Default Leadership: The 4 Insidious Killers of Leadership – Part II

Part II of II

3. Intimidation – The risk is too great

Intimidation, the third insidious killer for leaders, is the menacing giant facing you down, keeping you from advancing and accomplishing your objective. When David, the shepherd boy, faced Goliath on the battlefield he courageously invoked a powerful faith declaration and took action steps to overcome the giant’s intimidation tactic. David said to the Philistine:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV)

David’s courage was key in overcoming Goliath’s intimidation. Therefore, building courage minimizes, even eliminates the intimidation factor. Courage is not the possession of physical strength, or size. David surely did not possess these qualities during his encounter with the giant. Courage is simply strengthening one’s mind by speaking forthrightly to the problem, then taking actions steps to ensure victory. Speaking a faith declaration engages a person’s total physiology, increasing adrenaline and the rush of blood to the brain. It’s the rush of blood to the brain that makes the difference, a rush of belief into the brain stimulating a “can do” attitude. A positive faith declaration rushes blood to the head stimulating action, while negative emotions tend to rush blood away from the brain to the legs igniting our flight mechanism.

4. Incompetence – The knowledge pool is not so deep

The last insidious killer for leaders is incompetence, which is the inability to take action for one’s lack of knowledge or inexperience to do the job. So what do you do when you’re summoned to do something but you sense your knowledge pool is not so deep? In my opinion, this is the time for collaboration. Collaboration is working with others to tap into another’s knowledge and insight. Incompetence rears its ugly head when we hit a dead end road; you know the place where awareness sets in so we can see our limitations for the first time. This isn’t a time for reclining into pity rather a time of recruiting others into action. Collaboration is about tapping into the knowledge pool of those with greater skill sets, talents and experiences necessary for you to accomplish your objective. To overcome incompetence do not stand-alone rather deepen your pool of knowledge by standing alongside others.

Confronting the Four Killers

The four C’s that overcome the four insidious killers are building internal capacity, gaining confidence, walking in courage, and seeking collaboration. Let’s go back to our story. After the pastor exhausted all leads, and upon my prompting this person finally stepped in to preside over the funeral. Was it difficult? Yes. Did the pastor overcome initial fears? Absolutely, but it wasn’t easy. Confronting one or more of these insidious killers of leadership won’t be easy but confrontation is necessary if leaders are to emerge victoriously. Leaders must ask themselves “Do I want to stay the same?” If so, they’re actually moving backwards instead of maturing into a larger leadership role. New challenges will confront emerging leaders. If leaders want to advance they need to understand these four insidious killers will confront them at each move. If you adopt these four counter actions you’ll be more apt to move forward, surmounting the odds to set yourself on the course of becoming the great leader you were destined to be.

How do you deal with intimidation? Is intimidation common in your life? How has incompetence stifled you in the past?


Default Leadership: The 4 Insidious Killers of Leadership – Part I

Part I of II

Have you ever wondered what keeps people from stepping out into a more pronounced leadership role? Perhaps the following example will help you see an insidious killer at work. A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a fellow minister responsible for organizing funerals. This person was looking for a staff member to conduct a funeral the following Saturday afternoon but every eligible pastor on the list was not available due to previous calendar commitments. I was the last person on the call list, yet I too declined due to a conflict in schedule. This person, who was very qualified to do a funeral, was trying so hard to farm it out. I sensed a nervous tone in her voice. During our exchange I finally challenged this person to step out of the box per se. As I sensed the subtle panic in this person’s voice I advised, “There’s a first time for everything. And at one point in my ministry – I had to step out of my comfort zone and do my first funeral. You can do it.” The assignments we are summoned to do the first time around maybe overwhelming at times since we are treading upon unfamiliar ground. For most people, the thought of making a mistake, appearing incompetent or foolish in front of a crowd can impede a potential leader. While contemplating this scenario, the four insidious killers of leadership suddenly emerged before me. All four killers begin with the letter “I”, the first one is:

1. Inadequacy – A person feels the task is too big

Most of us with extensive workplace experience have been challenged more than once to step outside our comfort zone. Many times would be leaders fail to emerge because as soon as they are asked to stretch a little the feeling of inadequacy sets in. The reason for feelings of inadequacy is the overwhelming sense of being unequal to what is required at the moment. In our limited minds we see a huge gap between what we know and the task at hand. So how do we overcome the insidious killer of inadequacy? You start by building internal capacity. Capacity is the space we create within ourselves to hold and sustain something greater. Building capacity is accomplished by perceiving and taking advantage of learning opportunities. It’s a proactive-learner who perceives an area of possibility and takes the initiative to learn about it in advance. For example, a pastor in the opening paragrah should know that funerals are part of the job description. Sooner or later he or she will be called upon to conduct one. So how should a pastor prepare? During a funeral a pastor should listen attentively, take notes, and at the appropriate time interview the presiding pastor. So when the next funeral occurs one can assume a greater leadership role. The key to enlarging internal capacity is learning at every opportunity in an effort to diminish inadequacy.

2. Insecurity – The person feels too small

In one of the episodes of the sitcom King of Queens, Carrie Heffernan is preparing to leave the office but feels uneasy going home without first finding out how her boss felt about a report she turned in earlier in the day. As Carrie carefully approached the office she carefully brings up the matter. To Carrie’s surprise her boss loved and valued her input, and asked Carrie for more. A surprised Carrie responds, “Wow, I never had my input valued before.” Insecurity is the second insidious killer for leaders. Insecurity starts when we don’t feel secure about ourselves, eventually this attitude spills into our performance. So everything we produce has a glaze of insecurity sprinkled on it. Like Carrie Heffernan, when our work comes under scrutiny we get a sense it will be shot down or returned for a rewrite. We must learn to grow out of this mental game. So how do we do it? The key is to build up confidence to a level that overcomes insecurity. Confidence occurs when a person builds trust in his or her own ability to act or perform over a course of right actions and small wins. When Carrie left her supervisor’s office she felt more secure, and confident in her ability to perform slightly better in the future. Leadership plays a key role developing staff members by making a “small person” seem a lot bigger than they actually are. Confidence increases when leaders closely monitor work performance, provide regular feedback with positive reinforcement, and celebrate small wins.

Have you ever encountered these two insidious killers of leadership in your own life? How did you overcome them?

Read Part II of this blog

Default Leadership: 2 Significant Gaffes Leaders Make

Leaders are responsible for many things; acquiring and shaping vision, personal and corporate communication, strategic planning, budgeting, training, supervision, executing the plan, and the plan’s results. These are basic functions that all leaders can identify with. But there’s a missing ingredient from this list. What is it? It’s the way leaders treat and relate with team members, a key indicator of one’s ability to lead effectively. This is why most people in leadership positions are not leaders; some are more focused on tasks but limited in people skills. Some in positions of leadership lead for selfish reasons, to achieve a personal goal or to advance themselves. Then there are those leaders who don’t know how to lead because they’ve never been trained properly. Leadership is not that complicated; it’s simply being a genuine person who connects well with others on a personal level, then leverages followers talents, skills and energy to achieve organizational goals.

Organizations today are in desperate need of good leaders who prioritize relationships. There are times when leaders get so busy in the daily grind of work schedules that they fail to build relational value with their followers. As a result relationships wane, even dissolve substantively because the mission becomes more important than developing community. Leaders cannot allow relationships to suffer; they must learn to be intentional and diligent to work on their people skills continuously. In the thirty years of my workplace experience I have personally seen leaders, default in many areas but these two stand out the most. This article addresses two significant gaffes leaders make. As leaders try not to make the mistake of being…

Long on Vision, Short on Relationship

A leader who has a lot of vision but lacks the skills or time to build solid relationships will eventually live alone in the future. Leaders need to have a vision for where they’re taking a project or organization, this much is true, but they also need relationships to bring the vision to fruition. Leaders who “drive” hard tend to make this mistake; they don’t take the time to value and build meaningful relationships, which empower the vision for the long haul. In turn, the vision suffers a dose of malnutrition because the synergy required to build and sustain momentum becomes sluggish, in some cases nonexistent. It is not good to toss out idea after idea without building meaningful relationships nor is it wise to hurry people to get things done quickly and miss what’s truly important; relationship.

Neglect: Love Gathers – Inattention Scatters

A second default is when leaders fall short in loving their followers unconditionally. When this happens people become disengaged and eventually “scatter.” Employees and followers will leave your organization, and find an alternate place where they can be nurtured, developed, appreciated and celebrated. People will tolerate a leader to a certain point, especially when the relationship never seems to advance from superficial to deeper levels.

There is nothing worse than a neglected employee who carries his or her workload everyday but is relationally deprived. You cannot neglect your team members for too long. In The Way of the Shepherd, authors Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak offer this advice:

You have to really care about your people. You can go through all the right mechanics but if you don’t genuinely care about the people who report to you, you’ll never be the kind of leader they’ll drop everything to follow. If they’re nothing but stinking sheep to you, they’ll never do their best work for you and they don’t stay in your fold for long.”

As a leader you have to take time for your people, and at times deal with their problems if you’re going to be respected and followed. Love is the relational tonic that soothes, heals and restores, at the same time, possesses the potency able to increase relational capacity. Neglect, on the other hand, causes relationships to become lean. In time people will look somewhere else for a leader who will lead them with love.

What can you do as a leader to avoid the two pitfalls mentioned in this blog?

Organizational Intelligence: Stay Connected to Your Business Web

Part III of III

Stay Connected to Your Business Web

Your business operates among a web of networks within and without the organization. Your internal web consists of various departments, a system of reporting and accountability, and employees with varying degrees of experience, knowledge and education. Your external web is made up of vendors, shareholders and consumers who also may interact with your competitors and other related enterprises. As you become more intimate and connected to the entire web you begin to sense the slightest changes within your field of relationships. According to author Mary Beth O’Neil,

When anything comes in contact with a spider web, anywhere on its surface, the whole web moves… so it is with an interactional force field established between two or more people. It has its own anchor points, resiliency, and breaking point, and it is most often invisible to the members within it. When anyone in the field moves, all members feel the effect, though differently based on their positions.”[1]

When you become more familiar with your internal and external business webs you become more sensitive to slight movements, and their effects upon your business.

In the opening story in this article at what point should Bob have felt change in his environment? Could it have been the moment he sensed the missing river? Remember he had been there several times before with his father. At this point he should have stopped and asked himself, “Something isn’t right here. Let’s regroup.”

Back to Bob

If Bob had detected and thought through the changes in his environment early and learned to use this information, he probably would have made better decisions and avoided an embarrassing trip. Some environments do not stay the same within time; they change, while others stay the same. Therefore, we must remain on constant vigil or else learn life’s lessons the hard way. What could Bob and his companions have done differently? It’s easier to gain insight from hindsight but it’s even better to develop foresight; insight fostered by perception and knowledge. Therefore, learning how to learn is the key to increasing intelligence capacity, which must become a priority for every organization. A “winging it” approach simply won’t help you survive through the unexpected changes in your business environment.

What can you learn about Bob’s story? Go to link>>> (See Part I of III)

The better question is – Are you Bob?

[1] O’Neil, Mary Beth. Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart. John Wiley & Sons; San Francisco, CA. 2007, pg. 49.

Organizational Intelligence: Lessons from Living Systems

Part II of III

According to Professor William E. Halal, “Organizational intelligence is the capacity of an organization to create knowledge and use it to strategically adapt to its environment or marketplace. It is similar to I.Q., but framed at an organizational level.”[1] Author Verna Allee defines it as “the cognitive capacities and capabilities of an organization.”[2] In sum, organizational intelligence is tapping into your organization’s collective knowledge quotient, and then applying new learning capabilities to seize opportunities to gain advantages in the marketplace. Utilizing organizational intelligence does more for you than just help you stay afloat; it’s about perceiving and taking advantage of new trends and shifts in the marketplace, then creating strategies to stay competitive in unstable environments. Organization’s who place a high value on learning and accessing new knowledge increase in strength and are better prepared to absorb fast changing environments. How can organizational and business leaders prepare themselves and their teams to become more aware of the environmental changes in their sphere of business? This article addresses a few ingredients essential to help you, the organizational leader, access new knowledge, and use this knowledge to adjust organizational strategy to meet the changes emerging in your environment. First, we must look to our living systems to get our queues.

Learn from Living Organisms

One way organization’s can make the adjustment is to think like living organisms, which learn to live in, adapt and survive in changing environments such as seasons of drought or when imminent danger looms. Animals have built-in systems of awareness and networks that alert them to apparent changes emerging in their environment. Do you remember the tsunami that hit Thailand’s beaches unrepentantly on Christmas Day 2006? It was noted that birds and animals were seen taking flight away from the ocean to higher ground moments before the tide hit the beach. In other words, these animals sensed atmospheric changes in their ecosystem, which triggered an internal “flight” mechanism. The world of living organisms can teach us many things. For one, a feeling or sense that something is out of alignment in your environment, and with a little intuition and foresight, one can make the needed changes to sustain oneself, even thrive, through what’s looming ahead.

Second, you’ll need to depend on your team and learn to optimize their collective intelligence.

Optimize Team Intelligence

Organizational intelligence requires a constant conversation with your team, not just at the executive level but also throughout the organization, including the shop floor. It’s a top to bottom conversation. Therefore, as you gather your team members’ mine for their collective insights and knowledge, which are crucial for navigational purposes. You should not underestimate the wisdom of your team members regardless of their background, experience or education. Pure wisdom often comes from the simple-minded. Certain employees in your organization interact with suppliers, customers and others vital to your existence. Many times the information shared in these exchanges don’t make it to the top, and organizations miss vital intelligence data required to lead masterfully.

In the story you read, Bob’s two companions had no experience neither as campers nor hiking, however, a conversation would have been better than none at all. In this respect, community learning is essential for acquiring new knowledge. Rapid changes in the environment must include speedy discussions. One leader can’t have all the right answers all the time but a team’s collective insights, knowledge and intuition can be the deal breaker in situations like Bob’s excursion.

How well do you tap into your team’s intelligence?

[1] William E. Halal. Organizational Intelligence: What is it, and how can managers use it? Strategy and Business, Fourth Quarter, 1997.
[2] Allee, Verna. The Future of Knowledge, Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks.  Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003.

Organizational Intelligence: Thriving in Unstable Business Environments

Part I of III

Bob Mercer, a Marketing Executive from Manhattan, took two of his associates to the mountains, where he and his father had camped many times. It had been fourteen years since his last trip. During the drive Bob reminisced of the wonderful memories he shared with his father. Upon arriving Bob decided to forego setting up camp for a short hike into the woods, to a river less than three miles from camp. They took with them a backpack containing a few jugs of water, some light snacks and their fishing gear. Bob sensed he had enough equipment for their short journey. After all, he had planned to get back before sunset to set up camp, build a cozy fire, and fry some of the fresh catch of the day for dinner. Along the trail Bob bragged about the river he and father had fished several times in the past. After they had traveled a few miles, more than expected, the river was nowhere in sight… Bob kept saying, “I’m sure it’s here. I’ve been here several times with my dad.” They kept walking a few more miles, no river in sight. What Bob did not know is that the river was rerouted due to a heavy mudslide in the area several years ago. If they had read the signs along the path they would’ve been alerted of the latest changes in the landscape. But wait, even the trail signs were burned by local fire a few years ago, and since the camp area became unpopular with the campers the signs were not replaced. The ridges and peaks seemed familiar to Bob but certain rest areas and other key landmarks had been eradicated by the fire’s fury and ensuing erosion. Soon Bob and his friends were lost, and the weather above them was rapidly changing; a small detail they had not anticipated. The weather in these high altitudes can change within a moments notice and cause temperatures to drop drastically. Suddenly the ominous clouds above them burst sending a heap of water over them. Bob and his friends needed to respond quickly to the environmental changes. Although Bob was an avid camper for many years as a youth, he had not gone for a long time, and his friends were city dwellers all their lives. They simply didn’t have the expertise or knowledge to respond to these types of situations. The hiking trails filled and flowed with water, which made it more cumbersome to walk uphill. After walking several hours in the rain and mud they luckily stumbled into their campground late into the evening extremely exhausted, nursing the large blisters on their feet. Too tired and late into the night to set up camp they simply spent the night in their rented car, grateful they had made it out of the wilderness alive.

As a businessperson can you relate with this story?

Do you approach your business or the workplace with the same mentality that the economy will look and operate the same as yesterday’s glory years?

When the current economic recession blindsided you, how do you react to it? Did you see it coming?

Did you have a ready recession proof plan in place to guide you through tough times?

In Bob’s story, what was required to make their trip less risky and more enjoyable?

If intelligence matters in a simple hiking trip, then it would make even more sense in the way you operate your business or manage your organization?

The Value of a “Pause”

I am sure you can come up with a catalog of stories when you failed to pause for a few moments before formulating the right response when addressing your parents, a teacher, even your boss. Even right now you are being reminded of a “stupid remark” you wish you could take back but you can’t; it’s been released into the atmosphere, received by another party and adjudicated as a flaw in your character. This failure is often times attributed to a lack of “pause” before we speak and act. Even a series of inappropriate comments and actions can ruin a person’s reputation, which will take time to mend. Pause is crucial for life or anyone desiring more of a leadership role. defines pause as a temporary stop or rest, especially in speech or action, or a cessation of activity because of doubt or uncertainty; a momentary hesitation. Let’s take the term a little further to add that a “pause” has a reason more than just a momentary lapse. A pause is crucial because it gives you an opportunity to stop and think intently to capture wisdom before you speak or engage in a certain behavior.

The discipline of a pause is crucial for anyone desiring collegial respect. I am sure you have been in those meetings when your boss is addressing a critical organizational issue, and afterward, with penetrating eyes he or she looks around the room mining for someone’s wisdom. If wisdom does not come forthrightly you feel the pressure to speak the first thing that comes to your mind. Pause, therefore, is difficult to come by because we are accustomed to burst out a response even if it’s the wrong one. Fast is not always better; it’s imperative for you to take a moment to pause and reflect to gain a much deeper insight about the issue at hand. Pause allows you to…

Capture wisdom’s extremes
In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, specifically in the book of Psalms, the term Selah usually appears after a sentence or paragraph. For instance, Psalm 4:4 notes: “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.” The word Selah is a technical musical term probably showing accentuation, pause, and interruption; silence.[i] A simple yet succinct explanation comes from an article written by Tony Warren called What Does Selah Mean? Warren notes, “Selah, [celah], is from the primary Hebrew root word [calah] which literally means ‘to hang,’ and by implication to measure (weigh). This is readily understood because in Biblical history, money, food and other valuables were ‘weighed’ by hanging or suspending them on a type of balance (the equivalent of our measuring scale) to determine their value.”[ii]

So one can deduct from Warren’s research that Selah is taking a momentary pause to weigh and measure something that is said to determine its worth, and the perceived measured outcome if adopted in life. The purpose of Selah is to draw out and capture the extremes of wisdom before we speak or act on something so that we gain an advantage from its ultimate value. This is a perfect example of a pause at work.

Speak profoundly
James, the sage of age in the first century, reminds us in his epistle to “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” He has reasons for this time-tested axiom. If we follow his advice we should be better equipped to walk in success. To be profound is to say something that is extraordinary; not like the conventional wisdom of this world. A pause allows a person access into another realm of thought and insight where one can unearth gems yet undiscovered; a place where wisdom abides and awaits to be captured. Have you ever heard someone speak and wonder where he or she got his or her wisdom? People who are insightful take the time to ponder, meditate, and excavate for deeper insights.

So the next time you consider blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind, think again for a short period of time. A website states the following, “It only takes a minute to change your life. That’s a one-minute pause, 60 seconds to stop, think and consider the impact of your actions. A pause is a delay, a breather, a suspended reaction. A pause is about finding time to get the facts, and using those facts, not impulses, to help make decisions.” Pause, therefore, is not a difficult process but simply taking an extra minute to step back, think and to go deeper. For the end purpose of a “pause” is to gain critical insight so one can speak profound sayings using only a few words. – Selah

What can you do to improve your “pause”?

1. Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for celah (Strong’s 5542)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 1 Mar 2010. < http://
Strongs=H5542&t=NKJV >
2. What Does Selah Mean by Tony Warren., Accessed on March 1, 2010.
3. Pause: