The Next Generation Leader

Published by Mark Zerbach on

This article is my summary of the book “The Next Generation Leader” by Andy Stanley. I give you the most actionable information from each chapter to save you time. At the end I will give you some insights to take away from Stanley’s book.


Do less, accomplish more


Courage establishes Leadership


Uncertainty demands clarity


Coaching Enables a Leader to go Farther Faster


Character Determines the Leader’s Legacy


Do less, accomplish more

You are doing too much!

Perhaps the two best-kept secrets of leadership are these:

  1. The less you do, the more you accomplish.
  2. The less you do, the more you enable others to accomplish.

Do you believe that you have to be well rounded and have the ability to do everything in your organization well? The moment a leader steps away from their core competencies, their effectiveness as a leader diminishes. Worse, the effectiveness of every other leader in the organization suffers too. Identify the areas in which you are most likely to add unique value to your organization – something no one else can match – then leverage your skills to their absolute max. That’s what your employer expected when they put you on the payroll! More importantly, leveraging yourself generates the greatest and most satisfying return on your God-given abilities.

Five primary obstacles to a leader adopting this way of thinking:

  1. The Quest for Balance. It seems natural and looks good on a resume, but in reality is an unworthy endeavor. Read the biographies of the achievers in any arena of life.       You will find over and over that these were not “well-rounded” leaders. They were men and women of focus. We should strive for balance organizationally, but it is not realistic to strive for balance within the sphere of our personal leadership abilities. It robs you and your organization of time and energy and robs others of the ability to serve in their areas of passion and skills.
  2. Failure to Distinguish between Authority and Competence. Can you distinguish the difference between authority and competency? When we exert our authority in an area where we lack competence, we can derail projects and de-motivate those who have the skills we lack.
  3. Inability to Distinguish between Competencies and Non-competencies. Leaders who are successful in one arena often assume competency in arenas where in fact they have none. Successful leaders tend to assume that their core competencies are broader than they actually are. Worse, the more successful an individual is, the less likely it is that anyone will bring this unpleasant fact to their attention. Consequently, a leader considered an expert in one area is often treated as an expert in others as well. Many have even bought into the notion that great leaders have no weaknesses. In their minds to admit weakness is to diminish their effectiveness. In general, an ability to own up to personal shortcomings is often rooted in some sort of insecurity. This can be easy to see in others, but next to impossible to see in ourselves. It takes a certain amount of personal security to admit weakness. And the truth is that admitting weakness is a sign of strength. When you acknowledge your weakness to the rest of your team, it is never new information.
  4. Guilt. Some leaders don’t play on their strengths because they feel guilty delegating their weaknesses. Do you assume that everyone hates doing the same things you hate doing? Remember, everyone in your organization benefits when you delegate responsibility that falls outside your core competency. Thoughtful delegation will allow someone else to shine in your organization. Your weakness is someone’s opportunity.
  5. Unwillingness to develop other leaders. There is some truth to the adage “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”  Sometimes it really is easier and less time consuming to do things yourself than train someone else. But leadership is not always about getting things done “right.” Leadership is about getting things done through other people. Leaders miss opportunities to play their strengths because they haven’t figured out that great leaders work through other leaders, who work through others. Leadership is about multiplying your efforts, which automatically multiplies your results.

Doing the right things.

Upgrade your performance by playing to your strengths and delegating your weaknesses. This one decision will do more to enhance your productivity than anything else you do as a leader. John Maxwell has said, “You are most valuable where you add the most value.” It is vital to the health and success of our organization that we as leaders discover that task, that narrow arena of responsibility where we add the most value. And once we find it, it’s even more vital that we stay there. As you evaluate your current leadership environment and responsibilities, what do you see that needs to be eliminated? What needs to be delegated?   What would it “not be right” for you to continue doing?

Finding your groove

There is no necessary correlation between how busy you are and how productive you are. Being busy isn’t the same as being productive.

Chances are you are as busy as you have ever been. But does that mean you are being as productive as you could possibly be? Of course not. Full schedules rarely equal maximum productivity. In fact, I would argue that the opposite is true. The most productive people seem to have more, not less, discretionary time than the average person. They control their schedules rather than allow their schedules to control them.

Observation and analysis confirm that 20 percent of our efforts result in 80 percent of our effectiveness.

The 80/20 principle, by Richard Koch, documents this important relationship: The 80/20 principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to the majority of the results, output, or rewards. Taken literally, this means that, for example 80 percent of what you achieve in your job comes from 20 percent of the time spent. Thus for all practical purposes, four-fifths of the effort – a dominant part of it – is largely irrelevant.

If Koch is right, it is imperative that we discover the 20 percent of what we do that generates the 80 percent of our productivity. Having discovered it, we must focus more of our time and energy on those activities.

Where is your 80 percent productivity flow from?

With the above in mind look at your current schedule.

What does it reflect?

To use Koch’s paradigm, you must commit more of your time to the 20 percent activities. Doing so will increase your productivity and your value to your organization.

The following questions are designed to help you discover your core competencies. Take a few minutes to do some personal evaluation. You might find it helpful to take a few notes as you work through this list.

  1. What do you do that is almost effortless from your perspective but seems like a daunting task to others?
  2. In what arenas do people consider you the “go to” person?
  3. What do you enjoy about your current job?
  4. What do you wish you could delegate?
  5. What do you do that elicits the most praise and recognition from others?
  6. What environments do you look forward to working in?
  7. What environments do you avoid?
  8. What kind of advice do people seek from you?
  9. If you could focus more of your time and attention on one or two aspects of your job, what would they be?

Self-evaluation is a necessary step in discovering your core-competencies. But it is not enough. No one is completely objective about themselves. For that reason, you would be wise to involve other people in this process. Choose two or three people who know you well and who employ others, and ask them to answer these questions about you.

  1. If I came to work for you free…….
    • Where in your organization would I add the most value?
    • Where would you want me to focus my attention?
    • Where would I stand the most chance of success?
    • What area or areas would you see to it that I avoid?
  2. In my current work environment, where do you see misalignment between my core competencies and my responsibilities?
  3. If you had an opportunity to advise my boss on how to better utilize me, what would your advice be?
  4. Are you aware of areas in my life where there is misalignment between my passion and my competency?

A third project you could do to help you surface your real strengths is to develop two job descriptions for yourself. Your first one should reflect current reality. The second one, your ideal job description.

Assume for the moment that you are going to work for your current employer for the next two years. How would you adjust your current job description to position you to add greater value to the organization? How could your employer better use you? Which of your gifts are not currently being utilized to their fullest?

When you have finished this project present it to your boss. Essentially you have put time and effort into trying to improve their productivity as well as your own. If your employer is going to pay you anyway, they might as well squeeze the most value out of you they can. Nobody benefits from organizational misalignment. Misalignment is expensive. It results in unnecessary wear, tear, personally and corporately.

Make a habit of asking your top people these questions.

  • What do you want to do?
  • How can I help you find greater satisfaction within this organization?
  • Where are your skills not being put to good use?
  • How can I help you focus more of your time and energy on the thing(s) that tap your core competencies as well as add value to the organization?

We know when we are misemployed. We know when our talents and efforts are being misappropriated. What we don’t know is how open our supervisors are to hearing about it.

Change that atmosphere in your area.

In addition to writing up your current job description and sharing it, develop your ultimate job description. This is for your eyes only. The goal of this exercise is to help you identify the niche in which you would feel most productive and consequently most successful. Dream a little.

What if you could do anything and work anywhere? What would you do? Where would you do it? Who would you work with? Go ahead; write it down. Sure, it may seem unrealistic from where you sit today. But visions always seem realistic when they are first hatched. This is a vision not a plan.

Organize the vision for your dream job around two things: environment and responsibilities.

  1. In light of your strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and passions, describe the optimal working environment.
  • What kind of people would you enjoy working with?
  • Would you want to work as part of a team or on your own?
  • Would you want to travel? If so, how much?
  • Would you enjoy a highly structured environment?
  • Would you work better in a loosely structures environment

2. In light of your strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and passions, what kinds if things would you want to be responsible for?

  • Do you see yourself in management, sales, marketing?
  • Would you enjoy working with numbers or people?
  • What kind of assignments would you enjoy tackling?
  • Would you enjoy a job that requires a great deal of writing?
  • Would you enjoy a job that requires verbal skills?

The reason this exercise is both healthy and helpful is that it allows you to think purely in terms of your passions and abilities.

Take some time to develop a short job description that you believe would allow you to focus on your core competencies. These paragraphs will serve as your personal vision – a compass heading.

You should build upon your giftedness and delegate all else. When you do this, the results is a competent organization that reflects your strengths, not your weaknesses. Helping those around you discover their core competencies and then positioning them accordingly ensures that your organization can perform at peak proficiency.

To develop a competent team, help the leaders in your organization discover their leadership competencies and delegate accordingly. There are several ways to do this.

  1. Make a list of your key people and write down what you perceive as their primary value to the organization.       Having done that evaluate their job descriptions, asking yourself this question: “How can I free up more of their time to do the things that add the most value to this organization?”
  2. Encourage your staff to rewrite their current job descriptions with the goal of refocusing their time on the things they do best.
  3. Lead your key people through a discussion of the principles discussed in this book.
  4. Create opportunities for you staff to discuss ways to better leverage their abilities.

Having the right people in the right positions is essential to your success and the success of your organization.

There are times when you must pitch in and do things that fall outside your core competencies. But those occasions must be chosen strategically, and they must be the exception.

Look for opportunities to temporarily shoulder someone else’s burden within your organization. Be strategic in your timing. Remember, once you step outside your zone, don’t attempt to lead. “Follow.”

As you move closer to the ideal, you will become more and more valuable to your organization. As you narrow your focus, you will broaden the opportunities for those who have chosen to follow you. According to Steven Covey, delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity there is. There are people who love what you hate. Strengthen your team by setting them free to do what you hate. In that way you will ensure that your organization reflects your strengths as well as the strengths of those around you.

To be an Effective Leader

  • Recognize that you have limited strength. Do whatever it takes to discover what they are. Once you know, find a work environment that allows you to focus your energies on the few things you were created to do well.
  • Don’t allow your time to get eaten up with responsibilities and projects that call for skills that fall outside your core competencies. That is a recipe for mediocrity.
  • Embrace the truth: The less you do, the more you will accomplish.
  • Narrow your focus to increase your productivity and expand your influence within your organization.
  • Empower the leaders around you by delegating those responsibilities that fall outside your zone. Somebody is dying to pick up the ball you drop. Your weakness is their opportunity.
  • Remember great leaders know when to follow.

The Next Generation Challenge 

  1. What defines success for you in your current employment situation?
  2. Is there alignment between your core competencies and those competencies necessary to succeed in your job?
  3. What would change about your current job description if you were given the freedom to focus on the two or three things you do best?
  4. What would need to change in your current employment situation in order for you to focus on the things that add the most value to your organization?
  5. Take some time to complete the exercises listed above.


Courage establishes Leadership

First In

Leaders love progress. Progress is what keeps them coming back to the task. Nothing is more discouraging to a leader than the prospect of being stranded in an environment where progress is impossible. If we can’t move things forward then it’s time to move on.

Leaders challenge what is for the sake of what could and should be. That is the job of the leader. But challenging what has always been and what has always worked before requires guts. Simply recognizing the need for change does not define leadership. The leader is the one who has the courage to act on what they see.

Courage is essential to leadership because the first person to step out in a new direction is viewed as the leader. And being the first to step out requires courage. In this way courage establishes leadership. Courage to act defines the leader, and in turn the leader’s initiative gives those around them courage to follow.

Beyond the need to challenge what should be changed, leaders have been given the assignment to take people places they’ve never been before. Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and then ask people to follow them there. Leaders require those around them to abandon the known and embrace the unknown – with no guarantee of success.

Leaders are not always the first to see an opportunity. They are simply the first to seize an opportunity. It is the person who seizes the opportunity who emerges as the leader.

The leader who refuses to move until fear is gone will never move. There is always uncertainty associated with the future. Uncertainty presupposes risk. Leadership is about moving boldly into the future in spite of uncertainty and risk. Without courage we will simple accumulate a collection of good ideas and regrets.

Ask veteran leaders about their risk-tolerance and they will tell you the same thing: “I wish I had taken more risks.” Seasoned leaders rarely regret having taken risks. Even the risks that didn’t pay off directly are viewed as a necessary part of the journey.

Leaders view failure differently than the common person. Consequently they don’t fear failure the same way the average person does.

Here’s the difference: Eventually a leader’s lust for progress overwhelms their reluctance to take risks. In other words, failure to move things forward is the type of failure most feared by the leader.

As you listen to leaders tell their stories, you hear little about strategic planning and goal setting. You will hear a lot about identifying and acting on opportunities. Strategies and goals have their place, but they don’t define leadership. Leaders see and seize opportunity. And in most cases the opportunities take them by surprise.

There is a difference between courageous and careless. Leaders worth following are always careful. They are careful because they genuinely care for those who have chosen to follow. A leader who is careless will eventually be considered thoughtless by those who have entrusted their future to them.

Careful versus fearful

Fear often disguises itself behind the mask of care. Fearful people often excuse their fears as caution.

“I’m not afraid. I’m just being cautious.

“You can’t rush these things you know”

Take a moment to think through the following five contrasts. Which ones best describe you?

  • Careful is cerebral; fearful is emotional.
  • Careful is fueled by information; fearful is fueled by imagination.
  • Careful calculates risk; fearful avoids risk.
  • Careful wants to achieve success; fearful wants to avoid failure.
  • Careful is concerned about progress; fearful is concerned about protection.

Ask yourself this question:

“What do I believe is impossible to do in my field…..but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?”

As you generate a list, a little voice inside you will whisper, “It will take more than courage to pursue these ideas; it will take capital.”

 Capital follows courage, and what always precedes how.

  1. Leaders must challenge the process precisely because any system will unconsciously conspire to maintain status quo and prevent change. Keep in mind that everything you loath about your current environment or organization was originally somebody’s good idea.

Three Expressions of Courage

Leadership requires the courage to challenge what is for the sake of what could be. But the need for courage goes beyond the leader’s charge to challenge current reality. Three specific expressions of courage are essential for those who aspire to be leaders worth following.

  1. The courage to say No.

Don’t allow the many good opportunities to divert your attention from the one opportunity that has the greatest potential.

2. Courage to Face Current Reality.

In addition to knowing when to say no leaders must be able to face current reality. Designing and implementing a strategy for change is a waste of time until you have discovered and embraced the current reality. If you don’t know where you really are, it is impossible to get to where you need to be. What you don’t know can kill you.

To ensure that we are leading with our feet firmly planted on the soil of what is, we must live by the seven commandments of current reality:

    • Thou shall not pretend.
    • Thou shalt not turn a blind eye.
    • Thou shalt not exaggerate.
    • Thou shalt not shoot the bearer of bad news.
    • Thou shalt not hide behind the numbers.
    • Thou shalt not ignore constructive criticism.
    • Thou shalt not isolate thyself.

3. Courage to Dream

Every great accomplishment began as a dream.

To be an effective Leader …….

  • Leadership is not defined by talent. Look for an opportunity to break from the pack and seize it. Those are the moments in which leadership is discovered and defined.
  • You’re afraid. So what? Everybody’s afraid. Fear is the common ground of humanity. The question you must wrestle to the ground is, Will I allow my fear to bind me to mediocrity?
  • Don’t let how get in the way of pursuing what. Leaders pursue opportunities long before the means and maps are available. Your industry’s unsolved problems are the gateway to the future.
  • Leaders don’t hide from the truth. The pain of discovery is the first step on the path to change. If you are going to fear anything, fear not knowing the truth about what’s around you. In the world of leadership denial is analogous to receiving the last rites.
  • What could be? What should be? Write it down. Hang it on the wall. Broadcast it.

The Next Generation Challenge

  1. As a leader what is your greatest fear?
  2. How and when does it manifest itself?
  3. Do you define failure more in terms of unsuccessful enterprises or missed opportunities?
  4. What keeps you standing on the sidelines of opportunity?
  5. Do you have a dream that you have put on the back burner for fear of failure?


Uncertainty demands clarity.

Leading in the shadow of uncertainty

Uncertainty is a permanent part of leadership landscape. It never goes away. Uncertainty is not an indication of poor leadership; it underscores the need for leadership. It is the environment in which good leadership is most easily identified. The nature of leadership demands that there always be an element of uncertainty. The greater the uncertainty the greater the need for leadership.

You will consistently be called upon to make decisions with limited information. That being the case, your goal should not be to eliminate uncertainty. Instead, you must develop the art of being clear in the face of uncertainty.

The art of clarity involves giving explicit and precise direction in spite of limited information and unpredictable outcomes. We are accustomed to coaches, captains, and catchers giving clear signals in the midst of uncertainty. We have seen the chaos that ensures on the playing field when a signal isn’t clear. But in the world of business, uncertainty makes us uneasy. We hesitate. We become less specific and more general in our directives. Our people are unsure of what we expect. We yell “hike!” and everyone runs in whatever direction they feel is best. If you’re not careful, uncertainty will sand the edges off your clarity. The results will be chaos in the cubicles.

Contrary to what you might think, uncertainty actually increases with increased leadership responsibility. Regardless of the type of organization you work in, your future leadership responsibility will be capped by your ability or inability to manage uncertainty.

The goal of leadership is not to eradicate uncertainty, but rather to navigate it. Uncertainty is a component of every environment that calls for leadership. Where you find one, you’ll always find the other.

Leadership is about taking people on a journey. The challenge is that most of the time we are asking people to follow us to places we are selves have never been.

This is the tension every good leader lives with: negotiating uncertain terrain while casting a clear and compelling vision. There is always uncertainty. But uncertainty underscores the need for clarity.

I’ll tell you when we get there

As leaders we can afford to be uncertain, but we cannot afford to be unclear. People will follow you in spite of a few bad decisions. People will not follow you if you are unclear in your instruction, and you cannot hold them accountable to respond to muddled directives. Neither will they follow if you lack confidence.

You must be clear. Clarity results in influence. Clarity is perceived as leadership.

Managing your uncertainty

Uncertainty is not your enemy. Uncertainty provides you with job security now and unimaginable opportunities in the future.

Here are four practical suggestions for enhancing clarity in the midst of uncertainty.

  1. Determine your certainty quotient. Using a successful decision: Using an unsuccessful decision: This is important to know. If in looking back you determine that you’re best decisions have been made at the 75% mark, for instance, then that is your uncertainty quotient.

Generally speaking, you are probably never going to be more than about 80% certain. Granted that this is about very inexact percentages. But as you think about it you will get a general feel for when you operate best.

Were you 100% certain, 50 % certain, when you comfortably pulled the trigger on a decision?

Were you 100% certain, 50 % certain, when you comfortably pulled the trigger on a decision?

Look back at previous decisions and determine the degree of certainty you have achieved in the past.

2. Express your uncertainty with confidence.Two things always happen when we pretend. First we close ourselves off from the input of others. Second, we expose our insecurities to the people we have asked to follow us. Sharp people around you will know when you are bluffing. Pretending erodes respect much quicker than an admission of uncertainty.

In leadership there is always the temptation to pretend to know more than we really do. We fear that people won’t follow us unless we portray the image that we are all-knowing.

3. Seek Counsel.

The third thing you can do to make sure you’re being clear in the midst of uncertainty is to seek wise counsel.

4. Measure your success by the scoreboard, not the playbook.

Every good coach goes into the game to win. About that they are perfectly clear. And every good coach goes into the game with a strategy, a plan. But every good coach is willing to scrap their plan in order to win. The goal is to win, not run certain plays in a certain order.

To Be An Effective Leader…….

  • Be clear even when you are not certain. The only thing we can be certain about is the past – everything from this moment on is a guess. Once you acknowledge that, you will be free to make decisions with limited information.
  • Recognize that clarity of vision is more important than certainty of outcome. Every great accomplishment began as an idea that stood in contrast to someone’s current reality. In the beginning there is always enough uncertainty to shut down a vision – thus the need for leadership.
  • Remember that clarity is perceived as leadership. Clarity creates its own influence and its own momentum. Whoever paints the clearest picture will ultimately be viewed as the leader.
  • Don’t pretend. Once you are okay with what you don’t know, the people around you will be okay with it as well. One of the worse things you can do as a leader is to pretend that you have all the answers; to do so is to unnecessarily jeopardize your mission.
  • Be flexible. Uncertainty will wreck havoc with your plans, but don’t allow uncertainty to derail your vision. Pencil in your plans. Etch the vision in stone.

The Next Generation Challenge

  1. Are you clear in your directives?
  2. Has the uncertainty of your environment taken the edge off of your clarity?
  3. What is more harmful to those in your organization: clear directives that are changed midstream or unclear directives that are difficult to follow?
  4. Can everyone in your organization answer these questions?
    • What are we doing?
    • How do I fit in?
  5. How easy is it for you to own your bad decisions?


Coaching Enables a Leader to go Farther Faster

 In the world of leadership we operate under the misguided assumption that because we are leaders, we don’t need to be led. Once we are recognized for our ability to “perform” we think we don’t need outside input in order to enhance our performance. Consequently, we measure our leadership against our god-given potential. And in the end we never become all we could have been.

To be the best leader you can be, you must enlist the help of others. Self-evaluation is helpful, but evaluation from someone else is essential. You need a leadership coach. We have a tendency to measure ourselves against the people around us. They become our point of reference. A good coach will evaluate your performance against your potential. A coach helps you measure your performance against your strengths instead of someone else’s. A coach will know what you are capable of and will push you to your limit.

Unlike coaches in sports, leadership coaches are not visible. They operate behind the scenes.

One of the best ways to understand the role of leadership coach is to compare coaching to three familiar disciplines: counseling, consulting, and mentoring.


The job of a counselor is to help individual resolve issues of the past in order to operate more effectively in the present. A coach, on the other hand, helps us assess the present so that we can operate more effectively in the future.


A consultant is typically engaged for a short time in order to solve a specific problem. A coaching relationship is typically a medium to long-term prospect. Coaching does not center on problem solving, as it is with consulting. Instead the focus is performance enhancement.


A mentor is usually an older and more experienced person who provides advice and support to a younger, less experienced individual in a particular field. Coaching encompasses all the components of a mentoring relationship, and then some. The primary difference is that in a coaching relationship, the coach often takes more initiative about when and how information is passed along. Unlike a typical mentoring arrangement, a leadership coach doesn’t simple advice when asked. A coach is going to be more proactive in their instruction and evaluation. A coach is often on the scene watching rather than in an office waiting for a report. A good leadership coach will do everything in their power to ensure progress. A win for the man or women they are coaching is a win for themselves as well. Win and losses are personal. Good leadership coaches function as if they have something at stake in your performance.

As obvious as that sounds there is something in many of us that resists being coached in the realm of leadership. We are willing to spend outrageous amounts of time and money perfecting our putts, serves, and swings. But when it comes to our leadership, we resist input. Maybe it’s the way leaders are wired. Maybe it’s pride. I don’t know. But on more than one occasion I have interfaced with young leaders who had great potential but who were un-teachable.

The King Who Wouldn’t Listen

Great leaders are great learners. But learning assumes an attitude of submission. And submission isn’t something all leaders are comfortable with. Submission is what others, those people who need to be lead, do. Our strengths can easily become our weaknesses. And so it is with a leader’s attitude toward submission. This is especially true in the early years of a leader’s life – those years when we are sure we already know everything and all we need is an opportunity to prove it.

Engaging a leadership coach requires a willingness on the part of the leader to submit to the counsel and instruction of others. If you are not teachable, you are not coachable.

What Coaches Do

So what exactly does a leadership coach do? Three things. An effective leadership coach:

  1. Observes
  2. Instructs
  3. Inspires

It is just about impossible to help someone become a better performer if you never actually see them perform. The person or people you invite into the role of coach must be in a position to watch you lead. The thought of having someone evaluate your leadership may be intimidating at first. But think about it: People watch you lead all the time. Leadership doesn’t happen in a closet. It is public performance. Our leadership is constantly on display. As leaders we are on a stage in front of all those who have chosen to follow us. So why not plant a coach or two among the crowd?



A good leadership coach will do everything in their power to help you close the gap between your potential and your performance. That may entail brutal honesty. Why? Because the painful truth is the fast track to increased performance.

Engaging a good leadership coach is difficult, for two reasons. To begin with most people won’t even know what you are talking about if you asked them to serve as your leadership coach. Second, qualified candidates will tell you they aren’t qualified.

Get a coach and you will never stop improving.

Become a coach and ensure the improvement of those around you.

To Be An Effective Leader…….

  • Face it, you are not as good as you could be. So what are you going to do about it? The only way to go farther, faster, is to engage outside help. You can maximize your leadership potential by getting a coach…or two.
  • Find someone to observe you in a variety of leadership settings. Outside input is critical. Even if you could watch yourself in a mirror twenty-four hours a day, you would never see yourselves as others see you.
  • Select a coach who has no axe to grind and no reason to be anything except brutally honest. They need not be an expert in your field. What your coach must be able to do however, is put themselves in the shoes of those who are influenced by your leadership.
  • Become a coach. As we learn to do by doing, we learn to accept by giving.

The Next Generation Challenge

  1. Look at the list of leadership environments in this chapter and begin jotting down the names of people whom you would trust to observe and critique you.
  2. Does it scare you to be that vulnerable? If so why?
  3. What do you have to lose by engaging a leadership coach? What do you have to gain?
  4. Do you have a propensity to do an end run around authority you disagree with?
  5. If you can’t find someone who is farther down the road of leadership to coach you, gather a group of peers and work through leadership literature together.



Character Determines the Leader’s Legacy

A nonessential

Character is not essential to leadership. We all know leaders who have led large organizations and garnered the loyalty of many followers, and yet lacked character. They demonstrated courage and competency. They were clear in their directives. They may have even sought the advice of others. But they were not men or women of who were known for doing what was right. It is not uncommon to hear accomplished leaders attribute their successes to business practices and personal conduct that most people would consider reprehensible.

As we discussed earlier, you can lead without character. But character is what makes you a leader worth following.

Your gifts and determination may dictate your potential, but it is your character that will determine your legacy

Character is about will because it requires a willingness to make tough decisions – decisions that sometimes run contrary to emotion, intuition, economics, current trends, and in the eyes of some, common sense. Having the will to do what’s right requires that you determine what’s right before the struggle to do what’s right ensues. Leading with character necessitates a series of pre-decisions. As a leader you must decide ahead of time what is nonnegotiable as it relates to right and wrong.

Character involves doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do – regardless of the cost. And it’s those last few words that divide men and women of character from those with good but negotiable intentions.

Every leader wears two badges: one visible, one invisible. The visible badge is your position and title. The invisible badge is your moral authority. Your position gives you authority within a certain context, i.e., the office. Your moral authority, however gives you influence in a variety of contexts. Your position will prompt people in your organization to lend you their hands on a temporary basis. But your moral authority will inspire them to lend you their hearts.

The King Who Followed

Success raises the stakes. Consequently, at the first critical moment, many leaders will abandon their commitment to character. Just when they have an opportunity to really lead – to jump out in front of the pack – they choose instead to follow the masses, the men and women who confuse the rewards of success with the genuine item.

There will come a time in your leadership when your character will be tested. You will have an opportunity to be the hero. The opportunity will take you by surprise. In the heat of the moment you will be unaware of all that is at stake. But if you do what’s right, you will look back and see that it was a defining moment for you as a leader and as an individual.

The Leader Worth Following

Your talent and giftedness as a leader have the potential to take you farther than your character can sustain you. That ought to scare you

The fact that people choose to follow you is not necessarily an indicator that you deserve to be followed. There is a significant difference between having a following and being worth following. The truth is that talented, charismatic, visionary people will almost always have a following. Whether they are worth following is a different question, predicated upon a different set of values.

Begin at the End

Character development always begins with the end in mind. What do you want to be remembered for?

Make It Public

Once you have determined what you want to be, tell someone. Go public with your intentions.

Leaders worth following predetermine their response to invitations and opportunities that have the potential to sink them morally and ethically. While uncertainty is unavoidable in the external world of leadership, leaders have no uncertainty when it comes to guarding their character.

To Be An Effective Leader…….

  • Understand that character is not essential to leadership. But character is what sets you apart as a leader worth following. Talent and determination determine your potential; character determines your legacy.
  • Chose to do what’s right, even when it is hard. The more successful you become, the harder it will be to maintain integrity. Small compromises early in the journey will make it easier to compromise on the big things later.
  • Don’t fool yourself. Surviving small indiscretions deceives many leaders into thinking that they will be equally successful in surviving the bigger ones down the line. History tells us that nothing could be further from the truth.
  • Remember, your character is always on display. It shapes your reactions, your attitudes, and your priorities. Likewise, your character shapes the experience of those who choose to journey with you – and therefore will determine who is left standing in your corner when the journey draws to a close.

The Next Generation Challenge

  1. What is your greatest temptation who have you told?
  2. As you think about where you are professionally versus where you want to be, what or who stands in your way?
  3. In light of those obstacles, what are the shortcuts you will most likely be tempted to take?
  4. What do you want to be remembered for?
  5. What’s your plan?
Categories: Book Reviews


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