The Great Leadership Debate: Nature vs Nurture

Visit the best business schools on the planet and you are likely to hear a robust debate about the virtues of leadership. The central question is whether great leaders are born or bred; nature versus nurture.

Nature vs Nurture in Leadership Development

One theory argues that true leadership is an inborn trait that few possess. The other (and prevailing thought) is that leaders can be developed. [Writer aside: why wouldn’t a for-profit institution tell you they can train leaders?]

While certain natural talents afford some leaders with an innate sense of leadership, you certainly can train people to become better leaders. The military does it on a regular and reliable basis. Whether you look at the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) or commissioned officer corps, the development of leadership talent is a business for the military. People who exhibit good leadership talent are promoted to progressively more significant leadership roles until their capabilities are maximized.

As an example, few officers make it to the rank of general. Typically, officers are promoted several times in their career before their maximum efficiency as a leader is determined and the promotion train stops. The same holds true in corporate circles.

Some call this phenomenon the law of maximum incompetency. John Maxwell calls it simply “The Law of the Lid”. Everyone who aspires to become a leader has a lid on their ability to lead. You can start a career with some natural talent (i.e. born with it) and you can work toward increasing your leadership capacity by training and coaching. Yet according to Maxwell, you still hit a personal lid that limits the level of influence you achieve as a leader.

It is not hard to see this concept in real life. Not everyone who tries their hand at business leadership becomes the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. In fact very few do it.

What to Do

So what is the mainstream business executive supposed to do with his or her current leadership capacity?

  • Seek valid and reliable feedback about your blind spots. This immediate and valuable insight that can vault your effort above what it is today. Knowing what you don’t know or can see is vital information with which you can make changes and grow.
  • Hire a coach. Coaching for executives is growing in acceptance and popularity. People have used coaches at the gym and for special hobbies and interests for quite some time. Why not use the same approach when seeking to increase your leadership influence.
  • Improve your circle of peers. Be open to networking with mastermind groups and coaching groups where you can work with peers to gain insight for best practices and have a personal board of directors to whom you report.
  • Read – it seems so simple, but the power of reading has been proven time and time again. Take recommendations from leaders you admire. Read their selections of books. Consume what they consume and you will begin to grow. Every leader I have ever admired has his/her own list. As soon as I asked about their favorites, they would gladly share. Of course some titles get repeated, but that just serves as proof of the impact of that book.

Leadership growth is possible. The best and greatest leaders claim a rigorous routine of seeking knowledge and information about ways to grow as leaders. Covey called it “sharpening the saw”. As you move through the phases of your career and life, things change. You can get worn down. There must be a ever-present desire to stay sharp or grow.

Career Advice from the Strangest Source

Executive leaders deal with making career moves multiple times in their life. There’s an old ballad sung by Kenny Rogers, called “The Gambler”. The other day a catch phrase caught my attention and I began humming the tune. As I merrily strolled along my way, it struck me that these words are pretty solid advice to anyone making a career change.

If your not familiar with the refrain, it goes like this:

“You got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em.
Know when to walk away.
Know when to run.
You never count your money
when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealin’s done.”

Hold ‘Em

Executives currently engaged in a specific role often feel the itch to change jobs. Whether the motivation is “grass is greener” or some sense of dread about the current role, you need to be careful about jumping around.

First, as the old adage tells us, the grass is NOT always greener on the other side. The lure of a new opportunity may be based on all of the highlights about that job. Yet further exploration reveals the new position is burdened with all sorts of issues.

Plus, you may need to hang in with your present posiiton to be sure you have exhausted all the opportunity that exists in it. If you are considering a change because the current role is not fulfilling for you, then you owe it to yourself and the team who hired you to do your best to maximize the situation (that’s what real leaders do). If you have spent your best effort trying to make the current job the best it can be, then you are ready for the next step.

Fold ‘Em

You can stay too long in a job or with a company. Perhaps you are comfortable with the paycheck, but your career is fading. If you find yourself leaning too deep into a comfort zone, then you have voluntarily stalled your advancement as a leader.

Ask yourself about the last time you felt challenged or excited to be going into the office. Are the people above you folks who you admire and want to emulate? I know a senior manager who decided to leave a very well-paying job at a large publicly traded company because he could not identify anyone above him that demonstrated any leadership traits he could respect or admire.

When to Walk Away

There are countless reasons you might choose to walk away from a company. When that time comes, then walking away is the professional and ethical way to do it. What does that mean?

Walking away suggests a calm and orderly exit. You submit your resignation and do what is asked about the transition. Then you walk out, head held high, with your own sense of dignity. No gloating, no nudging of others, just an orderly exit.

When to Run

On the rare occasion you discover the team you work for is doing things that do not fit with your moral, legal, or ethical compass, you need to run. Leave as fast as you can. There is no fixing something like that. Get out as quickly as you can.

Never Count Your Money at the Table

In a game of poker, you can see each other’s chip stack. You don’t need to count yours to let others know what you have. They get the idea.

Taking time to talk about your compensation and the wealth you are accumulating is just bad form; it’s just plain rude. In banking circles we have a term for “old money” and “new money”. Old money is the hard earned family legacy kind. Those people don’t talk much about their money, even when asked. They live relatively guiet and unassuming lives, albeit with bigger houses and other trappings.

New money gloats about it. People who hit the jackpot and amassed larger fortunes often don’t know how to handle it. They flaunt the wealth and belittle those who have less. Generally, they’re not really much fun to be around.

There’ll be Time Enough

As you work to build your wealth, you will have appropriate times to check the balances and be a good steward of the money. Set plans in motion for money management. Then stay focused on being the best leader you can be; at home, at work, and in the community.


Managing your career may feel like one big poker game; bidding, bluffing, winning some hands, losing others. When it starts feeling that way, think about this sage advice from the Gambler.

Question: Which stage are you in right now? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Here’s a Simple Test to Determine Your Career Satisfaction

Being satisfied with your current career choice is vital to your own success. Your sense of balance for work, life, and faith can hinge upon the level with which you find your job satisfying.

Far too many people live the grind; going to work at a job that has no excitement, incentive, or sense of fulfillment. Regardless of how you landed in your current gig, the routine may have taken its toll.

People who feel called to their careers are likely to find their work deeply meaningful, he says. Their personal connection with the job makes even the most trivial tasks feel significant. Often the experience of a calling comes with social benefits as well.

“It’s not just that you do the same work, but you’re the same kind of people,” says Stuart Bunderson, PhD, a professor of organizational behavior at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. “It gives you a connection to a community.” offers an annual job satisfaction survey that presents interesting findings every year. You can access the 2016 report here. For 2016, overall, job satisfaction is up, but not among the millennials.

If you are feeling the early warning signs that you need to make a change, don’t jump too fast. Before you waste any time searching for a new gig, here’s a little tool I am offering you FREE to help you decide where you are with job satisfaction.


Maybe your career is the right thing to be doing, but you are worried you are doing it at the wrong company or with the wrong team.

Finding satisfaction can be hard. We all feel fulfilled and rewarded at different levels and for many different reasons.

Use this handy survey to make your own assessment of where you stand with your current job and career.

Need to Begin a Search?

If your results are on the low end of the scale, you should begin to search for a better opportunity. I also offer a free 6 step guide for organizing and planning a career change. My program is called STRIVE. It has been used by over 4,500 clients since 2008. In this six step guide you can prepare your own priorities for your purpose, your past accomplishments, and your best targets for making the change.


If, on the other hand, your results are on the high end of the scale, CONGRATULATIONS! You have surpassed over 50% of the population who think they need to make a change.

Planning Ahead

Now is the time of year when you should start thinking about your plans for next year. If you haven’t heard about one of the best sources for personal planning and setting high goals, visit Michael Hyatt’s work. He is offering his preeminent product “Best Year Ever”. Right now you can download a free eBook that gives you tips and tricks from 30 of the greatest business and personal development thought leaders.

Some of the contributors include Tony Robbins, John Maxwell, Dave Ramsey, Andy Andrews, Jeff Walker, Marie Forleo, Amy Porterfield, Lysa TerKeurst, Andy Stanley, Chalene Johnson, Lewis Howes, (and many others). Download everything here:

Download Here


Question: What are your thoughts about your current situation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Still Use a Desktop PC?

Here are all the reasons why a hacked PC can be a juicy target for hackers.

As a bit of public service, I want to share this post. In light of the big hack last week attacking “the Internet of Things”, we are all reminded about the need for better data security. If you think investing in at-home PC protection services is not necessary, think again.

hacked PC


Read more here.

Also, you may want to consider a master data backup plan for all those family photos and documents you keep on home computers. Visit my affiliate partners at Carbonite for effective and low cost ways to secure your precious data.

Change by Choice or by Chance

As I look back on my career, the major milestones are combinations of things done by choice and some by chance.

I would like to claim I had made all of my decisions by choice, not chance. That simply would not be true. Regardless of the reason for making a move, in all cases, change was the common requirement.

Whether I made a job change or location move by choice, change was there. The occasional chance happenings still required some form of change on my part.

3c concept - choice, chance and change

3c concept – choice, chance and change

You can try to plan your career (and I encourage everyone to do so), but some things happen by chance that alter the course of the best laid plans. Circumstances can change in an instant when companies get acquired or spun off. Market crashes and economics alter what would have been the plan. Layoffs happen and lives are changed. Or you get unexpectedly recognized for an accomplishment and you are whisked off to another assignment.

Big change can occur almost instantly. The question is what are you going to do with such a change?

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Here’s a Proven 6 Step Way to Manage a Career Change

Making a successful career change can be as easy as following six critical steps. I call it STRIVE.


Over 4,500 of my professional clients have used this model for their own job search success. It has been presented in numerous workshops and forums. In the next few pages, you will be guided through these steps.

strive-2016Here we go….. Step #1…..


If you find yourself between jobs, the first thing most people do is sit down and bang out a resume. That’s a horrible place to start. (That is of course unless you change jobs every six months or so.)

No, in order to be successful at job search, you need a solid base; a firm footing from which you gather thoughts and ideas about your search. Therefore, STRIVE Step 1 is to SURVEY.

Survey your prior Success, your Passions, and your Talents. Everyone has achieved something noteworthy. Whether you are just starting out trying to build a career or have 30+ years of experience, there are successes along the way that need to be highlighted and amplified.

Build a list of key achievements and successes. Try to identify the “resulting in” effects of those achievements. Tie the final outcome to the task or event. The statement looks something like this:

“I was manager of a sales team that increased national sales 45% resulting in a net $10,000,000 earnings increase for the year”.

Let this list become an inventory of juicy nuggets of key accomplishments that will be the fruit from which you feed to power your search.

Survey also includes locking down on the focus of your attention. What do you really want to do next? You must be firmly rooted with an answer to that essential question. While you look at your accomplishment list, think about which items were exciting and rewarding versus those that got done, but you hope you never do again.

And yes, this is the time to rekindle passions for life accomplishments that may be unfulfilled. I realize financial necessity gets in the way, but if you’re between jobs, why not give yourself the momentary grace to get back in touch with some passion or fire that can fuel your next chapter of work?


Take the survey information and the design you created in Step 1, and then create a TARGET.

Most job search planners tell you that you must focus your search. That is definitely true. Targeting means you are not going to market with a vague and slippery explanation like “I can do that too.” With targeting, you have a specific, identifiable landing zone you want to achieve.

Setting a targeted list gives your job search a framework and a way to be accountable for the effort.

Turn your successes, skills, and passions into a set of functions that you might want to perform on a daily basis. Then formulate a job description that includes all of those functions. Once you have your own job description of your dream job, you can begin to research the companies that need those types of jobs.

Targeting also gives you purpose. Being able to speak in specific targeted terms allows you to talk boldly with family, friends, and colleagues who may be able to help you with new opportunities; those around you can “get it”. They will have a better understanding of what you are trying to do. Empowered with that knowledge, others can do more to help in your job search.


Now and ONLY now can you begin to write the proper resume to tell your story.

Use a resume format that highlights the key accomplishments. Start your resume story with what you can do for the employer. You cannot assume anything in telling your story. YOU need to fill in all the blanks for the reader. List your prior employment history only after you have first gotten the reader’s attention with a “Here’s what I will do for you today” objective statement. Build a personal BRAND.

36762097 - job interview concept with business cv resumeHighlight a select list of 3 to 5 accomplishments right near the top of the resume will grab the reader’s attention. The obituary style (Chronology) of prior employment is super boring, but needed to simply prove you’ve had a run at doing the things you featured in the accomplishments.

Yes, you will need to flex your resume depending on the target company. A one size resume does not fit all. Use different accomplishments depending upon the target you are connecting to.

The resume must pop with your story, explaining what you can do for them. Remember, the target company has a need you can fill, but you have to lead the reader of the resume through the story. You can never assume any conclusion about what may come from your resume. Get others to read it before you submit it ‘Live’. Adjust the story based on how well it seems to be received by others.


To maximize your job search success, you need to think “INTERACTION”. This is where networking comes in.

Networking by itself is not the answer. Networking alone, just for the sake of going out and meeting people can become a big waste of time. You have to think Interaction. Begin building high trust relationships that last.

Ask yourself “am I really suited to be a long term part of this networking group?” Can I find value here and can I give value too? Get involved in industry groups and professional gatherings that are fits for your targets and your passions. Pay it forward!

When you attend an event, have some goals set to do things like “meet 5 CFOs” or “meet 3 new recruiters”.

As you talk with people, ask engaging questions that allow them to talk. Studies show you become more memorable based on what people felt about the way you made them feel. Having them talk about themselves helps to build that bridge. It seems counter-intuitive; I mean you are there to get a job right? Rather than dominating the discussion talking about yourself, get to know others first.


Build value in the story you are telling. Companies today need people who can contribute a positive outcome to their performance.

In this step we begin to prepare for the job interview. The sooner you can explain and present a solid value statement to a potential employer, the faster you will be considered for hire.

Help the hiring manager understand the value you can bring to the table. Include this in all aspects of your job search. Focus your personal story on the specialized and incredibly valuable contribution you believe you can make.

Landing your next job does require some sales skills. If selling something has never been a talent for you, learn how to tell your story with a brand value in mind. Shift your thinking to look at yourself as a brand rather than a job candidate. Your experience and job history should give you the right ammunition to use for building a strong brand.


This last step is perhaps the toughest. Here we assume you have landed the new job.

The question now becomes “how are you going to go about keeping the new job?” You must create a plan to carry through all of the great and wonderful things you have sold the employer. Build a specific plan of action to engage and embrace the new company, your co-workers, and managers with positive outcome.

Set your standard of performance early and stick to it. Prove to the new team that you are the best hiring decision they have made.

In the HR world, there is a saying:

“We hire on skills and fire on behavior.”

Your behavior at the new job is a big part of success in the job. Get engaged with the team around you and the environment within the company. Learn things, understand things, and then do the things that fit.


STRIVE is a clear and concise way to plan for your job search. It provides constant reminders for every aspect of the search. Use the handy checklist in the Appendix of the eBook I am offering here to grade yourself on the search.

And remember, with STRIVE you can Thrive!


16 Personalities Type Testing

Take a FREE Test

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I have generally come out against most conventional personality type testing. While the results of such testing can be helpful in identifying the behavior tendencies in your work team, I am always cautious about the risk that we, as managers, have for putting people in tidy little boxes.

My campaign about this phenomenon comes from years of watching the the application of these personality type testing tools being used across large workforce’s. The result tends to allow managers to “cop out” with quick answers for why certain employees behave certain ways. Every time I have been subject of such a program at work, the facilitators have been true to their profession by warning about the proper use of such testing results. Yet when the symposium is over and the test results are in, I’ve seen too many managers use the data inappropriately.

On one hand, it could be called naive on my part to suggest that NOT using these tests will resolve the problem. Quite the contrary. I do find value in subjecting yourself to the personality profiling so that you can better understand your own bent.

That said, I have been introduced to an effective, online tool that presents you with results. Before I share the link, you may want to explore their statement of methodology. They claim to have administered over 39 million tests.


Here is the FREE link

I am sharing this information as a service to aspiring new managers and anyone else interested in taking a personality test. In full disclosure, I have no financial arrangement with 16 Personalities. Our introduction came through social media. I have communicated with them to gain permission to use the content and links as you see it here.

If you are a new manager looking for ways to improve your effectiveness, you might want to know about my book “The Uncommon Commodity:The Common Sense Guide for New Managers”. I will show you simple ways to make a difference.

Take the 16 Personalities test and enjoy its results.

Question: Leave me a comment and I’ll share my results. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Leaders: What Do You Do With Your Bridges?

Build or burn?

If you live anywhere near waterways or hilly terrain, you are no stranger to bridges. These amazing structures can be beautiful as well as extremely functional.

44485365_sBridges allow us easy passage from point A to point B without traveling miles out of our way. They can be a picture of safe movement. Often the view from the bridge is spectacular.

In business and in life, our relationships require some bridging. Isn’t it true that you stand somewhat alone facing the world. To make connections with those around you, a bridge must be built.

Once the bridge is built, does it stand the test of time? Can you maintain the strength and durability of your bridge with someone else?

Here are considerations about the bridges in your life.

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forbes 300x250

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Creating Your Personal Brand

I am honored to be a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.

Routinely we are asked to answer questions coming in from the Forbes readership. In this article I and my other coaching colleagues explore the topic of personal branding.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only organization comprised of leading executive business coaches and career coaches. Members are hand-selected by the Council’s selection committee. Find out if you qualify at

To learn more about my coaching programs, email me here.

Date: April 26, 2016
Appearance: Forbes Coaches Council
Outlet: Forbes Coaches Council
Format: Magazine

For more information, contact

Do YOU have a Career “Plan B” Ready?

Here are several thoughts to consider

Being a coach for business managers and leaders often gets me into discussions about career transition. While I do not focus on that topic as a primary service, I stay very much in touch with it.



On one hand, I do have a passion for those who find themselves in job change. In 2008, when the financial crisis hit the U.S. and unemployment rates hit long-time highs, I created a regional career transition and job search organization (non-denominational, faith based non-profit) that served over 4,500 clients before we closed it in 2014.


So I pay close attention to articles and posts from recruiters and placements professionals I still know. The job market has changed a lot and continues to evolve. Some say that today, we don’t even know the job titles that will be in the market five years from now, so you might ask ‘how can I stay ready for a job change’?

One particular article caught my eye. Top Echelon, an Ohio based service company that supports recruiters and placement professionals, published the following blog post:

We recently conducted a poll of the Top Echelon Network Membership, one that addressed this important issue for recruiters. Below is the question that we posed in this poll:

How educated do you believe your clients are about hiring in today’s market?


The choice of answers that we provided is listed below, along with the percentage of recruiters who selected each one:

Very educated—11.5%

Somewhat educated—69.2%

Not educated at all—19.2%


By far, the most popular answer was “somewhat educated” at over 69%, while “not educated at all” was second at nearly 20%. Perhaps not surprisingly, only 11.5% of recruiters responded “Very educated” in describing their clients.  With so few of the clients on top of current market trends (at least according to this poll), a need clearly exists for recruiters to help educate their clients.

Coming from a group who has the job of helping candidates land placement (i.e. recruiters), I found these stats to be particularly alarming. So I raise the question, would YOU, as a potential placement candidate, consider yourself ‘well educated’? By this I mean prepared for job change?

If not, what are some of the things you might need to do so that you become better prepared? Here is my list of recommendations.


Do you have a live, ever-green list of work related accomplishments ready for sharing with your next possible interviewer? The reason this accomplishments list is so vital is that it tells a value proposition story. NO employer cares what you think is important. They want to get to the bottom of how you will make them money or save them money; nothing else.

You can show them this valuable merit by listing solid, meaningful accomplishments like:

  • I created a filing system that saved 100 man hours per month.
  • I processed 3,000 payrolls checks per pay period for 18 months with zero errors.
  • I was reasonable for a $10 million gross revenue increase in Q2.

Perpetually grow this list. If you never started one, get it going now. Then add to it as achievements occur. These kinds of accomplishments will usually get an interviewer’s attention real fast.


Become informed about the potential employer. Do more than just Googling the company (do that too, but add to it). Gather some in-depth market intelligence by reaching out to current or former employees via LinkedIn. Get connected with them and ask questions about their experience. If you build and maintain a robust network on LinkedIn, you can easily grab this intel as you need to by asking your contacts who and what they know.

Industry Knowledge

Stay abreast of hot things happening in your industry. Become your own guru about hot topics, new breakthroughs, and meaningful developments. Become conversant in those topics. This is great for the moment when you get that interview segue where the interviewer asks if you have any questions. Use what you learn to be ready to talk about the big developments. Here’s an example.

The whole oil and gas community is under pressure from the drop in global oil price per barrel. If this is your industry, what does a drop of every $5 per barrel mean to the segment you serve? Refinery people are happy. Production people are not. Why? Be able to discuss these forces in more depth. Every industry has comparable hot topic issues that deserve more than casual lip service and use of buzz words about the basic issue(s).

Be Ready

Business today moves at lightning speed. Companies get bought and sold, markets shift, and change happens. NEVER get caught by surprise when your company or department somehow becomes the target of a downsize or elimination. Heck, even management turnover causes change in the rank and file employee pool. Be ready; have your Plan B warm and fresh at all times.

Question: Leave a comment about ways you stay prepared for job change. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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