“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” – John C. Maxwell
I’ve noticed a mindset problem with a lot of small business or home-business entrepreneurs that I’d like to address. It has to do with how their perspective on the importance of leadership in relation to their business. Like the above quote states, EVERYTHING rises and falls on leadership.
This means that your personal life, your family life, your relationships, your church, your community, your marriage, your children, and yes… your small business will either rise or fall depending on your leadership skill. When I fully realized this simple fact, I made it my business (pun intended) to improve my leadership ability. My hope is that you will too after you’re done reading this important post.
Like me, you’ve probably heard that most (80%) small businesses fail in their first year. According to the Small Business Association (SBA), this isn’t necessarily true. The SBA states that only 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10. The SBA goes on to state that only 25% make it to 15 years or more.
That said, whether it’s 30, 50, or 80% of small businesses that fail in their first year; it’s still extremely challenging for small business owners to stand out in a BIG way and make a BIG splash on their first dive.
My contention is that the one thing that is missing in most of these business failures is the leadership of the individual entrepreneur. I strongly believe the main cause of most of these failures is not the a bad product, inadequate marketing, or lack of funds – although these do come into play. No. The main reason for business failures is mainly leadership. Tony Robbins summed it up this way:
“It’s not the lack of resources, it’s your lack of resourcefulness that stops you.” – Tony Robbins
And resourcefulness is simply a by-product of strong leadership.
Most small business entrepreneurs I know fail to see the importance of developing themselves into resourceful leaders in order to be better at running their biz. Here are the most common reasons I’ve heard why small business owners or entrepreneurs usually don’t think that working at improving their leadership is important:
All I need is business acumen to grow my business
I’m not running an international corporation and only have a few employees
I already have all the leadership skills I’ll ever need
I don’t have time for personal development books, teachings, or seminars
By the way, these excuses will inevitably either make you fail at business, or prevent your business to grow altogether.
So, why is strong leadership essential for small businesses?
I will now list the reasons why small businesses need BIG leadership…
1- Improving your leadership develops your character. Character and integrity are essential business tools that will also trickle down in more than just your business. Developing your leadership and your character are two things that go hand in hand and that will benefit your life as a whole. The Scripture says that a good name is worth more than gold (Proverbs 22:1). This is indeed true and developing strong leadership will inevitably affect your character, and ultimately, your good name – everywhere.
2- Improving your leadership makes you more fearless. Fear doesn’t only lead to the dark side, it also leads absolutely nowhere. The number one enemy in everybody’s life is fear. Fear paralyzes, makes you fruitless, and makes you miserable. One main difference between successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs is how they deal with fear. The successful ones do it anyway. They do it afraid. They experience fear like everyone else, but move on anyway. They are courageous. And courage, as I wrote in my other blog post titled: No Guts, No Glory is essential to good leadership. And good leadership breeds courage.
3- Improving your leadership improves your communication skills. More than ever, we live in an era of communications. Skype, Social Media, Telephone, Networking face to face, leading a team; all of these require strong communication skills. I have seen many shy and reserved entrepreneurs grow their communication ability as they perfected their leadership skill. The reason is simple: when you become a better leader, you become more confident. And when you become more confident, you are bolder in expressing yourself, and thus usually become a better communicator.
4- Improving your leadership helps you to be a better team player. The mere word ‘leadership’ entails teamwork. Leadership is a social skill which is all about a team environment. Those who work out their leadership ability inevitably become better team players because good leadership training teaches how to value others and to sacrifice yourself for the benefit of the cause or the team. On any given team (in sports or business), those who serve others, sacrifice themselves, and value their teammates are usually seen as leaders on that team. This works whether you have a team of two employees… or two thousand.
5- Improving your leadership makes you value others more. When you read books or attend seminars on leadership, you constantly hear about self-sacrifice, honor, courage, morals, caring, etc. These values and principles are slowly etched in your mind and soul and they eventually become a part of you. Whether you are already predisposed to be a ‘people person’ or a hardcore recluse, when you saturate yourself with leadership growth materials, you will slowly begin to care more about others and value them more.
6- Improving your leadership increases your influence. Leadership is often summed up in one word: influence. Better leaders are usually better influencers. When you are an entrepreneur, you quickly learn how valuable influence is. Those who have it flourish, and those who don’t, well, stagnate or die out. While I don’t believe that influence always equates good leadership, I do believe that those who grow their leadership will definitely benefit their influential factor. In business, this is a HUGE advantage!
7- Improving your leadership improves your self-image. This last one may seem a bit superficial, but trust me, it’s not. How you perceive yourself can determine so much as you position yourself as an entrepreneur in the marketplace. I have seen it time and again: those who believe in themselves can make a killing with an average product, while those who don’t, even if they have a killer product, will only stumble, fumble, and fail. That said, You should always aim to combine the best of both worlds: confidently make a killing with the best possible product or service.
Your business will only go as far as your leadership will allow.
That is the first law of leadership which John C. Maxwell calls ‘The Law of The Lid’ in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. If your biz has been struggling, fumbling, or failing, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself these important questions:
“Have I understood the importance of leadership in my life and business?”
“Have I taken the steps to grow my leadership ability daily.”
If you answered ‘no’ to any one of those questions, you may want to adjust your sail before you head back to the office or reprise your online hustle. You may need to work harder on your leadership ability, but the results it will bring are worth the price you will pay.
I will leave you with this quote from Jim Rohn:
“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” -Jim Rohn
I’m going to start this blog with a breakthrough revelation: Good leadership requires courage.
O.K. Maybe I exaggerated. This is probably not a revelation. You probably already knew this. In fact, you probably just went, “Well, Duh!”
And yet, we tend to take the value of courageous leadership for granted, don’t we? I mean, we believe it just comes with the territory and we just assume that leaders should be naturally brave, bold, and courageous. But most are not. This is why courageous leadership leaves its mark on history. These are the types of leaders who rose up when resources were scarce and did something about it. They are remembered because through lack of resources they have shown remarkable resourcefulness. In other words, they beat the odds by braving the storm; they were courageous. Their names adorn the halls of our public buildings, their statues edify our parks, and their memorials are found in our streets and squares.
These days, I am reminded of the value of courage every time I open the TV set. The winter Olympics have captured the attention of the world, as is the case for most Olympic games. Many of us set our gaze in the direction of these brave athletes who have but one brief moment to reach their goal – to go for the gold.
As entrepreneurs, we are often reminded that failure is part of success. We are often told that it’s OK to fail. And we often do. In fact, stats show that most entrepreneurs succeed once in every eight failures. That’s just part of the game in business. Not so at the Olympics. These athletes have this unique chance once every four years. If they fail here and now, they can always hope to get another chance in four years – if they qualify. Now THAT’S pressure!
As we intently stare at our TV screen, we see the athletes go through the thrill of victory, the pain of defeat, and the agony of under-performance. No matter what country they hail from, I always feel sad for athletes when they fall, stumble, or fumble. It’s one thing to lose, but quite another to do so knowing you weren’t able to perform at your peak.
Another thing I have found in those winter Olympics is just how courageous they have to be to practice some of those sports. I cringe every time I see how hard it must be on the knees for practitioners of ski moguls – Ouch! But that’s nothing in comparison to the breakneck speed of luge and bobsleigh where they reach in excess of 100 km/h on ice corridors. You probably remember the fatal luge accident which took the life of Nodar Kumaritashvili, in the 2010 winter Olympics. And let’s not forget snowboard and ski acrobatics – Yikes!!! Yes, the winter Olympics are not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re participating.
The Olympics remind us that courage is admired, revered, and always remembered. Courageous men and women still inspire us centuries after their passing. I surmise that they would do so even if they lacked most other qualities. But remove courage from their character, and they would be nothing but a distant and frail memory. They would be forgotten. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – C.S. Lewis
In a teaching on the virtues of courage, John C. Maxwell listed seven benefits of courage. They are the following:
1. Courage enables you to maximize the potential in yourself and others. This is observable in life, and in the Olympics. Athletes who demonstrate courage encourage others through their example. The athlete who is up after one who just broke a world record has to options: get discouraged by thinking that he won’t beat his predecessor, or be encouraged by believing it is achievable. After all, he just witnessed it.
2. Courage sustains you to live a life of few regrets. We will oftentimes see athletes who don’t win a medal be very happy with their performance nonetheless. When interviewed, these athletes will say they are happy with their performance because it is their personal best, of they gave it their all. Going all in is a source of great satisfaction for Olympians, regardless if they win a medal. The same goes for everyone in life.
3. Courage allows you to climb as you step the ladder of life. “Courage, like muscle, is strengthened by use.” When a young 17 or 18 year old participates in his first Olympics, he is just happy to be there, surrounded by the best in the world. Even when they finish 9th, 11th, or 15th, they are happy if they gave it their all. They remain hopeful because they know their career is just taking off. They believe they have just begun their ascension and haven’t reached their peak yet. They know they can still improve. They see long term. Life is like that; and courage allows us to keep hoping and working towards more as we bravely muscle through.
4. Courage encourages you during difficult and uncertain times.“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” — Special Olympic Prayer Yes, there will be difficult times, failures, and heartaches. This goes for sports and life alike. In those difficult moments, courage defines us. Courage is what will make you power-on through when you finish 12th instead of 2nd as predicted. Courage is what will make you encourage yourself when you lost and got the wind knocked out of you. The word encourage mean ‘to put courage in.’ So, encouraging yourself mean to put courage in yourself. I like this saying: “The test of courage is this: How much is left in you after you’ve lost everything outside of you.”
5. Courage propels you to reinvent yourself as often as needed. So many tweaks, adjustments, and re-adjustments are needed for an Olympian to reach the podium. They often need to adapt their style to the terrain, circumstances, and opponents they face. They have to constantly be willing to change, correct themselves, and show flexibility. That’s how winning is done. Their coaches are always on the lookout for changes and improvements on their behalf. It takes courage to always be willing to reinvent yourself – as often as needed. Bruce Lee said it best when he encouraged us to ‘Be like water.’ Nothing is more adaptable than water. It can flow, drip, crash, fill, etc. Be like water my friends.
6. Courage sustains you to hold on long enough to win. George Patton said, “Courage is holding on a minute longer.”When every muscle, tendon, and sinew feels like giving up, an Olympic champion will say, “No. Don’t give up. Hold on just one more minute. You can do this!” Holding on for that one extra minute is what separates the winners from the losers, the champions from the talented, and the eminent from the average. It’s what enables people to grow from failure to victory.
7. Courage advances your voice.“People don’t follow titles, they follow courage.” – William Wells Brown People always remember brave Olympians. When a man or woman has demonstrated incredible courage in front of seemingly overwhelming odds, we can’t help but admire them and remember how they inspired us to show the same resolve. When my wife asked me this week what Olympic athletes do after their sports career is over, I answered that medal winners can often go for a career as analyst on TV, a motivational speaking career, or perhaps write a book. It really does ‘advance their voice’; literally in some cases. People will always lend an ear to those they respect. Courage will often earn you respect and therefore enable you to be heard. On the other hand, those who don’t attain glorious heights have to reinvent themselves and find a new career path.
Courage is indeed, an essential to good leadership. Nobody wants to follow a coward. And the Olympics serve to remind us of what courage is made of. So, here is my tip of the hat to all of those athletes whose hard word, determination, and yes, courage, show us what “No Guts, No Glory” really means. And remember that the lessons they weave by their exploits are lessons that we too, mere mortals, can apply to our lives as we go for the gold in our own respective disciplines in business and in life.
Be brave, be bold, and go for the gold! If you can’t be an Olympian, be like the apostle Paul who said:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day.” (2 Timothy 7-8a)
There is a scene In the Avengers movie (2012) I absolutely love. In it, the Chitauri (aliens) were wreaking havoc in NYC and spreading pandemonium. After running through a barrage of obstacles and laser fire, Cap lands on top of a car in the middle of a group of cops who are obviously and understandably overwhelmed by the situation. He addresses the Sergeant and the ensuing conversation goes like this:
Captain America: You need men in these buildings. There are people inside and they’re going to be running right into the line of fire. You take them to the basements, or through the subway. You keep them off the streets. I need a perimeter as far back as 39th.
Police Sergeant: Why the hell should I take orders from you?
[The Chitauri attack. Cap blocks a blast with his shield, bats one Chitauri away with it, then blocks a point blank assault, punches another in the face, he grabs one of their weapons and then punches the Chitauri, flinging it across the street]
Police Sergeant: (to his staff) I need men in those buildings. Lead the people down and away from the streets. We’re going to set up a perimeter all the way down 39th Street.
In that scene, which got more than a few laughs in the theater, we are reminded that actions speak louder than words. Cap had to ‘prove’ he was worthy to be taken seriously before the police sergeant followed his orders. In the superhero community, if we only consider powers, Cap isn’t as impressive as most of his comrades. And yet, put him in a room with other superheroes and he’s the one they will all look up to for guidance and leadership – they listen to him. He has proven, time and again, that they should listen to him through his dedication, smarts, ability, and wisdom.
Most of us encounter the same reactions from our entourage when we try to be heard. Like you, there have been many times my voice just wasn’t heard because people just didn’t see my value or know about my track record. Often we are ignored by people who barely know us even if what we know could potentially change their lives. Like Brendon Burchard says: “Everybody is an expert at something.” We all have something at which we excel. In fact, research says that every person can do at least one thing better than 10,000 people. Of course, the trick is to convince those 10,000 of our expertise – and that doesn’t come easy.
The Apostle Paul, for one, faced that challenge. He was facing detractors of his apostleship and, against his better judgement, resorted to listing his credentials as to why they should listen to him as an apostle. Then he wrote the following lines:
“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.” (II Corinthians 11: 22-31)
Like Paul and Captain America, I too have been believed to be less than I am. I too have been plagued with self-doubt when people openly doubted my ability or dismissed my competence. You see, I come from a blue collar background. People who have worked with me and known me for the last 15 years have some serious doubts concerning my new ‘career’ as a speaker and author. I can’t say that I blame them. Nevertheless, they never saw the whole of me either. They didn’t know that:
I overcame bullying in elementary and high school
I overcame moving 13 times by the time I was 14 years old
I overcame my parent’s two divorces
I overcame severe depression in my twenties
I read hundreds of books on personal development, theology, and psychology
I overcame the death of my own child
I could go on, but I think you get the point. These are some of my qualifiers as a speaker and author. What qualifies us as experts is not only the skills we have acquired,but the obstacles that we have overcome to get there as well.
So, what qualifies you as an expert? What sets you apart? What skills, abilities, and gifts do you possess? What have you overcome? And most of all…
Why should anyone listen to YOU?
If you can answer this simple question, you are well on your way to being a person of significance – an expert. Remember, at least 10,000 people are waiting for your expertise. Bring it!
“Leadership is a Journey. Each one of us has to take our own path, and get there our own way.” – David Gergen
If you take the time to look around, you will quickly realize that leadership isn’t for everyone. Not only are good leaders a rare breed, but people who are interested in leadership and perfecting their leadership ability are even rarer still. This brings up the following questions:
What makes an individual pursue leadership? I mean, deep down, what causes someone to become interested in leadership development and his own personal growth? Why would someone pursue this path of most resistance unless he is required to do so? Leadership is hard, and humans as a rule, prefer the path of least resistance.
After having undergone much leadership training for myself in the last few years, I came to ask myself the questions, ‘Why did I begin this trek towards becoming a better leader?’, and ‘Why do others do it?’
Well, I can honestly say that after much pondering and observation, I have found two main reasons, or paths, that may lead someone to pursue leadership development for themselves (aside from it being a requirement for their position). Leaders fall into the following two categories:
1- Those Who Develop a Taste For It
Someone once said that to “develop a taste for” something means to begin to like how it tastes, after eating or drinking it several times. You especially use this phrase to talk about food or drinks that most people don’t like at first. Leadership is a bit like that for some, initially anyway. When we first encounter it, we are not sure we like it. Some do, some don’t. Sometimes, because of our backgrounds and faulty thinking, there may be a stigma associated with our perception of leadership; misconceptions such as:
Bosses are bad slave drivers
Rich and successful people (leaders and entrepreneurs) got to the top by being dishonest backstabbers
Those at the top got a lucky break, but don’t really deserve to be there
Brown-nosers (for lack of a better word) climb up the ladder of success but are mostly incompetent
Of course, these are most often dire misconceptions. Many people at the top are not bad. Most CEO’s and leaders actually worked quite hard to get to where they are, and most of them are decent people – some are even great people. Sure, there are quite a few incompetent leaders, but it makes us appreciate the good ones. So, usually, after a few years of maturing we abandon these silly and/or limiting beliefs, especially once we meet and connect with good leadership examples.
Like I said, leadership is an arduous journey and human beings usually like to pursue the path of least resistance. So, for a person to develop a taste for it, they must be introduced to it through these most common venues:
They are put in a leadership position at work for a project or promotion.
They are mentored by someone who demonstrates strong leadership qualities.
They were required to take a training or read a book on the matter at work, at school; for a project or a course.
They have a superior at work who exemplified good leadership qualities and wanted to emulate these.
They come from a family of leaders/entrepreneurs, or their parents were strong leaders in the community.
They have witnessed firsthand the benefits of strong leadership.
These are all ways someone might be enticed to learn more about the virtues and merits of leadership. Thus, they have developed a taste for it after having been in contact with its potency and value. They have discovered that indeed, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
In short, They came, they saw, they conquered.
Smart people who get a taste of leadership, its benefits, and how important it is, usually want more of it for themselves. So, those who develop a taste for leadership comprise the biggest percentage of leaders out there in our organizations, churches, and communities. They are the most common breed of leaders and they entered through the larger path that leads to leadership.
And then, there are those strange animals (like me)…
2- Those Who Hunger For It
Now, the backgrounds of those who hunger for leadership are usually difficult ones. They are most often filled with suffering, want, heartache, failure, and mediocrity. And, for the most part, these types don’t even know that they are, deep down and through their struggle, hungering for leadership in their lives.
You see, people who hunger for leadership in their lives are those who lack it the most. Those are people who haven’t witnessed good leadership examples around them for most of their lives. In life, we tend to pursue aggressively what we lack the most. So, the types of people who hunger for leadership may be:
Born of the wrong side of the tracks
From broken households with underachieving, abusive, or addicted parents
People who never had a good boss or supervisor at work
Hanging out with the wrong crowd (losers beget losers)
Just on a life path where there were few or no strong leaders in general
Just unaware. Many people just don’t know themselves, what they want, or what they need.
As for myself, I was a product of the first two categories. My parents, although loving, were mostly underachievers. And until my early twenties, I wasn’t on a path that was brimming with leaders. That all changed when I joined a local Church and began noticing and observing some strong and godly men – Church leaders and elders. As a ‘hungry for leadership’ young man, I began modelling them. This changed my life.
You see, when an individual in hungry for leadership, he’s ready for it. When an individual is hungry for leadership, he doesn’t need to ‘develop a taste for it’. He witnesses it and he just wants more of it right away. It fills a deep and nagging need. For those who are hungry for it, leadership, when it shows up in their lives (through people, books, or other means) fills a deep whole. And the funny thing for me was that I didn’t even know that I was hungry for leadership. At the time, I didn’t even have a name for it. I just wanted more of ‘it’. The personal growth associated with leadership development was, for me, a way of finding and forging myself into the man I wanted to be ideally. The books I read, the sermons I heard, and the men I modeled (or is it the men I read and the books I modeled?) slowly prepared me for the path I was to take later in life when I chose to join The John Maxwell Team and become a certified speaker, coach, and leadership trainer. It was my hunger for leadership in my own life that propelled me head on in deep leadership development, research, and writing. It was my lack of leadership that made me hunger for it so badly.
This is why I find the stories of underdogs so inspiring. This is why I enjoy movies where characters undergo huge personal transformation and grow to their fullest potential. And, this is why I find the most inspiring leaders are, most often than not, those who grew through that very path of hunger. Those men and women who came from nothing are usually those who have the most to teach us about leadership. It’s a long list that I won’t bother to write here, but suffice it to say that people who became leaders through adversity because they hungered for leadership are the ones that have the most to teach us about this unusual pursuit.
Of course, we could almost add a third category: Those who, after developing a taste for it, hungered for more. There are many great leaders who grew from that dynamic dual path combination. However, I really wanted to boil it down to what started it all, the taste or the hunger (?). It’s always one or the other.
I would like to conclude by saying that good leadership, like gold, is valuable because it is rare. The world is hungry for good leaders. Therefore I encourage you, if you are not already hungry for it, to at least develop a taste for it. By slowly developing the leader within you, you will become the person you were meant to be, and you will inspire others to ‘taste leadership’, and you may even fill the hunger of those who so desperately need it.
Here are a few resources that will enable you to develop your leadership ability:
As we reach the end of yet another year, the time has come for many, including myself, to pause and reflect on the past year. For some, this end-of-year appraisal will be a time of rejoicing over many successes and victories, triumphs and glories, joys and celebrations. If that is you, well done and congratulations are in order! I am truly happy for you and applaud your hard work and success.
For others however, this end-of-year appraisal might be a time of deep introspection over what went wrong, what didn’t work, or why your life or business didn’t go forward as planned. It might also be a time where you may or may not border on self-pity or self-loathing as a result of your perceived ‘bad year’. In short, it might be a time where you try to gather yourself to toss back this last year and kick-off the new year with what you lacked most in this past year: Momentum.
So, this post if for those among you who, this past year:
Worked your butts off
Sweat it out day in and day out
Reached out to more people than you care to remember in order to build your network
Invested time, money, and resources in your endeavors
Sent more e-mails, made more phone calls, and offered more ‘freebies’ to potential clients
Gave it their all and never looked back…
Only to find that at the end of the year…
You were exhausted, frustrated, and came to the conclusion that in spite of it all… you still hadn’t attained your goals or gathered no momentum whatsoever. This, indeed, can be extremely discouraging.
Momentum, according to John C. Maxwell, is a leader’s best friend. To that I might add that it is also the athlete’s, the entrepreneur’s, and for that matter, the human being’s best friend also.
Maxwell puts it this way:
“Many times momentum is the only difference between winning and losing. With it, everyone is expectant and energized, and people tend to perform at their peak potential. Without it, people lose heart and have difficulty finding motivation.” – John C. Maxwell
So, if you have lost heart and are having difficulty finding motivation after a bad year, this post is for you.
Recently, I had the pleasure of listening to a teaching by John C. Maxwell on how to regain lost momentum. This speech of his was different because it was addressed to a Church gathering. Also, it focused on how to regain momentum after a tragedy all but destroys a congregation of believers through scandal. He based his teaching on the experience and conversation he had with a pastor who took over a Church that had once been all over the news because of a case of pedophilia within its walls.
It was a very delicate and difficult subject to teach on. The wisdom through it all came from the pastor himself who successfully brought this church back to respectability and confidence after years of hurting, trials, and challenges.
The pastor candidly gave John ten steps to rebuild (or simply gain) lost momentum along with the permission to share with others. Although these were shared in a religious/vocational context, I believe these points apply just as well to life or business.
I will now share with you those ten steps that can enable you to gather the much sought-after best friend of a leader… MOMENTUM:
1- Address the issue. Oftentimes, the problem persists just because we dare not address it. We think that if just ignore it long enough, it will disappear. WRONG! Actually, the opposite is true. Until you address the problem, it will only be a thorn in your side. And yes, it may well grow bigger. So don’t delay, grab the bull by the horns and deal with it!
2- Acknowledge a desperate need for God’s assistance. Don’t let your ego get in the way of you asking God for help. Ego, by the way, spells E-G-O, which can translate: Edging God Out. God’s solutions begin where yours end. Your lack of momentum might just be because you need a bigger boat. God is bigger than you. He’s your bigger boat.
3- Develop a mission statement. It isn’t uncommon when we lack momentum to lose our vision as well. If you never had a mission statement, now is probably a great time to write one down. On the other hand, if you already have one, now is probably a great time to revise it and see if it still connects with your vision and goals.
4- Provide safety and security. If you’re in a family or business setting, other family members or your employees/partners will need to feel re-assured in this time of fruitlessness. Nobody likes to feel like they’re going nowhere. This is a leader’s responsibility. No matter how bad things get, the leader has to step up and reassure his family/team/organization that there is still hope and a future.
5- Offer help to the hurting. In the case of the church where the scandal happened, there were a lot of people who were deeply wounded in the process. Depending on how bad the situation is, some team members may need more help than others and perhaps even longer than others. Loss of momentum due to a crisis situation will often break people in the process. In those types of settings, it is the leader’s responsibility to offer a caring and helping hand.
6- Make hard choices. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Avoiding hard choices may actually be the reason why you have no momentum right now. So, persisting in avoiding those hard choices is hardly an option anymore. Do the things that scare you. Chances are those are the very things you need done in order to build momentum.
7- Continually communicate. Open the channels of communication more than ever before. Make everybody feel free to say what they feel and think while always maintain an atmosphere of humility and mutual respect. You and your team must be on the same wave length in order to generate forward motion in the same direction. You can’t write a book together if you’re not on the same page.
8- As a leader, lighten the load. It is the leader’s role to take on more responsibility in difficult times. Lack of momentum means a bigger shouldering of the load for the leader. It it the best way to build trust and to ensure that everybody will want to give more. A leader who takes a heavier load always energizes his team to do the same. This will result in a bigger team effort which can result in the lift-off you so desperately need to get momentum going.
9- Build a leadership team. Good leaders know how to surround themselves with good leaders. Nothing of significance was ever accomplished by an individual acting alone. Build up team members and invest in those who show more resolve, imagination, and ability. The best teams are always those with the strongest leaders.
10- Make prayer the number one priority. When you hit a wall, or when you’re stuck in neutral, you can never pray too much. Prayer will unlock solutions you have never though about, people you have never met, and circumstances you never dreamed of. Prayer is the grease on the gears of momentum.
As we reach the end of one year and get ready for the beginning of a new one, I do hope that these words you just read will encourage you to re-cast your vision, renew your efforts, and renew your hope of a fruitful destiny for you, yours, and your plans. One bad year doesn’t mean it’s over for you. One year of missing momentum doesn’t amount to a forever standstill. One year of failures doesn’t mean you are a failure.
So, Roll up your sleeves and get ready to roll this year!
From all of us here at Thriving on Purpose,
May you have a fruitful, blessed, and momentous year!
Recommended Books to help you Thrive as an Entrepreneur:
Understanding Failure and How it will lead you to Success.
Every Entrepreneur should read this book to understand the foundation of building a business and vision that lasts.
Back in August 2016, my wife and I were at the bi-annual John Maxwell Team event. It was a real blessing to attend and get to know other speakers and coaches from around the world who are invested in adding value to others and bring leadership to their respective communities. There were many great moments during those three days of workshops, training, and speeches. We were trained by some of the most respected authorities in speaking, coaching, and business. One thing stood out above all others for me though.
We had just been given a great teaching by John Maxwell himself and it was close to supper time. As we were about to leave, he let everybody know that he could be found right after in the lobby to sign books from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. He added that there were two titles he would put no limit on signatures, one of them was The John Maxwell Leadership Bible. In other words, even if you brought 20 Bibles with you, he would sign them all. And then he said this:
“I will be out there for three hours to make sure that all of you get your books signed, because I care about you. I also want you to know I will sign books on the last day as well. I will be doing this because I want to add value to you – my team; but also because I want to be an example. I want to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. I want you to see leadership not just hear about it.”
To be honest, when he said this I though it was very nice of him,but I didn’t realize how daunting a chore it was to sign book, after book, after book for three hours straight – on an empty stomach. I understood the work he was doing on our behalf later, when I got in line after having supper with my wife. It was a very long line and it had been since 6:00 pm. There were 3500 attendees at the event, and many hundreds got in line for this book signing. We got in line at 8:15 pm – so we were late comers. We waited a good 40 minutes until it got to be our turn. When only a couple of people were left ahead of us, that’s when I got it – that’s when understanding hit me. There I saw my mentor, my teacher, my friend (as he always calls himself); a 69-year-old man who, from the looks of it, was exhausted and very haggard. He had spent hours signing thousands of books (I don’t even know how he could feel his hand anymore). He lifted up his head and his eyes had trouble following the upward movement, as he turned to his assistant and asked – “Are there many more?” And yes, it turned out there were quite a few more people left in line. So John went back to the conference hall, where we were gathered for fellowship, and made an announcement to everybody that he would keep signing books until 10:00 to make sure nobody got left out. And when he walked away from the stage, I saw two people aiding him going down the stairs – probably because he was (understandably) dizzy and tired. This is what stood out for me during those three days of leadership training. This is what made the deepest impression on my heart and mind. It’s not the teachings, the preaching, the phenomenal ambiance, the size of the hotel, the friendships, or the food that I remember most. No. What impressed me the most was to see this 69-year-old world-class leadership teacher actually lead through sacrifice – not just in word, but in deed. That, my friends, is the deepest lesson John Maxwell has ever taught me:
Without sacrifice, there is no leadership.
My wife and I will never forget his tired face; and we will forever remember his giving heart.
John, if you’re reading this: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way. I know your life’s mission statement was to add value to people. Well, you surely accomplished that with me. May God richly bless you.
Books I recommend that Teach Leadership and Servant Leadership;
Has God asked you to do something that you are not sure about?
As believers, and as entrepreneurs, we are often guided by the Lord to do things that we are not sure about… or even things that we are terrified about.
Christians are told in the Scriptures to trust in God for all their needs. We are told that whoever God calls to do something, He will equip as well.
But we often over spiritualize this concept. We often think that God will give us peace amidst famine. We over-spiritualize our Father by undermining His actual care for our physical needs. Make no mistake about it: God will take care of our physical needs just as well as our spiritual ones. There is one Bible story in which Jesus did just that.
In Luke Chapter 5: 1-11, we read the following story…
“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”
In this story, we see the following lessons about God’s provision:
If we obey, He will bless us. We are told that Jesus borrowed Simon’s boat to teach the multitude. Simon (Peter) provided Jesus with a platform to bless others. So, when Jesus was done teaching, he told Peter to “launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
God knows our needs before we ask him. In the sermon on the mount, we are told “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Jesus knew he was going to ask Peter to forsake all and follow Him. But Peter had a wife and children he needed to provide for. He needed to work night and day as a fisherman to provide for his family. And depending on the catch, if was not steady income. Jesus was well aware of it. BOOM! The miracle catch was so huge that it made the two ships sink! We can only speculate about how much income it provide Peter with; but one thing’s for sure… it was enough for him to take a leave of absence from work. It was enough for him to “forsake all and follow him.” It gave Peter much needed peace of mind.
Sometimes, in order to follow Him, God will ask us to face our fears – to get out of our comfort zones, as a test of our faith. Other times, God, in His mercy, will appease our fears, just like in this story. He provided so well for Peter and the others, that they were able and willing to leave all and follow him.
God is a God who provides. After Abraham went to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, God provided a Ram instead for the sacrifice. That’s when Abraham named God (Jehovah Jireh): the God who provides. And in Ephesians 3:20-21we read: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations.”
As an entrepreneur, God may have asked something of you. Perhaps it is something that you are scared to do. Perhaps it is something that you have tried before and it didn’t work. Remember in the story, Peter had fished all night; he had cleaned his nets; he was exhausted – he was done. It was over. He didn’t want to go back out. And yet, upon Jesus’ calling him to go out, he did – and a net-breaking blessing followed.
If you are a Christian entrepreneur, and God has issued a call to you either for the next level in your biz, just to get started, for a change of direction, or perhaps even to make Him a bigger part of your company’s mission statement – do not be afraid to follow Him in uncharted waters.
Someone once said: “Calling is not without its crosses and trials, but let us not doubt of its compensations.”
If you do and go all out, if you dare to heed the call, to the deeper waters… God will break your net!
When God blesses you, trust me, you are going to need a bigger boat! Your net will rip! That’s how He does things; in a good and perfect way, with grace and abundance.
But before it does, you have to go out… and cast your net. You have to heed His call, go out, and cast your net even:
If you’re scared
If you’re not sure it’s going to work out
If you’re inexperienced
If you don’t have all the money you think you need
If you are told not to by friends and family
If logic tells you this is a bad idea
If in the past, the same thing didn’t work out for you
One thing that will help you become bolder and venture out to cast your net is remembering God’s former miracles and provisions in your life. God expects us to not forget the times when He acted on our behalf. And remembering these miracles will make you have more faith when things appear unsure. Look at this rebuke from Jesus to his apostles when they had forgotten his two miracle of the bread and fish and thought his teaching about the leaven of the Pharisees was about their next lunch:
“O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?” (Matthew 16:8-11)
To paraphrase Jesus, it’s as if He was telling them: “Guys, where were you when I multiplied the bread and fish? Don’t you get it? If you walk with me, you will not lack those necessities.”
Still fearful? Fear not. This admonition, ‘Fear Not’ is found many times in the Scriptures. A lady (Melinda Martin) set out to find out if it were true that it was repeated 365 times in the Bible; turns out it’s not. But, during this exercise, she actually put up a great list of Bible verses that tell us to be brave – to ‘Fear Not’. You can check it out here: http://bit.ly/fearnotbible
If God has called you out to venture out and cast your net – He will provide for you. You can take this to the bank – literally. And, as you do so, meditate daily on these few choice verses. Read them out loud to impress on your conscious and subconscious mind that if God has asked you to do something, he will provide for your needs and bless you in the process. This will also keep you positive and on track on a daily basis.
Here’s a video on this topic:
Sebastien Richard is a husband, father, author, copywriter, speaker and leadership trainer. He is also the founder (along with his wife, Elisabeth) of Thriving on Purpose, a faith-based coaching and leadership training company. His most recent book, Lead Like a Superhero – What Pop Culture Icons Can Teach Us About Impactful Leadership, is an unconventional approach to leadership, perfectly tailored for a new generation of leaders. It offers all of the proven, time-tested leadership principles, values, and tactics, with a never-before seen Pop-Culture Packaging. It’s definitely NOT your father’s leadership book!
When you search for the characteristics of good leaders online, you will find the number of characteristics listed as 5, 8, 10, 14, 21 or any other such number.
Why is that? Isn’t there a set number every expert can agree on? Apparently not.
You see, leadership is a strange animal. Although leadership experts can agree on what makes for good leadership in the larger sense, the number of characteristics deemed as necessary for it can vary greatly. While I say seven, John Maxwell wrote a more detailed list in his book The 21 Indispensable Qualitiesof a Leader. So, depending on how general or detailed you choose to analyze leadership, the numbers will vary.
That’s because leadership defies a permanent and static definition – it cannot be boxed. It’s always recognized by people when they witness it, but the varying styles of influences which makes it up can make it hard to pin down. It’s a bit like trying to predict the weather. There are ways to do it, but it sure isn’t an exact science. Leadership is, in a way, quite intangible. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics that cannot be overlooked and that defy time, cultures, trends, and situations. They are:
These are, in my opinion, the main (in a larger sense) characteristics of a good leader. Now, I’m going to go down that list and explain what each of these characteristics entail, and why they matter.
People skills:These are the leader’s know how when it comes to communicating effectively whether to an individual or a group. It also includes his capacity to gain trust quickly, and his/her capacity for empathy. So, basically, his/her E.Q. (Emotional Intelligence) and S.Q. (Social Intelligence).
Emotional Quotient is a (notional) measure of a person’s adequacy in such areas as self-awareness, empathy, and dealing sensitively with other people. It became a ‘thing’ in the early 90’s when Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term describing it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”. Later, it was more thoroughly defined by Daniel Goleman in his bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader.” – Jack Welsh
In our world of complex human interactions, E.Q. and S.Q. may very well be a leader’s best friend. After all, leadership is about inspiring people to be at their best in following a vision, work, or cause. This is why the most successful leaders today are not necessarily the smartest in terms of I.Q. Don’t get me wrong, they are smart… but probably outshined many who were smarter on their way to the top.
I.Q. get you hired… E.Q. gets you promoted
Smarts: This is the leader’s keenness of mind. His overall knowledge, quick wits, and I.Q. paired with how and when to put them to good use. In short, the leader’s acumen and know how.
“Competence goes beyond words. It’s the leader’s ability to say it, plan it, and do it in such a way that others know that you know how – and know that they want to follow you.” – John C. Maxwell
We live in a world where competence is very, very valued. And yet, in a weird way, it’s taken for granted. Don’t believe me? Just check how annoyed you are the next time you have to deal with an incompetent. Yeah, we take it for granted, and yet, it isn’t very common. As they say, ‘Common sense isn’t so common.’
And, as a leader, incompetence or downright stupidity is just inadmissible. A leader must be smart in order to show the way and go the way in the timeliest manner.
Vision: This is the leader’s goal setting stratagem and scope. How far ahead are they able to see and make provisions for? How high is their aim and how functional is their plan?
The leader’s vision is fourfold:
Sees MORE than others see
Sees FURTHER than others see
Sees BEFORE others see
Helps others see what he sees
Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” ― Jack Welch (Former CEO of General Electric)
It takes a solid vision for a leader to get people behind him. The clearer the picture, the more compelling he will make it to others.
Character: This is the leader’s integrity and strength of character. Remember, character is doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking.
In my book Lead Like a Superhero, Captain America is the character I chose to demonstrate what strong character is. He always aims to do the right thing – even when nobody is watching. It’s part of his trademark. This is why even Thor (a god) does what he says. That’s how much character matters.
People of character:
– Model and emulate great people from history
– Pursue virtue, wisdom, and understanding
– Seek out good company
– Build people up through their words and actions
– Mind their tongue
– Keep their emotions in check
– Have integrity
– Are people who keep their word
Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden
Great leaders always model great character. And when they don’t, that’s where their influence stops. That’s when their leadership fails.
Adaptability: This is the leader’s ease of adaptability and capacity to change gears when needed. His/her ability to go to a plan B, C, or even D and to rally their troops for the change.
Adaptability is being able to adjust to any situation at any given time. – John Wooden
A leader’s adaptability creates trust and a sense of security among his followers. When things go south, as they often do in organizations, you need to be a leader who adapts quickly and transitions smoothly. Panic is never an option for good leaders.
Focus: Focus is the leader’s drive and determination to reach goals. It’s his/her capacity to not let trivial things derail them from priorities and to stay on track.
Focus is the ability to say no, even to the most tempting offers, if they detract you from your original and worthwhile goal. It is the ability to refuse even good things and great times which would distract you from your ultimate vision and purpose. Here is an interesting acrostic with the word ‘FOCUS’:
“IT” factor: The ‘IT’ factor is often overlooked when leadership experts put up a list of a leader’s characteristics. The reason is quite simple; it cannot be readily identified or quantified. It varies greatly for each individual. One leader might attract followers because of his great intelligence, another through his quick wits, another through his compassion, and another because of his/her good looks. It could be defined as the leader’s magnetism or charisma combined with his/her ability to gain trust quickly. It’s basically the leader’s “Je ne sais quoi”, which brings that extra flavour to his/her leadership. It’s also the leader’s uniqueness and individuality.
Everybody is unique. Every leader is unique. The flavor they bring, their unique gifting, and their way to go about their business can make their leadership soar, or tank. Some leaders have a very high ‘IT’ factor, and some not. Those who don’t need a very solid supporting cast to maintain their following, even if they rank high in the other characteristics. Those who do have it are like magnets. They have the leadership equivalence of a Midas touch, even if they rank a bit lower in the other categories. But, on the flip side; if they rely too much on their ‘IT’ factor, they will eventually lose.
Charisma gets you in the room, but character keeps you there.
So, there you have it. Those are the seven main characteristics of a leader. Make them a part of your leadership arsenal. Cultivate them. Study them. Emulate them. Model them for others. It’s what any great leader does.
Here are more Great Resources to help you go in depth on this topic:
Sebastien Richard is a husband, father, author, copywriter, speaker and leadership trainer. He is also the founder (along with his wife, Elisabeth) of Thriving on Purpose, a faith-based coaching and leadership training company.