Things are looking good, your career is on the rise, you have a young family, nice house, nice cars and success might as well be tattooed across your forehead. The status of your social media profiles simply read “succeeding.” You are in the who’s who, 40 under 40 and your latest promotion has you slated to be the next bigger thing.
While you are busy succeeding, your children are busy growing and you don’t even realize it. While you are busy succeeding, you are not spending quality time with your spouse.
Time is fading and your success is clouding your ability to see what’s happening. Not only are you looking past what’s happening, the intoxicating nature of your perceived success is allowing you to justify your absence and lack of focus on the things that really do matter.
Time is passing and success is continuing to knock on your door.
Due to unexpected events and circumstances, you’re forced to pause long enough to reflect upon what you had been perceiving as success.
Suddenly, you realize.
You Thought That You Were Succeeding But You Actually Failed Big Time.
Today is the 2nd anniversary of the death of arguably one of the greatest vocalist to walk this earth. It’s crazy to think that it’s already been 24 months since Whitney Houston passed and the world had the opportunity to mourn the loss and witness her Homegoing/Celebration Of Life/Funeral Service. I’m a firm believer that you can find amazing life and leadership lessons in almost every situation and scenario. The good, bad and ugly are all opportunities to learn, if we will just be willing to open our eyes, ears and heart.
I’m reflecting back on some of the thoughts I had captured a couple of years ago during Whitney’s Funeral Service. My thoughts developed into some life and leadership lessons. These lessons echoed true then, today and will for years to come. Below are some lessons from the life of the one that we came to know as “The Voice.” Yes Whitney was called “The Voice” way before the singing competition was even envisioned.
5 Leadership & Life Lessons From Whitney Houston
- 1. You Have What It Takes – Kevin Costner said that although Whitney Houston was hugely successful, she still asked this question, “Am I good enough, pretty enough & will they like me?” His response was this, “You were great, beautiful & they loved you.” You have what it takes, you must truly believe it deep down inside.
- 2. God Does The Fixing – Whitney Houston was quoted saying these words, “Any way you fix me Lord, I’ll be satisfied.” There is a lot of power and humility in that quote. Lord I’m broken, I know I need fixed, not sure what fixed means, but I so desperately need whatever help you can give me.
- 3. You Have To Step Out To Find Out – As Whitney Houston’s Musical Director Rickey Minor talked about his experience with Whitney Houston singing the Star Spangled Banner. Rickey said they were trying to figure out how to make it special and they didn’t know what they were doing. Rickey said you have to step out and he said it this way, “God said Go For It, Go Ahead… We did it and it changed my life.” You have to step out to find out.
- 4. Stop Ridiculing & Give Love – Whitney’s death showed how easy it is for people to ridicule instead of seeing the bright side of things. Many people were quick to point out her challenges and shortcomings instead of the positives of her life. Whitney’s funeral showed what happens when people point out the positive aspects of someone’s life – It Inspires! Whitney’s bodyguard Ray Watson talked about what performers like Whitney go through just to give people a little entertainment. His final words were, “Stop Ridiculing & Give Love!”
- 5. Your Life Can Be A Larger Impact Than You Know – Whitney will go down as one of the best vocalists in modern day history. Whitney sold millions of records, in addition to making millions of people smile, laugh, sing and dance. Although she made an impact on this world before she left this earth, it’s arguable that her funeral may have had the most eternal impact of any artist to date. The world was watching as God’s orchestration of some of the most amazing communicators of the gospel. During a moment that many thought was going to be a low or sad occasion, God used Whitney Houston’s Homegoing Celebration to lift the name of Jesus High.
We are naive at best if we don’t understand how much Whitney’s life and funeral impacted the world with the Gospel. Pastor Rick Warren said it best during the funeral service when he tweeted this, “WhitneyHouston’s funeral shared the Gospel today with more people today than most of us ever will.”
I’m not sure if this video that my man @KevOnStage posted of old men fighting in church made me want to laugh or cry… so I did both.
In all my years of leadership/followership and in my role as a leadership consultant, I have come to realize that Great Leaders and Great Leadership Cultures are willing to Challenge “The King.” I’m not talking about challenging KIng James to a game of 1 on 1 after you eat a triple steak stack from Taco Bell. I’m referring to “The King” as the Big Boss, The CEO, The Department Chair, Team Leader, The Senior Pastor, The President. Any leader that’s making the decisions or has the title of “The King” in your situation.
What generally happens in an organization is that “The King” develops a style, a system and a reputation for the types of decisions that they will make and the type of feedback that they will take. BTW- that “King” can also be a “Lady.” Those that are closest to “The King” begin to accept those tendencies as the law and over-time challengeable actions, decisions and offenses go un-challenged. The excuses range from,”that’s just how so and so is, to you know they will not even entertain that thought or you can’t say that they will get upset the Kings apple cart.” This type of situation and culture is not good for “The Kings” nor the leaders that follow them.
“The King” ends up leading from an isolated rarely challenged clueless bubble that’s not going to bust because it’s not being poked, prodded and challenged. Those that follow “The King” will sit around and talk about what “The King” is or is not doing and the decisions “The King” is or is not making, which only leads to more problems for “The King” and the organization.
Great Leaders Challenge “The King” which makes them better leaders and him a better King. If an organization is being led by a King that is not willing to be challenged by those around him, the organization is being set up for failure. If leaders are not willing to challenge “The King” they will never be great leaders. If an organizational culture does not embrace challenge at all levels, it’s time to change the culture. Great Leaders Challenge “The King” and Great Kings create a culture where all things, decisions and people will be challenged — Even “The King.”
Let’s take a look at LeBron James aka King James situation last night in their tight game versus their conference foe from the East, the Indiana Pacers. These two teams are the top in the East and are basically fighting for home court advantage. The game was tight, the Heat were losing, tempers were flaring and LeBron James went off on Mario Chalmers after a turnover and leaving Paul George wide open for a shot. The King continued to yell and scream at Chalmers all the way through the time out, Chalmers didn’t take LeBron’s antics laying down he instead challenged The King. Chalmers gave it back to him and let him know that he was wrong.
Initially Chalmers challenging The King didn’t go so well as King James jumped off of the bench and charged Chalmers (as if to fight him) and had to be restrained by his teammates. Chalmers, one of the smallest guys on the team, wasn’t threatened and continued to challenge The King. The great thing about the ending to this story is that The King apologized and said “My Bad, I was wrong.” (see the video of the LeBron James and Mario Chalmers exchange below) More often than not, the King will respect those that are willing to challenge them, their throne, their decisions and their actions. This should always be done in an appropriate, consistent and respectful manner.
If an organizational culture allows for an absolute, imperious, or overbearing control to permeate through their organization, they are setting their organization up to become a dictatorship and ultimately a failure. If an organization and The King allow for challenges and are willing to admit they are wrong, that’s an organization that’s setting themselves up for success, an organization that’s setting themselves up as a championship organization.
Great Leaders Challenge “The King” and Great Kings Want To Be Challenged
Criticism is a one of those words that seems to cut most people like a knife. Although the knife doesn’t seem as sharp when we put the word “constructive” in front of the word criticism; none-the-less the word still seems to pierce.
When I was growing up my mom would always tell me: “Son, you can’t control or worry about what people say… you can only control what you say and what you do.” Later on in life, as a young leader I had a mentor that would always say “If you’re doing something worthy of people taking shots at you… they will. I would much rather have a leader that people don’t always understand and who are occasionally criticized, than a “leader” that no one ever talks about.” I’ve heard my pastor say something like “If you want to find the leader, look for the one with the arrow in their back!”
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes criticism is necessary. It’s important to have the people closest to you speak candidly into your life and seek wise counsel from those who will shoot you straight. It’s important to view criticism as neutral… “It Is What It Is!” This neutral mindset allows you to be comfortable with, “Eating The Meat and Spitting Out The Bones!” If you don’t want to be criticized, follow these 3 Easy Steps To Avoid Criticism:
- 1. Say Nothing
- 2. Do Nothing
- 3. Be Nothing
If you want to silence the critics, be yourself and do the right thing.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
I don’t ever want to find myself in the place with those “Cold and Timid Souls.”
Silence The Critics!
As I’m sure many of you did, I watched MTV’s Video Music Awards aka #VMAs2013. As there is from all of the awards shows, there was a lot to learn from the video music awards. Culture, Agenda, Style, Pushing The Limits, Trying Too Hard, History, Generational Gaps, Class, The Fact That Justin Timberlake is Timeless and the list goes on and on.
One of the more astonishing things to watch from the 2013 VMA’s was the performance of Miley Cyrus. It wasn’t just the fact that the performance was weird, ridiculous, unnecessary and that it made you feel sorry for Miley.
The performance for me made me really pause and think for a moment. It made me ask some questions and really think about Miley and what’s going on in and around her. Questions like: What is she thinking? Why is she thinking it? Is she oblivious to what’s going on around her?
After her performance I sent this simple tweet:
“That awkward moment when everyone can see the train wreck coming except for the one driving the train. – Miley Cyrus”
That tweet was retweeted countless times as it resonated with many people who saw the performance and felt the same way that I did.
One thing that I always try to do is draw leadership and life parallels to almost any and everything. As I was watching Miley it made me think about “Why So Many Leaders Are Like Miley Cyrus.” Here is the deal, I don’t hold Miley totally responsible for the train wreck road that she’s going down, I blame those around her and those closest to her. Those closest to her and those she is choosing to listen to are the ones saying, “Be yourself Miley, it’s okay, don’t listen to the haters or they are choosing to remain silent to the Miley train that is screeching down the tracks of destruction.”
I see this same scenario with leaders all the time. Although they may not be running around with a teddy bear onesie, horned pig tails, half naked, with a posse wearing teddy bear backpacks; however they are making poor decisions and creating destructive cultures. Even more problematic, those closest to the leader and those at the highest levels in the organization are often cheering on the negative leadership behavior or standing on the sidelines remaining silent to the leadership train screeching down the road of destruction.
Every leader and high profile person always has an inner circle that will either help keep them accountable or sit and watch their train come completely off the tracks. “Yes Men and Yes Women” are never the answer… Choose your inner circle wisely.
Have you ever found yourself in a group, on a team, in an organization or in a situation where you knew that: “Everyone Is Thinking The Same Thing, but No One Is Saying Anything?” We have all been in those situations and sometimes there’s even a little internal chuckling that goes along with the thought. The internal chuckling is generally a less serious matter; however there are other situations where “Everyone Is Thinking The Same Thing, but No One Is Saying Anything“ and those internal thoughts are leading to serious bitterness and frustration.
I get the opportunity to do consulting for individuals and organizations in many different arenas from all around the world. My primary focus is organizational growth, both internally and externally. What I have seen and have personally experienced over the years is this: “When Everyone Is Thinking The Same Thing, but No One Is Say Anything” there is definitely a culture that’s impeding organizational and individual growth.
Some of the most thriving organizations in the world have cultures where everyone is thinking and saying the same thing. The creating of this culture always begins and ends with the CEO, Senior Leader and or Executive Leadership Team.
If you find yourself in a culture where “Everyone Is Thinking The Same Thing, but No One Is Saying Anything“, It’s time to speak up, lead up and be a catalyst for fostering a culture of mutual thinking and speaking — a culture of success. If you are a senior executive or part of the leadership team, work hard to ask the right questions, to create an environment of openness and to create culture where your team and your organizations are thinking and saying the same thing.
When the situation of necessity taps you on the shoulder, the bold turn around and respond — they speak up, they act.
Be Bold – Think It, Say It and Live It.
What has been your experience with a culture where “Everyone Is Thinking The Same Thing, but No One Is Saying Anything?” Share your thoughts!