The In Between Week


The week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is an interesting week. It begins with joy and excitement on Christmas morning. It has times of great peace and contentment as we enjoy the presence of loved ones in our lives. There are times of great frustration when our kids tell us they are “bored” two days after Christmas!

There are times of reflection as we approach January 1st and the start of a new year. What will it look like? What opportunities or challenges will it bring? We also take some time this week to look back at the year that is about to close.

What Does a Family Leader Do This Week?

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Leadership Can Be Messy


How many of you took a photograph of the kids all in the pile of torn paper, ribbons, and bows after all of the presents had been unwrapped on Christmas morning?

Oh, wait, you are one of those neat freaks who cleans up the wrapping as you go along? Well, read on anyway. It may have some entertainment value for you. If you are like most folks who have a giant mess in the middle of the floor after unwrapping presents, read on. There is an interesting leadership lesson to be learned.

Christmas morning can be a messy process

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Thought Leadership


There was not as much backlash as I had anticipated. I was expecting a much stronger reaction from the leadership community where I hang out most of the time. There are many who do not look upon this as being “real” leadership. But, there are many that do.

And all of that prompts a question. “Can you be a thought leader?”

Can You Be a Thought Leader?

The question itself almost indicates that being a thought leader is something that we should seek after. And if it is, can you become one?

Just like some basic leadership skills that can be developed over time, basic thought leadership skills can be developed as well. Having said that, everyone can become a thought leader to some degree.

Thought leadership takes time (it takes a lot of time), it takes knowledge, and it takes a recognized expertise in a particular field or endeavor. Further, it takes a certain level of confidence in your own ability, a commitment to pursue excellence, and a willingness to go against the grain or to challenge the way things have always been done.

One of the challenges that exists today in many organizations is the creation and staffing of “Centers of Excellence.” More often than not these are staffed with young, talented folks who have lots of potential. They may even have advanced degrees that were tucked on immediately to their undergraduate work. Their degrees are impressive. So, let’s make them “thought leaders” and put them in a COE. Continue reading “Thought Leadership”

Thought Leadership


I am prepared for some potential backlash from my topic today. The article title may indicate a preconceived notion about thought leadership. But, in reality, I have not already made up my mind. So, it is a legitimate question.

“Is thought leadership actually leadership?”


What is Thought Leadership?

Wikipedia provides this definition: A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.

However, one man’s definition is another man’s example of useless business jargon. Have you ever played “Buzzword Bingo?” This is a game often played as an ice-breaker in strategic sessions where players are given “bingo cards” with words like “Thought Leader”, “Out of the Box”, “Metrics”, “Takeaways”, and “Paradigm” are placed in a grid and players are instructed to place an “X” over each word as they hear them throughout the event and then shout “Buzzword Bingo” when the get 5 in a row. Therefore, thought leadership, unfortunately may be just another buzzword with no real substance or meaning.

Is this Thought Leadership?

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Rockhopper Penguins


It would be a great thing if I could choose from where inspiration would come. But that is not the case. Today it comes from a documentary that I was watching recently about the migratory habits of penguins. That’s right, penguins!

What did I see?

I saw a group of very dedicated penguins trying, trying, and trying again to come ashore on one of the Falkland Islands and return to their nesting ground. With each attempt to come ashore onto a steep and rocky shore, another wave would come crashing in and sweep them off the narrow ledges that they were standing on as they tried to ascend the steep cliffs to its breeding grounds. It would wash them back out to sea and they would have to swim back and begin the ascent up the rocky cliff as wave upon wave tried to knock them back down.

The easy leadership analogy

The easy leadership analogy would be to take their persistence in relentlessly pursuing their goal of reaching their breeding grounds. The urge to breed is certainly a driving force in their lives. In fact, that drive is one of the strongest in our lives as well. These little penguins would try and try, and try again. And more often than not, they would be knocked off the cliffs and fall back down below and bounce into the surging turf. Fortunately, their little bodies were covered by a thick layer of fat and feathers to protect them from the elements. And each time they fell they would bounce around and then pop back up.

The other leadership analogy

But then I saw it. Continue reading “Rockhopper Penguins”

Going 1-on-1


There are a lot of concepts and skills that can be communicated in group settings. Seminars and conferences are great forums for idea and information exchange. But, if you want transformation and not just information when it comes to leadership development, then you may want to consider going “1-on-1.”

I am incredibly blessed with a small cadre of leaders that I go 1-on-1 with on a regular basis. The frequency is not as often with some of them as I would like. However, the key is that I am talking or meeting with them in a focused 1-on-1 setting. It may be over the phone, but it is 1-on-1 and there are no other voices distracting us from our reason for being together.

Why 1-on-1?

The main reason for going 1-on-1 is that it forms an intimate and a private conversation between the two participants. It is in those moments that real dialog can occur. You can offer and receive significant feedback that would just not be appropriate in a group setting. And you can forge a relationship that will be sustained and strengthened by committing that time together.

What would we talk about?

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Shepherds, Sheepdogs, and Sheep


Going back to the early days of, you will find some thoughts and words expressed by some guest authors on the importance of being a “sheepdog” and guarding the “sheep.” Although there was no intent to make a value judgment, many leaders are drawn to the sheepdog when asked to describe themselves and given the choice between the two options.

But what about the shepherd?

Yeah, what about the shepherd? Where does he fit into all of this? My experience in animal husbandry was as a hired hand on a dairy farm back in the late 1970s. I don’t have a lot of experience with sheep. But this much I do know. It is the shepherd that leads the sheep. It is not the sheepdog. The sheepdog serves a vital function. The sheepdog is quick and agile and is able to run so much faster than the shepherd. But note that the sheepdog takes commands and directions from the shepherd and then goes out and performs them with great energy and efficiency.

Sheepdog Strengths

Many times the sheepdog acts without explicit direction from the shepherd. The sheepdog, having been trained by the shepherd, sees that the sheep that are wandering from the rest of the flock and will instinctively go and round them up. The sheepdog will jump into the fray and into the face of danger in order to protect the sheep from wild animals or predators.

Sheepdog Shortcomings

But the sheepdog does not survey the land and choose the path that the flock will take. The sheepdog cannot select the greenest pastures. Because the sheepdog’s diet is not the same as the sheep and therefore it cannot judge the quality of the grazing land. In fact, to be completely honest, the sheepdog could be completely content to eat one of the sheep that it guards. Just let that sink in for a second. These are just several shortcomings of the vaunted sheepdog.

Strengths of the Shepherd

So, what are the strengths of the shepherd? Continue reading “Shepherds, Sheepdogs, and Sheep”