Dear President Trump

Dear President Trump,


First let me apologize for not writing sooner. It’s just one of those things where the best of intentions just doesn’t get it done. While important, this letter never seemed vital…until perhaps now. 

 

I was a big fan of your show The Apprentice. I didn’t always agree with your decisions on who should stay and who should go and the tasks could at times be a bit lame but the whole concept was like a Science Lab of what to do and what not to do when it comes to leadership. For that reason I found it fascinating.

 

I know it’s easy to say after the fact but I wasn’t the least bit surprised (well maybe a little) by your victory in November, winners win. That’s how it works in all walks of life, even in politics it appears. Clearly there are wide swaths of the American people who do not view you in a favorable light but however you’ve done it no one should continue to be surprised by your success. 

 

I really don’t know anyone, anywhere who wouldn’t describe the Presidency of The United States of America as the pinnacle of success. You sir have arrived! 

 

Which is why I, as a student of people and leadership, am so surprised to see you behave as if you’re an up and coming street fighter looking to get someone, anyone, to recognize their potential. You absolutely, positively, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously do not have to do that anymore.

 

There are clearly people in the media who would prefer to shape your message in such a way as to make you look deplorable. They are pretty good at it too, so good in fact that they certainly do not require your rather skilled assistance. 

 

Social Media in general, and Twitter in particular, was a very valuable tool for you during the election. It indeed allowed you to get your message “out there” in an unfiltered, direct, and unprecedented way. As effective as it can be in helping you stay connected as President to your fellow Americans it can also serve as a valuable weapon for your opponents to use against you. 

 

But they are shooting blanks unless you provide them with real ammunition, and that it seems is what you’ve been doing far too often. When you do that you descend from the pinnacle of success, from the highest office in the land, to the level of your opponents. You do not have to win a fight against the media, in fact you can’t win a fight because there is no fight, it’s over, you’ve already won.

 

The only way, the absolute only way you give credence to the things they say about you, true or not, is to respond to them. You may be hitting back “10 times harder” but half your blows are landing on you. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I just can’t think of a single benefit to you or the nation of you doing that. So don’t! 

 

You simply cannot build America up by tearing down your fellow Americans, it does not work that way. You lead all Americans Mr. President, whether they voted for you or not, whether they like you or not, and whether they want to be led by you or not and disparaging those you lead doesn’t work either. Never has, never will. 

 

Don’t stop tweeting Mr. President, just stop tweeting the trash talk. Tweet about your successes, tweet about your challenges, tweet about where and how the public can help you, just don’t tweet negative stuff about the people you lead. Even if it’s true there is no benefit to anyone in doing it.

 

As we Americans celebrate our freedom this week I urge you to think of all of our fellow Americans who have sacrificed their very life to protect the freedoms we enjoy. It is they who provide us with the continued right of free speech. You sir, as do all Americans, have the right to say pretty much whatever you want but I’d encourage you to consider this: having the right to do something doesn’t make it right to do. 

 

In my humble opinion Mr. President you can best honor those fallen heroes by honoring the office which you now hold. Honor it by being your best self. Honor it by being the role model of American values and ideals. Mr. President there is simply no way to make America great again by damaging the principles by which we have stood for all these years. 

 

Let your protagonists try to provoke you but do not be provoked. Rise above the fray, they cannot fight you if you don’t join the fight. Find the courage to no longer engage them in battle. 

 

Work everyday for every American, even those who today may hate you. Their hate is their problem not yours. The hater always loses more than the hated; do them a favor and be the President who is impossible to hate. 

 

You’ve got a long way to go to make that happen but if you’re up for it then it shouldn’t really be a problem for you. After all, you’re in the business of surprising people. 

 

It’s called leading Mr. President pure and simply. As President of the United States leading is not a part time job. Everything you say and do either adds to or subtracts from your ability to truly lead. That’s everything Mr. President, absolutely positively everything

 

Every American, even those who didn’t vote for you, even those who loathe you, need you to succeed. They may be so filled with hate that they can’t see that today but that doesn’t diminish the fact. The American people need you to lead. Everyday, all day.  

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, I hope you’ll find some guidance in it that will help you as you continue to work for all of us. May God bless you Mr. President and may God bless America. 

 

Your fellow American, 

 

Steve Keating


Leading by Example

Somewhere around 15 years ago I met a person who ran a small business who was really into what at the time was cutting edge technology. The technology he was so fond of was something called “remote monitoring.” 

It seems simply today but at the time having cameras set up around your business so you could see what was happening when you weren’t there was almost science fiction like. This guy could sit at his computer at home and keep an eye on his employees without them even knowing about it. 

As he was explaining his latest foray into this new world of technology he asked several of us what we thought of it. Most everyone expressed their opinion and most everyone agreed how awesome it was. I didn’t offer an opinion because I was thinking more about what it would be like working for this guy.

Finally he asked me straight out what I was thinking. I was in fact thinking two things; first I was thinking how happy I was not to be working there. (I didn’t tell him that thought) What I did share with him was that it was probably only fair that he would be watching his people that closely since they watched him that closely too.

He was a little taken back by that and asked why his people would be watching him, after all he was the boss.

I said that was exactly why they were watching him. They needed to watch him to determine if he could be trusted. They wanted to see for themselves if his words matched his actions. They wanted to see if he saw them as mere employees or if he really understood that they were people. 

They also wanted to see how they should behave. They wanted to know what was appropriate to say and what behavior would lead to success. 

What this “boss” didn’t understand what that he was their model. His people were going to do what he did about a thousand times faster than they were going to do what he said to do. 

If his actions matched his words then he could be trusted. If not then they knew he was just a boss and not a true leader. 

This boss expected his people to trust him when he had no trust in them at all. He modeled an untrustworthy behavior and he likely received untrustworthy behavior in return. 

He may not have been a true leader but he occupied a leadership position and because of that people followed his example. If you are occupy a leadership position then you are leading by example whether you know it or not. Your people are watching. It’s up to you to provide them with a model of successful behavior.

As someone in a leadership position you should be modeling the kind of attitude that you want your people to have. You should be modeling the type of language you want them to use. You should be modeling the appearance that you want them to have.

You are leading by example. Always! You are leading by example in everything you say and do.

So…what exactly are you modeling for the people you’re supposed to be leading today?

What is This Integrity Thing?

Honesty. Credibility. Integrity. Many so called experts seem to think they are all basically the same thing. A horse a piece. Six of one, half dozen of the other. Apples to apples. No difference at all. 

I disagree. 

Integrity is deeply personal, it is who you are, inside. 

If matching your words and actions lead to credibility, as I believe they do, then integrity is when your words and actions BOTH match your deepest held beliefs. ALWAYS!

You see, you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity at all. I completely understand that by that definition very few people truly have integrity. I also understand that I am NOT among those few. 

I’m a work in progress… deal with it.

I’m not writing this post to admit to or announce my shortcomings. Those who know me best are fully aware of my foibles of which there are many. 

I’m writing this so that whoever reads it can understand that they too are a work in progress and that it’s okay. While it doesn’t make you perfect it does make you human and that’s a good thing. There is no need to pretend that you are perfect, in fact, pretending that you are actually subtracts from your integrity.

 As I plan some personal goals for 2016 I’m going to work hard to see everyone else as the same work in progress that I am. I’m going to assume that they also want to be better and I’m going to cut them a whole lot more slack than I have in the past. I’ll bet I will be happier then when I hold others to standards that I can’t meet.

Never use the fact that you don’t have integrity all the time as an excuse for not having integrity at all. Fight to be the person you would admire, the person you can admire in every circumstance. You will fall short at times but don’t use that as an excuse for not trying. 

You and I may not have integrity according to my very tough definition but that doesn’t mean we can’t come closer to it than most. Do what you truly believe to be right, live your values, makes the tough, often less fun choices and you’ll be on your way to being the person you truly want to be.

The Sacrifice of Authentic Leadership

Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness. – Napoleon Hill

There is a myth about leadership that many people in leadership positions believe. John Maxwell calls it the Freedom Myth. The freedom myth says that when an individual achieves a position of leadership they are also “freed” from certain rules and responsibilities that encumber their followers.  

When someone in a leadership position says something foolish like “I’m the boss and I’ve earned the right to come and go as I please” then you know they have bought into the freedom myth. 

Total freedom is a leadership myth. Here’s a leadership fact: leaders haven’t earned anything but the right to be the example of success that their people need.

Most ordinary people simply don’t know how to succeed. Some people will learn to succeed just by being told what to do but the vast majority of people need someone to show them. Someone who can and will “model” successful behavior. That someone is most often a leader.

Authentic Leaders help ordinary people produce extraordinary results. 

Authentic Leaders know that leading is a privilege. They also know that it does not make them privileged. In fact, Authentic Leaders sacrifice freedoms and privileges everyday in the pursuit of true leadership. 

They make these sacrifices willingly, they make them to help their people succeed. They sacrifice in order to have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those they would lead.

If you are a leader who somehow believes that their position or title brings with it certain privileges that are not available to their followers then you are a leader who has separated themselves from those same followers. 

Your building a wall between yourself and the people who need you to show them how to succeed. The longer you take or accept those privileges the higher the wall becomes. When it gets high enough you’re not leading anymore because your people will refuse to climb the wall. 

Some leaders see their position as an opportunity to better their OWN life. Authentic Leaders, especially Authentic Servant Leaders see their position as an opportunity to better the lives of OTHERS.

When you buy into the Freedom Myth you develop a mindset of “I’ve arrived, I’m it! Serve me!” When you disavow the concept that your position somehow makes you better or more valuable than your people then your mindset can be one of “I may have arrived but I’m not it, you are and I’m just here to help.” 

Are you willing to sacrifice in order to make a difference in the lives of those you lead? Like everything else in life it is a choice…. will you make it?

Act Like a Leader

If you hope to be a leader someday then start acting like a leader today. – Steve Keating

At one time of my life I sold soda pop. I loved it, I made a lot of friends in my accounts and overall, it was a pretty low stress job.

One day I received a message that the President of the company wanted to see me in his office at the end of the day. It was a Friday and I received the message around noon. I spent the better part of the afternoon wondering what I had done to be summoned on a Friday afternoon; whatever it was I was pretty sure it couldn’t be good.

When I entered his office he asked me to be seated and he got right to the point. He asked me if I was aware that there was a “problem” in the sales department. I had no idea what he was talking about but I didn’t want to look like an idiot so I said yes, I was aware.

He said he had been watching me and as my heart began to sink he added that he thought I could be a solution to the problem.

Suddenly things were looking up for me and I was thinking that perhaps I might be getting a promotion to District Manager. I was wrong about that too…

In keeping with his professional but direct manner he said that he would like me to consider accepting the role of General Sales Manager. I can only imagine the look on my face. He was asking me to skip the district AND regional manager levels and move directly to the top of the sales organization.

I took the weekend to consider, although I didn’t have enough information about the position to consider much, and on Monday morning I accepted the position.

I wonder to this day what the heck he was thinking when he offered me that job.

From the moment I accepted it my sales career with that organized began to go down hill. I made mistake after mistake, there were way too many mistakes to mention them all here. Some of the mistakes were trivial and some were rather gigantic but what they all had in common is that they were frequent.

I was completely, totally, massively unprepared for that position. I had never considered the possibility that in my late twenties I’d be put in charge of anything and my preparations to move into a leadership role reflected that fact.

I didn’t even understand how unprepared I was until I left that company to accept a sales position at Dale Carnegie Training, an organization unparalleled in preparing ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results as a leader.

I had fallen into the destination trap. The destination trap says that there is no need to develop your leadership skills until and unless you are in a leadership position.

I learned the hard way just how dumb that is.
The only way you can avoid the destination trap is to begin preparing yourself to lead before you find yourself in a leadership position. Step one is to act like a leader; lead yourself well, control your emotions, control your attitude and find yourself a mentor or coach.

Study great leaders and their leadership styles. Determine what will work for you “someday” and you’ll be surprised how quickly some day will come. Don’t wait for a leadership position to just come your way, learn to lead before you need to and ensure that you’re prepared to meet the many challenges of leadership when they arrive.

Are You an Inspirational Leader?

Inspirational leaders don’t try to force their people to drink from the well of success; they inspire them to be thirsty.

Before anyone can achieve their full potential they must be inspired. Some people seem to inspire themselves, many however need someone to inspire them. That “someone” is most often a leader.

Authentic Servant Leaders know that inspiring others requires these specific, intentional action steps:

Inspiring leaders are a model of integrity. They do what they say they will, when they say they will do it. They apply the same rules for everyone yet are not afraid to make exceptions that are fair to all. They create trust at every opportunity. Inspiring leaders know that without integrity there can be no Authentic Leadership.

They set clear, specific, and attainable goals. They give their people a target and they help them reach it. They vision cast and include in the vision a benefit to their people; giving every member of the organization a reason to buy into the vision AND the leader.

To inspire their people these leaders seldom miss an opportunity to provide support and recognition to their people. They spread the recognition around and inspire their people to look past their own self-interests. They coach with a spirit of approval, not criticism and they make mistakes seem easy to correct.

They encourage their people to take well-measured risks. They help them see what’s possible, no matter how improbable it may be. Inspirational leaders don’t just tell the way, they show the way to success.

Inspirational leaders are not afraid of showing their emotions and they regularly stir the emotions of their people. They comfort their people in defeat and praise them in victory. They can show vulnerability and strength at the same time. The hallmark of their leadership is empathy and they are never far from their people’s feelings.

The most inspiring leaders help common people achieve uncommon results. They often see the potential of their people before anyone else, even the individual with the potential. They create hope out of hopelessness and will never ask their people to give more than they can.

Inspirational Leadership gives off a powerfully contagious confidence that builds people and teams into high producing, goal achieving successes.

Leaders who inspire their people will never need their compliance because they will have their commitment. Compliant people do what they must and little more; committed people do more than they ever thought they could.

If you truly want your people to succeed then don’t simply motivate them, inspire them!

Every Leader’s Weakness

I’m pretty careful when using words like always, never, and every. There seems to be an exception for most situations or circumstances. Almost always, almost.

Every leader however has this one flaw. Yes, I’m 100% certain that it is indeed every leader. Every single one. Every single leader who has ever been or ever will be, has or will have this same weakness; they are human.

Before they were ever thought of as a leader they were people, they were, and are, and they always will be, people. Just like you and me. They have the identical human frailties as every other human on earth. They love, they hate, they laugh, they cry. They are emotional, they have regrets, and they make mistakes.

It’s not until you stop to think about it that you realize that it’s those so called human “frailties” or “weaknesses” that also gives them the potential to be a leader. In fact, it’s those very “weaknesses” that provides them with the potential to be a great leader.

It turns out, this “weakness” is also likely their greatest strength.

It’s a leader’s ability to control those “frailties” that allow them to turn the supposed weaknesses into strengths. You see, it’s a leader’s capacity to love, to laugh, to cry and to regret that allows them to care. I imagine it’s possible to be an effective leader without caring for or about the people you lead but if your desire is to be an Authentic Serving Leader then caring is a must.

I don’t know about you but I find it much easier to commit to a leader when I believe they care about me as a human being.

If you follow a leader who has the capacity to care about you then you’re truly fortunate.

It’s too bad that so many people abuse that good fortune by pointing out all the mistakes and shortcomings of their leader. If you ever hope to “lead up” in your organization then you had best understand that the same human frailties that makes a human a good leader will also cause them to have some shortcomings.

If you must have a “perfect” leader then you better hope those experiments with robots work out. Because humans, even humans with the courage to lead, will never be perfect.

If your intention is indeed to “lead up” in your organization then it is not your role to point out the shortcomings of your leader to anyone who will listen. Your role is to discover the gaps of your leader and fill them to the best of your ability. Help them focus on their strengths by using your own strengths to do something they might not be especially good at. It’s very possible that if they are indeed a courageous leader that they may have added you to the team for just that purpose.

Here’s another way to look at it. If you want a leader who cares about people then be a person who cares about their leader.

Authentic Serving Leaders are great people, they are not perfect people. Stop disappointing yourself by expecting something that just isn’t possible.