Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Two Categories of Leaders

As we further delve into Oliver DeMille's Freedom Matters!, we discover that he contends that the seven kinds of leaders can be divided into two main types, officials and entrepreneurs.  According to DeMille, "Officials lead in the government sector, and entrepreneurs are the leaders of all the other six sectors." (p. 21)  One has to assume from this that DeMille is defining an official who leads as a government leader as one who holds an official position, either elected or appointed, and is a leader by virtue of their position.

I am going to start with a discussion of government officials and their leadership role in maintaining freedom for society.  It is well documented that this type of leadership comes with a significant amount of position power.  Position power is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as "The authority/influence that is given to the individual who possessed an office or is given a position."  In other words, these individuals acquire power by virtue of their office.  The classic example is that the President of the United States is arguably the most powerful man in the world, as was his predecessor, as will be his successor.  It is occupying the office that creates the power, not the individual.  This is true for any governmental official.  That is not to say that the occupant of the office has ONLY the office going for them, but is is definitely a spring board.  One has only to look back in history to confirm this.  There are offices that grant influence, authority, and power to the current occupant, regardless of whom that may be. 

So, the question is, "Does occupying an office that carries authority and influence automatically make an effective leader?"  While this may seem a "Well Duh! NO!!" question, it is not quite that simple.  Sadly, our system has devolved to the point where many of the individuals who aspire and gain these offices seem to have ulterior motives.  The trappings of prestige, authority, and power have overshadowed service to people and society, sacrifice, and working for the preservation of freedom.  Now don't get me wrong!  I firmly believe that there are good and decent elected officials who have the right heart and are in it to serve and work for the betterment of their constituents.  On the other hand, it concerns me that they seem to be in a shrinking minority.  Also understand, this is not a right/left or blue/red issue.  There is plenty of concern to go around.  Gone are the days where Members of Congress were practicing professionals who took a 2 year leave from their profession to serve in Congress only to return to their professional world when their term was up.  Serving was a sacrifice and community leaders took their turn for the public good.  Today these positions are generally filled with career politicians who have never really known anything else, or are so far removed from it that they really have lost touch with that reality.  Even in states that have passed term limits, we see career politicians simple get elected to different positions when the time limit of their current job expires. I would argue that all of this has created a threat to the very freedom that allowed them to ascend to these positions.

DeMille argues that "...when government leaders control any (or all) of the other six, through lots of regulation or any other kind of government power, freedom quickly deteriorates." (p. 22)   I would add the these government leaders become trapped in the allusion of their own self importance that they truly believe that they, and only they, know what is good for the society as a whole and for people individually.  History is full of examples where this type to thinking leads to the complete collapse of freedom.  Only when government leaders have an equal, and not superior, seat at the leadership table will freedom be advanced once again.  I believe it is long past time for each of us to take a good long look at each and every government leader and ask if they are in their position to do their part to preserve and advance our freedom or are they in their position to further their own personal agenda.

John C. Maxwell says it best when discussing the Law of Sacrifice in his landmark work The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, "There is a common misconception among people who aren't leaders that leadership is all about the position, perks, and power that comes from rising in an organization.  Many people today want to climb up the corporate ladder because they believe that freedom, power, and wealth are the prizes waiting at the top.  The life of a leader looks glamorous to people on the outside.  But the reality is that leadership requires sacrifice.  A leader must give up to go up.  In recent years, we've observed more than our share of leaders who used and abused their organizations for personal benefit --- and the resulting corporate [and governmental] scandals that came because of their greed and selfishness.  The heart of good leadership is sacrifice." (p. 222)

We need good governmental leaders who will set their own needs aside and be willing to sacrifice for the preservation of our freedom!  Then, and only then, will the balance be restored to the seven types of leaders necessary to preserve our freedom!


DeMille, O. (2015). Freedom matters: The connection between career, business, and freedom.  Cary, NC: Obstaclés Press.

Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 indispensable qualities of a leader: Becoming the person others will want to follow.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Law Dictionary retrieved from http://thelawdictionary.org/position-power/

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Freedom Matters

New York Times Best Selling Author (Leader Shift and A Thomas Jefferson Education) and Freedom Scholar Oliver DeMille recently published Freedom Matters: The Connection Between Career, Business, and Freedom.  In it, among other things, he posits that there are seven types of leaders that are necessary for freedom to flourish in a society.  According to DeMille, "The Future of freedom depends on leadership." (DeMille, p. 15)  DeMille's seven kinds of leaders are family leaders, religious/ethical leaders, business leaders, education leaders, media/artistic leaders, community leaders, and government leaders.

DeMille contends that freedom will thrive when all seven types of leaders are equally strong in the society.  Conversely, according to DeMille, if the types of leaders get out of balance, that is two or three become stronger and more influential than the others, freedom is weakened and becomes at risk of  being diminished or disappearing altogether.

The idea that freedom is dependent upon leadership for its very survival is not shocking.  After all, Maxwell contends that "Everything rises and falls on leadership." (Maxwell, p. xxx).  Freedom is no exception.  What DeMille does is break it down and into smaller subsets of leadership and defines an intricate symbiotic relationship between the seven.  The whole idea is intriguing!

I will spend the next several weeks drilling down into the seven kinds of leaders described by DeMille and explore the roles and relationships that each has to the others as they contribute to the preservation of freedom.  Stay tuned, it should be an exciting journey!


DeMille, O. (2015). Freedom matters: The connection between career, business, and freedom.  Cary, NC: Obstaclés Press.

Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 indispensable qualities of a leader: Becoming the person others will want to follow.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sir Ernest Shackleton: Extreme Leadership


Leadership is often discussed within the framework of success and successful achievements, even after a series of failures.  We are all familiar with the string of “failures” experienced by Abraham Lincoln prior to his election as the country’s 16th President.  I am not going to cite them here, only to say the culmination was his election to the Presidency.  He achieved a goal; he succeeded; he was a great leader!

But can one be a great leader even if one does not achieve some great landmark accomplishment?  The simple answer is yes!  I present as evidence the great Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.  Shackleton had as a goal to reach the South Pole.  He never made it.  He died in 1922 during his final attempt.  In 1902 he attempted to reach the South Pole with Robert F. Scott and fell short by 460 miles.  He tried again six years later and this time fell 97 miles short abandoning the effort in lieu of certain death.  As a result of this heroic failure, he was knighted by King Edward VII.  He tried again in 1914 and this time did not even reach the continent of Antarctica.  His ship, the Endurance, was caught in early ice and his entire crew became trapped.  They could not go forward, they could not go back!  It was a colossal failure…or was it?  Shackleton’s crowning achievement was what is commonly called a successful failure. 

What ensued was perhaps the most heroic example of raw leadership in recorded history.  28 men survived the harsh Antarctic winter.  The Endurance’s First Officer, Lionel Greenstreet, was once asked in an interview how they all survived when so many other expeditions ended with a number of deaths.  He simply replied “Shackleton!”

Shackleton had Character.  One of Shackleton’s priorities was the professional development of his crew.  He was not satisfied with just achieving his personal goals (many of which he would never achieve); he was dedicated to the development of others.  Shackleton saw the potential in each of the members of his crew and challenged and encouraged them to improve and fulfill their potential.  By setting personal and character development as a priority, he demonstrated great character himself.

Shackleton had Courage!  You would be hard pressed to list any leader who out performed Shackleton in the area of courage.  He was faced with a lose-lose situation and he won.  Not only did he win, all of his crew won (win is defined in this case as lived!).  His ship was caught and crushed in early drift ice and then sank, his crew was stranded and eventually made their way to a deserted Elephant Island without a chance of surviving the Antarctic winter, he embarked on and successfully made an impossible voyage of 800 nautical miles to South Georgia Island in a converted lifeboat, and landed on the “wrong” side of the island and had to travel over a mountain range to reach help.  Eventually his entire crew was rescued.  No one died.  Let me repeat that…everyone lived!!  To the man, credit was given to Shackleton’s courage and leadership as the sole reason for their survival.  He exuded confidence and instilled hope.

Finally, Shackleton had compassion.  The needs of the crew came before his own.  After the Endurance was trapped, crushed, and sank, Shackleton and his crew launched five life boats and sailed 346 miles to Elephant Island.  One of the crew lost their gloves.  Shackleton gave him his.   Shackleton suffered severe frostbite as a result.  Further, Shackleton developed a personal relationship with each member of his crew.  They were each an individual, and Shackleton knew this.  He built rapport and trust.  He got to know them and as a result they trusted him.  I would argue that one of the reasons that Shackleton was able to pull off this miracle was due to the relationships he built, the rapport he established, and the trust he earned.

As with all leaders, Shackleton was not without his warts.  He was obsessed with the Antarctic.  He died of a heart attack at the age of 47 while on an Antarctic expedition.  He just could not let it go, but he was one of the greatest leaders when it came to stepping up when it counts.  In their book Shackelton’s Way, Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell offer the following:

“British explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard best expressed the feelings of his fellow ‘Antarcticists’, as he called them, when he explained: ‘For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott: for a winter journey, give me Wilson: for a dash to the pole and nothing else, give me Amundsen: and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time.”

Shackleton was a great leader!!

For a great read on Shackleton and his leadership, I recommend:

Morrell, Margot; Capparell, Stephanie (2001). Shackleton's Way: Leadership lessons from the great Antarctic explorer. New York, N.Y.: Viking. ISBN 0-670-89196-7.

Monday, September 8, 2014

John Adams: A Leader of Influence

Frequently leadership gurus wax eloquent regarding great philosophical principles of leadership, but have very little fruit on the tree.  If the true mark of leadership is influence (and I believe it is), one must ask, “How is that influence gained?”  I believe influence is earned through actions.  The old cliché “actions speak louder than words” is true.

So if leadership is influence, and influence is earned through actions, that is, practicing what one preaches, then let’s examine some examples of true leadership.  Before I launch into this series of figures that I feel have shown great examples of leadership, let me offer this disclaimer.  None of them are prefect.  In fact some of them are deeply flawed.  Great leaders are not perfect, but they do stand out through their actions when it counts.

So let’s dig in.  As I examine those whom I believe offer us great examples of leadership, I will use the lens of character, courage, and compassion that I addressed in an earlier blog post.

John Adams was elected President of the United States in 1796 narrowly defeating Thomas Jefferson.  He became the 2nd President of the United States in 1797 and served one term.  He was defeated in his reelection bid as the tables turned and Thomas Jefferson became the 3rd President of the United States.

John Adams had his faults.  Many, including his friends, considered him vain, opinionated, and stubborn.  And yet it may be those perceived human failings that led to some of his greatest leadership moments. 

John Adams had character.  Many Americans do not realize that during John Adams Presidency, the United States came dangerously close to declaring war on France. Popular opinion favored such an action.  Adams knew that the United States was in no position to fight another war and, if it did, would most likely lose.  He pursued a policy of diplomacy and peace, and was able to avoid war.  While it cost him dearly in the public opinion arena (it most likely was one of the leading causes of his defeat in his bid for reelection) he nevertheless pointed to this as one of his most important accomplishments as President.  As Orrin Woodward states in his book Resolved: 13 Resolutions for LIFE, a great leader will “…choose character over reputation any time they conflict.”  Adams did!

John Adams had courage.  In perhaps one of the greatest ironies in American History, John Adams, a leading advocate for American independence and a complete break from Great Britain, headed the defense of the British soldiers who were charged and tried for the shootings that are commonly known as the Boston Massacre.  At the time, most Bostonians had a mob mentality and wanted the eight soldiers immediately executed for murder.  I will not go into the details of the event here as they are really irrelevant to the point (you can read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Massacre); suffice it to say John Adams was not a very popular figure for defending the British Soldiers.  Adams was a man of conviction.  Not only did he lead the defense in the name of justice and providing a fair trial to the soldiers, he won.  Six of the soldiers were acquitted and two were convicted on lesser charges.  Adams’s courage throughout the trial established him as a man of immense integrity who would follow his principles regardless of the personal price that may have to be paid.

John Adams had compassion.  One only has to read the letters between Adams and his wife Abigail to get great insight into the depth of Adams's compassion.  He had great passion not only for his wife and children, but also for the new country that was being born on his watch.  These letters, with perhaps the exception of the John Adams/Thomas Jefferson letters, are the most revealing evidence of the heart and soul of the man.  He discussed in detail the many issues that were facing him, the colonies, and the new country.  If you are unfamiliar with either of these sets of correspondences, I highly recommend them.  Both are easily found. 

John Adams was not perfect and all of his decisions have not been gained favor with posterity (let us not forget the Alien and Sedition Acts).  However, even his staunches critics cannot deny that as a leader and as a man, John Adams was a man of great influence and demonstrated Character, Courage, and Compassion!  John Adams for a leader!

On another note, I am pleased to share that my good friend and follow student of leadership, John Plastow, has published his second book…his first on leadership.

ALL THINGS LEADERSHIP: Real Life Practices from the Trenches of Leadership is a comprehensive treasury of leadership lessons told through John Plastow’s unique lens of personal experience, humor, and the high energy and enthusiastic approach he’s used in leading tens of thousands of people during his career. This book will motivate and encourage leaders to raise their standards, expand their vision, give their best, and above all, serve the people entrusted to them. It will also help leaders achieve great things beyond their wildest dreams!

You can purchase your copy on BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com, Xulonpress.com/bookstore or ask your favorite bookstore to order it for you. It is available as a paperback and in most e-book formats.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Leadership and Influence

In his 1998 classic work "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" John C. Maxwell states that "Leadership is influence---nothing more, nothing less." In the 10th Anniversary edition (2007) Maxwell  tweaked this to read "The true measure of leadership is influence---nothing more, nothing less."  Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward, in their best selling book Launching a Leadership Revolution, add clarity the idea that leadership is influence, "Leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction and is done through example, conviction, and character of the leader."  In both cases, influence is the key to effective leadership!

So how does one become influential, and thereby, have the potential to become an effective leader?  I offer what I call the three Cs of leadership.  These are not original ideas, as each one can be found in the leadership literature; however, in combination, they can be a formula for powerful leadership.

1) Character

The concept that effective leaders need to have character to develop influence and begin to assume the role of a leader is not new nor an earth shattering revelation.  In fact, Maxwell lists it as the first quality that a person must have to become an effective leader (The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader).  What is shocking is how many leaders lack and/or choose not to display a strong sense of character.  Business, politics, and even the Church, are full of examples where a leader was on the rise or at their zenith and had a massive fall due to a complete breakdown in the character department.  My goal here is not to rail on particular personalities, but rather to lament the reality that more and more it is becoming harder and harder to find men and women of real character who can and will lead.  I believe that most people long for real leadership and in most cases are sorely disappointed.  I had lunch with a friend recently and was catching up.  He was sharing a story with me that illustrates this point.  He left a job because the owner of the company, and his boss, had recently sold a piece of merchandise (I frankly don't even know what it was, but it really doesn't matter) as new knowing it was previously owned.  He charged the customer as if it were new, and the customer was none the wiser.  My friend confronted him on it (my friend had courage and integrity) and then quit!  This is an example of a blatant lack of character.  "No one knew so that made it alright" was his attitude.  I disagree!  Character and honesty matter.  Leaders need to have and display character to gain influence.

2 ) Courage

Again, not a revolutionary idea; it is also one of Maxwell's 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.  Unfortunately, we see a sea of leaders who choose expedience over courage.  They will do whatever is politically correct to survive, even if it means unconscionable compromise.  Don't get me wrong, I understand that life is full of compromises, but, there are issues of character that should never be compromised, and they are.  Too many "leaders" are too concerned with their position and not doing they know to be right!  There is a great scene in the movie Braveheart where William Wallace has just been knighted after defeating the English.  Once the ceremony has concluded, the nobles all fall back into their internal bickering and strife.  Wallace and his entourage leave and are followed out by Robert the Bruce who confronts him about making enemies of the nobles.  Wallace retorts "...men don't follow titles, they follow courage..."!  We need men and women of courage.  This has become an extinct virtue in our politically correct society!  Leaders need to have and display courage to gain influence.

3) Compassion

I recently had the privilege of spending a couple of days with a friend of mine whom I have known for over 30 years.  He was relaying a story to me about the end of his last job (he has been retired for a few years now).  He worked for a very large and well know non-profit organization that depends heavily on a volunteer force to "get the job done".  The organization had a leadership turnover.  The CEO retired and a new boss came to town.  The new CEO began to "clean house" and pretty much forced my friend to retire.  While he had not planned on retiring, he was in a financial position where he could with no real issues if he would be allowed to work for an additional three month (he hit 30 years in the organization).  The CEO agreed and my friend went about doing his usual exemplary job.  He attended a work related conference and returned to work and was promptly called into the CEO's office.  There he found the CEO (a paid position) and the President of the Board (a volunteer position) and was told to clean out his desk and he would be escorted from the building and that he was not to come back.  He would be paid, but would not be allowed to work.  My friend gently protested and shared that if he was being paid, he was more than willing to keep working, and surely did not need to be escorted from the building.  The Volunteer Board President's comment was "Well that is just the way we do in in Corporate America!"  I'm sorry, but you just don't treat people that way.  There was no compassion and a complete lack of leadership.  I would argue strenuously that "real" leaders are empathetic.  I am not saying that they should not make the touch decision...they should, BUT, there is a way to do it and preserve a person's dignity while still meeting the objective.  Leaders need to have and display compassion to gain influence.

One final note.  As I come across leadership blogs that I find helpful and insightful, I will post a link here and highlight them.  Today I want to share All Things Leadership written by my longtime friend and colleague John R. Plastow.  John has over 35 years in leadership and leadership development and has been through the fires personally and professionally.  He is knowledgeable, insightful, and has the street cred from years of leading in a variety of situations.  John is a leader, has influence, and strives to always practice the 3 Cs.  You can read John's blog at johnplastow.com/all-things-leadership.

Go out and lead and change the world!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why another blog on leadership?

Why another blog on leadership?  I'm glad you asked!

Over the past few years I have considered jumping into the world of blogging.  After several false starts, I have decided that I need to discipline myself to do it and do it now...an important leadership point for another blog post.

Having said all that, I have been teaching and studying leadership all of my professional life.  It is what I know and do, so, if for no other reason, this gives me a venue to write and share what is on my mind and what I am still learning (leaders are always learning, they never "arrive"!)

 So, here is an opening salvo regarding my thoughts and beliefs on leadership:

* Leadership development is a process.

* Leadership is developed over time one step at a time.

* "Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less." ~~John C. Maxwell

* Everyone has leadership potential

* "Everyone is called upon to lead in some capacity sooner of later in life."  ~~ Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward

* Leadership and Management are two separate things and are not synonyms!

As I venture into the blogoshere, I intend to explore these and other leadership concepts in detail.

Stay tuned!  Here we go!!