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10 Signs They Are A Not-So-Good Leader

poor leaderMost of us have worked for leaders that are for all intents and purposes are not very good. I actually learned a lot in my early days of leadership from some really bad leaders. Not only were they bad leaders, they were oblivious to the negative affects of their poor leadership. There are many signs that a leader is not a good leader and I have identified 10 Signs below.

The reason I attribute these signs to not being a “Good Leader” is because a leader has to at least reach the mantle of being a “Good Leader” before they can be a “Great Leader” Here are 10 Signs They Are A Not-So-Good Leader… Remember “They”could be you!

1. they are not willing to fail.
2. they only talk and never listen.
3. they don’t develop and produce other leaders.
4. they micro-manage; that’s management not leadership.
5. they are insecure or threatened by someone that they lead.
6. they are not willing to follow and learn from those that they lead.
7. they are focused on pleasing people and what people think. Consumed with whether or not they look good to their superiors.
8. they don’t genuinely care about the people they lead and have difficulty getting people to follow.
9. they are willing to make the wrong decision, because of the fear of fall-out from making the right decision.
10. they only dream about being like so and so, instead of being the best they can be.

11 Key Attributes Of Awesomely Great Leaders

great leaderThere are many attributes that leaders from all facets possess. A number of these attributes are positive and unfortunately some not so positive. Organizations, teams and people in general are always searching for desirable attributes in leaders they want to work for. Not only leaders they want to work for, but leaders who inspire them to work harder and faster all while developing their personal leadership.

The types of leaders that inspire and produce greatness all around them are always highly sought after; however the are often hard to find. A few key indicators that an organization, team or department is led by one of these great leaders is the the fact that they generally have a positive, healthy and productive work environment with minimal turnover.

If we take it a step further and look beyond these key indicators, we can generally find that these great leaders can be identified by a set of inherent characteristics. I have broken these inherent characters into 11 key attributes.

11 Key Attributes Of Awesomely Great Leaders

  • 1. Honesty – Tell the truth; even if lying is easier — tell the truth. || “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” ~Thomas Jefferson
  • 2. Integrity – Do what’s right; even if nobody is watching — do what’s right. || “There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle; Science without humanity; Business without ethics.” ~Mahatma Gandhi and I will add an 8th “Leadership without integrity.”
  • 3. Visionary – Have some vision for where you’re going; empower your team to get you there and if you don’t do anything else — have some vision for where you are going. || “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” ~Thomas Jefferson
  • 4. Self Awareness – Know who you are; the good, the bad and the ugly, know who you are. ||  “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” ~Lao Tzu
  • 5. Risk Taker – Be willing to try new things, new strategies and embrace new ideas; even if the ideas aren’t yours — be willing to try new things, new strategies and embrace new ideas. || “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Harold R. McAlindon
  • 6. Caring – Truly care about those you lead; people can care less about how much you know until they know how much you care — truly care about those you lead. || Great leadership is always less about the “leader” and more about the “ship” ~Scott Williams
  • 7. Stand For Something – Lead by convictions; know why you do what you do and why you think what you think — lead by convictions. || “You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.” ~Denis Waitley
  • 8. Spirit Of Development – Develop other leaders; without leadership development, the pipeline of leadership is halted — develop other leaders. || “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” ~Jack Welch
  • 9. Good Listener – Be willing to listen; if you’re always talking, there is a good chance you are not listening — be willing to listen. || “To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation” ~Chinese Proverb
  • 10. Lifetime Leaner – Learn from anything and everything; no matter how many degrees or titles you have, you always have the capacity to learn — learn from anything and everything.  || “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” ~John F. Kennedy
  • 11. Humility –  Stay level-headed and don’t think that you’re better than others; no matter how much success, praise or fortune you receive, stay level-headed and don’t think that you’re better than others. || “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” ~St. Augustine

What do you think about these 11 attributes? Share your thoughts and experiences. 

5 Ways Leaders Can Minimize Stress In The Workplace

stress1As a leader it’s important to set the tone for your team or organization, especially as it relates to handling stressful or crisis situations. If the leader wigs out, stresses out, worries or has a heart attack during high stress or crisis situations; there will always be undertones of that stress transferred to the rest of the team. Leaders must learn to keep calm in these types of situations.

I learned the importance of keeping calm during crisis situations during my tenure as a young 25 year old Prison Warden. As you can imagine running a prison presents the daily opportunity for high stress, crisis and potentially life & death situations. I had the personal choice of whether or not I allowed particular circumstances or people to stress me out. I would watch the previous Warden get stressed out by the most trivial things and felt the stressful impact her response to those situations had on the staff. Realizing that it was up to me, I developed an effective philosophy and mindset to handle these potentially high stress or crisis situations.

The philosophy was simply this, “There is nothing that we can’t begin to fix in “5 Minutes and 5 Phone Calls.” I trained my Chief of Security and my Officers to not sweat the small stuff and embrace the fact that crisis situations will happen. Remembering, it’s not about the situation, it’s about how you handle the situation.  This type of mindset allows leaders to set the tone of stress minimization in the workplace.

In my role as a prison Warden, imagine a high stress situation of a full-blown prison riot.  The process that my team would undergo within the first 5 Minutes would be to make the following 5 Phone Calls:

  • Call Local Law Enforcement
  • Call Me “The Warden”
  • Call The Department of Corrections Liaison
  • Call Vice President of Operations
  • Call Media/PR Representative

This mindset puts all situations, including crisis situation into perspective. It’s inevitable that we will face problems and potentially stressful situations on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if the problem that we face is work related or personal, what matters is there is the beginning to a solution around the corner. Stop Wiggin’ Out, Tell Your Boss To Stop Wiggin’ Out and embrace the fact that every situation, including Life & Death one’s can begin the “fixing process” in 5 Minutes and 5 Phone Calls.

Once a leader comes to the realization that simplicity matters and the situation they are facing really isn’t that big of a deal, they can begin to embody Albert Einstein’s version of 5 Minutes and 5 Phone Calls. Einstein says it this way, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

It’s not that serious, STOP STRESSING!

Turnover Is Always A Small Symptom Of A Bigger Problem

turnover1Organizational leaders love to look at numbers and performance to evaluate success. Unfortunately, those same leaders don’t like to look at numbers to evaluate failure. A number that is a key indicator of failure is turnover. Turnover Is Always A Small Symptom Of A Bigger Problem. 

Organizational leaders can’t continue to write turnover off as a bi-product of “They just couldn’t handle it here, they didn’t have the capacity, they couldn’t keep the pace, they were a problem…” There is always an underlying issue for every person leaving a high turnover organization. If you have high turnover, you must fix the bigger organizational problem or the turnover will continue to exist.

If you want to get to he bigger problem, you must ask the tough questions and more importantly be prepared for the tough answers. Many organizations rely on the Exit Interview to begin this process, by that time it’s too late. Most employees don’t shoot the organization straight during the exit interview as they are done, on the way to the next thing and know that the organizations is going to discount what they are saying; otherwise they wouldn’t be exiting the organization.

It’s been said that people don’t leave organizations, they leave leaders. I would take it a step further and say that people don’t leave organizations, they leave cultures. Culture is what drives how leaders can and cannot operate. Employees will often times work for a poor leader if they are in a great culture, as they assume the culture will outlast or correct the poor leadership.

A turnover problem is a small symptom of a much bigger leadership and culture problem. Many organizations try to put a bandaid on their leadership and culture problem by simply hiring more people. Simply hiring more and more people never gets to the root of a turnover problem.

If organizational leaders want their organization to look different and have less turnover they must start by looking in the mirror, begin asking the right people the right questions, take the tough answers on the chin, make the necessary changes, understand that changing a culture takes time and ultimately just be accountable for their turnover problem.

You Can Quit Your Job Sooner Than You Think!

EntrepreneurToEmployeeYou Can Quit Your Job Sooner Than You Think!

As my good friend Scott recently posted, You should be doing the work you love. I agree with him so much I recently wrote a book on how to do just that. I don’t believe God puts passions in our gut and dreams in our heart just to frustrate us! However leaving your job for your dream is no picnic. One of the biggest hurdles to jump over, probably the scariest, is the BIG I – Income. Today I want to offer you some insight on how to go for your dreams faster by simply tweaking what “Full-Time {Insert Your Dream}” means to you. 

I’m going to explain what I mean with a story starring James. James is stuck in a cushy job but longs to become a full-time carpenter. It will take quite a few pieces of furniture a year to make up for his oil & gas salary, so James may need to change his perception of what it means to be a full-time carpenter in today’s marketplace. Thanks to advances in e-commerce, he can now easily create and sell carpentry-related content as an added revenue stream. He could sell an e-book of how-to tips. He could host a monthly paid webinar that shows other would-be carpenters the dos and don’ts of custom carpentry. He could have a monthly subscription service that provides a newsletter to subscribers with how-tos, before and afters, and interviews with other master carpenters. Even though his target furniture client is not the group of carpenters, having a large following establishes credibility in his field.

I know what you’re thinking — “But if I teach others my craft, then won’t I lose customers?” You may lose a few, but most intend to learn a craft and never do, and those will end up buying from a seasoned veteran instead. You will have earned their trust by showing them exactly how you do what you do. This technique could work in so many applications; an illustrator who offers online illustration classes, a former teacher or daycare worker who sells monthly curriculum via a subscription fee, a designer or photographer who sells tutorials or templates. The list goes on!

Study successful people in all industries and see if there are any strategies you could apply in your industry. Think through what knowledge or services you could offer as online products. How much better to add revenue in ways that are at least related to your dream, rather than just earning funds through a part-time gig you hate?!

Have you found interesting passion-filled ways to supplement your income?


Kelsey Humphreys is an emerging authority on the subjects of branding, marketing, entrepreneurship and personal development. After starting her career as a graphic designer, her passion for those subjects led her to become an Associate Creative Director and eventually land an international client of her own. She was then able to quit her dream job for her dream; starting her own business. She now speaks, coaches, consults, and writes to empower solopreneurs. Her first book, Go Solo, How to Quit the Job You Hate and Start a Small Business You Love! is available on Amazon. Follow her on twitter @kelseyhumphreys

5 Distinctions Of A Next-Level Leader

next level leaderThere are many different thoughts or definitions of what a Next-Level Leader is or what pairing those two words together actually means. In this post I will provide my personal definition of what a Next-Level Leader is, in addition to identifying 5 Distinctions of A Next-Level Leader.

The definition of a Next-Level Leader is this- A leader that not only elevates their personal leadership to the Next-Level, but elevates the leadership of their team members, peers, their organization and competition to the Next-Level. They challenge the status quo and elevate elevate the level of performance of those around them; both friends and foes.

Below are the 5 Distinctions of A Next-Level Leader, Next-Level Leaders always do these things:

1.) Challenge Things- Next-Level Leaders challenge things because they are supposed to be challenged. They not only challenge the thoughts/methods of their leaders, but they challenge their own methodology. They realize that their boss puts their pants on just like they do and embrace the fact that just because a person a supervisor doesn’t mean they are necessarily smarter or better leaders, or that they can’t add value to the conversation. Challenging things is not about being combative, but rather raising everyone’s leadership game to the Next-Level. It’s okay to respectfully disagree. Don’t get the willingness to challenge things confused with being obstinate.

2.) Ask The Right Questions- Next-Level Leaders always ask the right questions… They begin sentences with “What If?, Have You Ever Thought About?, This Might Sound Crazy, but do you think we can…” Anytime they have the opportunity to sit down with another Next-Level Leader that they desire to learn from, they come with a list of questions and not a list of answers. They take their leadership game to the Next-Level by asking the right questions.

3.) dream BIG- Next-Level Leaders are always dreaming and imagining. Some of these dreams may seem to be a fairy-tale to some, but not to a Next-Level Leader.  A Next-Level Leader will schedule an appointment to dream, they go to Starbucks and dream, they close their office door and dream, they take a vacation alone to do nothing but dream. They take their leadership game to the Next-Level by dreaming BIG, encouraging those around them to dream BIG, writing their dreams down and making those dreams a reality. They dream BIG. think BIGGER.

4.) Learners- Next-lLevel leaders are always learning from: books, blogs, their industry, history, other industries, culture, failures, television, their followers, various industries and other Next-Level Leaders. They have a mantra something like Will Rogers’ Mantra “I never met a man I didn’t like.” The Next-Level Leaders mantra sounds a little something like this: “I Never Met a Man, Woman or Situation that I didn’t learn from.” They elevate their leadership game to the next-level by realizing that learning is fundamental.

5.) Produce Next-Level Leaders- Next-Level Leaders produce Next-Level Leaders, period the end. Next-Level Leaders contribute to the world of leadership by truly caring about those that they lead and always developing Next-Level Leaders. They never confuse Management with Leadership. They understand that managers manage people and things, while Next-Level Leaders produce other Next-Level Leaders. Simply put: “If You Are Not Developing and Producing Next-Level Leaders, You Are Not A Next Level Leader.” Next-Level leadership is not about how tall your tree can grow, but rather the type of fruit your tree can produce.

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.“~Ralph Nader

Great Leadership Cultures Are Willing To Challenge “The King” and Great Leaders Want To Be Challenged

king1In all my years of leadership/followership and from my experience providing leadership consulting, 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 LeBron James to a game of 1 on 1. I’m referring to “The King” as the Big Boss, The CEO, The Department Chair, Team Leader, The Senior Pastor, The President… The Senior Leader that’s making the decisions, ‘The King.”

What generally happens in an organization is that “The King” develops a style, a system and a reputation for the types of decisions that he or she will make and the type of feedback that they are willing to receive. Over time, those that are closest to “The King” begin to accept those tendencies as the law. This inevitably leads challengeable actions, decisions and offenses going un-challenged. The excuses for not challenging “The King” range from,”that’s just how so and so is — you know they will not even entertain that thought.” This type of situation and culture is not good for “The King,” those that follow and the organization as a whole.

“The King” ends up leading from an isolated rarely challenged clueless bubble. A 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 not only makes them better leaders, it makes the King 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 and are stifling their leadership potential. If an organization doesn’t foster a “culture of 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… including themselves.

If an organizational culture allows for this absolute, imperious, or overbearing control to permeate through their organization, they are setting their organization up to become a dictatorship.

Great Leadership Cultures Awe Willing To Challenge “The King” and Great Leaders Want To Be Challenged

Warning – Your Leadership May Be In A Blind Spot

blind spotEveryone loves following a great leader; you love how they think, how they lead and more importantly how they make you feel. Although we all love following those great leaders, it’s important to understand that even the greatest of leaders have blind spots. These blind spots show up as a result of focussing on the “What” of leadership and overlooking the “How” and “Why.” Often times leaders and organizations make a habit of looking forward towards their goals, while rarely look in their rearview mirror or side mirrors to see whats coming, what’s happening around them, how people are feeling and what rough terrain is ahead. The entire organization will follow this same pattern of overlooking blind spots unless the leaders truly encourage otherwise.

By encouraging otherwise, I mean encouraging and embracing the challenging of the organization’s direction, decisions, culture, things that just aren’t quite right and pointing out the blind spots. More often than not leaders become comfortable as it relates to what they can challenge, what they can say, what’s sacred and what would be considered obvious blind spots become “things we don’t do, things our boss won’t allow or things that simply won’t change”

Leaders should encourage new hires to actively point out blind spots during their 1st 90 days of employment.Those fresh eyes and fresh perspectives are invaluable to an organization. Organizations should consider changing up the executive leadership team from time to time. This one is tricky, because there is tremendous value in having a consistent leadership team; however there is also tremendous value in someone new at the leadership table that is more willing to point out the blind spots, break what’s become normal, bring a fresh new outlook and challenge the status quo.

Another great way that organizations can begin to see their blind spots is by bringing in a reputable 3rd party consultant or strategist, whose only agenda is to be objective and help the organization reach their desired goals. Lastly, have a blind spot meeting – a meeting where you invite some of the brightest, most critical, outspoken, futuristic, company Kool-aid drinking and play it safe people all in the same room to do nothing more than point out blind spots. (This is fun)

When organizations make it a point to actively point out blind spots the organization will not only drive with the mindset of looking ahead, and periodically looking in the rearview mirror. The organization can tap into the use of the various side mirrors and overhead perspectives to help them see their blind spots. This is not a magic potion type of fix, it’s a process that takes time, focus and commitment to driving with greater leadership clarity.

Blind spots: Every organization has them, only few are willing to point them out.

7 Ways Leaders Destroy Their Teams

fail2Often times when it comes to “leadership” we hear the warm and fuzzies or the great success stories. There are so many great books and tools at the disposal of leaders that growth, competency and effective leadership should be inevitable. The challenge with that theory is it’s rendered “not always true” because of the simple fact that leadership deals with human beings and human beings are rather complex creatures. Anytime you are dealing with people things are never that simplistic.

Another reason being an effective leader is not that simple is that fact that book knowledge doesn’t always translate to street knowledge {{translation – just because you can read it and talk it, deosn’t mean that you can effectively apply it}}.

A key understanding to leadership how ineffective and incapable individuals find themselves in key leadership roles is this: people hire people, who hire people, who hire people. Somewhere within those three generations of hiring, there are people placed in roles of leadership that they are not capable of handling. In my tenure working as a Deputy Prison Warden, before being promoted to Warden, I worked for a leader that definitely should not have been in her role. She literally destroyed her staff and destroyed her team. Not only did she destroy them, she didn’t have the self-awareness to make the necessary adjustments. She was a “Leadership Destroyer.” In consulting over the last 14 years, I have seen and heard about these “Leadership Destroyers” more often than I’d like to admit.

Unfortunately the “Leadership Destroyers” are not isolated to my experiences, if you live long enough and work for enough people, there is a good chance that you will work for one of these destroyers. To help identify how these leaders managers destroy their teams, I have identified 5 ways.

7 Ways Leaders Destroy Their Teams

  • 1. My Way Or The Highway (MWOH): Everyone has an opinion and often times people have thoughts, ideas and suggestions that can be helpful to those that are in charge. MWOH is fueled by the insecurity of the Leadership Destroyer. MWOH can create an environment of control, but not an environment of healthy success. Listen to your team, involve your team, learn from your team and embrace the reality that the collective sum is much better than the Big-Headed MWOH Leader.
  • 2. All About The Numbers: The numbers do matter, the bottom line is important and if it doesn’t make dolla$ it doesn’t make sense.  In business, ministry or non-profit work, it’s important to measure things as it’s a great barometer for success. Where numbers become a problem is when the Leadership Destroyer focuses on the numbers, bottom line and measurables so much that they forget about their team of people who are making those numbers happen. They lose sight of the “how” because they are so focused on the “what.” Number matter, but people matter more. Focus on creating a healthy team and healthy numbers will be a natural bi-product.
  • 3. Talk But Don’t Listen: No one can get a word in or have an opinion because the Leadership Destroyer is always talking. Not only are they always talking, they never listen. If people are not heard, they will cease to say the things that matter. Shh (be quiet) Listen!
  • 4. Change Things For The Sake Of Changing Things: Change is good and sometimes necessary to create forward momentum. The Leadership Destroyer takes this to another level by changing things just to let you know that they’re the boss. They are unwilling to receive feedback or go back to what worked, even if their change isn’t working. I heard a great thought from OSU Football Coach Mike Gundy from his press conference during OSU’s great season several years back.  This articular season OSU was ranked #2 and they were rolling like a well-oiled machine. Mike Gundy said, (paraphrasing) “I try to change things up a bit, just to justify my existence. My team will come to me and say I think we need to stick to XYZ and this is why. Often times what they are saying makes perfect sense and I change it back.” It’s important to survey the impact, timing and necessity of change.
  • 5. They Just Don’t Care:  The quickest way to destroy a team is to not care about the players on the team. Team members know the difference between the fake stuff and the genuine care and concern for the individual players and the collective team. Leadership Destroyers care more about their title, role, corner office and the fact that they have arrived than they do their team. One of the things that the inmates used to say when I was a Warden in regards to leadership and life is this, “It’s All About Missouri!” In other words, Missouri is the Show-Me State.  I’ll close with the words of John Maxwell, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
  • 6. Focused On Pleasing The Boss – It’s okay to want to perform for your supervisor and help you organization be successful. Leadership Destroyers take it to a whole-nutha-level. The Leadership Destroyer will do anything and everything to look good, rather than doing any and everything right. The all-consuming thoughts of wondering what the boss thinks will lead these destroyers to destroy their team, chunk team members under the bus and not give proper credit where proper credit is due.
  • 7. Unwilling To Receive Candid Feedback – When an individual is unwilling to listen to feedback because “It may hurt” or “It isn’t what they want to hear,” they are in trouble. You can’t win with thin skin. Once team members realize the Leadership Destroyer is unwilling to receive feedback, they will stop giving feedback. Once team members stop giving feedback, the Leadership Destroyers find themselves on an island. Islands are great places to vacation, but horrible places to find yourself when you are trying to lead a team.
Leadership Destroyers destroy everything.
What Do You Think?  Share your thoughts and experiences with any of thes

The Leaders Who Need The Most Development

lead developThe Leaders Who Need The Most Development Are Often Times The Leaders That Say That Others Need More Development.

Have you ever seen a situation where a leader has a team member who is either up for a promotion or in all actuality should be considered for a promotion; and the leaders says they are not ready yet, or they need more development.

I understand that sometimes people aren’t ready and they could benefit by a little more time in the leadership development cooker. More times than not, the person is ready, all they need is a little encouragement, belief in themselves and an opportunity to show what’s inside of them. How do you get the experience, if no one is willing to give you a chance to get the experience?

Over the years I have come to realize that the leaders who are quick to say that someone isn’t ready and need more development are the ones that need more development themselves.

It takes, time, energy and true leadership to develop someone — moving them from where they are to where they can be. Leaders must learn to focus on potential instead of limitations.

The next time you hear a leader say “so and so” isn’t ready, the deeper question to ask is this “is the leader making the statement ready?”

No one will ever be 100% “ready,” it’s up to the leaders to be a part of getting them there. That’s why it’s called leadership.

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