Suit Up, Show Up, and Shut Up

Business leader

Suit Up, Show Up, and Shut Up – Three wise words shared with Mothers of the Groom for wedding planning and etiquette. A friend whose son was getting married recently shared this with me. I had heard it before but had forgotten the teaching. It sounds cruel but it has merit in the situation. After all, weddings are for the Brides, right?

As this triplet rang in my ears, I realized there is a leadership teaching in here too. In a world of complex managerial challenge and voids of bonafide leadership, the ways executives and business owners conduct themselves takes center stage. These three gems just might hold some valuable truth.

Business leader

Suit Up

When you are in a position of authority, you have to suit up every day. I don’t mean dress slacks and ties or dresses, I mean putting on your full wardrobe of talent and experience. You just can’t leave anything behind. Forgetting about the knowledge and experience you bring to the job can be fatal. You have to be prepared.

You must be willing to get ready for each and every day. You owe it to your team to come to the office or the plant as fully decked out in mental clarity, emotional energy, and technical skill as you can.

It can be tiring. It can be boring. You might even be tempted to “call it in” every so often. But if you do, you will have personally taken some air out of the room. Your people will know it.

Show Up

Your team counts on you whether you believe that or not. Consciously or subconsciously they want their leader present. Presence has to be physical and emotional. You have to be connected.

As the moments of the day tick away, you need to be present in each of those moments. The best leadership doesn’t happen at big meetings or forums, it happens in the next minute when someone who works with you needs a question answered or asks for guidance. Great leadership is in those moments.

Shut Up

You don’t need to know it all. Rely on the people who surround you. Ask questions but don’t direct everything. You can guide but don’t dictate. Encourage rather than condemn.

There’s an old saying “it takes ten atta-boys to make up one OH s*&$t!” Your people will respond better to a level-headed discussion rather than harsh critique.

Work to be more of a listener rather than a talker. Use an empathetic ear when your team is talking to you. Either in group settings or one-on-one, be the one who listens more than talks. Measure your words and speak wisely when you do speak.

Find ways to turn issues into learning experiences. Yes, you may have to occasionally take a hard line, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.

coaching call

Three Simple Truths

Suit up, show up and shut up – yes it sounds harsh, especially to Moms who are marrying off their precious sons. At work though, these can be some of the most powerful truths to live by. When you violate any or all of these principles you will find your team or your business operating a level much below your expectation. The problem won’t be your team. It might be YOU.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Who’s the Brightest Bulb?

This is a question I’ve heard asked far too many times in a boardroom or around the table when trying to select new managers. It comes from the full phrase “He/she may be the brightest bulb in the string (string of lights)”. It runs in the same vein as “Sharpest knife in the drawer”, “best crayon in the box”, and so on.

The idea is that we all have top performers on our teams. When a manager job opens up, we turn to high potentials to fill the role. The definition of high potential may be very formal or very simple. Who’s my best performer? Let’s make them the boss. It sounds genuine and logical, but not so fast.

The basic observations that get us thinking about ‘bright bulbs’ might be slightly valid but are seldom complete. The usual metrics such as quantitative data (volumes and output) plus qualitative values (like accuracy and effectiveness) are only part of the right consideration when picking your next team leader or unit manager. Just because someone is one of your best producers doesn’t mean they will be good managers.

If you look at why we think this way, you likely will realize that the argument does make sense. High producers and good workers “get it”. They are committed to the company and their fellow workers. They play nice with others and get along at work. Why wouldn’t you want a manager doing the same thing, right? I argue why would you?

Academic Study

In the late 80’s, the Head of the Management School at Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business started a program called the College of Business Administration (CBA) Fellows. The premise was to evaluate sophomores in the Business College. Academic performance (i.e. production) was only part of the evaluation. To be considered, other attributes were included; extracurricular activities, leadership positions in student and community organizations, and other demonstrated behaviors across the campus. Students were selected/invited to join the program. It was deemed an honor to be considered.

Once inducted into the program, students were given extra training and experience like internships and exposure to business leaders of Fortune 500 companies to build their leadership potential. The intent was to track these students long after graduation to monitor their advancement in the business world. The long-term performance of this group was compared to other business graduates who had not had the benefit of the extra development. It was no surprise that the CBA group outperformed the rest of the business school grads.

Extra development did enhance long-term outcome. The takeaway here is that while good production and indications of high potential may exist, you have no guarantee of successful movement into management without some form of added development.

How Does It Work Where You Are?

What do you do when evaluating talent for promotion into management? Do you let your gut tell you who to promote next or do you have a more objective way to define and measure someone’s potential for success? Here are some ways others make better choices:

Define the expectations of managers – First, you have to have a clear definition of measuring a manager’s success. By listing the elements of success, you can better benchmark the potential within a new candidate.

Look beyond current production – Dig deeper into the bright bulb’s wheelhouse. Do they even want to become a manager? Is that a talent they think they have? Use assessments to measure personalities and dispositions for a fit in management.

Evaluate other attributes – Think about other contributing factors that make good managers in your company. Are there work demands like sales, negotiations, or other technical skills required? Are there social demands like meeting clients, public speaking, or attending trade shows?

If you find yourself asking who’s the brightest bulb, stop and rethink your plans.

Question: How do you decide who should become the next manager on your team?

coaching callOriginally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Today’s Business Landscape – Filled with Paradox

Leading an organization has never been easy. Increasing productivity pressures and demographic shifts have undeniably made it more difficult to be in executive leadership. During an economic boom, as long as organizations are in a prevailing growth mode, board members, shareholders, and the media take a hands-off approach.

However, when these pressures shift, corporate leadership is under intense scrutiny from all sides. Many executives are under pressure to reduce staff and cut costs while using their remaining employees to increase productivity, deliver innovation and build customer loyalty; all while maintaining a competitive advantage.

Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) interviewed 100 of the top executives in Fortune 500 companies they serve. The individuals they surveyed came from 92 organizations within 14 industries. These leaders were in the top two levels of their organizations: 65 percent at the CEO, COO, CFO or President level. The remaining 35 percent directly reporting to them. Forty-nine percent (49%) were in their current positions less than five years.

The LHH format was, by design, qualitative rather than quantitative. Therefore, their report does not include a statistical analysis, but rather reflects the rich dialogue and content revealed during the interviews.

The Consensus or Not

While the 100 executives agreed that the leadership models they previously used don’t seem to apply anymore, there was no consensus on a new model.

Many leaders expressed a sense of having to “make it up as they go along”. LHH heard from each leader that they are analyzing and reflecting on the best approaches more than in the past, but no single solution emerged.

There was an expressed need for a new leadership framework. Why? Because business leaders today are faced with dozens of competing behaviors they must demonstrate. Think of them as paradoxes. The forces from these expectations create a scissor effect, each pulling against the other. Here are the three most frequently reported paradoxes in the market today:

Paradox 1 – Be more hands-on with the business, but less hands-on with the people.

As Andy Lock, SVP of Herman Miller, said, “The challenge is to maintain a strong sense of community — both internally with employees and externally with customers.”

Another leader put it this way “Controlling the business is important, but controlling the people may feel like “over-control” to key performers. Just when a leader feels back in control personally, employee relationships suffer.” Empowerment was frequently cited as a goal for better employee engagement.

Executives felt a need to find new ways to be inclusive. Also to help others develop by giving them increased responsibility to keep them engaged and committed to the organization. At the same time, executives are now more conscious of personally keeping their eye on the day-to-day business affairs in a way that’s even broader.

Paradox 2 – Seek diverse points of view, yet drive unified action.

Leaders cited the need to incorporate many different points of view while fostering collaboration and ultimately getting people to move in the same direction. They said it’s a challenge to focus on encouraging differences of opinion one minute and then shifting to bring people to action the next. It is especially complex in global companies, which have diverse values, customs, and business practices.

A recent research report published by Management Research Group (MRG), a Lee Hecht Harrison strategic partner, cited the differences between U.S. managers and European managers from nine countries. When global organizations are working across various geographic locations and cultures, MRG summarized, “Global leaders need to understand that individuals from other cultures may have vastly different views of what is appropriate or inappropriate leadership behavior. No one is right or wrong, and the combined perspectives of several cultures can lead to even greater success than viewing the world and its opportunities through only one lens.”

There are also more generational differences showing up in the workplace. Younger employees are demanding more input. They are quicker to challenge mandates that are handed out without their participation in the process. As one leader said, “There has been a fundamental shift that is both generational and economic. Employees are looking for their leaders to act on good principles. Corporate loyalty is now even more short-term and transactional.”

Paradox 3 – Promote experimentation and contain risk.

Many executives were promoted to senior management because of their technical skills, experience, and knowledge. They excelled because they “knew the answer.” Current leaders wondered about what their successors will need to grow into their own leadership roles.

A key component of developing the next generation is allowing them to experiment when they don’t know all the answers. Experimentation may result in mistakes but has other payoffs. As Phoebe Woods, EVP-CFO of Brown-Forman, says, “Move fast — you can correct a mistake, but you can’t regain lost time.”

Overcoming paradoxes to lead successfully

These are only the most prevalent paradoxes the leaders in the LHH study identified. Each cited additional examples of having to move more frequently between opposing behaviors to meet the wide-ranging needs of their organizations.

In the next article, I am going to present a leadership framework that just might address the many paradoxes you face.

Question: What are some of the paradoxes you handle each day?

Lee Hecht Harrison

Excerpts posted by permission. Established in 1974, Lee Hecht Harrison is a global leader in creating and delivering customized and fully integrated human capital solutions. With over 240 offices worldwide, Lee Hecht Harrison is dedicated to partnering with organizations and individuals, enabling them to maximize their performance and achieve success.

Lee Hecht Harrison is the flagship brand of Adecco Human Capital Solutions, a division of Adecco, S.A., the world leader in workforce solutions, with over 6,600 offices in over 70 countries and territories around the world.

A Leader’s Vision Needs Buy-In

While there are many attributes that define good leadership, we usually think of a leader’s ability to share a vision as the real indicator of that leader’s reputation. Vision is often thought of as being synonymous with leadership. Having a vision for where the team is going is what being a leader is about, right?

a Leader's vision needs buy-in

You don’t have to be the owner or CEO to commit to a vision for growth and success. You can lead from within an organization by being able to inspire others to get on track for driving toward a vision; a vision set by others above you.

However, there is a breakdown that can occur when a person in authority tries to execute on a vision. I’ve seen managers, very senior managers, who know the vision. They helped write it. Yet their ability to lead others to achieve that vision fails. Why?

Once a vision is crafted and carefully written, you have to get buy-in from those who must execute the vision. Your team has to embrace the merits of the vision. They need to understand why and ‘what’s in it for me?’ Those are fair questions for employees to be asking.

Obtaining buy-in is where a Manager may fail as a Leader

Buy-in is hard to achieve because people don’t buy into ideas, they buy into people. The person sharing the idea must be credible, relatable, and someone with whom others can identify.

Your people need to buy-in to you before they buy-in to your vision. Being just another talking head in a management seat will not go very far.

John Maxwell writes about the principle of the buy-in in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”John Maxwell” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”18″]People don’t follow worthy causes, they follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.[/perfectpullquote]

Having an understanding of that will change your whole approach to leadership. When your team begins to process the content of the message you may be sharing, they first filter it through you.

Ask Yourself This Question

What is the current level of buy-in for the people you lead? If your team is small, make a list. Rate each team member’s buy-in on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 means they wouldn’t follow anything you say. A 10 means they’d follow you anywhere. If your overall ranking is low, you have a lot of work to do before the team decides to find another leader.

coaching call

What to Do?

Here are some ways you can earn credibility and increase your leadership.

  • Develop better working relationships
  • Be honest and authentic as you earn their trust
  • Hold yourself to high standards, setting a good example
  • Give them the tools to do a better job
  • Help them achieve personal goals at work
  • Develop others as leaders; mentoring them along the way

Make your strategy unique to each person. As Maxwell says “If you make it your primary goal to add value to all of them, your credibility factor will rise rapidly.”

Question: How are you doing with earning buy-in from your team?

Making It Real with People, Productivity, and Profitability


Executive coaching is a growing business. It is no longer limited to Fortune 500 companies. Entrepreneurs and owners of private businesses of all sizes have turned to coaching for business and personal growth.


Back in 2004, the Harvard Business Review reported that executive coaching got started in the 1980s, yet still lacked reliable information for measuring success. The report estimated $1 billion spent on corporate coaching in 2004. It was anticipated that the coaching industry would continue to grow due to the considerable need for executive improvement.

Even after the 2008 recession, the executive coaching industry has continued its wide adoption by leaders everywhere. The attraction is simple: executive coaching prepares new executives to lead and equips established executives to master their own abilities. This potent combination has driven the substantial growth seen in the executive education marketplace. A 2012 study released by the International Coach Federation (ICF) “estimated the industry’s annual revenue at about $2 billion,” according to Frank Kalman of CLO Media.

While the individual executive coaching practice has been widely adopted, business coaching has emerged as its own specialty. With business coaching, the client hires a coach to provide an independent, third-party look at what is going on in the business. Coaching eliminates the blind spots business owners and operators tend to develop.

Yet with all of this market growth, I still get asked from time to time about the exact benefits of executive coaching. Occasionally, people think “coaching” is still too vague. On one hand, I find an odd disconnect here. Some of the same business owners who question the validity of business or executive coaching spend thousands of dollars at the gym on personal trainers or with golf coaches. My answer to them rings with the same logic from the sports world. If you want to move your game to a new level as a business leader, you should consider hiring a coach.

Measure What Matters

With any business endeavor, whether entrepreneurial start-ups or bigger corporate giants, the results from executive coaching can be measured in one of three ways. Good leaders impact all three.



Unless you are that very rare entrepreneur who operates all by themselves, you need a team to conduct business. The people making up the teams just may be the most valuable measure of the effectiveness of an executive’s growth from coaching. As a leader, your ability to influence the team around you makes up the essence of your effectiveness.

Leaders who broaden their influence and strengthen their ability to lead can realize significant gains with the people they lead. When a leader is on his game you can measure:

  • Team morale
  • Devotion to the purpose of the team
  • Alignment with vision and mission
  • Engagement
  • Retention
  • Continuity
  • Reduction in turnover
  • Reduced talent acquisition costs


Finding ways to do more with what you have is productivity. Time, money and materials can be wasted or optimized with effective productivity. The leader can directly impact productivity by finding ways to streamline procedures and process, improve workplace conditions, set reasonable goals, and inspire the team.

The leader must see the process from end to end. If the business owner or senior executive is struggling with seeing the big picture, productivity can suffer. I’ve said before, you must inspect what you expect. Knowing when and how to do that can increase productivity.


Profitability, the last measure of coaching effectiveness is obvious. Seeing profitability improve is a direct gauge of executive effectiveness. Making the right changes, implementing the best practices, negotiating good deals, and all the other aspects of running a business result in bottom-line performance.

As the senior executive, your own ability to impact profitability can make or break your success. Entrepreneurs who have great ideas, but no business skills, need help. Executives who climb the ladder but never get training for the technical aspects of business management need help.

Best Practices

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask how they measure what they intend to do for you. If the outcome doesn’t include one or all of these three areas, you may have the wrong coach.

Coaching can be measurable, whether for your personal growth or your business growth. Ask your prospective coach to walk you through these tangible ways to gauge success from the coaching. If they either can’t or won’t do that, you may need a new coach.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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Leaders – Wonder How to Blend Ink with Inc?

Ink vs Inc

Tattooing is a popular way for some people to express themselves. Whether the ink someone wears is a sign of independence or a not-so-subtle message, I’ve seen a lot of really impressive artwork on forearms, calves, ankles, and shoulders. Nowadays, age doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor for all things ink. Using this ancient art form gives many an amazing outlet for expression.

Ink vs Inc

Employees sporting tattoos pose interesting challenges for companies of all sizes. Do you allow it or not? If a person has a tattoo, do they have to cover it while on duty? There are many things to consider. Simply put, the corporate or business mindset may often clash with those wearing ink. It can be styled ‘Ink vs Inc’.

As I was thinking through the obvious aspects of this debate, I was struck by another side of this paradox as it applies to leaders.

If “Inc.” represents the formal elements (policy, procedure, and governing rules of the road) of running a business and being a good leader, then “Ink” will be about personal expression. I suggest that effective leadership should be a blend of both.


Leadership has often been confused with charisma. Yes, there are famous leaders who were/are incredibly charismatic. Charisma has a way of setting the leader apart from the crowd. We tend to like our leaders better if they demonstrate a little charisma. It’s that little glimmer of personality, confidence, or spark that makes the leader likable and relatable.

You could argue that INK (personal expression) plays into charisma. It’s that dose of style that makes the edge. I don’t suggest running out and getting yourself tattooed if you don’t already have one. Rather I am saying that finding your own bit of personal edge that can play into your leadership style can make a big difference.

Managers coming up through the ranks can become stiff. It’s as though there is this idea that you must be stern and rigid to be a good leader. Not so. Being able to flash a bright smile (if that’s your thing) can win the hearts of those around you. Breaking the ice with a good (and appropriate) story is also a good skill to work on. Displaying other, more subtle traits can add to your style too.

Here is a list for you to consider:

Empathetic Listening

Type-A personality leaders have a tendency to charge through discussions with team members. Once a statement is made, this kind of leader plows full steam ahead. They tend to be “all business”.  The employee who thought they offered a good suggestion gets no sense of recognition for the idea. They begin to feel taken for granted.

Hard-charging leaders should work even harder to learn empathetic listening skills. When you intend to have team discussions, then take it in. Savor the moment. Acknowledge the things others are saying by feeding it back or asking clarifying questions. If you like the idea, say so.

Better Interaction

It’s an old-school management teaching that says you can’t be friends with your employees. That is still true in many ways. Yet you can be relevant and relatable. How? By engaging.

Business doesn’t have to be full on, 24×7. Take that extra moment at the coffee bar or water cooler to say hello, ask how people are doing. If you have heard about a family situation, acknowledge it. Ask how things are going. Be genuine when you do.

Take that short few minutes before a meeting, when people are gathering in the hall, to put down your phone and interact. Small, but genuine talk, goes a long way to add warmth to your style of leadership.

Celebrate Wins

As you and your team achieve goals and make deadlines, celebrate the victory. Enjoy your wins. You cannot sustain a great team by chalking off the wins to “well, that’s what we were supposed to do.”

Figure out a way to have a touchdown dance in the end zone. Enjoy the achievement. Let others do so too. Most teams intend to work hard. When a goal is reached or a deadline is met, your team deserves recognition. If nothing else have a short team meeting to do nothing but say “Way to go guys!”

Setting Your Style

Every leader has a style. Good or bad, you get pegged for having some distinct approach to leading your teams and business. Likable or not, effective or not, you get labeled as having some kind of style.

Rather than having the stuffy INC spirit, why not add a little INK?

Question: What’s your leadership style? Leave a comment

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

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Leaders: Are You Coachable?


In my consulting and coaching business, I often ask the question “are you coachable?” It is amazing how many times the prospect says “well, yes I believe I am.” After a few sessions with input and feedback, it becomes apparent they really are not coachable. How do I know? It manifests itself in many ways.

Business owners and professionals at all levels sometimes struggle with being coached. Success and achievement creates a false sense of not having any need for change. If you are getting results, why interrupt the methods that got you there? That may be a good mindset in the short run, but long term success requires growth.

To find good examples of being coachable we can look directly at athletics where the concept of coach and student are most notable. When you explore the story of the truly great athletes (think Michael Jordan or Jerry Rice), you will find stories of tireless pursuit of perfection. Regardless of the season they just had, these guys worked relentlessly to improve their stamina, skills, and techniques.

Recently Jerry Rice, football great and now, NFL Hall of Famer, was being interviewed. He was on the driving range at a celebrity golf outing. Rather than merely slap some golf balls around, he was on the range with both his caddy and a coach. When shots were not going the right place he was asking for guidance and advice. Golf isn’t even his game, yet the discipline of looking to perfect a skill was at work. His desire to do well at whatever endeavor was before him drove his will to be better. That’s being coachable.

Here are the a few thoughts about deciding if you are truly coachable.

  1. Do you routinely seek advice and counsel to improve some aspect of your professional or personal life? Or have you learned it all and know it all? Being open to the pursuit of growth as a professional is key. The best individuals in any aspect of life will be constantly trying to improve. Whether that includes technical knowledge, insight, or wisdom, the effort is there. Those who excel believe there is always more to learn or be.

  2. When you get advice do you act on it; following through with using the information to achieve more? Or do you discount the information and talk yourself out of action? Using what you learn is important. In leadership, it takes practice. Once you learn and understand a skill, you must apply it to your tool kit. By using your newly found understanding, you help to create confidence in its worth. Just as athletes work to build muscle memory for critical physical moves, leaders can build “influence memory” to work to their advantage.

  3. Do you seek follow-up from the coach to be sure you understood the coaching and that you are properly performing the actions that were recommended? Or do you move on without ever doubling back for refining advice? Even the best coaches require feedback from the client to know whether the teaching and training is working. Be proactive in giving that feedback to your coach. When you realize you are working on a new dimension of your training, open up the communication with the coach. Let them know what feels right or needs better explanation.

Make Your Decision

If your current professional or personal situation is not producing the results you expect, then perhaps some coaching is needed. But before you simply engage a coach, ask yourself whether you are truly coachable.

Can I develop leadership qualities and skills through books and practice?

Growing Leadership

Being an executive coach puts me in front of audiences and the frequent inquiries from followers. This post is in reference to a simple question I received not long ago.

Can I develop leadership qualities and skills through books and practice?

Growing Leadership

My answer, absolutely! Books are a great place to start. Books can help increase the leadership growth process. It can also “lift your leadership lid”. Growing from manager to leader requires input. You cannot give what you don’t have. That requires learning and absorption.

One of the greatest writers of our time for leadership thought is John Maxwell*. He has published dozens of books and sold over 25 million copies worldwide. He is hands down, the most prolific writer on the subject of leadership. And his books exude his genuine passion for the topic and his heart for helping each one of us grow.

As I said in my own book. “The Uncommon Commodity: The Common Sense Guide for New Managers”, there have been hundreds, if not thousands of books written about management and leadership. The more of these books you read, the more you will find some core competencies and traits that define effective leadership. Yes, different authors will describe the principles in different ways, but the facts remain. There are clearly specific areas from which you can grow.

Here’s the amazing thing about leadership development and growth. With so many attributes making up the patchwork quilt of good leadership, no one, absolutely no one starts exactly the same.

We each possess certain unique views and mindsets from which our ability to lead emerges. The challenge is learning to understand which leadership skills you might have been born with and which ones you need to develop.

All leadership skills can be improved upon over time. Regardless of the innate ability you might have, or the “calling to be a leader” you sense, there is always room to grow. Maxwell describes it as a simple scale. If leadership is scored 1 through 9, the 1’s can learn from everyone above them. The 5’s need to look up to the 6, 7, and 8 people. The 9’s are few and far between. You get the picture.

Maxwell also says:

You cannot give what you don’t have.

This means that as a leader, you must desire to grow. You will never increase beyond where you are without growth. You cannot give what you don’t have.

Practicing Leadership

As to practicing leadership, again, my answer – absolutely. But you should engage a coach to guide your development. The sports analogies fit. I can go to the gym by myself and do some things I read in a book, but my body may not be ready for certain exercises and complexities.

Leadership is that way too. A coach can shape your progress, guiding you carefully up the development curve.

Practicing the principles, applying the teaching you receive to real life situations will give you the experience to grow further. It is very much like mountain climbing. You have to keep moving upward and onward. Each successful step up the climb gives you a little more confidence to take the next step.

Without practicing your leadership, you never prove to yourself what works well and what doesn’t. Without life application, the things you read are only mental exercises. You need live fire drills to enforce the principles and strengthen your understanding of the use of each one.

Experience is a great teacher. That sounds cliché, but applies perfectly here.

Growth is Required

Back to the original question –  Can I develop leadership qualities and skills through books and practice? I argue the question is not optional, but required. The best leaders keep growing. They use experience to fine tune their skill sets, but they look for better and deeper insights from those who have focused attention on writing and coaching.

Every few years, thought leaders emerge that the masses follow. In no particular order, I like Stephen R. Covey “7 Habits“, John Maxwell, Brian Tracy, Jim Collins “Good to Great“, Simon Sinek, and most recently Seth Godin “Tribes“.

Disruptive thought is the mindset du jour these days. Anything that is seen as being disruptive to traditional thinking is cool. Don’t get me wrong, I am big fan of this disruptive mindset too. That is why looking for voices that have meaningful messages is important.

Here’s My Bottom Line

You can get immersed in very academic debate about management and leadership theory. You can get lost in vocabulary and terminology that adds no good value and serves no good purpose.

I suggest to you that the best leaders I have ever served with or known, operate with a high degree of common sense. Sadly, common sense is truly an uncommon commodity. That is why I named my own book just that.

If you are an aspiring manager who wants to become a better leader at work, at home, or in your community, find mentors who have demonstrated their leadership in bigger ways, far beyond making money for some organization. Instead look to the following they have.

Decide whether the following represents the values and principles you want to stand for. What has the flowing accomplished.

I close with this example. John Maxwell has grown an organization of over 20,000 coaches worldwide. They serve in 70+ countries around the world. These Maxwell coaches influence people in all walks of life; educators, business people, care givers, etc.

That, my friend is leadership.

[reminder]Share your experience with finding a meaningful book or mentor to follow.[/reminder]

*Note: John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 12 million books. His organizations have trained more than one million leaders worldwide. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of Injoy Stewardship Services and EQUIP. Every year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and organizations as diverse as the United States Military Academy at West Point and the National Football League. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell was one of 25 authors named to Amazon.com’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Two of his books, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” and “Developing the Leader Within You“, have each sold over a million copies.

Leadership: Shining Light v Casting Darkness

“The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Heard that before? How often have you worked for a boss who operated that way? It’s not fun. Actually, it’s a horrible environment to suffer. Yet, work we must, and sometimes it comes out this way.

Shining Light v Casting Darkness
Shining Light v Casting Darkness

Despite all of the great teachings about leadership, the effective demonstration of it comes down to two simple realities. As a leader, we can either shine light on our world or we cast darkness.

[shareable cite=”Parker J. Palmer, PhD.”]A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow [darkness] or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there.[/shareable]

Think about the simplicity of this idea. Darkness or light. Which do you choose? This is an age old question, yet it is one that is renewed and reenacted daily by managers and leaders everywhere.

You can be having the proverbial ‘bad day’ and inflict great darkness on those around you. Whether your bad day started as an argument with the spouse or significant other, or perhaps the clerk at the coffee shop, it doesn’t matter. Your team doesn’t deserve the darkness your misfortune might cause.

As leaders we have to be ever-mindful of the significance of our duty. Rather than letting a darkness creep into out world, we have to fight that urge and produce light.

Light helps things grow (unless you are working with a bunch of mushrooms planted in you-know-what). We use the phrase “well that sheds a new light doesn’t it” to describe taking a new view. Vision works in light. It doesn’t take that much. After all a simple small candle can light a whole room of pitch darkness.

Deep Within

A critical consideration is whether you have a propensity to generate darkness due to some deep inner matter left unresolved. Is your look at the world skewed? Do you even have the ability to generate light? Is there an inner darkness that can be triggered at will?

You have to combat the urge to spew darkness when light is preferred. Please refer back to my missive on “bitter or better” for further insight.

Shine Only Happens with Light

The sparkle and glimmer we see coming from nice, pretty objects is only a function of light being reflected. Does your team sparkle because of light you give them? Yes, a leader has that ability, to help others shine.

You an offer “light” for your team by giving praise where praise is due. Give grace to those who need it (mistakes do happen). Encourage the team member who needs encouraging. Teach the person who needs to know a little more.

None of those actions include belittling, condescending thoughts, or criticism. Reverse psychology is a cruel tool for a leader to rely upon. It’s just too easy for it to be taken the wrong way.

Communicate freely and keep others connected. Build trust to amplify the light you are spreading.

Its Your Choice

It is your choice. Think about the quip you feel the need to say. Filter it. If it doesn’t produce light, it probably is dark. Leave it alone.

Find the ways you can harness the power of light in your world.

So you want to be a difference maker? Check yourself for the levels of light coming from your leadership efforts these days.

Light makes might! Go for it!

Do you suffer from Bright Shiny Objects?

Bright shiny objects distract us right? Too many leaders suffer from an occasional bout of BSO Syndrome, chasing bright shiny objects. A leader’s focus must remain clear.

What are some bright shiny objects?  I am not talking about material things, although those certainly can distract. I once knew a CEO who had a large 10 foot mural of a road racing bicycle he owned hung in his office. Seriously, a 10 foot picture of a bike, with pedals and chains. Kudos to him for his dedication to cycling, but seriously. How distracting was that mural?

The notion of bright shiny objects means the shifting of focus from the central track we need to be operating on to less than significant efforts that rob energy and effort from the venture. In one word, distraction.

When we fall prey to chasing BSO, we lose sight of the plan we are on, priorities slip, even relationships change. We can get blinded to the lure of the BSO.

There’s a funny thing though. People subject to frequent BSO syndrome usually don’t even know they do it. Why? They are too busy bouncing from one object to the next.

When you are tasked with leading a team, you have to be ever-vigilant for BSO distraction. They come in many ways. Here are the key ones:


You as the leader find and see some BSO, so you get lost. Your attention shifts away from the primary direction. You take a detour. You become the one with glazed vision and a fixed stare, looking at the new thing, unable to refocus on the key elements of your work.

I have attorney friends who often complain about clients who miss the critical aspects of a legal fight because they are more focused on the BSO elements instead of the bigger picture. Big cases have been lost over BSO chasing mentality.


A whole team can get caught up in some form of bright shiny object, causing a herd mentality. When the masses shift on you, their leader, you have to rein it back in again. By over-communicating core values, vision, and direction, you reduce or eliminate the risk of the team shifting away from you to chase a BSO.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Being proactive rather than reactive can eliminate the herd mentality.[/shareable]

Fortunately, team shift caused by bright shiny objects is rare. In most cases, a team shift is not about bright and shiny things, but doom and gloomy things. Bad momentum can cause a whole team to shift. But that’s another topic.


This may be the toughest form of BSO Syndrome to fight. When a whole market shifts to the next big thing, you have to be ready to make informed decisions about whether you want to take your business in a different direction. There is a fine line between waiting out a temporary shift (a true, but temporary, flight to some BSO) versus a real change in a market.

Kodak infamously missed the digital photography shift. Digital wasn’t just some BSO, it was a disruptive progression of change.

Being too dedicated to avoiding all bright shiny objects may leave you behind or totally out of a market. Occasionally what appears to be a BSO may need to be carefully evaluated after all. This is especially true with shifts in the market value of your product or service.

The Best Solution

The best way to avoid distraction from chasing BSO is to maintain an awareness of your priorities and purpose. Allow for frequent checks on the primary objectives you have set in your plan. Be true to to those efforts first. Be open and honest with yourself and others about chasing bright shiny objects. As a leader you must have a feedback loop provided by trusted advisors who can call you out on a venture down BSO Lane.

[reminder]Leave a comment and share your latest story about bright shiny objects.[/reminder]

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