leadership development works!

Do you have a leader development plan in place in your organization? If not, you need to and soon.

First of all – it works. See the graph below from the Chief Learning Officer magazine. It is in an article by William C. Byham

One of the biggest findings of the study was, contrary to the negativity, leadership development really does work: 82 percent of managers, peers and direct reports of people trained cited higher frequency of observed positive leadership behaviors among leaders after they had completed development courses.












Time and again, the research shows that investing into the people of our organizations pays dividends from happier employees, stronger organizational culture, happier customers, to higher profits, and long-term sustainability. Yet, either we don’t ever get around to investing in the people we lead or it is the first thing that is cut if we get busy or try to cut costs.

Why do we do this? Doesn’t make sense to me.


“4 Steps to Building a Leadership Pipeline” – Will Mancini


L. David Marquet on leadership

L. David Marquet on leadership

Great point! What if we all ran our organizations so that their normal operations produced leaders without some special program?

think small and make a huge difference

One thing that I have noticed about leaders in my journey through life is that so many of them (and me) want to impact things in a large way. They want to grow their organizations larger and have greater numbers of staff, revenue growth, number of people they impact, and so on.

Many of these leaders think in terms of systems to produce this greater impact. As I mentioned in an earlier post, they think this way about growing leaders. However, it is interesting to me, that what seems to produce the greater effect is focus on the small things. It is a greater focus on fewer things and going deeper rather than wider.

It seems when we focus on the “vital few” versus the “trivial many” things really start to happen that last. This is especially true when you want to grow people.

Yes you need systems, common training, core readings, and the like for the bulk of your people and to lay the base for growth. However, the real growth occurs when you, as a leader, invest yourself into one or two people deeply and begin to help them grow. Somehow that feels counterintuitive, as we think we should be influencing as many as we possibly can and going as wide as we can, but real growth and impact comes when you focus.

Think small and make a huge difference.



why aren’t we producing more leaders?

Lauren sunset 2014Good morning!

We talk much about the dearth of leadership in our businesses, non-profits, churches, and governments. Yet we have leadership institutes in our colleges, we have thousands of blogs on leadership (including this one!), there are enough books on leadership to fill up a library, we have seminars, and on and on. Yet we still hear of organizations lamenting the lack of good leaders. Organizations struggle with succession as their next level of leaders are not yet ready to step up and lead and we see failure after failure of leaders.


From my experience and study, it seems that one key reason is that we are not truly willing to put the work into crafting new leaders. We talk about it, but when it comes to actually doing it, we just don’t prioritize the development of new leaders as we should. We see this in our approach to leadership development.

Most often the approach I have seen, and read about, to developing leaders is one with a mass production mentality. Have them read books and discuss in groups, send them to seminars or conferences, have them pursue advanced degrees or certifications,and so on. All of your prospective leaders being run through the same mass production system. The problem is, while these things may or may not have value, the real leadership development does not occur in this type of system. All you get with this approach is mediocrity.

Leaders are not mass produced through a one size fits all system. Leaders are individual works of art crafted lovingly by a master craftsman who loves his work and focuses intensely on his work. Time and again, when you learn about exceptional leaders you discover that there was someone who invested deeply into their lives. Someone who walked with them showing them the way. Someone who knew them well enough to design learning experiences just for them to meet their specific needs.

Leaders are handcrafted one at a time by a “master craftsman” who is willing to invest into the developing leader. It’s hard work. It takes knowing the person well, which means studying them. They are unique individuals that require a uniquely designed approach to enable them to flourish and to reach their potential as a leader.

So, if you really want to develop highly effective leaders for your organization that truly possess your organization’s DNA, then you will have to roll up your sleeves and begin building them – one at a time.

Hard work, but well worth it.


Self Care – How Are You Doing?

It is a beautiful morning!  A few clouds in the sky with the sunrise reflecting off of them producing amazing colors.

When you are in a ministry or non-profit, usually your focus is on serving and impacting others with the hope of seeing lives transformed. Often, the idea of taking care of yourself is not at the forefront of your mind or it may even seem self-centered or selfish. The problem is that if you don’t, you will at some point render yourself unable to serve others and may even disqualify yourself from leading and cause damage to others.

Fatigue is often associated with poor decision making and as we discussed in an earlier blog post, we are all just one poor decision away from being disqualified from leading.

So how are you doing in regards to self-care?  How are you caring for your soul?  Your walk with the Lord?  Do you have healthy rhythms of being quiet before Him, spending time in the Word and in worship?

How are you doing with the key relationships in your life? If married, are you investing heavily into that relationship? Just remember, well after you are no longer a leader in your ministry and they have moved on and even forgotten you, your spouse is the one that will still be with you. So, are you caring for them now?  Investing in that relationship now?

How about your overall health?  Physical, mental, and emotional? Are you caring for your body so that you extend your ministry?  Are you growing and exercising your mind?  Are you developing healthy relationships and thinking patterns that contribute to your emotional health?

With the right motivation, taking care of yourself in order to make yourself more effective is not only not selfish, it is a very necessary investment. Don’t make the mistake of not investing in your health.

Tony Schwartz has some excellent ideas on his website.  Not sure of his faith background, but still he has some good advice.  Also, check out Wayne Cordiero’s book, Leading on Empty.  Great book.  Also, his DVD Dead Leader Running is powerful.

Have a blessed time preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord.

7 Questions to Ask Your Boss

As a leader, you are on a path of continuous growth and we need the input of others to develop well.

One of those people who can provide you valuable input is your boss.  I am not talking about an evaluation sort of thing, but of you being intentional and going to your boss and asking him or her some very specific questions about some key aspects of your role.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their excellent book, A Coach’s Guide to Developing Exemplary Leaders, give a list (one of many!) of seven questions to ask your boss to help determine how well you are in regards to “Modeling the Way” or setting the right example for your team.

So try asking your boss these questions:

“How well do my actions align with the organization’s goals and strategies?

How well does my performance align with the vision?

How well does my performance align with the values?

How well do I strengthen [constituent] relationships?

How do my actions affect others’ performance?

How well do I reinforce what we stand for – Model the Way?

How well do I demonstrate my personal commitment to team members?”

Some good questions that ought to be revealing and very helpful to you as you grow as a leader.

Have a great weekend.


The Leadership Academy and Succession

I hope your week is starting well today!

This past week I was in warm Mississippi and now I am back in Southwest Michigan where it is considerably cooler!

I was in Mississippi to speak at the Mississippi Community College Leadership Academy on strategic planning.  It is a wonderful concept that was birthed by a good friend of mine Dr. Howell Garner.  Dr. Garner is the former president of Copiah-Lincoln Community College and is now the president of the Mississippi Community College Foundation.

Dr. Garner became concerned that not enough was being done to prepare the next generation of leadership for the community colleges.  So each year, they start a “class” of young leaders who meet three – four times a year for three days at a time.  They cover a wide range of topics and hear from a wide range of leaders from both the educational system as well as the private sector.

As a native of Mississippi, it thrills me to see this type of intentional effort at developing the leaders of the future.

My question for you – what type of “leadership academy” do you have where you serve?  If you don’t have something – maybe it is time to create some system of training your future leaders.

Blessing on your week,



A Reading List for Leaders

Leaders tend to be people that are continuously learning and one of the best sources to learn from is good books.

I have been talking to people to pin down the top books they would consider core to any leadership development process.

Following are some that I have come to value highly:

1. The Bible is foundational of course

2. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

3. Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Lorritts

4. Most of Peter Drucker’s works

5. Most of Patrick Lencioni’s books

6. Good to Great by Jim Collins

7. The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner

8. Built to Serve by Dan Sanders

9. Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf

10. Execution by Bossidy & Charan

11. Linchpin by Seth Godin

12. Switch by Chip & Dan HEath

Those are just a few of the books I would include.

What books would you consider key for a developing leader to read? I would appreciate your advice.






Learning by Teaching

Teaching is a privilege and one of the best ways to learn that I have experienced.

I have had the opportunity to teach in the MBA program at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN (South Bend).  Often, I have found that I learn much more from my students that I teach them.  For instance, I found some real gems in the last set of papers I had assigned to the class.  So, I would like to share with you, some of their “sound bites” of wisdom:

God has placed me in a position of authority as a part of His plan for my life.  It is my responsibility to use that authority to glorify Him.

A leader is none other than a servant who leads.

The servant-leader is servant first.

I did not understand the impact my state of mind and my relationship with my family has on my leadership ability.  I realize now I cannot be an effective leader if I have nothing to give.  I have to have my “house” in order before I can manage someone else’s.

The state of my personal life directly affects my leadership.

The real reason for the imbalance in my life is the absence of my dependence on Christ.

At times I get so wrapped up in the need to solve an issue quickly I forget there are people and feelings involved as well.  If I remember God calls us to love one another, I will be able to improve the way I treat others in difficult situations.

Management requires not only skill; it requires the heart of a shepherd.

Having a humble heart means I will never let my position of authority override my core values.

If there has ever been a weakness needing my serious attention, it would have to be the absence of balance between family and my work.

Sometimes, taking the time to talk to someone and listen to their trials and tribulations is worth more than anything else you can do.

Leadership is a snow plow in the heart of a blustery mid-winter snowstorm clearing a path that was previously covered.  Management is a car following the snow plow with clearly defined snow banks enabling the car to stay on track although very icy.

Leadership is a way of life and begins behind closed doors.

People are much more than just interchangeable parts of business and they deserve to be treated with compassion, love and respect.

The workplace needs to be safe and the staff needs to feel comfortable when approaching management.

An individual must keep their cup filled in order to be a successful leader.

To be a great leader, I have always believed one must be a great follower.

Management is leading people – it is a burden of love.

It makes you really think about how you may be treating someone and how differently God would want you to treat that person knowing that they are a brother or sister in Christ. Personally it makes me want to slow down and spend more time with people.

The purpose of management is to unleash the unique gifts of the individual for the performance of the organization.

I realize that I have held my boss to a different standard than I should have.

We are all made in the image of God and as a result should treat each other with dignity, respect, and with unwavering integrity.  Anything short of that would be first a slight against God and secondly a detriment to those bearing witness to our testimony as a leader.

I have found that I am able to obtain more efficient and effective results when a personal and trustworthy relationship has been established and mutual respect has been created and nurtured.

Sometimes when people get off track it was my fault for not staying on top of things and providing more guidance and direction.

Some good points mentioned above.

Blessings and have a Merry Christmas!

Jesus is Lord!