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Leaders are visionaries. They see the possibilities. They dream the dreams. They imagine extraordinary feats. But they can’t just see the future; they have to be able to convince their team members to see it. When leaders share their vision in a way that others can feel it, they attract more energy toward the belief it can be achieved. This is the motivation which is needed to get beyond the challenges they will face. What helps leaders share their inspired vision? Leaders have to help their team members find their inner motivation. The first step is sharing their passion. When people feel passion, they believe in possibilities. Passion goes beyond time, setbacks, and sacrifices. Passion is a driving force. When leaders share their passion, they are sharing a part of themselves. They are reaching out, giving to others, and showing the idea burning inside them. Through this revelation of caring about making a difference, leaders gain followers.  Team members want to be close to their leaders, to feel what they feel, and to share in their excitement. Enthusiasm is contagious; it spreads to others. But team members aren’t going to jump on board just because their leader is excited; they need to know how their own aspirations and visions can come true. When the leader includes them in the picture and shows them how they will benefit from the shared goal, team members are more likely to remain excited. How can leaders include their team members in their dream?
  • Help your team members understand how you discovered your vision.
  • Engage team members in the goal process.
  • Allow them to see the plan from beginning to end.
  • Listen to their advice and show them you value their words.
  • Hear what is important to your team members.
  • Give them direction but allow them to find the answers.
A visionary understands the vision isn’t the end; it is a means to joining people together for a common goal. Exemplary leaders don’t just hold a vision; they give it energy by sharing it with others. This sharing process includes appealing to team members in such a manner they feel it is their vision. They understand how the accomplishment of the goal will positively affect them. A shared vision involves the passion of all team members. It keeps everyone focused on the future, and provides purpose and drive through obstacles and challenges. When people are engaged in a meaningful endeavor, one that makes a difference in other people’s lives, they find extraordinary resolve to make it happen.  
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Helen Keller said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.”  This amazing insight comes from a lady who could not see, hear or speak!  Jesus of Nazareth said many in this world have ears but cannot hear and eyes but cannot see.  For our purposes, we might add, “Sad is the leader who will not or cannot lead.”  But, let it not be so with those who read these words!   Much of leadership is dependent upon the leader’s ability to have vision, to listen carefully and to interpret what is going on in the lives of team members, the industry or discipline in which he or she serves, market changes, shifts in national or regional attitudes and more.  The good leader must not close ears or eyes to even the smallest of opportunities to teach and lead others forward.  If you are a business leader, one thing is for sure; your competition is always improving.  Leaders who have ears and eyes that are not of the physical nature, have the potential to lead the pack and beat the competition.   What actions will you take to increase your sight and hearing?  How long has it been since you have truly listened to the hopes and hurts of those you lead?  Take the time to dream and imagine big, even crazy dreams for your organization.  Open your eyes and remove the clutter from your ears!  Lead with vision and a keen understanding of what is going on around you.  Lead your people forward!
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In 1902, Mr. James Cash Penney founded the J.C. Penney Corporation. When he was in his 80's, he was still actively leading the company. At that time, a reporter asked him if his vision was still good. He answered "My eyesight is not as good as it used to be, but my vision has never been better." An organization's vision is formed by the executive team that leads it. That vision is directly connected to potential (what could be achieved and what is possible to change). Executive teams are often told that leadership is the key to achieving their vision and capturing potential. Leadership is a great asset and is essential to running a profitable company, but more is required to capture potential. Why? Because management tools and processes used for decision-making and problem solving are not linked to potential, which handicaps executives as they try to improve performance. This gap in management systems disconnects potential from day to day activities and prevents new perspectives on the relationship between potential, actuals and budgets from forming. As a result, companies depend on the budget and long-term plans to deliver the growth they have promised to the board. Unachievable performance targets may be unintentionally set, which causes mistrust between management and the workforce. People will unknowingly protect the wrong things, causing losses (sometimes significant) to occur that are not measured and putting their own credibility at risk. For every management team, credibility is everything, especially for those who were hired to solve problems that the last person couldn't solve. A new perspective about potential will help executives connect their people to potential growth, meet expectations and accelerate the change required to achieve the vision.
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The man at the hardware store told me all I needed to install the window well covers were the proper size screws, proper size bit and a drill.  So, I bought the covers, a couple of dozen screws and a bit.  When I arrived at home I retrieved my electric hand drill and went to work.  I drilled and drilled with no success.  I called my friend Roger who knows about such things and upon his arrival he determined that what I needed was a hammer drill.  My problem was that I did not have the proper tool to do the job. Like many tasks, having the proper tool or tools is said to be half the job; leadership is no different!  The effective leader must have the proper tools in his or her box.  Every so often, some of those tools need to be sharpened or replaced.  And, depending on the job, there may need to be a new tool or two added. Some of the basic tools in the leader’s toolbox include: vision, people skills, many leadership books, a priority list, persistence, an accountability partner and a reservation for an upcoming leadership workshop or seminar.  Which of these tools is missing from your toolbox?  Which ones need updated or replaced?  One who hunts elephants does not arm him or herself with a fly swatter.  And one who installs window well covers needs to purchase or rent a hammer drill.  Don’t limit the value and power of your leadership by not having the proper tools in your box!
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There are more than 20 Laws truly exceptional, breakout leaders inhabit and own. In this article we will discuss the first Law. Others will follow, to be posted twice each week. Brilliant leadership—whether of ourselves or of others—requires a bold, vivid and compelling vision. If we don’t know exactly where we are going, we are like a leaf on the ocean—we end up wherever the breeze of circumstance blows us. But with a clear, compelling vision, one we continuously burn in our imagination and emotions, we have a bright, constant target to habitually move towards. This vision acts like a beacon on the hill—ever present, guiding us to its singular point, while also lighting the path before us. Secondly, a compelling vision is necessary to create and excite the passion that is so necessary to sustained, exceptional action over the long period of time success requires. Vision acts as fuel to your passion and purpose in that it provides you with compelling evidence of what you must fight for: that is, your life’s greatest meaning and purpose. When we MUST have something, we will do what we have to do to get it. We will conquer all obstacles and expend all energy to achieve it. Thirdly, compelling vision provides a fertile environment and energy for your imagination and creativity, which are valuable success tools. Your vision remains fixed and certain, while it also encourages flexibility in whatever will most likely hasten your vision’s actualization. A vivid, compelling vision acts as fuel to the fire of tenacity and creativity, while it provides a clear, ever-present target that excites the passion and focus of your mind, energy and action. Vision can be broken down into 3 components: Long term vision; short term vision; and immediate vision (what we will call "stories"). Long term vision is the bright beacon on the hill referred to above. This is usually a vision whose actualizaiton will happen in anywhere from ten to thirty years. Short term visions are those that act as milestones on the pathway towards your achievement of your long term vision. They should be equally vivid, compelling, bold and specific. Immediate vision (stories) are what others recognize as your "attitude." This vision is every bit as important to leadership (of self and others) and success as is long term vision. If you habitually manage and craft your stories such that they are bright, compelling and positive, you will excite your greatest energy, focus and creativity moment by moment and will engage in high level behaviors and activities that are most likely to consistently move you closer to your long term vision's actualzation. What's more, if your immediate visions are positive and compelling, you will act as a great influence on ambitious, industrious and well-intended people in your environment. In short, they will look to you as a leader and will be influenced to follow you, perform like and for you. You will inspire and motivate them to their best behavior and action as they are compelled by you. Each day, re-create and live your long term vision vividly within your imagination. And constantly ask yourself throughout the day "what stories" you are telling yourself in the moment. If they aren't passionately positive and powerfully motivating, well, change your story. See, hear and feel something creative, motivating and inspirational in your imagination. After all, you get to choose what happens in there, right? Cheers! And great success in leadership, productivity and wealth.
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New Directions Leader As Beginner: Part Nine

“What happened was: they became a team.... There had been times before...when they acted like a team, but those were very different from feeling like a team...feeling like part of a team is something that happens invisibly. You might call it caring....” 

? E.L. Konigsburg

Sakyong Mipham, a Buddhist meditation teacher, writes about the important role “caring,” as Ms. Konigsburg describes it, plays in relation to being a part of a team. Here’s what he says:

“Once when I was staying with friends in Colorado, I took one of my favorite horses, Rocky, on a trail ride through some back country. I had ridden Rocky before, mostly in the arena. He was very intelligent, but he didn’t know how to walk a trail. This was a new situation. I was leading the group, and that also made him a little nervous. I coaxed him over certain rocks and shifted my weight to indicate to him to go around certain others, but he kept stumbling. We came to a narrow place in the trail. On one side was a steep shale cliff and on the other, a long drop into a river. Rocky stopped and waited for my direction. We both knew that one wrong move would plummet us into the river below. I guided him toward the gorge, subtly shifting my weight toward the high wall of shale. I thought that if he slipped, I could jump off and save myself. The moment I shifted, Rocky stopped cold and craned his head around to look at me. He knew exactly what I was doing. I could tell that he was shocked and hurt that I was planning to abandon him. The look in his eye said, ‘You and me together, right?’ Seeing how terrified he was, I shifted my weight back. He swung his head forward in relief and we negotiated the trail together with no problems.”

In the story, Rocky was able to remind Sakyong not to be seduced by his fearful thoughts but to trust his instinctual nature: that part of himself that can see clearly what the truth is; what is real and what is not; what is false or superficial. As “New Directions Leaders in the Making,” being in touch with our instincts allows us to establish a “synergistic bond” or wordless rapport with our fellow team members that we can rely upon the way Sakyong and Rocky were able to do.

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Sherlock Holmes said, "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth."  Navigating the course of leadership is often not easy.  We need all the help we can from any source we can get it.  Therefore, it is important that we learn to look for clues that will lead us to the proper people and decisions that enable us to fulfill our mission and vision. Bob Beaudine says, "Sherlock Holmes became world famous for his uncanny ability to perceive clues.  He saw what others couldn't until he pointed them out.  The remarkable gift of 'seeing' most often revealed clues hidden in plain sight.  You and I need the ability to detect the clues life sets before us.  They're actually easy to see, but, as you and I know, we often miss the obvious.* Is it possible there are clues close to you that if seen could help move your organization forward?  Is it possible there is something common in your surroundings you are overlooking that might provide the answer to your current question?  Is there someone whose skills or knowledge you have overlooked?  Is there someone who can help you view your leadership possibilities and organization through a different set of lenses?  Ask him.  Ask her.  You may be surprised what they see or suggest!  Like Sherlock Holmes, good leaders are always looking for, and more often than not, finding clues that help solve the mystery!   *  Bob Beaudine, THE POWER OF WHO!  (Center Street, New York; 2009), 82.
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New Directions Leader As Visionary

“The most important questions in life can never be answered by anyone except oneself."

 – John Fowles, The Magus

In the short statement below, Albert Einstein asks, "Is the universe a friendly place?" This is especially pertinent for those of us who aspire to become New Directions Leaders. Because how we interpret and respond to Einstein’s question will fundamentally influence our choices and actions as leaders in the future.


“I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.

“For if we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process.


“If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly and that God is essentially ‘playing dice with the universe,’ then we are simply victims to the random toss of the dice and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.


“But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives.”

– Albert Einstein

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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels What are you doing that confirms your role and effectiveness as a leader? I recently had the opportunity to teach stewardship in a leadership workshop for pastors in San Marcos, Nicaragua. It was a privilege to help others grow in their understanding of leadership. I was encouraged as I what I saw confirmed the truth and power of the universal and timeless principles of leadership that I live and teach. The principles are simple, but when they become part of who you are as a leader, they confirm that your leadership is going in the proper direction with the power and influence to empower those you lead to move forward.  The confirming statements are: 1) People will follow when the leader builds relationships of trust. 2) People will follow when the leader lives an exemplary life. 3) People will follow when the leader casts a clear vision of the future. It is encouraging to receive confirmation that your leadership is effective. Be encouraged; when you implement these timeless and universal principles of leadership, chances are that soon, you will receive the confirmation that will inspire you to continue moving forward.    
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Company culture is the behavioral environment that drives your company. On the way to building a successful small business, consuming thoughts of product, services, locations, cash flow and customers devour an entrepreneur’s mind. Small business owners do not typically spend much time pondering the merits of developing an effective company culture, but maybe they should. Whether intentionally created or left to happenstance, company culture surfaces in all organizations, regardless of size. Smart organizations demonstrate that spending time developing an effective company culture pays huge dividends. In his book The Culture Cycle, James L. Heskett, Professor Emeritus of Harvard Business School, claims that when an effective culture is put in place, “its impact on profit can be measured and quantified.” For instance, an effective company culture produces engaged managers and employees with high retention rates. “This in turn,” Heskett notes, “results in lower wage costs for talent; lower recruiting, hiring, and training costs; and higher productivity (fewer lost sales and higher sales per employee).” A low employee turnover rate builds positive customer relationships grounded in consistency. The business benefits from customer loyalty, reduced marketing expense and higher sales. In a 2013 article on corporate culture in Harvard Business Review, John Coleman writes that there are six components that contribute to creating a great corporate culture. These same components are viable for small businesses:
  1. Vision: Create a core statement that reflects the values and purpose of the company.
  2. Values: Build guidelines for behavioral expectations and adherence by employees.
  3. Practices: Make values visible in company practices at every level.
  4. People: Recruit based on the fit between the applicants and the core values of the company.
  5. Narrative: Develop a distinctive story that tells your history and gives credence to your purpose.
  6. Place: Construct a physical environment that supports company values and purpose.
My favorite example of developing an effective company culture was established by Thomas J. Watson Sr. in 1914. If his name does not sound familiar, have you heard of a company called IBM? Watson joined IBM when it was the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R), a company built by merging three smaller companies located in New York, Washington, DC and Ohio. Watson had the Herculean task of uniting the company operations, processes and beliefs. Watson came up with a solution that was simple and practical. His motto was THINK. Watson is quoted as saying, “Knowledge is the result of thought, and thought is the keynote of success in this business or any business.” He challenged IBM employees to think of business solutions and promised they would be heard. Watson thought that there would be a revolving business cycle of ideas, solutions, products, sales and profits if employees were empowered to think. THINK was embossed on walls in offices and factories throughout IBM and became not only a slogan, but the essence of company culture at IBM. I challenge you to take a look at your small business: what is your company’s culture? Have you taken any steps to create a behavioral environment that has your company stamp? Do your employees, vendors and customers know your company’s culture? If you have not paid much attention to developing a culture that works to enhance your small business, it is not too late. Take a few tips from John Coleman and work on realigning the company vision, values, practices, people, narrative and place. Let your company culture work for you and not as an impediment to your success.
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