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Leadership: The Endurance Factor

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”  This was the notice posted by Sir Earnest Shackleton as he sought to recruit a crew for the first transcontinental crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole.

Twenty-seven men responded. They had no idea of the hardship that awaited them as they set off in December, 1914. It was to be an ill-fated trip.

Shackleton christened his ship, “Endurance”, after his family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus—”by endurance we conquer”. Early in the expedition, the ship became trapped in the pack ice of the Weddel Sea. For 10 months they drifted with the ice pack. Eventually the wooden ship was crushed and sank. He and his 27 men were trapped.

For five long months the crew survived on the floating ice. Hunger, cold, and desolation took its toll. Once the ice began to crack and split they set off in three small boats, eventually reaching Elephant Island.  It was a lonely, desolate place far from civilization. Then, Shackleton and five men went for help crossing 800 miles of treacherous seas to South Georgia Island.  This trip is considered one of the greatest boat journeys of all time.

After finally reaching the Island, they trekked across mountains and around crevices to eventually reach a remote whaling station.  No one had ever crossed the island on foot before. The whalers were astonished to hear of their ordeal. As soon as possible Shackleton organized a rescue team and after three failed attempts, finally saved all the men left behind on Elephant Island.  It was August, 1916.

It was Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership which helped his crew of 27 men survive unimaginable hardships. They loved and respected him for it. Today, millions look upon Earnest Shackleton as a great leader.

I just finished reading the book, “Endurance,” which tells this story and can’t help but note the leadership qualities exemplified by this man.

He honestly told his crew what to expect from the beginning.  Every man knew what he signing up for, even though none could really anticipate the hardship they faced.  But, Shackleton didn’t sugarcoat it.  He knew they might not return.

He put his crew’s well-being as a top priority.  He truly cared about his men and made difficult choices to be sure that each was treated fairly and respectfully.

In an attempt to help his crew get over the trauma of abandoning the Endurance, Shackleton literally served his men by rising early in the morning. He made hot milk and hand-delivered it to every tent in the camp. He was a Servant-Leader.

He sought to lift the morale of his men, by standing tall among them and cheering them onward. He never seemed depressed or unsure that they would survive.  In spite of the danger he remained determined that they would survive. Had he given up, surely they all would have perished. Instead, by example he was willing to bring out the best of each man.

Over twenty-two long, hard months, twenty-seven ordinary men, became giants and extraordinary men, led by Sir Earnest Shackleton’s example.

Life Lessons – To Mom

When have you learned the most important lessons of your life?  I’ll bet it wasn’t in a classroom.  Nor, was it from reading a book. I’ll wager that it wasn’t even from listening to a sermon.  Life’s most important lessons come from our experiences.

My Dad is 91.  My Mom won’t let me say how old she is, but she’s younger than Dad. Many of the most important lessons I’ve learned I learned growing up in the presence of loving parents, a country church, and time spent with good friends.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  So I dedicate this post to my Mom. Mom, here’s the lessons I learned from you and life’s experiences along the way.

To always give my best.  I love this quote by American long distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who died at the age of 24 in a car crash,

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

– Steve Prefontaine

 To live by the Golden Rule.  To be happy, friendly, courteous, and positive. To always demonstrate an “it’s my pleasure” attitude.

To always keep my word.  To keep my promises and always over-deliver.

To treat others with honesty, fairness & kindness. To be trustworthy and a man of character. John Wooden, known as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time said,

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.
Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

 To offer encouragement to others along the way. I will not criticize or condemn.  I will always speak positively to and of others.

To learn from every experience, even failure. I know that I will sometimes fail and that’s OK, as long as I learn from it.  I have failed many times.  And, those times, have been my life’s most teachable moments.

To always get back up when I fall down.  I will Never, Never, NEVER give up.  I will persist until I succeed.  I will remember that…

 In the battle between the rock and the river, the river always wins.
Not because it is bigger or stronger, but through the power of persistence.

 That anything worth doing is worth doing right.  I will always strive to do the right thing and then to do things right.  I strive to do it right the first time.

To have a “Whatever it takes” attitude in life and work. “That’s not my job,” will not be part of my vocabulary.

To live, work and play enthusiastically.  Here’s a quote I’m sure you’ve heard and its origin is controversial, but its message is instructive:

Dance like nobody’s watching;
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Sing like nobody’s listening
Live like it’s heaven on earth.

 

OK. Now it’s your turn.  Take a moment and reflect upon the lessons you’ve learned in life. Maybe, it’s a lesson you learned from your Mom. Or maybe it’s something life has thrown your way.  What did you learn?

Leave a comment and share a lesson or two.

Leadership: Indispensable Commitment

I recently asked my gazillion LinkedIn connections which leadership quality they thought was the most important for a leader to possess. The debate became quite intense as each argued why one quality was more important than another. Qualities like vision, confidence, communication, optimism, fairness, humility, empathy, character, courage, confidence and commitment. All great qualities.

We could argue for days which quality is the most important for a leader to possess.  Like two mountain rams we could bang our heads together until we determined there was no clear winner.  However, just as we would all agree that each of these qualities is important, we would agree that commitment is indispensable.

By indispensable we mean that commitment is absolutely necessary or requisite. It is a quality that a leader cannot do without.

Effective leaders must demonstrate commitment.  Commitment to the organization, commitment to the project, commitment to the goal or commitment to his people. Commitment is about choosing to begin, choosing to stay in the fight and choosing never, to give up.

No company would hire a CEO who wasn’t committed to the organization. No church would hire a minister who wasn’t committed to his flock. No army would follow a general unless he was committed to winning the war.

The words of Sir Winston Churchill ring with commitment as he opposed the Nazi threat with the charge to “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Churchill’s commitment to winning at all cost stirred the allies to ultimate victory.  That’s the power of commitment.

Commitment is an indispensable quality every leader must possess. W. H. Murray said it best,

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
 

That last line is often quoted and you’ve no doubt heard it before, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” From where does the boldness originate? Commitment.

Commitment leads to boldness which leads to magic. Lead on.

When You Enrich Others Your Enrich Yourself

I subscribe to the life philosophy of Zig Ziglar who says, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” This compass has guided my life over three careers.  First as a Pastor for 20 years, a Real Estate Broker, and as a Financial Advisor.

I have found that if I simply have an attitude of helpfulness toward others, great things come my way as a result.  It’s not that I seek those things, they just happen naturally.  It is simply God’s way of ordering the Universe.  Those who genuinely have a desire to help others are blessed.

Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart put it this way: “I quickly learned that when I enriched others, I also enriched myself.” It is the Gold Rule in living form, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

What does it mean to enrich others?  How might one go about doing that?  Here are a few suggestions:

Smile.  I simple smile can cheer someone’s day.  Have you ever noticed the way in which a smile can change the whole interaction between two people? It can warm a conversation. It can strengthen the connection between people.

Speak a word encouragement.  Tell someone that they are doing a good job. Offer a compliment. Say something kind and just watch the reaction. People hear criticisms all too often and compliments all too rarely.  Decide to become known as a person who offers encouragement.

Do something unexpected for someone else.  Do it without expecting anything in return.  Do it out of love or friendship. Surprise them and see what happens. The other evening while having dinner, I noticed a client of mine having dinner with several friends. I got the attention of their server and sent desserts to their table for them to enjoy.  The client looked around and finally saw me and came over to say thanks. Of course, they bragged about me to their table-mates.

Give without any expectation of receiving.  There are enough takers in the world and too few givers. Giving will make you happy.  It will bless the receiver and you as well. One little act I giving I enjoy is paying the toll of the car behind me when going through a toll booth. It just feels good. Often, they will pass me and “honk” a thank you.

“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” If you are looking for a philosophy worth living, I encourage you to try this one.  You’ll be amazed at the results.

The Power of Focus

Ever wonder how some people seem to get so much more accomplished in a day? After all, we all have the same 24 hours. But some people just seem to accomplish much more than others. Would you like to become one of those people? Here’s the secret. It’s focus.

Every day presents a multitude of distractions that can keep us from being as productive as we might like. Things like email, phone calls, texts, small talk, and other interruptions. Do you think highly effective people don’t have those same distractions? They do. But they have learned the secret of focus which allows them to get more things done than others.

Here’s three tips to help you become more focused and effective.

1. Every evening spend a few minutes thinking about what you must get done tomorrow. Begin to sort through those activities, tasks, and projects in your mind. Then ideally jot them down and prioritize them. Plan to do the most important things first. This simple, yet powerful habit will tremendously increase your effectiveness.

2. Begin your day a little before others. Maybe by thirty minutes or even an hour. Arrive at your place of work and take a look at the list you prepared the night before. Are there any changes you need to make? Maybe you need to add or subtract some tasks or activities. Re-prioritize your list if necessary.

Then spend whatever time you need getting ready to start your work at the appointed hour. This will keep you from being like those who show up “on time” but spend half the morning getting ready to actually work.

3. Plan on spending the next two and half hours in a structured approach of focusing on your project or to-do list. Spend the next 60 minutes working on your project without allowing any interruptions. Announce to others that you will be unavailable if necessary. Don’t stop working for at least for one full hour of focused activity.

At the end of that hour take a planned break. Get a cup of coffee. Use the restroom. Check your email. Give yourself a mental and physical break for no more than 30 minutes. This will allow you to mentally recharge. But watch the time and re-start your project at the end of 30 minutes.

Again, spend the next 60 minutes focused on your project or to-do list. Disallow any interruptions or distractions. Be diligent and concentrate on the task at hand. When the hour is up feel free to give attention to all the things that used to distract you and rob you of your effectiveness.

If you follow this simple plan you will find that by late morning you have already accomplished more than most people accomplish in a day. You have learned and employed the power of focus.

My Dog’s Near Death Experience at the Park – Leadership Lessons

Josey

Meet Josey my two-and-a-half year old Labrador Retriever.  Yesterday, she almost died.  She’s OK, but it was a frightening experience which reinforced some leadership lessons I’d like to share with you.

It was a beautiful Spring day yesterday, so I decided to take Josey to a nearby dog park.  She LOVES to play fetch.  That is her most favorite activity in the world. From first thing when she wakes up to the last thing on her mind before going to bed, it’s fetch.  Did I mention that she loves to play fetch?

My wife and I have often commented that she would probably play fetch until she dropped dead.  That’s exactly what almost happened yesterday.  It was about 82 degrees out, not too warm, and partly cloudy.  I brought one of her favorite fetch toys and tossed it a few times for her.  She enjoyed running and retrieving the toy, as usual.

A young man at the park, whose dog wasn’t much interested in the fetching game, started tossing the toy for Josey.  I sat on a nearby bench and enjoyed watching them play.  Again and again he threw it and she fetched it.  Tongue hanging out, in joyous play (Josey, not the young man). Until suddenly, she collapsed. Heat exhaustion. It’s sometimes deadly.

She was panting deeply and couldn’t stay upright. She collapsed, tried to get up and collapsed again. We got her close to the water fountain and spent the next hour dousing her with water until she started to recover. Slowly, her panting subsided. We kept pouring the water over her body to get her temperature down.  Luckily we succeeded.

I rushed her home and put her in the pool for a while.  Then I put her in her crate to rest.  I am happy to say she fully recovered and wants to play some more.  It was a close call, seriously.

Reflecting back today over that experience reminds me of some important leadership lessons:

Know your limits.  Josey would in fact, play fetch until it killed her.  I’m sure of it.  In life it pays to know your limits. You can spend all of your energy in a sudden burst and burn yourself out.  Or, you can pace yourself, work hard, play hard, rest, recover, and repeat.  The latter leads to success.  Burning out does little good. Remember the Tortoise and Hare.

You do NOT have to get it all done today. I know that sometimes we set unrealistic deadlines and unrealistic demands upon ourselves..  Leaders are often driven. We try to accomplish too much in too short a time span. Our careers often consume us. As it has been said, some people spend all their time making a living and fail to make a life.  Work will still be there tomorrow. Take time to enjoy life, family, and friends.

Pay attention to others.  I feel a bit guilty because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to Josey.  If I was paying better attention, I could have made her stop and rest a bit.  It’s a good thing she recovered because I would have blamed myself if she hadn’t. Leaders often have responsibility over others.  We need to know their limits, their capabilities, their weaknesses, as well as their strengths. Good leaders know how to get the most out of their followers without sacrificing them.  It may be ok to bend others, leaders often do.  But, do not break them.

Life’s experiences are often the best teachers.  Thanks for allow me to share mine with you.

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