Blunders, Struggles, and Regrets

Blunders, Struggles, and Regrets

Such are the words of Benjamin Disraeli. His actual and full quote is as follows:

“Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle, Old age a regret.” 

For those who are unfamiliar, Benjamin Disraeli was one of the Prime Ministers of Great Britain. Actually, he served as PM twice in his long career in Bri sh Parliament and politics. He was a key figure in creating what became the modern Conservative Party. There is much debate on his overall role in the pantheon of conservative thought. But, he was quite the literary figure as well.

The quote above is taken from a political novel, Coningsby. This novel set in the 1830s follows the life and times of Henry Coningsby, an orphan grandson of Lord Monmouth, a wealthy marquess. Or, if you prefer the more French version, he was a marquis. Lord Monmouth initially disapproved of Coningsby’s parents’ marriage, but on their death he relents, and he decides to provide for the boy. In so doing, he sends young Coningsby to be educated at Eton College. At Eton, Coningsby meets and befriends Oswald Millbank, the son of a rich cotton manufacturer who, as it turns out, is a bitter enemy of his benefactor, Lord Monmouth. The two older men represent old and new wealth in British society.

As Coningsby grows up he begins to develop his own liberal political views and he falls in love with Oswald’s sister, Edith. When Lord Monmouth discovers these developments he is furious and secretly disinherits his Coningsby. On his benefactor’s death, Coningsby is left penniless and is forced to work for his living. He decides to study law and to become a barrister. This endeavor speaks to his character and that in turn impresses Edith’s father (who had previously also been hostile to their relationship) and he consents to their marriage at last. By the end of the novel, Coningsby is elected to Parliament representing his new father-in-law’s constituency and his fortune is restored.

If you decide to dive into this book, you will find the quote above. But don’t bother. You have the summary and the quote above is the best part.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

Continue reading “Blunders, Struggles, and Regrets”

When to Charge Ahead

When to Charge Ahead

How do we determine when we are to charge ahead as leaders or leave it alone and deal with it another day?

Never put off until tomorrow . . . 

We have all been taught in elementary school that we should not put off until tomorrow a kindness that we can do today. But what about a tough decision that we must make as a leader? Is there ever a situation where we would want to put that off for another time down the road? [shareable cite=”Kevin E Bowser” text=”When are we to charge ahead as leaders or leave it alone and deal with it another day? #charge #emotionalintelligence”]When are we to charge ahead as leaders or leave it alone and deal with it another day?[/shareable]

When? That is the question!

When is it right to charge ahead and take the bull by the horns and lead in the midst of a difficult situation? And when is it right to stand back and leave the issue alone and take a more relaxed and non-confrontational approach? These are legitimate questions that I have wrestled with in my own mind for many years. I have been guilty of rushing in too hard, too fast, or too soon. And I have been equally guilty of ignoring or turning away from a situation that had a whole lot of downside and very little upside that would drain all of my mental or emotional energy.

The problem is in knowing when to charge ahead and seize the moment. And knowing when to relax and take a more measured approach to the issue that faces us. Continue reading “When to Charge Ahead”

Shake It Up and Find Capacity


He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. — Muhammad Ali

As you saw on Monday, it was a great weekend at my house. What made it so great was getting to spend some quality time with my youngest grandchild.

In the article that I published on Monday, there were several things that I observed while playing with him in the sandbox. While playing, I saw a couple of leadership lessons emerge as we played together in the sand. They are worth expanding on a little more and that is the intent of this article today.

Remember, our little sandbox is set up for the grandkids to play in when they are around. it is a typical sandbox and the filling, flowing, emptying of sand from container to strainer to container caused me to think about leadership in ways that I was not expecting.

[ctt title=”He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” tweet=”He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. – Muhammad Ali via @leadershipis #lvllc #leadershipvoicesllc” coverup=”fLdAD”]

Shake it up to get more in it

My youngest grandson was diligently trying to fill a red plastic duck with sand. The duck is actually a watering pitcher for a window garden. But on Saturday, it was an integral component of a major sand filling production. He would take a little shovel and try to get the sand into a round hole on the top of the duck’s head. After many little shovelfuls, he had it completely full. Or so he thought. All it took was a gentle shake and the sand began to settle and fill in a few air pockets. Seconds later there was now more room in the duck and it was not even close to being full. So, we filled it up again. And I jiggled it again. And the sand settled again. And we filled it one more time.

What is the leadership lesson?

Sometimes we think we have reached our limit or come to full capacity. But, if we just shake ourselves up a little bit and establish some new habits, we will be able to take on a little more load and increase our individual capacity. I don’t advocate this approach to all aspects of life all the time. But we rarely reach our true capacity the first time that we think we do.

Chuck Norris, of Walker, Texas Ranger fame, says this.

I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish.

One of the biggest obstacles that we face is the obstacle of “capacity.” We often think that we have reached our limit and that we have no more capacity to do anything. We are exhausted. We are done. We feel that we just can’t go on. Continue reading “Shake It Up and Find Capacity”

Can You Have Success In Leadership Without Struggle?

Success and Struggles - 1

Can you?  I am really asking this question.  And I am of the opinion that you do not.  Notice that I didn’t say “cannot.”  Because I suppose it is mathematically possible.  But I think struggle is certainly the norm.

I understand that this is an unpopular stance. Societally, we think of struggle as being a negative thing. At the very least society assumes you are doing it wrong if you are struggling. There’s a cultural stigma attached to struggling.

Real leaders know that it’s not all smiley faces. Struggle and leadership go hand in hand. But we don’t talk about it enough. Most folks want to hear about the success and the gain. They want to celebrate the success and, to be honest, many folks covet the benefits and gains of success.

Leadership books are not written from the midst of the struggle–even though leadership is based on the art of struggle. These books are written after the point of success and the pain of the struggle is long passed. We look at these success stories but unfortunately we draw the wrong conclusions.

What are some of the wrong conclusions that we draw? Continue reading “Can You Have Success In Leadership Without Struggle?”

Loneliness in Leadership

Lonely Leadership - 1In February of 2012, Harvard Business Review featured a story acknowledging that it is lonely being the CEO. The article noted that it’s isolating at the top.  Now, if you are at all like me it is a little hard to feel sorry for CEOs on a regular basis.  What with their power, prestige, influence, and wealth — the common man’s perception is that they have it all. They must be the happiest people on the planet.

All those trappings of success notwithstanding, business leaders face some genuine troubles, not least of which is loneliness.

The author of that article cited survey findings from the CEO Snapshot Survey that “half of CEOs report experiencing feelings of loneliness in their role.  And 61 percent believe that it hinders their performance. This was particularly acute with first-time CEOs and young leaders.

Lonely Leadership - 2Maybe you are also like me in that you don’t really care if billionaires like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos aren’t reaching the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy!

So why am I writing about this?

I would suggest that any leader’s isolation and feelings of loneliness have negative implications on their personal performance, and perhaps more importantly, on how they interact with others. Because it is not just big corporate CEOs who experience this kind of loneliness.   It is team leaders, entrepreneurs, pastors, and community leaders also. And this impacts the bottom-line for organizations.

This loneliness springs from a feeling that they have no one “at their level” to talk to.  They have no “peers” in their view.  They have no one to confide in.  They have no one to bounce ideas off of and no one to turn to for advice.  They also have no one holding them accountable for their actions and deeds.  This isn’t good for decision-making, culture, performance, or the long-term health of the organization. Continue reading “Loneliness in Leadership”