Category Leading With Courage

Why You Are Preventing Your Own Success? – 3 Actions To Get Out of Your Own Way

A client asked, “What is the one roadblock I will encounter when improving the culture of leadership in my company?

I responded, “You.”

My client is bright, smart and successful, yet she could not break free to the next level in business.

Quite frankly she was her own trip wire.

My client:

– wanted to know what’s going on with every initiative and project
– tried to be personally acquainted with all the customers
– wanted to master of all the technology of the business
– wanted to feel like the hero, because no one can do what she can do

My client is doomed to a life of Sisyphean tasks with little hope of business growth, financial freedom, or the ability to take some time off.

Read more about Sisyphus and leadership

The more of the leader that is necessary to operate the business on a day to day basis, the smaller the business will remain.

Once we identified that my client was getting in her way of reaching their potential, we agreed that she had two choices.

1. Get comfortable with being the “key” employee and never achieve the kind of time and money freedom she wanted; or,

2. Choose to make a permanent adjustment that will transform their company forever.

Since I have been a part of helping leaders transform their leadership experience, I can reveal the three time-tested steps to get out of your way and achieve success.

Look in the mirror – Explain to yourself and your team that you are the limiting factor of the business. By being a micro-manager, technician, loving status quo, wearing too many departmental hats, always the hero, you have been holding back the success of the business, but now it’s time for a change.

Read More About Being Self Aware

Lead – Leadership is void when you are too busy doing the work of the business, but now you must be strong and decisive. To galvanize this strategic shift how you conduct business create strategic objectives that will provide direction to the team.

Read more about  taking action

Enable – Actively engage your team by changing your language from instructive to intentional. For example, tell your team that you intend to achieve an objective and ask for them to provide the how.

Read more about enabling people

The key in all three of these steps is in realizing that you must take action because no one else in your company will do it for you. For the few, the brave, those who pursue excellence and not status quo, now is the perfect time for a change.

Great leadership always comes from looking down on your business honestly.

What type of leader are you?

The One Advantage You Need To Lead Out Of Troubled Times

It’s tough economic times in my home province of Alberta due to a halving of the price of oil, yet there is a cautious consensus that things are stabilizing and people are starting to hire and grow.

Read more about talking to your people in tough times

As people start to hire, they are surprised to realize that there is as much business risk in growth as there is contraction; but what do leaders need to get the full advantage out of growing?

There is a minimal competitive advantage gained from strategy, technology, finance or marketing. These disciplines are essential as they can set one company apart from another, and knowledge of each has become ubiquitous and democratic. Any size organization has unlimited access to the best thinking and practices around those subjects.

The one remaining untapped, simple, reliable and virtually free competitive advantage is a healthy and robust leadership culture.

A leadership culture can eliminate politics and confusion from the environment, cause productivity and morale to soar and prevent good people from leaving. The most brilliant organization in the world can fail if it does not have a leadership culture – look at Uber.

I’ve seen it repeatedly when a healthy leadership culture will always find a way to succeed because it will tap into every bit of human intelligence it has. I have led volunteers & staff to respond to some of the most significant disasters of our time by unleashing human talent.

Why haven’t more companies embraced and reaped the benefits of a leadership culture? 

Quite frankly, it’s hard. It requires real work and focused discipline. Therefore it has no appeal to those looking for a quick fix.

But the biggest reason is that it requires courage. 

Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their organization with honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues preventing them from realizing their potential.

Read more about leading with courage.

What exactly does an organization have to do to develop a leadership culture? There are three simple but complex steps:

1. Build a Tight Leadership Team – Get the organization’s leaders to behave in a functional, cohesive way. If the people responsible for running an organization act dysfunctional, that dysfunction will cascade into the rest of the organization and success.

2. Create & Communicate Clarity – The second step for building a healthy organization is ensuring that the leadership team members are aligned and clear on the organization’s existence and the highest essential priorities. Leaders must eliminate gaps between them so that people have complete clarity about what they need to do to make the organization successful.

Then over-communicating that clarity. Leaders build a culture of leadership personally and consistently repeat themselves and reinforce what is important. This action sets leaders of healthy organizations apart.

3. Reinforce – Leaders must ensure that any process involving people, from hiring and firing to performance management and decision-making, is designed to support and emphasize the organization’s success intentionally.

Can an organization with a healthy culture of leadership fail? Yes. 

When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction and confusion are reduced, people are freed to serve clients, solve problems and help one another in ways that will leave unhealthy organizations behind as you turn the economic corner. 

Healthy organizations recover from setbacks, attract the best people, repel others, and create opportunities that, at the end of the day, create an environment of success.

5 Secrets Behind Common People Becoming Extraordinary Leaders

If I were to ask you to imagine a heroic commander of a 100,000-man army, what would your mind’s eye see?

Would you picture a 42-year-old, awkwardly tall, pear-shaped, over-weight guy?

Could you imagine someone who was a failed teacher, a failed insurance salesman and a failed real-estate developer?

Well, that was Lieutenant General Arthur Currie.

During WW1, Currie was the Deputy Commander of the Canadian Corp during the Battle of Vimy Ridge and became the Commander of the Canadian Army in Europe. Postwar, with his high school education in hand became the Principle of McGill University.

This isn’t a retelling of a great moment in Canadian history. It is a story of a relative under-achiever who rose to face an unbelievable challenge and the lessons for the rest of us mere mortals.

There is only so much space in history for an Eisenhower, Churchill or Caesar and history is replete with unnamed regular folks like us who work hard and play our parts in achieving greatness.

Here are five characteristics demonstrated by General Currie, and all people, who become great leaders in their own time & right?

Uncompromising Integrity. Do not cut corners or cheat. Though others may be smarter, more forceful, and more creative, never compromised in your work and life.

Read about moral courage

Work Hard. Often when others play or waste time, continue to work. Feel like they are stealing from the company unless you give your best efforts.

Be Personally Responsible. Never blame employers and employees or complain because someone else in the organization was recognized or received a promotion.

Be Decisive. Know that slow decision-making is poor leadership and that analysis paralysis can kill an effort. Instead of living in fear of making the wrong decisions, move forward just as soon as you have sufficient information, not complete information.

Read about making decisions

Read. Good leaders read books, articles, and anything they could to make them a better person and a better leader. Ordinary men and women became extraordinary through constant and continued learning, regardless of the sacrifice.

Like General Currie, most of us are not the smartest, the best educated, or most articulate.

But Like Currie, we can hold high principles & work hard, and through these character traits, we common men and women can become extraordinary leaders.

The Shocking Truth – You Can’t Standup To Authority {Get a Ethical Decision Making Checklist}

Stanley Milgram carried out one of the most famous psychology studies in 1963.[1] He focused on seeing how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person. 


40 Volunteers were introduced to an instructor in a lab coat, played by an actor, and another actor who was strapped into an electric chair.

The volunteers were told they were testing the person in the chair by having him to recall words from a list. Each time the person in the chair made a mistake the volunteer was instructed to administer an electric shock, increasing the level of shock each time a mistake was made from a slight shock to a life-threatening shock.

Two-thirds of volunteers administered increasing levels of electricity to a deadly 450 volts and everyone continued to at least 300 volts

Milgram concluded that ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being. 

Read more about moral courage

The experiment lives on in common culture as a damnation of our ability to inflict pain and acquiesce to authority.

The rest of the story:

Few are aware that the experiment had a variation where the volunteers witnessed other participants (also actors) refused to obey.

In the presence of others who disobeyed the authority figure the levels of obedience to inflict harm of the volunteers fell to 10%.

The point?

We all like to think we are strong enough to stop bad things happening when we see it.

But are we?

When was the last time you saw something wrong happening and didn’t say anything; didn’t refuse; didn’t set an example for others to find the courage to say no.

We all can be complicit, but leaders have the responsibility to set an example.

Be a leader, even when it is hard.




The 1 Thing You Need To Do When You Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve

When someone enrols to take my online education seminars, I ask them a simple question: As A Leader What Is The One Thing That Is Keeping You Awake At Night?

Here is one reader’s question and my answer:

Steve, what keeps me up at night is:

I currently work shift leader for a restaurant. I love the company and what I do. My boss has talked about moving me into management, and he has given me a little constructive criticism, which I appreciated.

He told me that I have skills to become a manager, but that I cannot let other people see my emotions. He says I wear my heart on my sleeve and that allows employees to take advantage and use it against me.

Would you have any advice on how to check my emotions when trying to get my team to perform? How do I keep from wearing my heart on my sleeve?

My response:

What a terrific question!

It is important to be authentic to yourself – including being a boss. There is research that shows employees are more engaged, happier, loyal and productive when they believe their boss is authentic and cares for them.

Assuming your boss has your best interest at heart, I would go back to her/him and ask for factual examples of why they made that comment.

Was it something you did or said that raised concerns? Ask probing open-ended question to get them to be specific about why they think that. Then ask for ways you can improve.

You may want to read my blog on Partnering With Your Boss it walks through how you can assess the relationship you have with a Boss and how you can improve it.

But remember, as you implement their recommendations you need to be authentic and not a mirror image of your boss.

I hope that helps?

I have lots of good stuff in the blog section of my website

Take care

Read my thoughts on Trust … They can’t kill me … it’s against the rules!

As a young soldier and emerging leader, I was sent on a patrolling course to learn a vitally important skill in the infantry. In a sense, patrolling is the eyes & ears of the Regiment and often a way of reaching out and ‘touching’ the enemy. Patrolling happens at all times of the day, but more often in the dark, and the weather is no reason to put off a patrol.

This particular course was held in early spring on cold & wet ground, in cold & damp weather, eating cold & wet food and sleeping in cold & wet sleeping bags. It was terrible, but equally exhilarating & trying as any mental and physical test could ever be. Of the 25 guys that started, we were down to 15 through attrition & injuries.

The final ‘test’ for the course was a 25K patrol through swamps and over rocks and in even worse weather than we had experienced up till then. At the end of the patrol, we were expected to scramble up a significant hill on the edge of the water; the winds were blowing sleet straight into our faces so hard it felt like BBs were being shot at us.

The instructors started yelling and screaming at us to run up the hill. Looking up the mountain as we ran, it appeared like we were approaching the lip of a cliff that fell hundreds of feet into the water. There were instructors at the edge of the approaching abyss yelling and calling us to jump seemingly into thin air and then into whatever lay below. Were we lemmings being run to our death?

At a certain point, I am sure I was thinking, “I quit! I didn’t sign up for this! These crazy bastards are going to kill us!” But I remembered these instructors were my leaders, guys I knew and worked with intimately. They were professionals who I respected. My mindset changed to, “Don’t be a scaredy-cat … they aren’t allowed to kill me; it is against the rules!” So I jumped off the cliff and fell about 10’ into the arms of the instructors, who congratulated me for passing the course.

I had faith in the integrity of my leaders and that they were pros & intended to develop me into the best soldier I could be. I knew they were consummate professionals, and I knew exactly what results in they expected. In short, I trusted them. Sadly that day, three guys didn’t believe, didn’t fling themselves off the cliff and failed the course.

Trust is remarkable; if it is present, it is an exponential force multiplier. If absent, it is a cost that can take down a person, the team and the objectives of the organization