Archives For Leadership

Resilience.

The word is often misunderstood. Most people think the word means “bouncing back.” We often refer to people, especially kids who get knocked down as “resilient” kids. While there is some truth in that comparison, I have learned that resilience as a life virtue is something much greater. And important.

glencoe-panorama-ray-devlin

Glencoe Valley, Scotland. Photo by Ray Devlin

This post is a reminder of why I started writing–thinking of my children first, and then others that I love and want to encourage. In life, we are forged by our experiences and resilience is the tool. It is tempting to retreat when hard times come our way. As I reflect on my life, I’ve been guilty of doing so and regret it every time. Self-doubt, insecurity, and depression can haunt us. They are the levers of defeat and none of us can escape them fully. Enter resilience. My reminder of resilience is the picture above of Glencoe Valley in Scotland. It hangs in my office. Glencoe was carved out of some of the harshest weather of the Scottish Highlands. I’ve traveled through Glencoe in clear skies, shadowy mist, and even blanketed snow. There are no perfect weather guarantees at Glencoe and that is why it is so beautiful and mystical. It haunts me because it is resilient.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with Eric Greitens who wrote a book about the virtue and properly titled it, ResilienceThis is perhaps one of the most important books to our development as human begins. I love the writing style Greitens utilizes as a friend sharing wisdom with another friend. After all, we as frail people needs good friends and mentors to encourage us along the way.

For a long time, I looked at Eric Greitens as someone who is too good to be true. Athlete. Duke graduate. Rhodes scholar. Humanitarian. Navy SEAL. Founder of a non-profit supporting veterans. Governor of the state of Missouri. All accomplished by a 43-year-old. His public appearance is of a man who has done all of the right things.

After reading, it is evident that he as suffered as most people do and has developed a sense of humility about it. Resilience has been an important book to help me dive back into the classics by Homer and Aristotle, and is helping shape the way I think about the world and my life challenges. I am grateful for this book and would put it at the top of a must read for anyone wanting to understand their suffering or how to help someone who is going through trials.

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There are many challenging quotes from the book that I pulled. I hope you will be encouraged to fight through with resilience. You are not alone.

Why Resilience

“We all need resilience to live a fulfilling life. With resilience, you’ll be more prepared to take on challenges, to develop your talents, skills, and abilities so that you can live with more purpose and more joy. I hope something here can help you to become stronger.”

“What happens to us becomes part of us. Resilient people do not bounce back from hard experiences; they find healthy ways to integrate them into their lives. In time, people find that great calamity met with great spirit can create great strength.”

Leadership

“Leaders lead from the front. Never ask someone to endure more than you are willing to endure yourself.”

“Beware the person who seeks to lead and has not suffered, who claims responsibility on the grounds of a spotless record.”

“We are almost always better led by those who have pushed themselves up to and past their limits than by those who don’t know where their limits are.”

The Fight

“And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive: it’s on the front lines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love, and do purposeful work. If you want to win any meaningful kind of victory, you’ll have to fight for it.”

“When we have meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful work, it radiates through our lives.”

“You’ll understand your own life better, and the lives of others better, if you stop looking for critical decisions and turning points. Your life builds not by dramatic acts, but by accumulation.”

“What usually matters in your life is not the magical moment, but the quality of your daily practice.”

“If we are intentional about what we repeatedly do, we can practice who we want to become.”

“Resilient people do not bounce back from hard experiences; they find healthy ways to integrate them into their lives.”

Responsibility

“At the root of resilience is the willingness to take responsibility for results.” 

“You are not responsible for everything that happens to you. You are responsible for how you react to everything that happens to you.”

“People who think you are weak will offer you an excuse. People who respect you will offer you a challenge.”

“Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

Facing critics

“Know this: anyone who does anything worthy, anything noble, anything meaningful, will have critics.”

Understanding pain and hardship

“Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better.”

“To work through pain is not to make it disappear, but to make it mean something different for us—to turn it into wisdom.”

“To move through pain to wisdom, through fear to courage, through suffering to strength, requires resilience.”

“An unwillingness to endure the hardship of a depressed time keeps us from the possibility of capturing the wisdom and strength and joy that can exist on the other side. There is a season to be sad. Painful things hurt. Allow yourself to be hurt.”

Humility

“I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. With an open mind and a forgiving heart, I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility.”

“If you start with humility, you see every person as your teacher.”

 

Over the 4th of July drive this past week I listened to the audiobook of Conversations with Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons from the Commander of Band of Brothers.

For those of you who have watched the Emmy-award winning HBO Mini-series, Band of Brothers, or read the book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose, you know Major Winters. His life has been well documented to this point through that story as well as his memoirs, Beyond Band of Brothers

urlFollowing the publication of Beyond Band of Brothers, Conversations was a book Major Winters wanted to have written after spending hundreds of hours with Col. Cole Kingseed. There were lessons through Major Winters’ life that needed to be told.

Watching Band of Brothers is something I recommend any person to do whether they are interested in military history, or not. At least do it for the sake of honoring those who served World War II. The book made Easy Company famous. Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg through the mini-series helped make the company legendary. Thousands of baby boomers and people my age were given a unique view into their epic journey from Airborne training, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, and on to taking Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at the end of the war.

In the audiobook, Winters’ leadership principles were shared, as in Beyond Band of Brothers, and I think it is worth sharing with you. No matter your role in life, it is important to understand what it takes to lead. The military life can teach us a lot of things perhaps because the pressures seem greatest.

I have appreciated Major Winters  because of his “quiet strength” as a leader. Actor Damian Lewis played this very well on-screen in the mini-series.

I am humbled because as a leader I have far from mastered these lessons but they are principles that I need to be reminded of and develop on a daily basis. These lessons are applicable to any leader and not limited to the battlefield.

In the words of Major Winters, “Hang tough”.

Leadership At The Point Of a Bayonet

1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.

2. Lead from the front. Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.

3. Stay in top physical shape–physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.

4. Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.

5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their job. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.

6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.

7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.

8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.

9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. They key to a successful leader is to earn respect–not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.

10. Hang Tough!–Never, ever, give up.

Any military commander who has stepped foot on a battlefield will probably attest that whatever plan they originally had didn’t exactly go as expected.

As in the case of some brave Navy Seals in Pakistan, their Black Hawk helicopter had mechanical problems when landing at their target.  Did they stop and complain about it?  I don’t think so but I bet there was a four letter word or two thrown out to describe how they felt. They had a window of opportunity and needed to move forward. They ultimately adapted to the situation, achieved their goal, and destroyed what was left of their damaged Black Hawk. They moved forward.

In the miniseries Band of Brothers (2001) (Episode 7), Easy Company is assaults a town of Foy. The company got caught in mortar fire because they stopped moving. Bullets were flying. They were incapacitated. It wasn’t until they started moving again that they were able to achieve their goal and take the town. It wasn’t easy though and it took brave people willing to step out to move the company forward.

Life is not that much different.

  • You didn’t get that job you wanted.
  • You got cut in a layoff.
  • You got that B instead of an A in a class that kept you from making honor roll.
  • You suffered an injury losing out on that sports dream.
  • You got cut from the basketball team. (yes, I did)
  • You lost a loved one.
  • You are a parent and your child’s makes a poor choice.
  • Your business didn’t perform well this year.
Many of these things above have happened to me throughout my journey. I felt like anyone would feel; loss, failure, frustration, etc. You may have some amazing dreams out there and they have felt shattered at points in time. I can promise you that whatever plan you have in your head it is not going to happen exactly as you expect. I am still learning from my own life experience. Life is full of surprises and this is why lessons are meant to be learned in the process.  If you want to remember a handful of bible verses, never forget Jeremiah 29:11,
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord….”
 Pick up the Bible and read the rest.  There is a promise for us when these bullets start flying. And don’t think they won’t.
What do you do next?
You keep moving. You learn. You adapt. Trust. You will overcome with God’s help.
Be adaptable
Be open to change
Be open what God wants for you when the bullets start flying.

This past week I’ve watched two fantastic films: The Social Network and The King’s Speech. Both are tremendous works of cinematic art.  Both were successful at the Golden Globes and most likely will do well at the Oscars.  Most importantly, they tackle some key issues that make the movies relatable and by all means fit in the “great” category.

The themes of these films are classic Shakespearian: Friendship, trust/betrayal, duty, love, insecurity, and courage.

As a man these themes came right out from the screen and hit me in the heart.

The Social Network is a breakdown of the things that can make men great.

The King’s Speech is a build up to those things that do.

They are equally important to learn from.

In life I’ve learned that every person is flawed.  It’s what one does to overcome it that matters.


Here is what I learned from these core themes:

Friendship. Find your Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush’s character).  He is the guy we all want to turn to in life.

Duty. Sometimes whether we don’t feel like we deserve to be in a certain position (or don’t want it), we must rise up to honor those before us.

Courage. Know that you can overcome anything with the help of others and the willingness to risk.  Stand up for what you believe in.  It’s not supposed to be easy.

Trust/Betrayal. Be aware of those around you.  We’ve all been betrayed.  It is human nature to a degree.  I’ve betrayed friends before unfortunately.  Ask forgiveness and forgive but learn. Trust can be earned back over time.

Insecurity. We don’t have it all together. No one does.  Be open about that and trust in God, in others who love you, and remember that you’re not alone.

Love. Need I say more.

If you haven’t seen these movies, please do.

I’m challenged by the deeper themes here.  What about you?

When I was 8 years old my family moved across town in Kansas City and found a lovely house that sat above the first hole of an executive (shortened) 9 hole golf course.  Like most kids that age, I was playing soccer, baseball, basketball, and tennis.  Later I even tried football. I was doing way too much but my parents were just trying to test out what I enjoyed and fit me best.  My grandparents that year bought me my first set of golf clubs to try out this new sport.  Thankfully we had a tremendous local junior golf program and I began that journey.

I was truly  hooked at 11 when I played my first golf tournament outside of that course.  It was the United Commercial Travelers Junior Golf Tournament qualifier for the state of Missouri.  It was a mere 9 hole qualifier and the night before the area received a lot of rain, which discouraged many players from even showing up.  The field ended up being about a dozen golfers qualifying to go to the national tournament in Victoria, British Columbia.  I can’t even remember what I scored that day but it was enough to earn the victory and get a free trip to Canada for the tournament.  My dad accompanied me on that memorable trip.

I remember thinking, “Wow, all golf tournaments must be like this.  Winning is pretty awesome.”

I remember not playing very well in Canada but what it did do was hook me into the game and so I began giving up other sports one by one.  The person who taught me golf told me I had to either quit baseball or golf, my swing would be mess unless I did so.  My summers became filled with traveling around Missouri and Kansas, playing in golf tournaments and spending endless hours practicing on the driving range and putting green.  Golf to me was perfect for my personality at the time.

Individual.

Me versus the course.

Me versus the others.

It thought it was perfect.

My college days playing for The University of Evansville

When high school came along I played on the school team.  For the first time in my life I was part of a team.  A golf team?  It is an individual sport, right?  If you have seen The Ryder Cup or The President’s Cup you usually witness a spirit among those players that is unlike any other time in their individual tournaments.  You will see high fives and cheers for each other in individual matches to succeed as well as select formats of two-man best ball and alternate shot.  In team golf there are still individual awards for lowest score but the most important prize goes to the team that wins.

I was hooked.

Throughout high school and eventually in college golf I was a moderate success on an individual basis.  There are 5-6 players that play in tournaments and I was usually the #3-#5 player.  I don’t recall any major wins individually but I do remember every big win our team made.  Even on a day I had a double-eagle in a high school tournament, what was more prominent is that our team, the Webster Groves High School “Statesmen” won that tournament and eventually went on to the state championship tournament. I was elected Captain of the team so it was my duty and pleasure to celebrate that feat. It felt amazing.

The 1997 Webster Groves HS “Statesmen” golf team

Life can be an individual journey. It is your life to live.  But you can’t live it alone and you surely cannot succeed without others.  Even professional golfers have a team of people with them to motivate, teach, and even just listen to them. Most of us in our jobs today work on an individual basis. That mentality is wrong. Look at any successful person in life and you’ll discover their teams.

I love the teams I’m a part of today: My team at work, my church St. Bartholomew, my men’s group, my close friends from Young Life, friends in Kansas City, St. Louis, Evansville, and Nashville, and I would be lost as can be without my family.

My last hole in my college golf was memorable for the most inglorious reason. I duck-hooked my drive into a lake and ended up with double-bogey. I remember being mad at myself because I felt like I let the team down.

I was blessed to graduate a semester early and later the team won a big tournament that spring. That is what I remember most. I’ll take the Ryder Cup competition any day.

Tell me about your teams.

 

 

You had to have been hiding under a rock or not care to notice but this past week a big election occurred here in the United Staes.  However you feel about the outcome there is no doubt that there were clear priorities set forth by politicians.  You heard about the economy and tea, health care and death panels, as well as immigration and Mexican drug lords.

What you didn’t hear much about is that there are still troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan not to mention a presence in areas like Germany, South Korea, Okinawa, or Guantanamo Bay.

Why do we forget so quickly?   Let us honor the military by studying what works so well for them so we can find ways to solve problems in our own unique situations.

I recently picked up a copy of the Harvard Business Review primarily because of the cover story about “Leadership Lessons from The Military”.  Here are the key learnings:

According to a 2009 Gallup poll, 82% of respondents expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military, whereas only 16% expressed confidence in big business.  There have been some tremendous leaders in our history that came from a military background.  Let us not forget Presidents George Washington, Harry Truman, or Dwight Eisenhower and the leadership lessons they gave us based on their military experiences.  Of course there have been poor military leaders so we can learn from their mistakes as well.  General Petraeus, we are learning from you.

In the article, there were some helpful elements that those church, community and business leaders can utilize to be effective with your teams.

1.  Meet the troops: Create a personal link that will be crucial to lead people through challenging times.

2.  Make Decisions: Make good and timely calls which will be the crux of responsibility in a leadership position.

3.  Focus on Mission: Establish a common purpose, lift up those who will help you achieve it, and eschew personal gain.

4.  Convey Strategic Intent: Make the objectives clear, but avoid micromanaging those who will execute on them.

November 11th is Veteran’s Day. What is different about this day?  Well the idea is to celebrate and thank those who are still alive but have served.  It was originally known as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I.  It is different than Memorial Day because we have the chance to honor these people in person. There are over 23 million veterans of the US Military so plenty to honor.

What will you do to honor veterans this week?

*I am giving out 2 signed copies of The American Patriot’s Almanac. I am looking for unique ways that you all are honoring veterans so it is a bit subjective.  For full disclosure, I have worked on the promotions in the past for this book and with Bill Bennett and John Cribb who compiled it.  I would also like to share your stories with them.   The authors have graciously signed copies for veterans within Thomas Nelson.

To learn more about Veteran’s Day, here is an excerpt from The American Patriot’s Almanac (2010) by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb.

In the early morning hours Of November 11, 1918, representatives of France, Britain, and Germany met in a railroad car near Compiègne, France, to sign an armistice ending World War I, or the Great War, as it was known at that time. The cease-fire took effect at 11:00 a.m. that day—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Up and down the trenches, after four long years of the most horrific fighting the world had yet known, the guns fell silent. “The roar stopped like a motor car hitting a wall,” one U.S. soldier wrote to his family. Soldiers on both sides slowly climbed out of the earthworks. Some danced; some cheered; some cried for joy; some stood numbed. The Great War had left some 9 million soldiers dead and another 21 million wounded. No one knows how many millions of civilians died. Much of Europe lay in ruins. But finally, with the armistice, it was “all quiet on the Western Front.”

For many years November 11 was known as Armistice Day to honor those who fought in World War I. In 1954 Congress changed the name to Veterans Day to recognize all American veterans.

Every November 11 at 11:00 a.m., the nation pays tribute to its war dead with the laying of a presidential wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.

But Veterans Day honors more than the dead. Memorial Day, observed in May, is for remembering soldiers who lost their lives in the service of their country. Veterans Day is set aside to honor and thank all who have served in the U.S. armed forces—particularly our 23 million living veterans.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America