4 Factors to a Longer and More Successful Leadership Life

One of my clients had a profound impact on my life this week. What I heard him say is:

"Scott I realized that I have to take care of me. I am at my best when I am taking care of myself. I decided that I am going to do yoga when I get up in the morning, and I am going to exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued,

"There has been a lot of negativity in my life recently, and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am going to choose the leader I want to be and not be a victim of circumstance."

Absolutely Profound.

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.

  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?

  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment, or you become a victim of your circumstance.

  • There is an end game: A successful existence. This is your life, and you only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

The National Wellness Institute describes six different dimensions for us to consider as we examine our own wellbeing:

  • Emotional

  • Occupational

  • Physical

  • Social

  • Intellectual

  • Spiritual

This week I want to focus on your emotional wellbeing as a leader.

The Story

One of my favorite authors is Martin Seligman. As a past president of the American Psychological Association, he has the credibility from a research standpoint that is really meaningful for me. In addition, Martin is a gifted storyteller who can weave a story together and then bring home a point that has real impact and causes me to pause and examine my own life.

One of my favorite stories that Martin tells is in his book Authentic Happiness. He details the stories of two of 180 nuns who are the subjects of an impactful and noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book, it is a great read. Here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns was alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.

  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are admittedly dicey and very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case for. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar life. They eat similar food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, they have similar routines. Sure there are some other differences that could account for the results:

  • Different levels of intellect

  • Different depths of spirituality

  • Different outlooks on the future

However, none of these criteria in the research made any difference. The thing that Seligman points out that made a difference in the longevity of the nuns was the amount of positive feelings expressed.

If longevity is at least one measure of a successful existence, then the positive outlook you have on life matters!

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

In the Emotional Intelligence training I do as a part of my consulting, one of the attributes we measure is that of happiness or wellbeing. In the model we use there are four factors that comprise wellbeing:

  • Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.

  • Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your values.

  • Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.

  • Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

There are two important considerations as you evaluate your own level of well-being.

The first is that you display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends and ensure that there is reciprocity. Realize that things are not always going to go your way. It isn’t if you are going to have a setback in life, it is when. What counts is how you respond.

The second is that you have balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful and in it for yourself. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health?


Rate yourself on a scale from one (low) to 10 (high) on each of the 4 attributes of well-being. Are you maximizing each attribute? Are all four of the attributes in balance with each other? As you reflect on these, what changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

Leader: Spend Time Here as You Grow

"Who are you really, wanderer?” - William Stafford Reading more poetry lately has taught me that poets, gifted with this unique communication style, ask really penetrating questions. Stafford, an Oregon Poet Laureate, sends a penetrating question to us all in this quote: Wanderer, who are you? Really, who are you? This question begs a leader to self-examine, which is work that so many leaders just don’t want to spend the time to do.

Outer Life

So much of leadership development work is focused on the outer life these days, including things like goals to accomplish, skills to develop, or problems to be solved. The objective of this kind of work often seems to be gaining credibility and marketability.

We try to define who we are by what we do.

This includes the goals we have set, the objective measures we strive to meet, the problems we are able to solve. What item do I need to check off my list to give me that feeling of accomplishment and show others what I have done? How can I continue to justify my existence and the work I've been doing?

Now, those of you who read this column on any regular basis know that I am not opposed to outer work: development of skills and talents, the 'doing' part of who we are, the observable economy of leadership, the accomplishment of tasks, the progression of the agenda.

All of this kind of work is very important. I don’t want to minimize that.

I do not argue against improving on one's outer life, but want to point out that to focus only on this part of development is shallow and does not engage the entire person. My point is to challenge the leader to become more intentional about developing their inner life.

My motivation for this post comes from my own research on the subject of wisdom that I did a few years ago. I surveyed 185 executive coaches and asked them to validate 10 different parts of a wisdom model. They were to think about their work as an executive coach and were then asked if they thought the development of things like knowledge, experience, community, and courage were areas they would work to develop wisdom in organizational leaders. For most of the 10 aspects of wisdom we tested, roughly 70% of those surveyed said they did work to develop that attribute...except one.


Of the executive coaches I surveyed, 70% said that if the situation presented itself, they WOULD NOT work with a leader to develop this component of wisdom.

Stop and think about that for a moment: executive coaches who get paid to develop leaders said that if some topic of spirituality presented itself, they would turn themselves away from helping develop the leader in that area.

Spiritual inner work is so needed by leaders at all levels in organizations.

Why is Wisdom Spiritual?

When our 3 kids were in grade school, every morning as they were going out the door my wife would say to them, "remember who you belong to!"

On the surface, this quote could have many meanings. But for those of you who actually know my wife and have spent any time with her, those words could only have one meaning: "Hey, kids! Do not forget you are children of the King."

And those of you who know my wife also know she was not referencing me in her royal reminder to the kids of their position in life. She was telling the kids as they went out into the world that they are children of God.

In Stafford's poem he writes:

"Who are you really, wanderer?" and the answer you have to give no matter how dark and cold the world around you is: "Maybe I'm a king."

While to my knowledge my wife never met William Stafford, they are in some ways united souls declaring that each of us is indeed royal. We are all kings and queens.

So, wanderer, if you are a king, then you have the inner work of wisdom to do.

Inner Work of Wisdom: Developing the Spirituality of the Leader

I spent about an hour researching what workplace spirituality even means. Turns out there is a quite immense body of literature on the subject.

Generally, spirituality is seen as being comprised of two components. The first is a search for a connection with some transcendent force in the universe, and often that there is a being or force that most religious dogmas call God who calls the human soul back to himself after the death of the physical body.

The second is that humans have a spirit. This spirit of man is involved in finding meaning and purpose in life. This means that as human beings, one of the royal quests we are on is to grow into our full potential.

Considering these very broad thoughts, we then turn to the question of how to develop the spirituality of a leader. Are there important components to spirituality that affect us as leaders? If so, then we need to work on our spiritual inner life to be more effective and authentic at this thing we call leadership. Here are four items I pulled from the literature that may resonate with you on your inner life and spirituality:


This constructs a leader's thoughts and feelings. It is what the leader believes in regards to the most important things in life. Worldview recognizes that our speech is one thing, but our actions may be something entirely different, and often more important. For example, a devout Christian may talk about love on a Sunday morning but then act like the devil the other 6 days in the week. This will cause outside observers like Gandhi to make claims like, “I like their Christ, but not their Christian.”

For leaders, a worldview is more than just thoughts or a collection of ideas. A worldview is encapsulated in the vision set forth by the leader, one that has been simmering for years of learning and experience. This vision is not based on the scientific method or model, instead, the worldview of the leader answers questions about spirituality, the world, life paradox’s, human nature, social relationships, relationship to self. It is the very essence and core of who the leader is, and ultimately it is what the leader is constantly trying to reconcile actions with. For most it is so subtle we don’t even recognize it is there, but it is consciously calling our actions to align with it.

Leader-Follower Relationship

While humans live in social communities of about 150 individuals, we have deep and abiding relationships with very few members of our tribe. Doctors Steve Stein and Howard Book, in their book EQ Edge, define interpersonal relationships as those that are mutually satisfying for both parties. If a relationship is going to meet the needs of both individuals, a connection must be established beyond the physical realm. It is easy to recognize that when we connect with the closest relationships in our community there is, what is often described as, a spiritual connection. We have a deeper, almost transcendent connection with some close friends that includes a level of understanding between both parties that we can form with no other creatures on this earth.


Dr. Vern Ludden, in his groundbreaking research on wisdom in organizational leadership, claims that most religions and cultures recognize that wisdom is not developed individually, but in community with others. Dr. Mathew Lieberman, in his book Social, gives physiologic support for the importance of community by comparing the size of the human's brain to the size of other animals' brains. Most animals on earth have a brain just large enough to support the body it is confined with. Not so with humans; they have a brain 10 times larger than needed. Current thought is that this extra capacity, found primarily in the neocortex, is for humans to manage the complexity of the diverse relationships that exist in the communities we are a part of.

Acknowledging Imperfection

Some call this humanity. Who among us doesn’t realize that we all make mistakes? And yet who among us gives that benefit of the doubt to others? I, for one, am quick to want others to say "Don't worry, no one is perfect," when I do wrong, but you best hope you are not the person who cuts me off in traffic or tries to get into the 10-items-or-less checkout line with an extra jar of peanut butter. The spirituality of the leader needs to move beyond humanity and into exploring humility. As a leader, do you actually have the ability to humble yourself? Can you raise the status of others highly enough that they can be seen instead of you? What does it take for you to admit that you might be leading your team in the wrong direction? How easy is it for you to ask and listen instead of command and control?

Homework: Do any of the four elements above strike a nerve with you? Which one would you say you need to spend time reflecting on to grow your own leadership ability?

How to Get More, Simply Put

Sometimes I like to dig deep into data or theory to find answers to questions I am asking. Other times simple truth is enough for me. Today is a simple truth kind of day. Today is a simple truth kind of day.

The Background

A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an article where the author was touting the benefits of UBI (Universal Basic Income). Without getting into all the details of UBI, it is being pitched as a replacement for the welfare state that has been created in this country. If you want to learn more about UBI you can click here. I have to admit, that the idea has some interesting merit in my mind.

Rather than go deep into UBI theory, I want to focus on a “letter to the editor" that was written in response to the article.

M.R.Ward, Sr. from Garland, Texas wrote the following:

"There are three types of people: frugals, who produce more than they consume; prodigals, who by choice produce less than they consume; and the disabled, who physically can’t produce as much as they consume. A country’s success depends on fair treatment of all three groups. America today unfortunately treats prodigals the same as the disabled."

Brilliant, right? At the end of the day, you are either producing more that you take in, consuming more than you produce, or you are on the sideline for some reason. I actually think Mr. Ward is right. We are treating those, who by their own choice and volition choose not to produce, just like we treat those who can’t produce.

Where I disagree with Mr. Ward is that each needs fair treatment. I would argue that each needs to be treated justly.

The idea of fairness says everyone gets treated the same, regardless of circumstance. The idea of "everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season." The idea of justice says you get what you deserve. Our country’s entire legal system is built on justice, not fairness.

The Link To Leadership

My wife and I got to spend some time a few weeks ago in the John Muir National Forest just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. What a beautiful piece of the world! If you have not been, please put it on your bucket list.

As we were walking by some of the beautiful trees, I stopped to read one of the signs posted along the way. You can read the sign for yourself below:

IMG_1027 Then I looked up and saw the visual of what the words were saying:


The thought then hit me! The original tree did not die. It had developed such a strong root system that it survived disaster and grew new life. From this one tree came five or six more.

The question I am asking myself is this: What do the redwoods know about survival that those of us who work in organizations are missing?

What would Mr. Ward say about this? Well, since I don’t know him personally and can't ask him, I thought I might take a guess...

“There are three types of leaders in this world. Investors, who develop others and multiply themselves. Croupier’s, who rake in everything for themselves, and the Inert, those who lead but are not worth following.”

I would argue that an organization's success is dependent on rewarding investors.

Unfortunately, in the work I do, I hear far too many stories of the croupier getting far too many accolades. These folks are very different from the inert. The croupier’s are working and getting things done. However, they tend to be selfish, credit grabbers.

In too many organizations these folks get away with extremely poor behavior in the name of performance. It sounds like this:

“Well you know that is just Neutron Bob, he destroys the people in his organization but boy can he get projects done!”

So we let Bob the Croupier get away with poor behavior. That is, until he doesn’t perform. The first quarter that Bob doesn’t hit his goals, he is shuffled out the door.

Before we get too critical of the for profit business sector, which is probably where your mind goes when a story like this is related, let me say that I see this type of behavior in ALL organizations I work with. From for profit, to nonprofit, to government. This type of leadership is even prevalent in places you think it would not exist, like in local churches and ministry organizations.

Time for a Change

Perhaps it is time that we begin looking at performance in a different way.

Perhaps in addition to performance metrics and goals, we start rewarding and encouraging those leaders who invest in and develop others.

Perhaps we start giving public recognition to those who really do care enough about the mission and vision of the organization to invest in others.

Performance is a key ingredient, no doubt. But so is the growth of young leaders for the survival of your mission.

Invest wisely.


Identify 5 leaders in your organization and really invest in them. Show them that you care by spending time with them. A very good client of mine who is an expert in training and development says 70% of an employee’s development comes from on the job training. Why not become an active part of that 70%? Help them learn, help them grow. Give them a strong root system so that when you are no longer there the organization lives on. Learn from the Redwoods!

Medicine, Leadership, and The Beatles

Many of you know my undergraduate degree is in pharmacy from Drake University. I worked in retail pharmacy prior to starting my career at Eli Lilly. As a result, I am naturally drawn to cutting edge stories in the field of medicine.  One that caught my eye recently in the Journal of the American Association (February, 2016) had to do with changing physician behavior when prescribing antibiotics.

Antibiotics are effective for patients only when there is a bacterial infection present. However, research into physician prescribing habits show that they are given to patients for diagnosis such as asthma, influenza, middle ear infections without pus, and viral pneumonia, (all which have an allergic or viral cause), where antibiotics are of absolutely no value to the patient.

According to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust, roughly 30% of all antibiotic prescriptions are for improper use, costing the health care system millions of dollars a year as a result. The reasons for overprescribing are probably numerous. I am confident no physician wakes up in the morning intending to do harm, or to do anything but practice the best medicine they know how.

So, it would seem there is a difference between the “intention” of the physician to do no harm and the actual impact of their behavior.

Leaders have misaligned intention, too.

I think many leaders are the same way. No leader gets up in the morning thinking, “You know, I wonder how I can make everyone on my team's life absolutely miserable!” (except Kevin Spacy’s character in Bad Bosses).  Here are just a few examples related to me recently:

  • A friend was telling me a story of how a leader on his team recently called out a follower in public regarding a very sensitive personal matter. This leader is now in a lot of trouble with his board of directors and will likely lose his job in the coming months.
  • A person in a training recently told me that her supervisor would not give her time off work to attend the funeral of a close family member.
  • A manager gave an associate a set of assumptions to run a market forecast. When the results came in, the manager was furious with the results, blaming the associate for not using the correct assumptions. When the associate pulled up the document with the assumptions the manager sent, the manager said the associate “misread what the manager wrote."
  • A female friend’s boss did not want to give her a deserved promotion. When her bosses supervisor intervened and promoted her, the boss actually suggested it was because she was an attractive female and had nothing to do with her skill set.

It is really hard for me to believe that leaders don’t know this kind of behavior is wrong. Yet whether we are talking about leadership or medicine, sometimes really smart people do really stupid things.

Truth is when facts converge on a central point. 

I have been realizing there is a lot of truth told in the arts. While writing this article, I realized how right John Lennon and Paul McCartney where when they wrote, “We get by with a little help from our friends,” as one of the songs done by Ringo Star on the Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album (just be glad this isn’t a podcast and I am not signing this to you!!!)

Perhaps we would all be a little better by practicing impulse control, and before we act, reach out to some peers and say, “Hey, I am thinking about doing [insert behavior here]. Before I do that, what do you think?"

Here is what the data from the antibiotic study says:

Dr. Daniella Meeker MD, associate professor at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, University of Southern California, is the lead researcher in the study I referenced earlier in JAMA. Dr. Meeker and her team set out to see if any of three different behavioral interventions would change physician behavior in prescribing antibiotics. The three actions that the researchers tested were:

  1. Suggested Alternatives - Doctors were given a list of a range of different choices they could make rather than the antibiotic they were going to prescribe.
  2. Accountable Justification - Doctors had to write a justification for the antibiotic they had written. A peer review board reads the justification and determines appropriateness.
  3. Peer Comparison - An email was sent to all the doctors in the study that compared their prescribing behavior to that of their peers. The doctors own prescribing was compared to that of top performers who’s prescribing was deemed appropriate.

Without boring you with all the statistics, the authors of the study concluded, "Among primary care practices, the use of accountable justification and peer comparison as behavioral interventions resulted in lower rates of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory tract infections.” 1

Let's apply this learning to leadership.  Take the story my friend told me about a leader who called someone out in public over a sensitive personal issue.

What if, rather than calling the person out over the sensitive personal issue, the leader instead:

  1. Suggested Alternatives - The leader took time to journal some possible alternative behaviors rather than just acting impulsively in the moment.
  2. Accountable Justification - The leader had to write a justification that was submitted to a peer review board. This board then would deem the action appropriate or not.
  3. Peer Comparison - An email was sent to all the leaders in a group that documents the behavior and the leader had to see that their behavior was not aligned with top performers in their field.

No man is an island. We all suffer the consequences of our poor leadership actions.

Homework: What would it be like for you to set up one, or even all three, of the metric tools listed above. For those of you who are serious about your leadership, this is a must! At a minimum, find a peer group who can hold you accountable for actions and use them proactively in your practice of leadership.

Meeker D, Linder JA, Fox CR, et al. Effect of Behavioral Interventions on Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing Among Primary Care Practices: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016;315(6):562-570. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.0275.

How to Eliminate the “F” Word From Your Leadership

I don’t often find myself with a lot of time to watch television, but when I do here is the ritual I go through:

  1. Sit in my comfortable easy chair.
  2. Turn television on.
  3. Press “Guide” button on my Direct TV remote.
  4. Punch in the numbers 247, which is TBS.

All of this to see if my favorite show of all time is playing, The Big Bang Theory!

I have fallen in love with The Big Bang Theory. If you don’t know the story line, the characters are all really smart Ph.D types (except Howard, his educational pedigree is that of a lowly astronaut engineer type), whose relationships are all tested primarily by Sheldon Cooper’s regimented and deeply eccentric personality. Sheldon, along with his best friend and roommate, Leonard Hofstadter (for whom there is a written roommate agreement), may be able to easily explain complex issues in physics like quantum string theory, however, basic social situations (especially when it comes to women) confound and elude them.

Man with a cloud instead of his head

Smart Vs. Wise

The Big Bang Theory constantly reminds me that an individual may be smart, but that doesn't always mean they are wise.

I don’t often foray into the political arena in this blog. However, as I watch the political scene unfold in the US, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that the candidates keep trying to portray their level of intelligence. What we need in this country is wisdom along with intellect.

Donald Trump, who claims to have huge intellect (which should be questioned, because wealth is not an indicator of how intelligent someone is), cannot seem to get out of his own way in the legal case involving Trump University.

As a graduate of Yale Law School, I have a hard time questioning Hilary Clinton’s intellect. Although, similar criticism can be given to Clinton in the handling of her private email server. I am sorry, Mrs. Clinton, but the “not knowing” defense as Secretary of State of the United States of America is unfathomable.

When smart people make such huge public blunders, what is actually happening?

Dr. Richard Sternberg draws the conclusion his book A Handbook of Wisdom, that the opposite of smart is stupid, and the opposite of wisdom is foolishness.

The question we often ask of leaders who knew better than to act the way they did is, “How could such a smart person be so stupid?” This question really doesn’t capture the essence of the action.

Donald, how could you be so stupid to ignite racial tension to protect your personal brand?

Hilary, how could you be so stupid to blatantly ignore rules and laws you had working knowledge of?

But according to Dr. Sternberg’s assessment, the candidates are not stupid, they've acted foolishly.

Foolish acts by smart people are not because they lack intellect. The problem with the foolishness has little to do with their cerebral processing, but more to do with deeper issues of character.

While it is easy to get lost in the fictional story of television or the laissez-faire attitude of the American politician, the fact is, we observe really smart people doing really foolish things all the time.

Defining Foolishness

If as a leader you are going to remove the “F” word, then knowing what foolishness looks like might be of value. The leadership literature (thanks to Dr. Sternberg) has identified five different dimensions of foolishness:

  • What-me-worry? (unrealistic optimism) - I am so smart and/or powerful it is pointless to worry about outcomes.
  • Egocentrism - The interests of the leader are the only ones that are relevant.
  • Omniscience - Thinking the leader knows or has access to perfect knowledge.
  • Omnipotence - Over-extension of granted power by followers.
  • Invulnerability - Complete protection from error or mistake.

If we go back to our candidates for President and examine their actions in light of a foolishness metric, what do you think? Perhaps Mr. Trump suffers from Unrealistic Optimism and Egocentrism, while Mrs. Clinton from Omnipotence and Invulnerability. It would be a totally different campaign if these two candidates recognized these behaviors in themselves and focused on changing them.

Taking the “F” Word Out of Your Leadership

Foolishness is something to be guarded against by all leaders. It has been suggested that the reason leaders commit foolish acts is rooted in how humans see reality. For this, we must examine a couple of different models for how we, as humans, process reality.

True is True and False is False: Some leaders have an ability when they hear true information, the information is accepted as such, and when false information is heard, it is rejected. In this model, the mind of the leader acts in a linear fashion to establish true from false or rational from irrational.

An Extra Step: Another view is that our minds are actually in a state to automatically accept what we hear as true. Yet there is an extra step involved to reject something as not true.

This process of rejection literally takes more energy from us than automatic rejection. It is argued by Dan Gilbert that people may indeed hear something that is untrue or irrational and have the capacity to reject it, but fail to take the actual step of rejecting the untruth.

We have all experienced this, especially when we are emotionally vulnerable, or even physically or mentally exhausted. We know something isn’t true, but we just don’t have the energy to debate it (anyone ever raised a teenager?).

Taking the "F" Word Out of Your Followership

What about the American public? Why do we constantly let our politicians get away with such behaviors? How about we stop blaming the “liberal press” or “Fox News” and put the foolishness meter on ourselves!? Perhaps it is time to stop aligning with individual parties and to start examining the character of the leaders we are electing. Perhaps we need to remove the “F”word from our followership as well. Perhaps we need to put a little more energy into the process, rather than shake our heads and tell ourselves we don’t have enough energy to even think about it.


Which of the five foolishness dimensions are you at risk for succumbing to as a leader? Why not ask those on your team to give you an evaluation to see if they have ever observed any of these in your leadership.

Win or Lose, Emotional Intelligence Matters

After the Super Bowl on Sunday night, the quarterbacks from each team were bombarded by the media with questions. For Peyton Manning, it was all about whether he would cap his career on a high note. For Cam Newton, the questions reflected his fresh defeat. Whether you're a rookie like Newton, or a seasoned veteran like Manning, it is important to think through how we will respond emotionally whether we win or lose. Let's look a little closer at both players and think through what we can learn from them.


Let's Start with Manning

After his win, we heard Manning repeat again and again what he planned to do, which did not involve releasing any clues of retirement. He gave a lot of credit to Coach Tony Dungy who encouraged him not to make any emotional decisions. Note that this advice came before a Super Bowl victory, because either outcome of the game would affect Manning's emotional decisions in the moment.

In the midst of the rush, you risk saying or doing something that you wouldn't when your emotional state is leveled and you are thinking clearly. In Manning's case, he could be feeling pretty good about his victory and desire to do it again. It's important for him to level emotion and take on a posture of humility in the weeks to come.

Now, Newton

I can't help but sympathize with Newton in some ways. It's early in his career and he had a great run this season. Stats and predictions for a victory pointed his way, yet just as he said in his brief interview after the game, “They just played better than us.” From his body language (hood up, eyes down) and his short answers, it was obvious that Newton was emotionally defeated.

No, he probably shouldn't have walked out of his interview, however, I think his emotional response could have been worse. Perhaps for Newton, at this point in his life and early in his career, the best thing he could do to avoid an emotional reaction was to just walk away. This was his immediate reaction. How he lets this loss affect him and his leadership moving forward will be crucial.

What this Means To You as a Leader

Sometimes things are going to go your way and you will win. The question becomes, how are you going to display your victory?

One of they key characteristics that attracts followers to a leader is humility. Winning with grace is a very attractive leadership attribute.

Humility can be disregarded at times because it is misrepresented as lacking toughness and grit. However, in an article in the Military Review, authors Joseph Doty and Dan Gerdes say this is not the case. They describe a humble leader as lacking arrogance, not aggressiveness. Humility can even carry a spiritual tone, since the leaders activities are seen as free of ego and self-aggrandizement. Peyton Manning may have the title of 2x Super Bowl Champion and leader of all-time passing yards, however, his posture of humility over the years is what attracted his fans and followers.

And then there are times when things are not going to go your way and you are going to lose. The question then becomes, how are you going to show grace in defeat?

Nobody likes a sore loser. Just look at what happened to Donald Trump in New Hampshire when he displayed poor character as he spoke about his loss in Iowa last week. His poll numbers started to drop, so much so that the Wall Street Journal says he must change his message to avoid another primary disaster.

The question is not if you are going to have a setback in life. The real question is when are you going to have a setback in life, and how do you respond when you do?

In the emotional intelligence realm, the trait that is needed by leaders is called resiliency. Leaders need to have an ability to recover, to get back to their original form when things do not go their way.

It will be interesting to see how Cam Newton recovers from losing the Super Bowl and how he'll channel this experience to shape his leadership for the next season.

What can you do?

  1. Picture yourself in the moment after you succeeded and then again as if you failed. How would you hope you'd react in either circumstance? How do you plan to respond? Do you know yourself well enough to know when you are in control or when you just need to walk away? Think about these things.
  2. Ask trusted mentors or coaches for insight. They will consider the situation in a way you may not have based on their past experiences. They will also be honest about how you may react, because they know you well. Make sure you really listen to them and consider what they share.
  3. Write out your plan and immediate response whether you win or lose. Think through your stance and posture as well. Stick to this script. This way, you don't risk saying or doing anything you didn't mean.


Identify the next big moment in your career or in your life. Think about the questions above and write out a plan of action whether you win or lose. We'd love to hear from you, so don't forget to comment below.

3 "Iron Clad" Qualities You Want In Someone to Assist In Your Leader Development

One discipline I have worked hard at maintaining since finishing my studies a few years ago has been to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every morning. I was actually challenged to do this by Dr Ken Boa when, as a graduate student, I was blessed with the opportunity to be his airport chauffeur after he gave a day-long seminar at Indiana Wesleyan University. He was kind enough to personally share his wisdom with me as we drove, even after speaking all day. The reading of Proverbs works well for me as the chapters are relatively short. I can usually work through one in less than 10 minutes. It is easy to know what chapter I am on if I miss a day because there are 31 chapters which line up nicely with the days of each month. In addition to ease, I find these sayings and instruction quite informative and motivating in striving to live a meaningful life.

I often reflect on how few mistakes I would actually make in life if I just implemented the instruction and sayings in the book of Proverbs.

This week on the Monday blog I talked about engaging others as you develop yourself as a leader. One of the Proverbs that has real application for those wanting to continue to develop themselves as leaders is Proverbs 27:17: "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."

The point of this ancient saying is that you cannot go on this journey in life alone. If you want to improve, it is imperative that you are working with someone on your development who is feeding certain things into your life.

Here are three things you might be looking for in a “piece of iron” who can sharpen you:

  1. Wisdom - Are they someone who leads a prudent life? Prudence is shown as someone who has a good track record of decision-making.
  2. Discernment - Is this a person who has shown they have an acuteness of judgment? Can they hear through your emotion and help you decide?
  3. Impulse Control - Can the person who is developing you delay the gratification of giving you what you want to hear and focus on what you need to hear?

What do you say we build a list together?  Leave a comment below and let us know what quality is most important to you as you pick a coach, mentor, or advisor in your development as a leader.

Have a great weekend,


Failing or Succeeding With Titanic Leadership

A few weeks ago I wrote an article and a leadership tip of the week on the topic of "Failing is Not Failure." Many of you sent me comments and emails on how this thought stimulated your thinking. I thought it would be good to get more perspective on this idea, so I asked my good friend Dr. Randall Spence to provide some of his thoughts on the topic.

If you enjoy reading about leadership with a spiritual emphasis you will enjoy reading his blog at www.RandallSpence.com, or connecting with him on Twitter.

Randy, take it away.....

All of us fail.

We fail in life. We fail in our relationships. We fail in the leadership of our organizations and ourselves.

The question is, do we learn from our failures? Do we attempt to use failure as a mechanism for growth? Or do we allow failure to defeat us, squashing our ambition and our efforts?


The Impact of Failure

The impact of failure on us often prevents us from seeing that right there within the failure, often hidden in plain sight, is the next opportunity.

Let me illustrate with a story about the Titanic.

In an article in the Harvard Review, Tony McCaffrey talks about the Titanic and that fateful night when she collided with the iceberg in the North Atlantic. What the ship's crew did not calculate in that nightmarish moment was that the very thing that sank the ship could also have saved the passengers, virtually everyone.

Let me explain.

According to McCaffrey, the newspapers of that time estimated the size of the iceberg to be between 50 to 100 feet high and 200 to 400 feet long. The Titanic was navigable for a while after the collision, so the crew could have pulled alongside the iceberg where many, if not all, could have climbed on to find flat places to stay out of the water for the four hours it took before help arrived.

Instead, the crew was fixated on the fact that icebergs sink ships and thus failed to see the sheer size and shape of the iceberg, or to reckon with the fact that it would not sink. In other words, the crew failed to see how the very thing that represented failure could also provide for their safety.

The iceberg could have served as their lifeboat. The iceberg that was to kill so many could also have saved virtually everyone.

Functional Fixedness

There is a term for our inability to see opportunity in the midst of failure. The term is functional fixedness and was first articulated in the 1930s by Karl Duncker. It means that we tend to fixate on the common use of an object and thus fail to see other possible uses.

If you grew up like me watching MacGyver, you know that he did not suffer from functional fixedness. If you recall, he was forever getting into bad situations but always managed to escape by using things most of us would never dream of to get himself free or to solve the dilemma. He might take some baling wire, his pocketknife, a few rags, and rubbing alcohol to make an explosive or something else rather outlandish. MacGyver could do this not only because he was a science wiz, but also because he could see beyond the obvious uses of baling wire, a pocketknife, rags, and rubbing alcohol.

Path to Success

I would broaden this definition of functional fixedness a bit to say that in times of personal or business failure we often fixate on the cause of the failure and fail to see that within that failure, sometimes hidden in plain sight, is the next opportunity. It may take some creativity and mental exploration to find it, but it may be right in front of us staring us in the face.

Where does it feel like you are failing in life or in your business today? Look over your answer from every angle.

Do you see a way to use the problem you are facing as a potential way to rescue yourself?

Think about it a bit. You might need a friend, mentor, or coach to help you navigate these waters.

We would love to hear any examples you might provide for this. You can leave a comment below or email us at Scott@DrScottLivingston.com.

Are You Leveraging the Power of Thinking?

I had an interesting conversation with a young man whom I coach over the phone last week who is  being considered for a couple of new opportunities in his organization. One of the jobs was a promotion into a new area of the organization for him. The other job was a lateral move within his same organizational function, but with a lot of growth potential.  As he considered his options, his knee jerk reaction was to take the promotion because it had a higher pay grade and a bigger title. Heightened senses of emotion can often cloud our thinking as leaders.

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I encouraged him to step back from the situation, disengage from the emotion, and just think with me for a moment. To help him process I asked him a series of questions:

  • Where do you see your career 15 years from now?
  • What are the strengths in your skill set?
  • What positive preferences from your personality profile and temperament will be utilized?
  • Are there any negative aspects to your personality that could be barriers?
  • What is it that you really love doing?
  • When you are working, what gives you energy to where it doesn’t seem like work?
  • How would you describe your overall level of stress tolerance?

There is no magic to the line of questions.  They are simply calming questions to lessen his sense of emotion so that he could clear his mind and think. (How are you doing as a leader to make the environment calm so those who follow you can really think?)

A fascinating result ensued! All of these conversations pointed to him taking the lateral move.

As we were ending the conversation he said, “Wow! I can really see how emotion can get in the way of good judgment and decision-making. If  we had not stepped back from this situation and really thought about it, I probably would have taken the promotion and the risk could have taken me into a dead end career."

The promotion sounded so nice.  Who doesn’t want more money and recognition?  But this is the knee jerk reaction. Clearing our minds from what we are emotionally attached to can be of great benefit to us as leaders.

Sometimes tension and complexity come into our lives and this causes an emotional reaction. This can cause us to not think clearly and lose sight of the true direction we want to take.  Please watch this short video for an example of how this happened in my own life:

As leaders we have to be able to step back from our decisions and look at a range of possible outcomes. If we are not intelligent with our emotion, we are destined for outcomes that may not serve us well in the long run.

Is there a place in your leadership life where emotion is impacting your ability to think clearly?

[callout]Consider this: At your next staff meeting ask each person to give one place where emotion is having an impact on their leadership.  Next, ask each other non-threatening questions to clear the emotion and help each other think more clearly.[/callout]

We would love to hear from you on this topic of clearing emotion to increase thinking.  Please share your comment below.