Daily Quote: The Most Powerful Weapon

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

~Nelson Mandela

Found in the book:

Inspirational Quotes for Teachers

Inspirational Quotes for Teachers

Daily Quote: Dance In The Rain

“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…it’s about learning how to dance in the rain!”

~Vivian Green

Found in the book:


Learning To Dance in the Rain with FREE DVD

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Daily Quote: Blessing or Curse

“We determine whether something will be a blessing or a curse by the way we choose to see it.”

~Kate Nowak

Found in the book:

May You Be Blessed

May You Be Blessed with FREE DVD

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The 10 Commandments of Leadership: Article

10 Commandments of Leadership

It’s an age-old question that has been pondered by millions of people – one that we’ve spent the better part of our professional careers researching and studying. And it’s one of the most important and relevant inquiries you must address as you continue to build and shape your professional career:

What does it take to be a truly effective leader?

A simple enough question – but a fairly complex answer!

Why complex? Because of the many variables involved. The myriad of management styles, issues, tasks, technologies, industries, and needs out there in the business world make it challenging to come up with a cookie cutter – “one size fits all” – package of leadership characteristics for everyone in every situation. But while the task is challenging, it’s not impossible.

Experience is a Great Teacher

Over the last thirty-plus years, we’ve had the privilege and good fortune to work with literally thousands of leaders – at all levels – in organizations of all types and sizes. We’ve taught and consulted … we’ve listened and learned. Throughout those experiences, we’ve observed, analyzed, and documented a collection of core “best in class” leadership beliefs and behaviors. These characteristics – traits which separate the best from the rest – are what we call … THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF LEADERSHIP. In this article we will share the first of these 10 Commandments.

What’s in a Name?

Look up the word “commandment” in the dictionary and you will find definitions such as: an edict; a command or mandate; the act or power of commanding; an order or injunction given by an authority. Trust us, we’re not deluded with thoughts of having some special authority, uncommon wisdom, or right to set rules or mandate behavior. Clearly, those attributes are “way above our pay grades.”

So why the label “commandments”? Because of two other dictionary definitions: precepts; teachings – which is exactly what this material has been for us … and what we hope it will be for you.

Earning Your Title

One of the many things we’ve learned through our work is that having a leadership position and being a leader are not one and the same. Your position is something you were appointed to … something you became eligible for by being a good performer in the past. In all likelihood, what you did “yesterday,” as an individual contributor, helped you get the title you hold today. And that’s exactly what your position is: a classification … a title. Being a true leader, however, is significantly different!

“Leader” is a descriptor – a designation you must earn through specific actions and behaviors. It’s based on what you do today, and what you will do, tomorrow – not what’s printed on your business card or engraved on your name tag. And earning the label of “leader” requires that you think and act in ways that are considerably different from what you did before you were promoted.

Simply put, to be a real leader, you must do the things that leaders do … and you must do them well.

An Important Role

As a leader, you play a critically important role. People need you. They rely on you. They have expectations of you. And they count on you to know the way, show the way, and LEAD them along the way. To be sure, your job is comprised of not-always-equal parts of challenge, frustration, demands, joys, and satisfaction – all topped off with a large helping of responsibility. Being a leader isn’t always easy, but it is always important. And when done right, it is – with few exceptions – truly rewarding.

Despite the old adage, leaders are made not born. They’re made with discipline, commitment, and hard work. Leadership is developed by learning and refining specific skills – and applying those skills according to sound principles and time-tested guidelines.

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned manager, a novice just starting in a leadership position, or someone in the middle of the experience continuum, you need to be effective … you need to be successful. You owe that to your team members and you owe that to your organization. Most importantly, you owe it to YOURSELF.

Leadership Commandment #1

Make What Matters Really Matter

A participant in a recent leadership development workshop nailed it when she uttered this gem …

“Leaders are guardians of importance.”

That was her truly profound conclusion to a discussion we conducted based on four simple – but not necessarily easy to answer – questions.

The first question posed to the group – What’s important here? – produced fairly typical responses which can be summarized with four words: people, performance, principles and profit.

The second question – Do those things really matter? – brought out the predictable (almost robotic) response: “Of course!”

Query number three – How do you know those things matter? – required a little more thought but produced equally predictable answers such as: “It’s obvious” and “We just know.”

Then, came the fourth question – How do YOUR PEOPLE know what matters? And this is where the discussion got interesting. A couple of participants re-hashed answers from the previous question: “It’s obvious” and “They just know.” Before we could respond, another member of the group jumped in and challenged those statements. “I’m not so sure our people always do know what’s important here. If they did, we might not have some of the problems and issues that we periodically deal with. That may be our fault. As leaders, it’s up to us to make sure what matters really does matter. And I think that’s something to do with actions – not with words.”

That discussion, that day, was the genesis of this first commandment of leadership.

The Clues

Without question, observing what leaders DO is the true litmus test of what’s important for any organization. And employees definitely are watching. They’re watching ten specific leadership behaviors that provide clues to what really matters:

1. What you pay attention to – the things you look for, notice, and comment on.
2. What you talk about and emphasize – the things you discuss in meetings and mention in written communications.
3. What you do, yourself – the actions you take; the behaviors you demonstrate; the example you set.
4. What you expect and demand from others – the standards you set and requirements you establish for your team.
5. How you spend your time – the priorities you establish and activities you engage in daily.
6. What you budget for and allocate resources to – the “tools” you provide and activities you fund.
7. What you measure and evaluate – the performance and results you monitor, track, and provide feedback on.
8. What you brag about – the things you are proud of and cite as examples of positive achievement.
9. What you reward – the behaviors, achievements, and results you recognize and reinforce.
10. What you enforce – the things you hold people accountable for and assign consequences to.

Fact: Saying “quality is of utmost importance” is a waste of breath if the only thing you check, measure, and reward is the number of units produced!

The Test

Think for a moment about the things that are important in your organization. Jot them down on a piece of paper. Chances are your list includes words and concepts like: our policies and procedures, customer service, quality, profitability, teamwork, responsibility, ethics and integrity, etc.

Next, circle the items on your list that are really important … those that really matter. (It’s okay to circle all of them!).

Finally, review your list, do a little self-reflection, and honestly answer the following:

Would an outsider who was unfamiliar with our organization know what truly matters here merely by watching me?

What specific behaviors can I cite as evidence?

Key Strategies

Yes, leaders are guardians of importance. YOU are that guardian! You must ensure that what matters to the organization also matters to each member of your team. What can you do to meet that critical leadership responsibility?

Here are a few strategies that should help:

  • Make sure they know. Don’t assume employees inherently grasp what’s important in your workplace. Why would they? Why should they? After all, they view the job through their eyes, not yours or senior management’s. In order to be sure that team members know what matters, you need to communicate. You have to tell them … you have to discuss it. And that entails meeting with all of your people (individually or as a group) and following this agenda:

a) Identify the principles, behaviors, and outcomes that matter.
b) Explain why they are important to everyone’s success.
c) Clarify what you expect from all employees.
d) Confirm team member understanding.

So, meet with your people, complete this agenda, and you’ll be able to say with assuredness, “I know they know!”

  • Keep it in the spotlight. Things that are important get ongoing attention. They’re continually discussed, written about, featured, tracked, measured, and repeated. Let’s face it – no employee is going to conclude that something is important because “the boss said something about it last year.” The meetings you conduct, the memos and e-mails you send, the coaching sessions you conduct, the training you provide, the behaviors you recognize and reward, the reports you issue, and your postings on walls and bulletin boards (just to name a few) all provide opportunities to reinforce what truly matters. Use them, and remember …

Out of sight, out of mind. 

Out of mind, out of importance. 

Out of importance, OUT OF PRACTICE!

  • Hold everyone accountable. Think about it. What in our adult life, that’s truly important, has no associated accountabilities or consequences? The answer is nothing. In “the real world,” importance and accountability go hand-in-hand. It’s important to pay taxes – and we’re accountable for doing so. It’s important to obey the laws of the land – and we’re accountable for doing so. And when it comes to our jobs, there are behavior and performance expectations which are important to meet … and employees MUST be held accountable for doing so! You make that happen by backing up words (stated expectations) with consistent actions (consequences). Albeit distasteful, that is a leadership responsibility that must be faced and met.

Behavior tends to be a product of its consequences.
Without accountabilities
– and enforced sanctions for doing wrong –
employees are likely to conclude that
“It doesn’t matter what I do!”

  • INspec what you EXpect. Stay aware of what’s happening in your group by wandering around, observing, and visiting with employees. Keep up with what your people are working on and the behaviors they are exhibiting. Schedule briefings on activities being performed, decisions being made, and results being achieved. Just as certain excuses are unacceptable from team members, here’s one that’s unacceptable from you as a leader: “I had no idea that was happening.”
  • Model what matters. As a leader, you have a strong influence on the thoughts and behaviors of your employees – perhaps much stronger than you think. And one of your many leadership responsibilities is to model the behavior you expect from others. To do otherwise is hypocrisy. Fact is, you must earn the right to expect things from your people by doing those same things, yourself. Like it or not, you do operate in a fish bowl. Employees are constantly listening to your words and watching your behaviors. They assume that it’s okay to do whatever you do; they conclude that the things you do are the things that really matter. And they are right!

You have no choice about being a role model.
You are one … it comes with the job.
The only choice you have is deciding
which role will you model.

Take Away … to Remember

Importance is not something you assign – it’s something you demonstrate through actions and behaviors. To be a truly effective leader for your people and your organization, you need to remember and apply the first commandment of leadership:


From the book: The 10 Commandments of Leadership

The 10 Commandments of Leadership

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Daily Quote: How hope works

“Hope works in these ways: it looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst; it discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot; it regards problems, large or small, as opportunities; it pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit; it “lights the candle” instead of cursing the darkness.”


Found in the book:

Motivational Quotes

Motivational Quotes

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Daily Quote: Your Invitation

“We are all constantly invited to be who we are.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Found in the book:

Seven Choices for Success and Significance

Seven Choices for Success and Significance



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Leader Solution: Speaking the Language of Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion are two key Leadership responsibilities that involve a full array of individual and organizational attitudes and behaviors. Here is an excellent perspective on inclusion from Leslie Aguilar’s powerful book Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts:

Speaking the Language of Inclusion is one way to demonstrate respect for your listeners. It means choosing language and nonverbal communication that includes everyone and avoids bias, stereotyping, and discounting. This eliminates unnecessary static from your communication and makes it more likely that your message can get across to a broad range of people. There is no list of what to say or do that will guarantee you are inclusive and bias free in your communication. Through respectful intention and positive word choice, however, you can …

  • Communicate clearly;
  • Avoid stereotyping and discounting of others;
  • Help people feel they are included in your message;
  • Name and describe people in ways that are accurate, unbiased, and relevant;
  • Select jokes and humor that celebrate our common humanity rather than demean one another for our differences.

When you consistently demonstrate respect and inclusion, others will be more willing to forgive you if you occasionally “slip up” and mistakenly communicate bias. While bias-free communication takes ongoing effort, it will help you build a foundation of trust with your listeners.

So, next time you reach for a dictionary, thesaurus, or spell check, think about checking for stereotypes and bias as well.

Lead well … LEAD RIGHT,


From the book:

Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts

Communicating Respectfully
In A Diverse World

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Daily Quote: Remember this…

“Remember there are no mistakes, only lessons.

Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible.”

~Cherie Carter Scott

Found in the book:

One Choice

One Choice with FREE DVD

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Daily Quote: The Really Great

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

~Mark Twain

Found in the book:

Life Begins When You Do

Daily Quote: Perseverance

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins …
not through strength but by perseverance.”

H. Jackson Brown

Found in the book:

212 The Extra Degree

212° the extra degree

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