titles do not make leaders

He always had a smile playing around the corners of his mouth ready to burst into that full fledged humorous smile that made others around him smile in spite of themselves. He had a sparkle in his eyes and a jaunty spring to his step. He had a gift for seeing the humor in almost any situation and was quick to point it out.

He always had a kind word for people; always encouraging others and he seemed to know when you needed it the most. He was the kind of person that caused you to become better just by being around him.

He was optimistic about the future and was always “planting trees” for the next generation. He didn’t look back, but was always looking expectantly towards the horizon.

When I was first privileged to meet him, he was already well into his 70’s and had retired from his vocational job many years before. In his 70’s he was a “younger” and more optimistic person than most 20-year olds. He had endured much and walked with a limp due to a German machine-gun bullet that had gone through both of his legs.

We both sat on the governing body of a nonprofit as volunteers and had no formal authority as individuals. Many times our meetings got quite lively if you know what I mean. Yet when that gentle man quietly started to speak, all the noise, all the fuss stopped as everyone waited to hear what he had to say. Just a few quiet words of wisdom from that man changed the direction of many meetings – in a good way.

He was a man of integrity, a man of honor, a man of wisdom, who cared for people, who cared for the truth, was passionate about the mission, and was ever looking forward. He was a leader because of who he was, not because of any title.

I miss Mr. Al and I want to be like him when “I grow up”.

Questions to Help You Stay on Track

Staying on track – hard to do for leaders, especially when you are moving fast.  And, as you know, just being a little bit off course can have major consequences down the road.  The problem is, as a leader, getting off track impacts others – not just ourselves.

Robert Kaplan, in the article “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror” suggests asking yourself the following questions:

Vision & Priorities

How often do I communicate a vision for my business [ministry]?

Have I identified three to five key priorities to achieve that vision? If asked, would my employees be able to articulate the vision and priorities?

Managing Time

How am I spending my time? Does it match my key priorities?

How are my subordinates spending their time? Does that match the key priorities for  the business [ministry]?


Do I give people timely and direct feedback that they can act on?

Do I have five or six junior subordinates who will tell me things I may not want to hear but need to hear?

Some good questions – what things do you use to keep yourself and your team on track?

Blessings on your week,


The Silent Lie

One of the senior executives is making an impassioned presentation in the leadership meeting.  I can tell he wants the team’s support – including mine.  What he is pitching is somewhat out of my field of expertise, but I’m trying to keep up.  However, I begin to get uneasy as some things just don’t seem to add up.

Do I speak up about my misgivings?  Well, after all I really don’t know much about this area, the senior executive is excited about his project and besides, I will probably just sound foolish if say the wrong thing and probably upset the senior executive.  Everybody else is nodding and smiling so he must be right.  So I smile and nod too.  The senior executive beams, thanks everyone for their support and closes the meeting.

After the meeting over coffee Buddy, a co-worker, expresses the same misgivings I had during the meeting.  Astonished, I asked why he didn’t say anything.  Well, he responds, I thought everybody else agreed so I wasn’t going out on a limb by myself!

Has this ever happened to you?  It has to me – too many times.  This is called the Silent Lie.  It is when you seem to be agreeing to something by your words or demeanor while all the time inside you are yelling STOP! or NO!, but fail to say anything or ask a question. Too many bad decisions have been made by leaders when their colleagues did not speak up.   This is basically lying.  You are communicating agreement when you don’t really agree.

Why do we do that?  Here, we call it the Fear of Man, which is usually rooted in pride.  We don’t want to embarrass ourselves if we say something that might be foolish.  We want to be a part of the group, so we don’t want to say anything that may jeopardize our standing in the group.  And we especially don’t want to do anything to incur the displeasure of the boss!  This is Fear of Man.  As leaders, we have to understand that our identity is in Christ and that we are to seek to follow Him and please Him – not a man.  In doing so, we are then freed up to speak up.

As a leader, you are responsible to be a truth teller.  Do not let the Fear of Man cause you to “tell” a Silent Lie.

Question – how do you handle situations when it seems you are the only one with misgivings?

Have a great week!


Has Style Become More Important Than Substance for Our Leaders?

Last night I finished the book Derailed by Dr. Tim Irwin.  In the book, Dr. Irwin examines the epic failures of six very high profile business CEO’s.  Most of us witnessed these failures in the news.  As Dr. Irwin stated, it was akin to watching a train wreck.

The interesting thing is that all of these people were exceptionally intelligent and highly competent people.  They had earned their new positions through producing results in previous roles in business.  However, they failed and failed spectacularly – why?

Character.  Failure in the area of character will eventually derail a leader.  It always seems to catch up to you.  In his book, Dr. Irwin identifies four primary areas of character and illustrates that a lack or failure of one of these four qualities will lead to the derailment of a career.





Humility is the key quality that is needed the most and the one where we often fail the most.  Dr. Irwin pointed out that arrogance was a common denominator in the profiles he examined in his book.

That leads me to a post on Tim Elmore’s blog, “What Scares Me Most About Leaders and Followers Today”, where he observes we have fallen in love with what he calls the campaigning leader.  Where we have become more enamored with style than with substance. What is entertaining becomes more important that what is true and right.

He points out that while we tend to point this out and rail about this in our leaders, we have contributed to this situation.  We fail to dig deeply beyond the spin in an attempt to discern the truth.  We fail to take the time to think deeply abo0ut issues and people and instead simply accept the sound bites that have been fed to us so masterfully.

When spin and style trumps character and substance – watch out.  A leadership train wreck is about to happen – and we helped it happen.

Questions – are you examining your life so that you are leading with character and substance and not with “image management”?  What are you doing to ensure that a lack of character does not derail your career?

Walk in truth today,


Integrity: Fatal Flaws of a Leader by Dave Kraft

Looks like the start of a good series on leadership by Dave Kraft, the Leadership Development Pastor at Mars Hill Church.

Click here to read the first post.