Proven Leadership Truths

Many years ago I worked for a fantastic organization called Dale Carnegie Training. I began as a sales rep selling their courses to businesses and individuals. One of the key selling points we were taught to use was the many benefits of being effective at speaking in front of groups.

I told many many people of the career advantages of being able to deliver an impactful message to an audience either large or small. I said the advantages were huge.

I learned an enormous amount about sales, leadership, and people in general while I was with the Dale Carnegie Organization. But after a bunch of successful years I wanted even more of a challenge so I moved into Corporate America.

After telling people for years what an advantage it was to be able to comfortably and effectively present in front of groups I was still amazed at what a huge advantage it actually was. It is not an absolute “must have” skill for advancement but if you do have it you will move up faster and have much greater impact on those around you.

Communication skills like presenting to groups are especially critical in difficult times. If there was any doubt about that those doubts are quickly being erased. We are discovering how important all communication skills are in times of trouble.

But many other “truths” of leadership are also being proven true in our current environment. Here’s a few of those.

As a leader you really really do set the tone for your team. If you’re convinced “it” can’t be done then rest assured it won’t be done…no matter what you say to your people. You can be the Rah-Rah guy in front of your people but if you don’t believe what you’re saying they will see right through you.

You must understand this pure fact. Your people’s attitude will NOT be better than yours. If you can’t be sincerely positive around your people then do your people a favor and don’t be around them.

Your people, with rare exceptions, will not out perform you. As a leader YOU are the model for successful behavior. If you’re putting out a 50% effort then don’t expect your people to put out a 51% effort.

If you’re blessed as a leader you may have the occasional superstar who is upwardly mobile and willing to outwork you. But for the most part your people will follow your example in all things, including how much effort any task or assignment is worth. If you have the audacity to call yourself a leader then you must authentically lead. That means demonstrating exceptional effort in everything you do.

You can be assured that if your effort is mediocre the effort of your people will be mediocre too.

Leaders who vision cast effectively have a higher percentage of engaged followers. “Leading” isn’t a title or position. “Leading” is a set of activities and characteristics. People will only follow someone if they have some idea where that person is leading them to.

Do you have a vision of where you’re leading your people to? Can you communicate or “cast” that vision out to your people? Is it a vision that includes them and somehow rewards them for helping to achieve that vision?

People will not follow you to Nowheresville. People don’t only want to know where they are following you to, they NEED to know. Which brings us right back to effective communication skills.

Have you shared your vision for the future with your people. Many many people are both wondering what they future holds and worried if they have a place in that future. DO NOT let them worry and wonder.

You’re most expensive employee is not the person you pay the most. Your most expensive employee it the one who is least engaged. Give all of your people a vision of the future that they will want to engage with.

Communication, modeling successful behavior and demonstrating the power of positive attitudes are characteristics of successful leaders. That is being proven out every hour of every day during these challenging times.

Are you a leader who is up for the challenge?

A Self Leadership Checkup

Everybody says we need Authentic Leadership right now, perhaps more than ever before. Well it must be true since everybody can’t be wrong. But it seems to me most people talking and writing about leadership these days are missing an important point.

Before you can lead others authentically you must effectively lead yourself.

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you know the people you lead really need you now. That’s because especially in challenging times people need to be led, not managed. But you’re people too. You need leadership as much as anyone. The difference is you may well have to lead yourself.

So let’s do a quick checkup on your self-leadership skills.

You know that your people need some extra inspiration right now. They look to their leaders to provide it. But it’s pretty tough to inspire others if you’re not inspired yourself. In those quiet moments (perhaps few and far between right now) how are you staying inspired? What does your “self-talk” sound like? Are you aggressively looking for positives to keep your mindset where it needs to be.

It’s as easy for a leader’s attitude to go south as it is for anyone else. If you’re going to keep other people’s spirits up them you’ll have to keep yours up first. Find the possibilities in every challenge. Problems are an opportunity to learn and grow. They provide the chance to become better and more nimble.

Coach yourself to see obstacles as growth opportunities. Remember, your people will do what you do far faster than they will do what you say. Model the attitude and mindset that you want your people to possess.

You are the master of your emotions, no one else. If you do not make the conscious choice of a positive attitude every single day then a subconscious choice will be made for you by events and circumstances. It will not be a choice that serves you well.

Positive attitudes do not happen by chance, they happen by choice.

How are you doing with time management? If you’re suddenly finding yourself leading from home you may find that you don’t have the same level of discipline that comes with working in an office environment.

Setting daily goals can help with this. Goals create discipline. Discipline is simply choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Your goals should be what you want most. Holding yourself accountable to do the same amount of work at home that you would do in the office requires that you keep in mind what you want most.

The “work things” that you may be less accountable to accomplish right now are the means to the things you want most. When my daily work goals are achieved I allow myself what I want most. That would be ice cream! If the work isn’t crossed off my list then the ice cream doesn’t cross my lips.

It is important to remember that no one on earth has more time than you do. No matter how pressured you may feel you do not, I repeat, you do not have a shortage of time. What you most likely do have is a lack of prioritization skills.

Pursue those daily goals with the zeal of a crazy person and you’ll discover you have all the time you need to accomplish every one of your goals.

Are you carefully choosing your words? A leader’s words carry more weight. In challenging times they weigh even more. Choose your words to convey the exact message you’re trying to get across. Remember how you say something can be even more important than the something you say. Are you being mindful of your tone? It is likely you’re doing more communication over the phone than normal. People can’t read your body language so they use the tone of your voice to decipher the meaning of what they are hearing.

It is your responsibility to make sure they are hearing what you intend for them to hear.

Leading others begins with leading yourself exceptionally well. These three areas are not the only leadership skills to focus on for exceptional self-leadership but they will get you on the right path to being a leader who is prepared to lead others in turbulent times.

The Best of Times

There are not too many people, okay, maybe nobody, who would describe these as the best of times. People all over the world are confined to their homes….or far worse. When you consider the alternative being confined to the comforts of home for a couple of weeks isn’t so bad.

But a lot of how “bad” it is, a lot of how bad anything is, is determined by your choice of attitude. And yes I would tell you that even in these times, even in times worse than these, YOUR attitude remains YOUR choice.

The opportunity to choose your attitude has been described as “the last of the human freedoms.” That freedom can’t be taken from us by any person, any circumstance, any organization, any government, or any illness.

You ALWAYS have the choice of a positive attitude. You ALWAYS have the choice to look on the bright side of any situation. Sometimes you have to look harder, sometimes a lot harder, to find the bright side but it is ALWAYS there. It’s simply a choice.

While it is simply a choice it is not a simple choice. It is a choice that must be consciously made. If you do not intentionally choose a positive attitude then other people and circumstances will choose your attitude for you…and it’s unlikely to be positive.

It’s easy to find things to ruin our attitude. But it’s also pretty easy, when we make the conscious effort, to find things to keep youself in a positive frame of mind. Maybe it’s a grandchild’s giggle on a FaceTime call, maybe it’s the perfect blue sky, heck, maybe it’s even that you have toilet paper.

Whatever it is, if you look I promise you’ll find a bright side. I am certain there are reasons in your life to be optimistic. But is must be an intentional choice. It must be made daily or even multiple times everyday.

I have this mindfulness thing on my AppleWatch that reminds to me to take a breath several times a day. I turned it off almost as soon as Apple added to the watch. I’ve turned it back on now, not because I can’t remember to breathe. I use it as a reminder to look around at all the fantastic things going on around me and in my own life.

I might be stuck at home but I refuse to be stuck in a rut. There are two sides to a coin, two sides to a story and two sides to every situation, the dark side and the bright side. Will you join me in looking for the bright side?

Take a look around and share what you find in the comments section. Sharing your bright side might even help others find their own!

Your Attitude is Your Choice

It’s tough to figure out which news is worse. Maybe it’s the severe flooding around the United States. Maybe it’s the incredible damage from the Typhoon in Mozambique. Maybe it’s the man made disaster in Venezuela. Maybe it’s the Brexit mess or the ugly political climate in the United States. 

 

Take your pick. It’s not hard to see how easy it is to develop and maintain a negative attitude.      

 

Lots of people have kind of thrown in the towel and are waiting for “things” to improve so their attitude can improve too. 

 

Think about that – they want something or someone else to fix their attitude. I hope you’re not one of the people waiting for someone to fix your attitude, but if you are here is some advice: Stop waiting, it ain’t going to happen. The only person who can improve your attitude is the one who looks back at you when you stand in front of the mirror. That means if you’re going to have a positive attitude it’s up to you, and you alone to make that happen.

 

Expose yourself to positive people. Surround yourself with positive information. Stay away from the nattering nabobs of negativism. Stay close to people who believe in you and will help you choose a positive attitude. 

 

I’m not talking about burying your head in the sand, I’m just saying to make sure the positive “inputs” in your life outweigh the negatives. That’s something you have complete control over.

 

Don’t wait for someone else to provide you with an attitude adjustment. The only attitude adjustment you need, and the only one that works is inside you waiting to be unleashed. Let it out and you can overcome any challenge that comes your way.


A positive attitude is a choice and it’s a choice that must be made. Failing to intentionally choose a positive means you will subconsciously allow “stuff” and other people to choose your attitude for you. And that attitude is not likely to be positive. 

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude

Here’s an often debated age old question… which came first, the chicken or the egg? Here’s a much newer question still often debated… which comes first, success or a positive attitude?

 

The definitive answer to that first question can be found early in the Book of Genesis. The much less definitive answer to the second question can be found in this post.

 

Many people believe that successful people have a positive attitude because they have it made. Other people believe that successful people made it because they had a positive attitude all along. 

 

Count me in the second group. A positive attitude comes before success!

 

While it might be easier to maintain a positive attitude if you’re successful that doesn’t mean it’s easy. A positive attitude requires a conscious decision to make it so. Without that conscious decision it’s very easy to drift into negativity. Sadly, negativity is all around us and we can be overwhelmed by it when we let our guard down. 

 

The good news is that with a little focus, well okay, maybe a lot of focus, anyone can have a positive attitude. 

 

That focus includes a resolve to not let “things” get you down. Decide before negativity strikes that you will respond in a constructive and positive way. I know what you’re thinking…if only it was that simple. 

 

I know that it’s not simple but it is possible and with a coach or mentor it can even be likely. It’s darn hard to overcome negative input without help so ask someone who cares about you to help. Have them remind you that you’re working on controlling your attitude. Allow them to hold you accountable until you can do it on your own.

 

Do you ever talk to yourself? You likely just did when you asked yourself that question. Everybody talks to themselves from time to time and it’s important that when you do that you’re saying something positive. That’s even more important if you happen to be talking about yourself. 

 

Remind yourself that challenges most often lead to growth and to maintain success you must keep growing. Accept challenges as learning experiences and you’ll find them a little less frustrating. I know that’s easier said than done but not much worth having comes easy. Keep that in mind.

 

Dream again! Dream your dream as if it were new. Turn your dreams into goals and develop a written plan that’s states exactly how you intend to achieve those goals. Don’t forget that there will be obstacles along the way. Your plan must include specific actions you will take to overcome those obstacles. Knowing how you’ll solve a problem before the problem even shows itself, helps to minimize the negative effects that problems in general can have on your attitude. 

 

Finish and end your day on a positive note. You may not wake up with a negative attitude but checking your email and social media as soon as you’re up can take you to your negativity zone pretty darn quick. Start your day with a bit of inspiration, both Siri and Alexa can help with that, just ask. A good breakfast will fortify your body for the day and some good positivity will do the same for your attitude. 

 

Don’t finish your day with email or social media either. I’ve started writing a single Thank You note to someone just before bed. It reminds me of all the people and things I’ve been blessed to have in my life. It’s nearly impossible to go to bed with a negative attitude when you’re thinking about how good a life you actually have. 

 

Circumstances can make choosing a positive attitude a humongous challenge but there has never in the history of humanity been a circumstance that could fully remove that choice. 


Remember that and then chose positive!

The Two-day Challenge

Are you up for a challenge? I hope so because I have a challenge for everyone who reads this blog and even for the guy who writes it. (that would be me) This is really a simple but not easy challenge where everyone wins (you and those around you). No real risk exists (except for the risk of failing but truly this is the type of challenge where just the attempt makes you a success) and it requires no additional time.

 

Within the next two weeks, set a two-day period to inspire others with your positive attitude – two days where you’ll put on blinders to anything negative and be the one in your organization and family who everyone else can count on for words and actions that inspire and encourage. Two days where you’re the light for other people – your colleagues, your family, your friends and even your customers.

     

Allow nothing negative to enter your head and focus only on lifting up those around you.


Once you set your two days, fully commit to the effort regardless of the inevitable challenges, regardless of the news, the sports scores or any other negative people around you. Fall off the positive wagon at 1:11 on the first day? Get back on at 1:12 – no excuses. No matter how many times you come up short start again until your two days are complete. Two days. Be strong! Stay strong!

     

Remember, you wake with an option for your daily attitude. Challenges will come up regardless. Choose to have a positive attitude at all times and commit to spreading it for two days.
     

Not only will your positive attitude be contagious, it might become a personal habit – a personal habit that motivates you. A habit that motivates others as well. Go for it!


If you accept the challenge let us know in the comments section and then come back when you’ve completed the challenge and let us know how it went. You might be surprised in the difference the choice of a positive attitude can make but I won’t be. 

How to Know Yourself

Who you are determines how you view other people. It also determines how you respond to life’s typical ups and downs. When you know yourself you’ll have a much better understanding of why you react the way you do to the people in your life and the circumstances those people create for you.

 

So the question becomes how exactly do we truly know ourselves? There are a number of factors that make you who are but here are the two with the biggest impact: 

 

Your experiences in life. Every person you’ve ever met, everything you’ve ever done, both good and bad, everything you’ve learned and everything you believe has helped shape who you are. 

 

The people and events of your life have a huge impact on your self-image. That’s why it is critical that you make good choices about the people you allow into your life. No matter how strong you believe yourself to be, no matter how principled a life you think you live, no matter your level of self-discipline, you WILL be influenced by the people around you. Those people will determine, at least to some extent, what, when and how you experience the events that make up your life. 

 

Choose your friends & associates well because they help make you who you are. If you really want to know yourself then watch the people who are closest to you. You are basically a compilation of the four to six people that you spend the most time with.  Watch and listen to them and you will know yourself.

 

The second major factor that determines who you are is your attitude about those life experiences

 

Most people don’t think about this often enough but the fact is that your attitude is your choice. It’s ALWAYS your choice. ALWAYS! 

 

Bad things can happen to good people. The most successful and happy people CHOOSE to look for the good in nearly every life experience. Even the bad ones. 

 

For those of you who sometimes doubt whether your attitude is really your choice I fully understand. It can be really challenging to maintain a positive attitude and easy to forget that it’s a choice. It’s even harder when the people you spend the most time with aren’t helping you. 

 

If you’re hanging around with people who refuse to choose a positive attitude then you are very unlikely to have or be able to maintain a positive attitude yourself. And that’s a big deal! 

 

It’s a big deal because the attitude you keep has perhaps more impact on your success than any other single factor. If people, like your boss maybe, are telling you that you need an attitude adjustment what that really means is you probably need to change the people you consider friends and associates. 

 

The hard truth is that most people find it nearly impossible to make the choice of a positive attitude when fed constant doses of negativity. It’s possible but highly unlikely. 

 

No one wants to be thought of as negative but if you’re too often expressing negative viewpoints then people may begin to see you as negative…and they may just be right. Hang around with positive people and they will let you know when you’ve forgotten to make the choice of a positive attitude.


You may not like to hear it but it is a vital part of truly knowing yourself.