the fundamentals of say, mathematics, reading, writing and science and enter into the realms of social engineering and political indoctrination? If this happens, the system that was intended to encourage learning becomes a tool of social indoctrination, which will undoubtedly restrict learning. This is not even hypothetical, it happens every day.

I once read about something called, “A classical education”, where people of means would travel the world with tutors and teachers educating their children with a global worldview. This allowed them to achieve a well-rounded perspective of the world that they lived in. It was a system of personal education through tutoring, mentoring and life-lessons that prepared them to manage family holdings for future generations. King Solomon believed that a wise person could increase their learning simply by listening. One person said, “that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth”, so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. A person who wants to lead needs to learn how to listen with both ears if they want to become a wise leader. Leaders must become learners or their leadership will always be limited to what they know and they will only be as successful as the last thing they learned. We begin learning from the earliest possible age and have the potential to cultivate our learning skills until we die if we are wise enough to do it. In order to cultivate your learning skills, you must first train your self to look for that one thing that can be learned from every situation.

Cultivating Your Learning Skills

Everyone Has Something To Teach You

Never think that someone doesn’t have something you can learn from them. King Solomon determined to learn something from everyone. He observed those who had success and those who learning-image2didn’t and then he evaluated why one succeeded the other didn’t. He learned from both the fruitful and the slothful so that he could constantly improve himself. He learned from the wise and the unwise alike and his findings are recorded throughout his proverbs. There is something to be learned from every person; you just have to be ready to listen and observe.

You Can Learn From Any Experience

It has been said that, “Experience is the best teacher” and this could very well be the truth. With that said, a certain amount of knowledge going into an experience can increase what you’re able to take away from that particular experience. Positive and negative experiences can teach you a lot about what to do and how to live in the most productive way. Your life will become a culmination of the things that you learn and as far as I’m concerned, if you want to lead others, you can never learn too much. Formulating what you learn can sometimes be more difficult than actually achieving the knowledge in the first place.

There Is More Than One Way To Learn

Sometimes we end up with a degree from the school of hard knocks where the colors are black and blue. Often people even think that the hard way is the best to learn and they even say, “I learned a hard lesson”. I’ve had enough of those in my life to know that there was generally another way that I learning-image3could have learned that lesson. By listening and observing and formulating what’s right there before you it’s possible to learn new things. Through someone else’s experiences and wisdom you can learn if you are willing to listen and then either apply or avoid what you learned. As a young man I was getting my start in the housing industry working for a very driven man who was very good at what he did. One day during a coffee break another gentlemen that I knew very well approached us and began to engage us in conversation. As the conversation began to exceed our allotted time for a break I started to go back to work when my boss said, “just take it easy for a bit”. I stood and listened to this man, who I grew up just a few doors away from, talk about business with my boss. After almost an hour, he went his way and we started back to work and my boss said, “when a man like that wants to give that much of his time you need to listen to him”. His son and I were good friends and I had known him most of my life and I had missed just how successful he had become.

The Results:

The results of applying these truths to your life will be evident almost immediately. Never think that you’ve learned all there is to know because there is always something that you didn’t. A blockage to learning is the worst kind of pride and it will forever inhibit you from being successful and reaching your fullest potential. The instant we think that we have learned it all is when we hit our ceiling and our decline begins then.

Leadership Keys #16

The Key of Little Things

small-job-image1I recently read a quote that has no author attached to it, but it seems to make a lot of sense. It’s not one of those quotes you read and it seems to be written in some form of code that needs to be deciphered. I like things plainly said, no riddles and this quote says what it says just that way.

Quote – Author Unknown

Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things, and I’ll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things.

I can’t count the amount of leaders that I have met over the years who either won’t do little things or think that they are above doing little things. It’s easy to spot these leaders because they are generally surrounded by other leaders who won’t do little things. Willingness to do little things is often the pathway to seeing something greater happen. It’s not necessarily a pathway to promotion as much as it’s a pathway of process, which leads to success.

In leadership it’s often those little things that make the big things possible. Unfortunately there are not many accolades for being good at small things. Most of the attention focuses on the big thing that was made possible by all the little things. A solid leader needs to understand this principle and be willing to deal with some of those little things themselves. It’s often the attention to those little details that makes a project successful.

Proverbs 22:29

Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.

New King James Version

In order to excel at something, you will need to understand the process that makes the end result small-job-image2possible. If you don’t know that portion of the process you will always be at the mercy of the one who does. It’s generally not a blown motor that stops people on the highway; it’s a blown fan belt or an empty gas tank. In the same way, a big project can fail because of the littlest element if the person who does that little thing decides to hold you hostage. If you are able and willing to do that little thing, then you can continue to move forward.

3 Leadership Advantages

Understand The Whole Process

You don’t actually have to do all those small things but you need to understand their importance and their place in the process. It’s to your advantage to know as much as you can about what you are doing just in case someone or something goes south on you. There’s not much worse than watching a project you’ve put so much into be put in jeopardy because of some little thing.

Surround Yourself With Multi-Talented People

The more little things your people are able to do, the less likely you are to have a breakdown in the process. Never let your people think that they are too important to step up and do the little things. It may just be some little talent that they have that can save the day.

Be Willing To Take On A Small Thing

small-job-image3Your willingness as a leader to take on a small thing will send two significant messages. The first is that you are willing to do what it takes to make the project a success. The second is that you can’t be manipulated or held hostage by some small detail. A successful project is your ultimate goal and your willingness to make it happen will establish your leadership, not hurt it.

The Results:

The results of your willingness to do small things will be a series of successful endeavors. You don’t want to get bogged down doing all those little jobs, and you certainly want to have trustworthy people doing them, but you need to know as much as you can about them. By having others in your structure that are multi-talented, you can salvage projects by having people who can cross over and cover an area.

Leadership Keys #15

The Key of Self-Denial


self-denial-image1Much of what I have seen in the realm of leadership has been very oriented around a sense of entitlement. The idea being that, once I’ve arrived at the top of the heap then everyone else must serve my desires. Title and position become the defining factors and not actual leadership ability.

You may ask; how can someone get to the top of the heap without any actual leadership ability? It’s not that hard really. Raw heartless ambition and an understanding of systems and resource control can take you there. People follow simply because you are controlling the resources they need to function. This in itself is not leadership. Leadership is when you have nothing to offer accept, purpose, vision and a sense of corporate destiny and they follow you anyway because of what’s in your heart.


Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me”.



When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He spoke of what it would take to do what He did. It turned out that the only way to have His results was to follow His same pattern of self-denial. To truly lead self-denial-image2people to the fulfillment of their highest destiny, you must be willing to deny yourself for them. I think, in our post-modern society, we have largely lost sight of this principle. You don’t see so many people who are willing to deny themselves in this same manner. Jesus’ brand of leadership was defined by self-denial and not self-centeredness.

So What Does This Look Like?

It’s More Than Simply Giving Up Some Stuff

This is where we define the difference between sacrifice and self-denial. Sacrifice is where you give up something that is important to you in order to go where you desire to go or to do something that affects others in a positive way. Self-denial is when your life’s purpose becomes transformed into a tool used solely to benefit others. This sounds radical in our day and age, but the most significantly effective people will always be the ones who deny themselves and truly make a difference. An attitude of self-denial goes way beyond a willingness to miss a ballgame to help someone move. An attitude of self-denial doesn’t even know that there is a ballgame.

You Have To Refocus Your Perspectives

Self-denial means that you view the world differently than other people do. Your worldview changes and you begin to see things that are bigger than you are. It’s human nature to see the world from the center looking out, like everything revolves around us individually. We like to be at the center of our world. A person living a life of self-denial puts something else greater than themselves in that place and lives to serve it. Whether it’s a cause, a faith or an organization, something else takes the central position. When this happens, your perspectives change and you see things in a different way. Other people won’t understand it, but you will be propelled forward toward those goals.

You Have To Be Aware Of The Bigger Picture

self-denial-image3There is always more at stake than we can usually see at any given time. The results or ramifications of our actions will generally reverberate far beyond our immediate circle. Considering the bigger picture makes us more cognizant of how our life affects other people or situations. Jesus knew that the reach of His disciples would exceed His own reach and therefore they needed to understand the bigger picture. If they were to have His results on a bigger scale, they would have to have His level of self-denial.

The Results:

The resulting effect of self-denial in relationship to Christ has produced over two thousand years of continuous growth in the Christian faith. This is quite a feat when you consider that only through a willful decision can a person even become a Christian. You can’t be coerced, forced or deceived into true faith; you can only be led into it.

Leadership Keys #14

The Key of Pacing Yourself


1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.



runner-image1There’s an old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race”, and it’s supposed to be some kind of enlightened insight. Unfortunately, it’s probably not very accurate in real life where the runner wins the race based on a variety of strategic elements. The old story of the Tortoise and the Hare is another one that gets misinterpreted. The rabbit didn’t lose because he was slower than the turtle; he lost because he was sleeping when he should have been running. The steady slow pace of the tortoise was more effective than the, full-out / dead-stop pace of the hare. In the end, it was a matter of attitude and not ability.

Proverbs and stories aside, we are in a race every day and no matter how fast we are, someone will come along that’s faster. If you watch true champions run in a race you will notice how they pace themselves. There is generally very little difference in time between number one and number ten. They have worked equally as hard at training and have comparable coaching. They have the same equipment and they are running on the same track against the same ticking clock. With some extraordinary exceptions, they are pretty much all equally matched. The difference then is not solely the speed of the runner; it is the strategy that gets employed as they run.

Pacing Yourself

You Have To Know How Far You’re Going

If you don’t know where the finish line is, you’ll never know how to pace yourself. Every runner has a different place in the race where they adjust their pace. This boils down to knowing where the finish line is and knowing your capability of getting there. Leaders must be aware of what the goal is and how far they have to go to get there. This is a question of the sacrifices you’re willing to make. Short races take a different type of sacrifice than a longer race does. The training, preparation and execution are different so you have to prepare for the distance you’re going.

You Need To Understand The Steps Involved

Every race has a certain amount of steps depending on the stride of the runner and every runner has to find their most powerful stride. No matter what you do as a leader there are steps involved in doing it. There are always a certain amount of steps and you have to recognize when you’re over or under those steps. At times we don’t do enough and other times we waste energy trying to do too much.

You Need To Know Who And What You’re Up Against

Who are you running against? Don’t be arrogant enough to think that you don’t have any competition. There is always someone who can run with you and you have to set the right pace so that you can compete. You have to run your race and not someone else’s but you have to be aware of how they run. Leaders are always up against someone or something and they need to know who or what that is.

The Results:

The result of getting the pace set properly is a well-run race. You can’t run poorly and win the race; you have to manage the distance, the pace and the competition well. The race is always before us as leaders and we must run it well in order to succeed in our leadership.

Leadership Keys #13

The Key of Picking Your Battles

Battle Image3Knowing how to pick your battles and how to win them is important for any leader. It is possible to totally exhaust yourself and those around you if you can’t figure out which fights are worth having.

Proverbs 19:11

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.


King Solomon speaks about the value of overlooking a transgression. Often, leaders will feel challenged, disrespected and misunderstood. These things are generally seen as offensive to them and they feel that the situation must be sorted out. I don’t even necessarily disagree with this, but I do know that it takes a great deal of wisdom to do it right.

Not every situation has to escalate into a conflict or be interpreted as a leadership challenge. Sometimes it’s just a lack of tact or communication skills that sets the tone for a battle. With that said, there are other situations that are definitely intended to be a direct challenge of your leadership. The trick for any leader is to be able to tell the difference in the two situations. So what does a leader do to sort through these things and pick the right battles?

Picking Your Battles

Assess The Situation

Battle Image2Proper assessment of the situation is of the utmost importance. Battles generally erupt into wars and wars have been started over some very foolish things. The collateral damage of any battle can be detrimental to the health of the organization and needs to be entered into with wisdom. There are a lot of things that can appear one way when they may not be that way at all. As a leader, you need to take into consideration the context of every encounter before acting on it. Many times a battle is not necessary and if it can be avoided, then it possibly should be. Listening, thinking and assessing will generally lead to a different response than an outright reaction without sound deliberation.

Pick The Time And Place Of The Battle

If a battle cannot be avoided and is warranted, then as the leader, you need to set the time and the place. Most people will want to confront you and do battle where they feel the safest, which is generally surrounded by their peers. A good leader on the other hand will look for the most advantageous location with the least amount of collateral damage. When a battle is necessary you need to go into it with a good strategy. Angry and out of control may win one battle but it’s a poor strategy and will usually cost you the war. Strategically planned and placed battles generally have a better outcome.

Don’t Think You Have To Win The War In One Battle

Leaders are generally very busy and because we are busy, we want to deal with things in real-time. On the spot, get it over with and get on with the day. The problem with this is, your authority as a leader has the ability to bring the matter to a close but that doesn’t mean the war is over. Subordinates remember things; especially when they think they are right and that you mistreatedBattle Image1 them in the discussion. If you think that you sorted it out by playing the boss card, think again. You might have won a battle that way but you might not have won the war. Any deeply engrained issue could take several battles to solve and you’re better off controlling the flow of those battles and resolving those issues than just saying that you’re the boss. A little discretion can go a long way toward the outcome of any situation.

The Results:

The result of picking your battles is more than just gaining a victory; you want to pick the right battles. The result of picking the right battles is about getting to right victories. Anybody can win an argument if they’re stubborn enough to wear the other person down. Winning the ones that create growth in your organization or prevent it from losing its perspective and purpose are the ones that you go for. Most conflict is, “matter of opinion” more than critical to organizational purposes. Leaders need to recognize the difference and pick the right battles.

Leadership Keys #12

The Key of Opportunity


Opportunity Image1What does life actually give us? There are many out there who feel entitled to receive everything possible from life and their belief is that it should all simply be handed to them. Often times we associate this attitude with someone who may have come from wealth and never had to do manual labor. On the other hand, my experience has taught me that this attitude can live anywhere along the social scale. I have found that there are those from poverty to wealth who can develop this type of sentiment.

So I ask again, what does life actually give us? It gives us time and space; we have come to call this, “opportunity”. There are lots of opportunities out there for us and we have a lifetime to chase them down. What we do with those opportunities is up to us as we live our lives. If we choose not to avail ourselves of the opportunities that present themselves, we are certainly not entitled to the benefits they may provide.

Opportunity is defined in the dictionary as, chance, occasion, opening, break and prospect. This certainly covers a variety of things. Some of them could be hidden and found by chance and some will present themselves as an open door. However they come, they need to be acted upon or they are simple something that passes us by without a second thought. There are some key truths about opportunity that we need to be aware of if we are going to capitalize on them.


Opportunities Must Be Recognized

Not everyone sees things the same way and not everyone thinks in the same paradigms. What one person may see as opportunity may seem like a fool’s errand to another. Not every opportunity suites every person’s skill set or training. Some opportunities could advance one person and destroy another simply because of the training or lack thereof that each person has. You have to be able to recognize which ones are good for you or at least which one you could actually sustain. Some opportunities require more capital than you can muster even if you have the skills to make it work. Recognizing which ones are possible for you personally is important.

Opportunities Are Often Time Sensitive

Many opportunities can fade quickly and there is pressure to move on them. Too often though, not enough thought is put into them and opportunities for success can turn into opportunities to fail. When being pressured to move more quickly than you are comfortable with, you need to begin askingOpportunity Image2 important questions, like, why the rush or can I get more information, etc. High-pressure sales people always play the, “urgent” card to keep you from asking too many questions. You need to find out why the particular opportunity is so time sensitive in order to know if it’s legitimate or not. Don’t be afraid to miss an opportunity if you are uncomfortable with what you are being asked to do.

Opportunities Require You To Be Prepared

I heard a successful businessman say that, “the more prepared he is the luckier he gets”. This is not an exact quote, but it’s what I took from what he said. His point was that, being prepared to grasp an opportunity was interpreted as him being lucky. In the end, luck had very little to do with it; being prepared allowed him to see and seize opportunities that others didn’t. If you take the time to prepare yourself and align yourself properly you will be able to grab at opportunities as they pass by.

Opportunities Usually Come Disguised

The disguises of opportunity can be many, but the most frequently used is, “Hard Work”. Very few Opportunity Image3really good opportunities come to us in any other form. This means that we have to see past the disguise and be prepared to work hard at what’s hidden beneath. Being hard to recognize and hard to exploit are what makes them good opportunities in the first place. If they were easy to see and easy to fulfill, everyone would be doing it and it would no longer be a good opportunity.

The Results:

Being prepared, recognizing opportunities and being ready to work had at them can and will have good results. Opportunities will pass you by though if you’re not prepared to go after them. They don’t stop at regular intervals like buses or trains so that you can get on or off. You have to grab onto them when they pass by or you will miss them. The result of not grabbing onto them means that everything stays just the same as it is now.

Leadership Keys #11

The Keys of How and Why


Quote – (author unknown)

The person who knows “how” will always have a job. The person who knows “why” will always be his boss.


I recently read this quote about the difference between the person who knows, “how” and the person who knows, “why”. This is an interesting observation. Both aspects are important to the process but the person who knows “why” ends up in the leadership position. The person who knows “why” needs the person who knows “how”, which makes this a symbiotic relationship.

Many years ago, in about 1980, I incorporated a construction company and began to contract commercial concrete work and new home construction. In the process, my corporate lawyer gave me a piece of sage advice that I should have taken back then. He said, “You will always make more money with your head than with your hands”. Of course I thought that he was just mimicking my parents’ party line about getting further education and doing something white-collar. He had known me for many years and knew my parents as well and I assumed he was trying to do them a favor.

All these years later I understand what he was trying to tell me. He was trying to tell me to be the guy who knows “why” rather than the guy who knows “how”. A lot of years went by before I fully understood this and as much as I now agree with him, I have learned something else in the process. There are not just two positions here; there are actually three positions that I will briefly explain.

Three Positions

The People Who Know “How”

how and why image3When you know how to do something it can open doors for you. This is why we have people who write resumes for other people. A resume tends to be a chronicle of what you know “how” to do. You learned a skill and made a living at it in several different locations and it can be outlined in a document. The proof of what you know how to do will be when you start doing it. People who know “how” focus on what is being done with their hands. This can put them at an advantage with the person who knows “why” because often, the person who knows “why” doesn’t know “how”.

The People Who Know “Why”

Why something is being done can be a very complex issue and not everyone wants to get into thathow and why image2 side of things. Those who know, “the why” behind something will always find themselves in a lead position because knowing “why” is what keeps things moving forward. These people lay out the plans, strategies and daily tactics that make the project possible. They are focused on why each step of the process is necessary and that will generally put them in the lead. Those who know “how” look to those who know “why” for that very purpose.

The People Who Know “How” & “Why”

how and why image1This group is unique in that, they know both ends. Not only can they make plans, mobilize strategies and work out daily tactics, they can actually do the work if necessary. They are not stuck because of one of the other groups. Generally they are self-starters, tend to be a little independent and they can be very hard to keep up with. The wool is not easily pulled over their eyes because they do know the “how” and the “why”. The danger of their talent however is that they can be hard to please and tend to overwork themselves and others.

The Results:

These groups working together are what make the world go around as they say. The first two groups need each other and find ways of working together for a common purpose. The third group will go one of two ways. They will either incorporate others into their program in order to expand and develop or they will remain small, being satisfied with doing both ends of the “how” and “why” themselves. Their own independent spirit can become a hindrance to growth or a means of simply wanting to be self-fulfilled.