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Intentional Integrity

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

Classrooms, churches, and families could also be added to the former president’s list.  There is no walk of life where integrity isn’t the supreme quality of a leader.

When surveyed, 95% of employees listed integrity as the number one thing they want to be present in their boss.  Integrity is vital.

When it comes to your own integrity, where does it rank on your list of priorities this week?

Most of us never consider what we will do to intentionally maintain, or grow, our integrity.  This seems foolish if, “without it, no real success is possible.”

Why not set aside some time this week and work on your integrity?  Why?  Because failing the integrity test means failing as a leader.



What are some specific ways a leader can work on his or her integrity?

Monday Morning Quarterback

With football season in full force, there is no end to those who are experiencing disappointment as they wake up this morning.  Half the teams lost this weekend.

In today’s world of win at all costs, a few coaches are already on the hot seat.  It appears that fans and media know more about winning than the coaches do.

While it is true that there are coaches that are not meeting expectations, I can assure you that none of them are trying to fail.

Some are guilty of surrounding themselves with weak talent.  Some have limited resources compared to others.  Some have an unmanageable schedule.  But those things are never mentioned when heads on the proverbial platter are called for.  It always comes down to play calling and strategy.

Fans are so smart.  It’s hard to believe they don’t have all the coaching jobs.

As a leader you should go ahead and get it through your head that you will be second guessed.  There will be those who think they know more about what is needed than you do.

When that happens there are a couple of things that will keep you in the game.

1 - Do the right thing.  Assuming you have the right plan, there is no reason to deviate because of three or four critics.  Note: There will always be critics.  If you cower because of a few naysayers, you will never make it as a leader.

2 - Do things right.  You can do the right thing in the wrong way.  Great leaders do the right thing in the right way.  This is the character test.  It is recognizing that your leadership is not about you as much as it is about the mission.  Pass the character test and you might not eliminate your critics, but you will be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience.

Do the right thing in the right way and stop listening to the Monday morning quarterbacks.  If you will do so you will be positioned for leadership longevity.




Abundance . . . part 1

For the next couple of days we will consider the power of abundance.  Abundance is defined as an extremely plentiful or over sufficient quantity or supply.  Last week I had the chance to see abundance demonstrated in a tangible way.

I was in Elijay, Georgia visiting a peach orchard.  I must admit, peaches are my weakness.  As I was looking over my options I had a conversation with the lady who owns the orchard.  That woman knows her peaches.

As I picked up my half bushel of Rozas, I noticed that the basket was overflowing.  I told the lady I appreciated her generosity.  She replied, “The good Lord loves us when we have honest scales.  He blesses me for it.”

Wise woman.

Proverbs 11:1 says, “The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.”

As leaders it is very important for us to understand this truth.  I believe that abundance comes when we are honest.

It is amazing how when we are generous toward others we end up with “an extremely plentiful or over sufficient quantity or supply.” Integrity brings blessing.  It also leads to influence.

Do you have honest scales?  Do you protect the companies resources?  Look for short cuts financially?  Leave early when you are  on the clock?  Mess around on the internet during office hours?  Pad your expense account?

Leaders with integrity do the right thing and it leads to greater influence and ultimately abundance.

People will be impressed and they will spread the word that you are someone who can be trusted.

Don’t believe me?  Next time you are looking for an overflowing basket of Georgia’s finest peaches show up in Elijay and visit R & A Orchard.

Ask for Ann.  She has an honest set of scales!




Yesterday I referenced the quote from Leo Tolstoy’s book Anna Karenina which reads: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

We saw how Jim Collins used the quote in his book, “How the Mighty Fall,” to make the point that there are more ways to fall than there are to become great.

We then identified four things that we can forget that will lead to our fall as leaders.

Today we look at leadership from the other side of the coin.  I believe there is only one thing that you can do to become and stay great.

Do the Right Thing!

While it may sound simple, it can be very difficult at times to stay focused on doing what is right.  Most leaders are distracted and pulled away by the “latest and greatest” idea or some hot new product.

Remember what you do and do it better and better.  Stop being lured away by outside influences and focus on doing what is right.

Doing what is right on a consistent basis will eventually lead to greatness.  It will also sustain greatness.

Great leaders are all alike; they do the right thing.  May it become your practice as you seek to maximize your influence.




Over the players entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court is a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.”  Before champions and challengers walk onto the most famous tennis court in the world they are met with these words.  “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”

Who would have thought that one year ago Rafael Nadal would be the champion of this year’s tournament at the all England Club?  But yesterday he completed the improbable comeback from a year of disaster.

Injury and the divorce of his parents had threatened to derail his promising career, but the Spanish phenom refused to allow that to happen.  Through relentless perseverance he showed integrity in stewarding his giftedness as a tennis player.

Kipling’s words helped him along the way.  They reminded Rafael that victory is never as good as it seems and defeat is never as bad.  Both victory and disaster are impostors.  What matters most is being true to who you are.

Nadal is back on top.  It will not last though.  Someday soon his fame will fade.  In that moment the questions that will be most important to him will be, “Was I true to who I am?  Did I live with integrity regardless of my circumstances?”

Those are the biggest questions for all leaders.  For they are the ones that determine our level of influence.

If things are going great for you right now, may your triumphs remind you to be humble.  And if things are rocky, even disastrous, may you stay hopeful.

Triumph and disaster are impostors.  Truth is not.  Win the battle of “if” and you will win the war for your life.

by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

If you can keep your head when all about you
 are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
 But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
 Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
 Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
 And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master, 
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
 Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
 And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
, and risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
 and lose, and start again at your beginnings
 and never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone,
 and so hold on when there is nothing in you,
 Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
 Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
 If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
 With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
 Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
 And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!



Soul Time

If you only have time for one thing each week, make it “Soul Time.”  Soul time is what anchors you to your values.  For a leader who focuses on integrity, there has to be an anchor.

For me that anchor is my relationship with God.  I believe that every one of us has a Maker and that He designed us to live in relationship with Him.  Years ago, I came to the realization that I needed His presence in my life and I haven’t been the same since.

Augustine once said of the relationship between man and God, “The heart is restless until it rests in Thee.”  I believe he nailed it.

Are you restless in your leadership?  If so, chances are you haven’t been giving attention to your relationship with God and the matters of your soul.

How does a leader focus on soul stuff?  Easy.  First, read the Book.  Good leaders don’t hesitate to learn from helpful resources.  From the latest leadership book, the Wall-Street Journal, or a relevant podcast, leaders are always looking for an edge.  However, many leaders miss the most important Book of all.  The Bible.

If you are looking for answers for your life and leadership, why not start with Scripture?  The Bible is the best selling book of all time for a reason.  It is the Creator’s Book.  An instruction manual for how every area of your life is supposed to work.

It is full of wisdom on every topic imaginable.  Relationships, finances, marriage, parenting, partnerships, work, management, ethics, and even leadership fill its pages.

When is the last time you drank from its well of wisdom?  A daily dose of Scripture will keep your soul on the path of integrity.

A second way to cultivate your soul is to put yourself in a weekly worship environment.  If you want to cultivate your relationship with God, make a choice to show up in God’s house each week.  Too many leaders view the weekend as an escape from all the responsibilities of work, often even neglecting worship and the opportunity to re-calibrate their lives for the coming week.

Don’t give in to that temptation.  Put yourself and your family in an environment every week where you can worship God and hear His Word taught.  Then make a commitment to treat others the way God treats you.  It will make you a better leader.

Reviewing the week:  Work time is when you unleash your passion and talent.  Family time is when you invest in your most important followers.  Play time is when you remember to take yourself less seriously.  Trail time is when you focus on your fitness.

But soul time is the most important time.  For it is the time that will truly determine whether you will have integrity and whether your influence will be worth following.



Leading with Both Hands

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Savannah, Georgia. The place is dripping with southern charm. Great food, good places to run, and plenty of interesting things to see have moved Savannah near the top of my list of favorite cities.

Savannah is full of small squares and parks steeped in culture and history. I even visited the park where Forrest Gump sat on a bench dreaming about his Jenny.   However, my favorite spot in Savannah was Reynolds Square.  It is the place where you will find a statue that honors the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, who lived there and served as pastor to the colonists in 1736-37.

The Wesley statue is very moving once you understand the mind of the sculptor, Marshall Daugherty. He describes his portrayal as follows: “Wesley’s right hand reaches out as he preaches as if to communicate that all the world was his parish; the Gospel was available to all.  His left hand holds a Bible and is much more intense recognizing that it was in contact with the Almighty as it held the holy Scriptures.” . . . powerful images of Wesley’s understanding of integrity and influence.

At the base of the statue are two quotes from Wesley himself. The first, “While we live, let us live in earnest.”  And secondly, “I look upon all the world as my parish.”  These two statements are good guiding principles for leaders.

On the one hand,  the best leaders are the ones who know what they do well and do it with zeal.  They “live in earnest,” true to their area of passion and expertise, and undivided in their commitment to their mission. Their character is the foundation for their work.  This is the integrity side of leadership.

On the other hand, leaders need to know their audience.  Wesley understood that his message excluded no one.  Your product or service may not be so broad.   Great leaders understand their limitations and don’t overextend themselves. The best companies do a few things well and stay laser focused on their market.  This is the influence side of leadership.

I hope you are leading with both hands. One hand rooted in a strong, authentic character committed to a set of noble ideals.  And the other hand focused on leveraging your voice to make a difference in the lives of those you serve.



Where Am I and Who Are You?

Have you noticed how everywhere you go these days looks the same? I was recently talking with a guy who travels a lot and he pointed out that he sometimes has a hard time remembering where he is. Why? Because America has been cloned.

Used to, you could go to different parts of the country and you knew where you were based on certain geographical characteristics.  In Wisconsin you could expect cheese. Out west, rugged landscapes. In New England, lots of traffic. In the Midwest, conservative values. In Chicago, bad baseball. And in the south, sweet tea and peaches.

Unfortunately things have changed. Nowadays when you travel from place to place you will find a lot of similarities. Big box stores, fast food chains, and expensive coffee litter the land. Everywhere you go you see the same Best Buy’s, Wal-Marts, Home Depots, McDonald’s, TJ Maxx’s, and Starbucks. You step off of a plane and you have no idea where you are because everywhere looks the same. America has lost its identity and its voice.

Many leaders are the same way. They spend more time trying to replicate what someone else is doing rather than trying to be themselves. Leaders assume that if something is working for someone else it should be copied. The latest and greatest methodologies and techniques are embraced making it easy to forget who we really are.

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to learn from others successes as well as failures. However, in the end if we want to maximize our influence we must be true to who we are.

As you assess yourself as a leader, have you lost your way? Do you spend more time trying to copy someone else than you do attempting to discover and utilize your own gifts and strengths?  I hope not.  The fact is there is only one you. No one else thinks like you, has your ideas, or possesses your potential.

Set aside some time this week and re-clarify who you are. I think you will find that you are one of a kind.



“The Pen is in Your Hand”

Last night I had the opportunity to watch game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It was an amazing game to say the least. The Pittsburgh Penguins won Lord Stanley’s Cup in a 2-1 thriller by warding off two shots on goal in the last three seconds of the game. The game ended with a pile of bodies in front of the Penguin net.

Visiting Pittsburgh had finally realized its dream by beating the defending champions on their home ice.

Before the game, one of the commentators told the story of how each of the Penguin players was wearing a T-shirt under his hockey sweater with the caption “The Pen is in Your Hand.” The shirts were given to the players by their coach. When giving them out, the coach made the statement, “The pen is in your hand men.  You get to go out tonight and write your own destiny.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Unfortunately, when it comes to living out a destiny too few men ever pick up the pen. Most people are content to just exist and take up space. They justify that there is safety and comfort in taking the easy path. They never set a goal. They never dream a dream. And therefore, when all is said and done they have very little to show other than a life of mediocrity.

There are those, however, who pick up the pen every day. They are the ones who attack life with integrity and challenge others to do the same. They set goals and dream dreams and in the end they have no regrets.

I have chosen to surround myself with such men. They challenge me to love God. They encourage me to be a better husband and father. They inspire me to run marathons and all kinds of other crazy ventures. And they cause me to strive for excellence as I watch them excel in their various walks of life. Among them is a Sensei, the Fighting Elk, a Captain, a man who ran with Raven, a Twinstead, the Gre8t1, and countless others.

How about you?  Are you choosing to write your own destiny or are you just leaving it all to chance? This coming week why not set a goal to influence someone in a positive way? Why not live a life of integrity when no one else is looking?

Remember . . . “The Pen is in Your Hand.” Now go write a life that’s worth reading!


To Thine Own Self Be True

On a recent road trip, my daughter and I found ourselves in a college coffee shop killing time.  As the picture shows we were in two different worlds.  I was busy reading the literature from the college we were visiting, while she was checking her text messages?  Which one of us was doing the right thing?  . . . Both . . . Why?  Because we were both being true to who we are.

I am a reader who loves information. She is a teenager who is technologically savvy. Give me a book.  Give her a device.

Sadly, everywhere I go I see people who have no idea who they really are.  They are more concerned with being like everyone else than they are with being themselves.  This lack of focus and understanding leads to a life of mediocrity and a lack of joy.

What would happen if you lived your life based on passion instead of pressure?  It’s time to find out.  Pick something you love and go do it this week.  And while you are at it, leave out something you don’t really like doing.  The people around you will thank you in the long run, even if it means you are doing something different than those closest to you.

I suspect you will even thank yourself if you will simply choose to live with integrity and “to thine own self be true.”




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