What is the best way to grow as a leader?

The answer might surprise you. It’s a duty many of us have, but few recognize as the ultimate leadership development program of all—becoming a parent.

The Best Way to Grow As a Leader

Flickr image courtesy of drinksmachine

I used to believe only a select few had the potential to be a leader, but having a child taught me that’s not completely true.

Every parent is a leader. Some are just better than others. Of course, you don’t need to be a parent to be a leader, but it does prove that leaders aren’t just born that way—they’re also developed along the way.

Here’s a handful of reasons why parenting is the best way to grow as a leader.

When you teach your child right from wrong, you’re leading.
When you motivate your child to reach their potential, you’re leading
When you discipline your child for testing boundaries, you’re leading.
When you sacrifice for your child’s needs, you’re leading.
When you nudge your child out of their comfort zones, you’re leading.
When you nurture your child when they’re hurt, you’re leading.
When you inspire your child to overcome obstacles, you’re leading.
When you invest in your child’s future, you’re leading.
When you give your child an example to follow, you’re leading.

I can think of no other leadership program on earth that can teach us about being a leader more than being a parent does.

As we grow as parents, we grow as leaders. Sadly, many parents (especially fathers) don’t fully accept their responsibility to lead their families well.  It’s as if they’re given a sword of leadership but refuse to learn how to use it.

But when you answer the sacred calling to lead your family, you step into the life you’re meant to live.

You find a purpose beyond your own existence.
You unlock talents and gifts you didn’t know you had.
You grow in confidence and courage.
You discover why you are here.
You make a difference.

The best way to grow as a leader is to be a parent. And it all begins at home.

Go figure.



If there were a hall of fame for heroes, Johnny Cash would be in it.

Of course, his musical career is legendary and continues to stand the test of time. But what makes him a hero, that special quality he had, was his raw honesty. In his songs, in his story, and with his gritty style.  His troubles are well-documented, but so is his remarkable change.  He serves as a reminder that no matter how far down the road we’ve gone, it’s never too late to turn back around.

What follows are a collection of quotes that speak to what it means to be a man. Let’s learn from the Man in Black himself as he shares some of his wisdom with us.


On being yourself: “To love who you are and what you do, and to have faith in your ability to do it. You’ve got to know your limitations. I don’t know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren’t too many limitations, if I did it my way.”

“I’m not talking about ego, and arrogance, and grandiose feelings. I’m talking about self-esteem and confidence. That’s vital: self-esteem and confidence.”


On what his marriage has meant to him: “We have a sharing marriage, and we share the road, we share the bedroom, we share the backstage, onstage, we share the music, the feeling, and the emotion, and the joy of it, you know. And the pain and the sadness of it. We share the love of our children. It would be terribly lonely not to have someone to share those things with me. And she’s not only a lady who I share my life with, but she may have been the person responsible for my still being alive. She and God. Because she came along at a time in my life that I was on self-destruct, and she saw what I was doing to myself and she helped bring me back up out of it. And we’ve fought and worked hard to keep our feet on the ground since then. But like I say, today is a good day.”


On how to succeed: “I could go by a lot of catch phrases like, ‘Know your own self,’ ‘To thine own self be true.’ Self-esteem and perseverance and confidence are all important, but the first thing is to know what you want to do. Set that goal out there and never lose sight of it, and work toward it. And know that there are going to be byways and sidetracks, but keep persevering and keep on, and do what you know that you want to do.”


On what his father meant to him: “My father was a man of love. He always loved me to death. He worked hard in the fields, but my father never hit me. Never. I don’t ever remember a really cross, unkind word from my father. He was a good, strong man who provided for his family. That was his sole purpose in life when I was growing up.”


On the purpose of the human body: “People say, ‘Well, he wore that body out.’ Well, maybe I did. But it was to a good purpose. They should be thankful that I wore it out to the purpose I wore it out and that was writing and recording and touring and doing concerts. Everywhere I could possibly do them that I thought I might enjoy them. I thought people might enjoy me.”


On getting past your past: “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”


On his fashion style: “I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion— against a stagnant status quo, against our hypocritical houses of God, against people whose minds are closed to others’ ideas. Everybody was wearing rhinestones, all those sparkly clothes, and cowboy boots. I decided to wear a black shirt and pants and see if I could get by with it. I did and I’ve worn black clothes ever since.”


On what advice he’d give to young folks: “Youth shouldn’t be clouded by any chemical or anything. Somebody my age can easily know that too, but youth is too wonderful a thing to mess with while you’ve got it.”

“Children, all your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate… I choose love.”


On how his faith fueled him: “The Bible is the source of the greatest joy. It’s a great moral stabilizer in a world that’s run amok. It’s an anchor for my own conscience, my own mind and my own life. It keeps my feet on the ground. It gives the answer to every problem you’re facing, if you look for it.”

“God loves us. That’s why he created us and gave us free will. Kind of like a farmer watching his chickens to see what they’re going to do. It desires that we all come back to him. That’s the way I think, that’s my God.”

Are there any other words from Johnny Cash that have inspired you?



Each week, I’m challenging myself to complete a Dare of the Week. A weekly goal designed to live more intentionally and be a better man. And I’m inviting you to join me.



Speak Less. Listen More.

He had the rare opportunity to learn from some of the most influential people in his field. As he made his way through the convention hall, he introduced himself to various thought leaders and presenters at the event.

As the guy made his rounds, he shared with others his visions and plans for the future. He offered opinions on various trends and topics of the day. He even told a funny joke to break the ice with a speaker who looked like he needed it.

When the event was over, and he sat in the silence of his hotel room, it occurred to him: “I had the collective wisdom of some of the best thinkers around, but somehow, I did most of the talking.”

After beating myself up over my foolishness, I made a vow for the second day of the conference: speak less and listen more.

Sure enough, I found myself in position to visit with some brilliant people, but this time, I took a genuine interest in others, asked open-ended questions, and learned as much as I could.

Day Two was better than Day One.

Have you ever been in conversations, meetings, and other social situations and ended up doing most of the talking?

I know there’s a place for people like us. Others can be shy and we feel we must be the ones to get the communication flowing. But I would argue that effective communication is like playing catch—tossing back and forth to each other. Otherwise, you’re just playing catch with yourself.

If you want to be a better communicator (and human being) you must speak less and listen more.  Here are a few reasons why:

  • It conveys an interest in others. When you allow others to speak about themselves and their interests, it shows you place value on them. You tell them they are worth your time. When you open yourself up to others, you will discover remarkable people and stories you never would have known otherwise.
  • Listening is a synonym for learning. It’s true. The less you say the smarter you seem. And when you finally do add your two cents, your words pack more power and impact. Beyond the appearance of intelligence, you can actually grow in intelligence, too. Listening is learning.
  • It keeps you from being a tool. Have you ever met someone who babbles endlessly? Have you ever found yourself saying something stupid only to make it worse by trying to dig yourself out of the mess you made? I know I have. By listening intently and choosing our words wisely, we appear more thoughtful and mature. Two words commonly not associated with tools, but two words that should be associated with gentlemen.

This week’s dare is to work on speaking less and listening more. When you are in conversations at work, at home, or elsewhere, practice playing catch with others, not just with yourself. Be genuinely interested in other people, ask open ended questions, and seek to learn as much as you can.

Not only will you glean from the wisdom of others, but you may also make some existing relationships even better. That’s what good communication does.

That’s what I’m shooting for. How about you?

Will you accept this week’s challenge?

If so, let me know. Either drop a comment, shoot me a tweet, or post a comment on the GoodSirs Facebook page. I would love to hear from you.



Anyone who attempts anything worthwhile will eventually deal with a disappointment. This is just a fact of life. For you, it might be a venture that didn’t live up to expectations. Perhaps it’s a failed relationship you thought would go the distance. Or maybe your whole life just isn’t where you want to be.

The question is whether we will let these disappointments drive us forward or derail us off-track.

Dropped Ice Cream

Photo Courtesy: G. J. Charlet III

I recently faced a major disappointment when I stepped down as pastor of the church I started. I gave everything I had to it and had high hopes of the difference we could make and all the people we could reach. In fact, we were doing remarkable things and well on our way.

But balancing the needs of a growing church, a full-time job, and my family at home over several years led me to make a difficult decision. And at the end of 2011, I handed off leadership of the church to a team of leaders so that I could devote more of me, and my time, to my family. I won’t lie, it hit me hard, but I’m seeing the rewards at home and I know it was the right move.

Like you, I have the option to let it derail me or drive me forward. I choose to drive.

How about you?

If you are derailed, it’s never too late to get back on-track. Think about it. You have to be an extraordinary person to have taken a chance in the first place. And if you become the kind of person who encounters a major disappointment, yet keeps driving forward..well, you are simply amazing!

If that’s you, here’s what I know about you:

You are full of passion. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well, “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” Folks like you have a vision, a dream, a goal, and they pour themselves into making it happen. Your ambition and leadership is inspiring to others.

You are courageous. You dared to try when others wouldn’t. Many people let fear of failure keep them from attempting anything great, but not you. You overcame that fear and went for it anyways. The results may not have been what you hoped for, but you can take heart in knowing you are one brave son of a gun.

You are wiser than you realize. I once heard wisdom define as knowledge with scars. That’s so true. There are plenty of experts who theorize about what you’ve been through. They write books, give speeches, and sit on panels to talk about it. But you have the scars to prove it, the stories to share, and the knowledge that only comes with experience.

You are battle-tested.  You’ve been bucked off the horse, but the fact that you’re getting back on says something about you. It says you are a person full of grit and determination. It says you can be counted on when times get tough. It says you are a rock who’s ready to roll.

You are on your way. Our greatest opportunities often lie behind our greatest challenges. What if the hopes you have, the dreams you desire, and the life you want is found on the other side of your disappointments?

If you’ve faced a disappointment, let me encourage you to keep moving forward. Accept responsibility, learn from it, and press on. What you perceive as a failure, mistake, or misfortune can actually become the catalyst for what’s ahead.

What disappointments have you faced?

What did you learn from them?

In what ways have your worst days led to your best days?


The National Archive recently released the 1940 Census forms and it reveals just how much our country has changed in the last 70+ years.  They U.S. Census developed some infographics to share the data and they are published below.

It’s interesting to note how much has changed for American men.  A couple of items that popped out while reading the statistics.

1. There are more women than men – In 1940, there were 100.7 men for every 100 women. In 2010, there are 96.7 men for every 100 women.

2. Men marry much later than they used to.  Since 1940, there’s been an increase of 21.7% increase in men (ages 20-34) who’ve never been married. Indicating what most folks already know: men (and women) are marrying much later in life.

The rest of the data in the infographics is fascinating, too. For both men and women. Take a look.

1940 and 2010 Then and Now Infographic image


1940-2010 State by State: Key Comparisons Between the Years

What the 1940 Census Records Reveal About the Modern, American Man [with Infographic] – GoodSirs.net


LeadershipLearnedHardWay As a leader, I’ve had my share of upbeats and beatdowns. Through them all, I’ve picked up some leadership lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Here are ten of them. If you’re a leader, I hope my mistakes and successes help you.


The notion that you’re too good for something (or someone) makes you a weak leader. A leader is someone who has the humility and drive to do whatever it takes to make sure the goal is achieved. When you set that kind of example, other leaders will, too. As the greatest leader of all-time revealed, “The greatest among you must be your servant.”


As a leader, you will need more wisdom than you can possibly imagine. I once heard wisdom described as “knowledge with scars.” That’s so true. When making a call to turn left or right, to say yes or no, to go for it or wait, seek counsel, hear all sides, and do the wise thing.


You will have to make tough decisions that won’t be popular. But if you make decisions based on what everyone wants, you will be in a world of hurt. Why? Because the masses aren’t always right. Remember what you’re Momma taught you, “Just because everyone else is doing it…” The right thing to do is often not the popular thing to do.


There’s nothing worse than following a half-hearted leader who is going through the motions. Eventually, other leaders will fill the void and pull your team in many different directions, creating conflict. Or it creates a “who gives a rip” mentality. In which case, it’s better to stay at home and watch reruns of Saved by the Bell before you do any more damage.


We live in a culture that is suspicious of all leaders. Bad ones do exist, but most leaders are well-meaning folks just trying to do the right thing, the right way, with the right people. Pointing a finger at them does no good. Connect with them. Learn from them. Encourage them. They need it. And if you’re worried they will turn into power-hungry tyrants, don’t. Those kind of leaders are rare and don’t last forever. 


Leaders aren’t designated; they emerge. If you need a title to make you a leader, you will have insecurity issues and fail to win the heart of a team. Don’t let that be you. Lead where you are, and when you’re finally in a position of influence, you will be ready for it. As Seth Godin says, “Managers want authority. Leaders take responsibility.”


No leader should lead alone!

You need mentors. You need to learn from pioneers who have paved the way and have the scars to prove it.

You also need running mates who are beside you, encourage you, and vice versa.

And you need to pass on what you’re learning to someone else (a grasshopper). You should invest yourself in the development of future leaders, perhaps even your replacement. That’s a mark of a great leader.


Vision is a picture of where you’re going. Without it, everybody guesses. Without it, all decisions end with a question mark. Without it, you’re just wasting gas on a road trip to nowhere.


If you’re a confident leader, you will not only have a strong sense of where you’re gifted at, but also a realistic knowledge of where you’re not. If you’re a confident leader, you will learn to pass those responsibilities on to someone who is. Sadly, insecure leaders think the sun rises and falls on them, and their mission and team suffers because of they are pigheaded. Make your life and leadership better by giving those areas of weakness away.


Most leaders push the pedal to the metal, never paying attention to the fuel gage. They go and go and go until the gas runs out. Suddenly, they’re stranded and find themselves walking miles to the nearest gas station to get a refill. What a waste of time!

Wise leaders rarely let their levels get near empty. They know to fill up frequently in order to avoid being stranded. Even if they feel like they don’t need it. As a result, they go further and enjoy the journey much more than the frustrated leaders they drive by on the road to their destination.

It’s important to rest, create margin, and avoid over-stuffing your life. There’s a better, much healthier way.


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