I’ve been in a very difficult period of transition lately. Over the past three weeks, it’s gotten even more difficult and is really becoming overwhelming. Especially during this time, I found the following poem to be both challenging and encouraging. The Calf Path, by Sam Foss, was mentioned by a commenter on Leadership Freak. By his reference, the poem is found here.
In my last of three posts about Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, I finish examining the tagline: “Empower. Lead. Excel.” This amazing program touched the lives of over 9,500 young people last year across the world.
What does it take to EXCEL? Apparently, I’m really into acrostics right now. I’ve found that, no matter what the age level, some common ingredients go into excellence.
Of course, the definition of excellence isn’t some static group of words; excellence lives inside of each of us. Our own expectations and experiences shape what it means to “excel”. As we achieve standards of excellence we’ve set, the bar moves and our expectations evolve.
At each level, though, we must strive to EXCEL through:
Passion is a required ingredient. Competitive nature will only get you so far! If you’re engaged in a work that makes you feel alive, you’re on the right track to excel.
If you’re not willing to give it all you’ve got, how likely is it that you’ll stand out or distinguish yourself? Imagine swimming against a gentle current; it doesn’t take a lot to maintain your position. But to get upstream you’ve gotta kick it up a notch!
Sometimes you’ve just got to step out there! It takes courage to propose or pursue something new. Sometimes it means going it alone or respectfully disagreeing with over-cautious advisors and peers.
Empowerment can be offered externally by a superior at work or an administrator at school or grow organically as you gather momentum. Either way, empowerment is crucial to a person’s ability to excel!
OK, it’s a catch-all! But leadership means making more leaders. In order to excel, you’ve got to think beyond yourself and your tenure wherever you’re excelling. To truly excel means leaving a legacy of leadership where you are.
Think through these things as you are striving to excel at your job or in your calling– not just for yourself but for those you lead! They need some Encouragement, Xtra Effort, Compassion, Empowerment, and Leadership from you, too.
In my second of three posts about Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, I examine the organization’s central tag: “Lead”. This amazing program touched the lives of over 9,500 young people last year across the world.
At this year’s Training Institute, I heard an approach to leadership that I hadn’t before. It came during a sort of train-the-trainer session on how to prepare adults to facilitate groups of young people. Don’t stop reading! You’d be surprised how applicable it is to the professional world.
“When you’re leading these groups, you’ve got to be part chaperone and part Sherpa.” Sherpa? What in the world is a Sherpa? That comes later, she says.
The first part I understand: whether you’ve got a group of 8-10 teenagers or 100 employees, a leader has to keep an eye on his or her charges. After all, someone has to enforce the rules and answer the policy questions. Somebody’s got to be the chaperone.
When it comes to being a good chaperone, you’ve got to LEAD: Listen to your team, Empathize to build relationships, Activate their strengths and passions, and Direct them toward proper and powerful outlets for their talents or frustrations.
But what was that other word? Sherpas are Himalayans renowned for their mountaineering. Often, these skillful locals will guide expeditions of even the most experienced climbers. They carry packs and equipment and know the safest paths to the summit.
Leaders act as chaperones, that’s true. But their most important title is Sherpa. It’s our job to guide these emerging leaders through the safe passages, warning them where the footing is unsure, and guiding them safely to the summit.
We can’t climb the mountain passes for these emerging leaders. We can only show them the way, making sure they take advantage of the lessons of the past and catch a vision for the future.
Last weekend, I attended the Training Institute for Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership. This amazing program touched the lives of over 9,500 young people last year across the world. These next three weeks will focus on HOBY’s tagline and insights from the Training Institute.
It’s the job of leaders to raise up more leaders. But we can’t do that without stepping out of the way and empowering others.
When we empower, we give power.
You can’t empower someone by patronizing them. It takes giving real, tangible power to others! This can be difficult if you started or built a company or program. But truly empowering others means endorsing them– and then letting them take the reins.
When we empower, we make powerful.
Remember that feeling you got the first time someone really believed in you. It happens every time you truly empower another individual. When we raise up leaders, we give them practical experience handling power in the appropriate fashion. In so doing, we’re creating powerful influencers unafraid to empower others. We’re lending them our influence and what power we wield– and it will be returned with interest.
When we empower, then, we multiply power.
Hogging all the power, making all the decisions, and running the show means your influence will only go to the end of your reach. By raising up new leaders, we extend the reach of our influence and magnify the message we’re spreading. By empowering young leaders to take the reins and, in turn, empower others, we’re multiplying power.
It’s difficult, but I’m learning to turn over the reins and share influence. As I do, I’m beginning to truly realize that leadership is a two-way street. We have so much to learn from those we lead! We benefit so greatly from those we empower.
Not your typical pump-me-up motivational line? Death is hardly a popular topic, even among those with strong religious beliefs. Once in a while, though, it hits us square in the face.
I’ve been dealing with a weird medical thing for about 8 months. At first the doctors thought it was a fungal infection of some kind (how’s your breakfast?), but it just won’t respond to anti-fungal meds. This past week, my doctor took a biopsy.
“Well, it could be [insert doctorese], which is no big deal. It could be just a weird fungal thing. I’m also going to have it tested for Lymphoma. It’s a long shot, but some forms get away from us.”
“Ok,” I responded almost with a shrug. He’s the doctor. The way he said Lymphoma, though, led me to Google it. And all of a sudden I could be fighting a nasty blood cancer.
Before I wax too dramatic, I don’t have a diagnosis yet. The biopsy will take a while. But I don’t need to have cancer to know that I’m dying. All of us are.
In my time as a Funeral Director, I saw children who didn’t get their first breath and centenarians take their last. There’s not a rule on when we’re born or when we’ll die.
We read about people all the time who decided to live their last year or two really big. I won’t offer you a six-step program to do that, I’ll just ask you one question: Why wait?
The biopsy could come back looking really ugly with some form of prognosis. But whether it does or not, I refuse to wait any more to live life big.
I want to build a legacy every day. I want to leave an impression on a LOT of people. I want to raise kids who do the same. And I refuse to wait “until I’m dying” to do any of it.
Let’s quit ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room. Let’s straighten our backs, look Death in the face and say “Challenge Accepted.” Let’s not treat it like a stalking predator but like a constant reminder to do it now.
I’m not telling you to sell all of your possessions and move to the islands. I’m telling you to do that thing you know you ought to do. I’m telling you to give and serve and love and live…before you die.
Remember the first time you did something you thought you couldn’t do? It was exhilarating! You were unstoppable. Look out world, there was a new Sheriff in town.
Only it wasn’t long before your badge was ripped off. Motivationally destitute, you’re wondering how you ended up in your own jail cell! There’s a new Sheriff in town, and he’s big and mean and ugly.
His name is:
- Physical Ability
There’s something you know you want to do– know you ought to do– but won’t. One or more of these limits are taunting you from outside the jail cell, swinging the keys they took from your belt.
The remarkable thing is that all of these things are tools. Each of the limits you’re under should contribute to your success! Instead, you’ve magnified their influence on your life and handed over your badge. You’ve allowed these limits– and yourself– to believe that they get a vote.
But you were elected by a majority of one: YOU!
Not only are you the Sheriff in town, you’re the Mayor, the Judge, and the Sanitation Worker. It’s time to pack up the trash you believe about your limits and haul it to the dump.
Turn these tools around and use them to accomplish your goals and dreams. Don’t allow limits to use you to accomplish your defeat and ho-hummery.
You might not control your job or other circumstances, but when it comes down to it your only limit is YOU. Who controls that?
As I prepare for an opportunity this week, I came across Peter Shallard’s ebook Seek & Destroy: How to Identify Entrepreneurial Obstacles and Overcome Them. Bam! An action book for all of us crazy enough to think we can do it on our own.
Peter Shallard is a psychologist who’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs reach the next level. His tagline is great– The Shrink for Entrepreneurs. But his book (and blog) is a great read for anyone who needs help pushing past a fear or perceived obstacle.
In the opening sections of his book, Shallard shares his unique path to the present. He reveals a deep desire to help entrepreneurs that endures through this free ebook and an offer for a free personal assessment. Of the ten roadblocks, at least three really spoke to me. In the book, Pete shows you how to get over:
- Fear of Success
- The Plateau
- Fear of Starting
- The Roller Coaster
- That Knot in Your Gut
- The Blame Game
I love Pete’s writing style. I’ve paraphrased his ten roadblocks, but the book is written in plain English that’s easy to “get” on the first read and is extremely relatable. Through each section, we get the benefit of a psychologist’s experience– both with science and with clients! Bonus: Pete’s own business experience makes him uniquely qualified to speak from a place at once clinical and real-world.
Pete doesn’t pull any punches in this book; his practical advice isn’t softened up by an “it’s-not-that-bad” attitude. Once again, this book is available fo’ free. It’s a short, easy read. Curl up on your own couch and let the Shrink for Entrepreneurs help you unpack what’s got you stuck.
Get the book on Pete’s website.
A radically simple leadership approach to lift people, profits, and performance. The subtitle says it all! Bill Treasurer delivers a very short, very simple treatise on leadership: Leaders Open Doors.
One thing I want to make perfectly clear is that I don’t get paid for anything I write here. Bill’s book impacted me in a way that I want to share with you. More than a book review, let this post serve as an impact statement.
Leaders Open Doors is 91 pages, counting the acknowledgments. It’s so short I read it in one sitting. For me, Bill breaks leadership into three duh-worthy characteristics.
Leadership is Simple
That’s a bit condescending, right? For some of us, learning about leadership is a lifelong undertaking. Some people, like Bill, have advanced degrees in the art and science of leadership! When I’m trying to be extra impressive, I cobble together big words so y’all know I’m sophisticated.
But Bill boils leadership down to its purpose: creating opportunities for others. The message is dead-simple and spelled out in big letters on the cover: Leaders Open Doors.
Leadership is Inclusive
This is a characteristic that I often don’t think about. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that we’ve moved beyond having to worry about race or gender diversity.
In Leaders Open Doors, Bill brings out some points about including “others” in your team’s leadership and making the effort to invest in these individuals. Every year, dozens of race or gender inequality stories flash across our TV screens. Bill’s treatment of “other” inclusion in our organizations is rich stuff.
Especially for a white male born and raised in the South. Inclusive open-door leadership is a challenge for me because I’m not often faced with the reality of being an “other”. Bill pointed out this area of growth opportunity for me in a way that was gentle but powerful.
Leadership is Personal
Not only does Bill give excellent examples from his professional experience, he relates personal periods of growth and what it took to get there. In this way, he is modeling open-door leadership by opening the door to his heart.
Too often we try to compartmentalize our relationships: these are church friends, these are hunting buddies, and these are work acquaintances. How professional we are, keeping work relationships neat and tidy!
The fact is, you work with some incredible people. It’s time to get to know them and to let them get to know you. Deepening these relationships leads inevitably to much more meaningful work.
Leaders Open Doors
I’m so grateful to Bill Treasurer for writing this book. He cut straight to the heart with his personal call to simplify our understanding of leadership. I’m also grateful to Dan Rockwell (The Leadership Freak) for introducing me to Bill’s work.
Leaders Open Doors is so much more than I’ve listed here. Throughout, Bill poses questions to help you focus on how you can open doors for others wherever you are.
Something I love about Bill’s book is that it lives out his message: all of the profits from the book are donated to help open doors for children with disabilities. Additionally, Bill shares experiences and anecdotes from his professional network throughout.
That’s what most impacts me about this book; even in its writing, Bill is trying to open the door for you and me to learn and grow as leaders.
Get the book here; I don’t earn affiliate fees or anything like that. I just honestly believe it will change the way you view your call to leadership.
You’ve been cheated or taken advantage of. Someone– a boss, a coworker, a friend– took advantage of your trust. You made an agreement with someone and got screwed.
Get over it.
I’m not being mean here; I’m not just talking to you, either. I’m talking to myself.
For weeks I’ve been bitter, fuming over a broken agreement. What’s worse, the agreement was just between myself and someone I thought I could trust! The details weren’t outlined in a contract or announced to coworkers. I got screwed and nobody knows it.
When we’re wronged, there’s a yearning for some semblance of justice. We don’t want to get over it! We ache for validation. We beg God to smite the wrongdoer. We (read: I) want to see this “karma” thing take its toll.
Even now, I’d love to use my fledgling platform to articulate how badly I was wronged and who did it! But if I (read: we) allow these people to control my thoughts in such a way, I’m really doing wrong by myself.
Sinatra said: “The greatest revenge is massive success.” It’s true! In order to get there, we’ve got to take responsibility for our feelings. We’ve got to turn the focus from our transgressors to ourselves.
5 Steps to Get Over It:
- Reflect: So this seems a little cheesy, right. But time to grieve what we lost (even if it was just a delusion to begin with) is important. A period of reflection will allow you to examine the reality of what happened. In order to get over it, we’ve got to figure out what “it” really is or was in the first place.
- Recharge: This doesn’t have to take place in a secluded cabin in the woods. Whatever makes you feel alive, do that. Resist the urge to climb in a bed with a gallon of ice cream. That’s never a good place.
- Release: Some people require real, actual, tangible closure. If you need to approach the person who wronged you and express forgiveness, do that. But don’t make it about telling the world what that person did wrong. In my situation, I’m going to privately release and forgive my transgressor and work through the bitterness.
- Resolve: Decide in your heart to be better than your missed opportunity. Don’t make it an “I’ll show him!” Show yourself what you’re capable of. Dream big and get after it.
- Re-Get Over It: Couldn’t find a good re- word for this. But get over it! Whether you’re a teenager or a keenager (read: really old), you’ve only got so long to live. You’ve got even less time to be out there doing crazy dream-building stuff. Don’t allow someone else to make that time about them.
You’ve been lied to or done wrong in the past and it will probably happen again. “Get over it” is probably not a sympathetic or empathetic response. But it’s vital for your long-term success.
The quicker you can put a situation (and sometimes a person) in the rearview mirror, the better.
Is being young an obstacle or an opportunity?
I asked a room full of ninth-grade students this question and was surprised that any of them at all viewed youth as an opportunity. Even into my twenties, my relative youth often seems like the biggest obstacle to success.
When I was a manager in fast-food and active in business leadership roles, my youth often disqualified or discredited me in the eyes of my coworkers and the team members I led. Spectacular ideas that might require significant change were suddenly naive pipe dreams. Buy-in was hard to come by.
When you’re having to really grind it out against such tremendous resistance, it can be tempting to throw in the towel. But with persistence, effort and enthusiasm are recognized and rewarded.
From ninth-grade into your twenties (and perhaps beyond), some people will try to make your youth (or even youthful qualities like “enthusiasm”, “energy”, “excitement”, and “not being a jaded *bleep*-hole”) an obstacle.
Don’t let it happen.
The fact is that successful leaders will empower you to utilize the gift of youth to your (and your team’s) advantage. Older leaders will appreciate your drive and seek to develop you.
Your youth is an opportunity. People want to see you succeed.
Get excited. Don’t be afraid to take the reins when you can. Infect others with your enthusiasm.
You may be too young to drive or vote or run for a particular office or join a certain social club. But you’re never too young to make a difference. You’re never too young to lead.
For the aforementioned jaded *bleep*-holes, I acknowledge the importance of experience. But the most experienced leader in the world without the courage to take action will fail to lead every time. Put aside your sour disposition long enough to develop the young people in your organization.
Here’s a sobering thought: older people generally die before younger people. One day you’re going to need the young people you’re growing up. Are you empowering young leaders to be the bold standard-bearers of tomorrow or are you hammering out beat-down cowards to do what you’ve always done?
There is power in youth. Harness it for yourself and for your community.