Looking at Leadership


Photo courtesy of Sonja Andersen

“The qualities of leadership are not always confined to one list”.

If there is a headline which makes me pause and think twice before reading, it is the ones which are similar to: “3 positive habits leaders do every day” or other arbitrary numbers and lists which claim to reveal the secrets of leadership. While not wanting to discredit any research someone has done to promote outstanding human qualities, it’s bewildering to think that such a trait can be spelled out in this way. Yet one quick search of this subject online and that’s precisely what will be found.

Becoming a great leader or influencer is perhaps a goal many wish to achieve. However, it takes more than just a simple proclamation to reach this kind of objective. Also, what qualities define a great leader and more importantly, what determines when someone reaches that point?

Although it is a topic which conjures up countless and differing opinions, defining any high-level figure, or for that matter confining those characteristics to a list – no matter how long it may be – puts limitations on such an important topic. The success of a leader is based on what needs to be accomplished as well as the perceptions and expectations of those who are being led. There are also different levels, purposes, and goals for each situation. Leading a business is far different from leading an army into battle. This one example alone demands varied and contrasting examples. If there is, however, one characteristic which every leader should first demonstrate, it ought to be trust. Without garnering a certain level of the group’s confidence, a leader may soon be found surrounded by his or her own delusions.

Another mark of a great leader in just about any area is the desire to help and inspire others to excel and achieve more than they thought they could do. Being at the center of attention is rarely the end goal. While it’s not easy to step away from the limelight, it certainly is not the main reason one chooses to be in this position. It takes a considerable amount of self-confidence to be the one in charge but true leaders also understand both their strengths and shortcomings which in turn steers them to engage with others in order to reach and accomplish the tasks at hand.

Successful leaders don’t need to brag about their accomplishments because that is not the intended goal. There is no need for derogatory name-calling or berating others for what they’ve done. These actions are instead, distinct indicators of low self-esteem and ultimately a huge distraction toward reaching the goal. Great leaders create opportunities for those around them to shine and thrive. Loyalty is not even a question because it was already earned through integrity and selfless acts to those who were and are being led. Sacrifice is usually the reward and not personal gain. Often most of the incentives of being the leader are seeing the smiles and contented looks on the faces of the group.

The definition of a leadership, truthfully, can have different answers for each person. What are some of the qualities you believe are important for great leaders? Please feel free to leave them in the comments and thanks again to Sonja Andersen for the beautiful picture.

Unlocking Relationships


Photo By Sonja Andersen

“Learning to relate with others is a task well worth its effort”

Relationships are quite an interesting concept. While their origins no doubt developed with early humans, they have transpired to become an integral part of our daily lives. In last week’s article (click here to read it), the emphasis was put on realizing that working through the difficult times is key to maintaining and sustaining good relationships. But how do different kinds of relationships move forward and progress to the levels where they flourish?

The biggest stumbling block to human relationships is perhaps the biggest catch-22 of them all; the simple fact that each person involved is a human. Every individual has different life experiences and when combined with diverse emotional, physical, and mental backgrounds, its basic design promotes the disparities which are bound to occur.

When a relationship involves a pet or something other than another human, it is easier to control the outcomes. Pets often will love unconditionally because of the way their nature has evolved and been conditioned over the thousands of years of existence. Humans, on the other hand, have this pesky trait called freethought which contrives all kinds of challenging circumstances for what can appear to be the smoothest of relationships.

The ability to think for ourselves, by its own definition, encourages differences of opinions and the degree to which those opinions vary, is also what creates the difficulties. If a relationship only benefits or affirms one person, then it is not a true relationship.

Even those with our own children can be mutually beneficial. While we don’t always allow them to have their way, the ultimate goal is to help them become productive and accomplished adults. However, children are more apt to love unconditionally. Their life experiences have not tainted them with prejudices and preconceptions which promote unnecessary and biased conditions.

Ironically, the meaning of “unconditional love” is influenced by the conditions we’ve faced throughout our lives. While there may be a “text book” definition of what it is, circumstances may dictate its practical application. If unconditional love is a prerequisite for your relationships, then you may find yourself frequently disappointed because of the other person’s inability to be clear on what your assumptions, perceptions, and expectations are.

What it boils down to is that we are all individuals. We cannot force nor expect the other person to accept only what we demand as part of a healthy relationship. Whether it is personal, work-related, religious, or neighborly, humans are different and believing we can control the other person in a relationship is neither possible nor beneficial. Embracing this idea will encourage more diverse and interesting kinds of relationships which ultimately will lead to a broader and perhaps more fulfilling life.

My thanks to Sonja Andersen for the beautiful pictures. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Keys to a Great Relationship


Photo Courtesy of Sonja Andersen

“Being in a relationship is easy…..while everything is going right.”

Perhaps there is no other subject more widely discussed than the topic of love. Since the very first humans were able to express affection one to another, there has been a continual flow of opinions on the best way to make relationships work. Throughout the millennia, countless books have been written on the subject and some of them are quite touching. However, none of them matters if your own relationships aren’t working.

What is the answer to getting relationships to work? If this were a simple, one-sentence answer, it would be that for every relationship, there is a different answer.

The good news is that every human being is unique; however, that is also the very same challenge which makes having and maintaining good relationships problematic. Behaving the same way in each of your own relationships is virtually impossible and not a good idea whatsoever. The cold truth is that relationships take work and the closer the relationships are, the more likely a greater effort will be required.

Initially, it is important to understand the kind of association you wish to establish. Is the importance one which involves love and physically intimacy or is it someone you recently met and are hoping to create more of a comradery? Considering the nature of the relationship helps clarify the significance and amount of determination that will be needed.

In any substantive relationship, it is important to continue learning about the other person and creating a greater understanding of who he or she is. Oddly enough, getting a greater understanding is the basis for the definition of intimacy. Unfortunately, many men, upon hearing that word, correlate it with sex but that kind of interaction is not appropriate nor needed in most relationships.

One of the biggest hurdles involved in primary relationships is the fanciful and romantic ideals concocted about how exactly they should function and somehow if those preconceived notions aren’t met, then it points to a direct failure. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Spending time with someone while love emanates from the relationship, is easy. That’s precisely why new relationships are fun and exciting. The foibles and idiosyncrasies of the other person are still hidden and small mistakes are overlooked in the anticipation of the excitement and romance which is bound to ensue. Eventually, as a better understanding of that person becomes more clear, it results in these faults, quirks, and complications growing more prevalent.

The key to a great relationship is how those types of challenges and difficulties are met. Facing these issues head on is a much better indicator of love than how great the good times are. Be determined to work through the daunting and seemingly insurmountable moments because that will determine the ultimate success.

Any relationship worth having will require effort. This week, pay attention to some of yours and discern whether or not there is something you can do to add to it. Thank you to Sonja Anderson once again for the beautiful picture. She has provided several great and well-themed photos for my articles.

Reflecting Back


House Guests: Peggy (left) & TT (on the right)

“While personal growth is a daily task, it may take much longer than expected to see results.”

This week I am hosting a couple of cats which I have not seen in quite a while. 6 years ago, I saw them on a regular basis and they knew me just about as much as their owner. However, life had a change of plans, so after so many years I was wondering if they would remember me.

If you have been reading my articles, you’ll know that many of my themes suggest we point the finger at the mirror and see what we individually can change rather than point at others expecting results from them. Naturally after considering if the cats would remember me, I reflected on where I was 5 years ago compared to today.

In many ways, I am a different person. Personally, I went through a divorce which sparked a desire to see a therapist. Therapy, in turn, was the genesis for much of my personal growth and development. Encouraged by my progress, he recommended writing a book which ultimately became the catalyst to changing the course of my life’s work and purpose.

While it appears that the cats did remember me, the next thought was wondering if people who hadn’t seen me in the same amount of time, would likewise recognize me; or perhaps more accurately, recognize some of those changes in my development as well?

Sometimes it’s important that our growth and development be perceived by others or how else will we know anything has occurred and made positive effects? Someone may be thinking that other people’s opinions don’t matter and while there is a bit of truth to that, let me offer up an alternate perspective.

The way in which we perceive ourselves is vital. If we do not recognize the changes, chances are they haven’t occurred. One of the best ways to validate them is to have others – especially those whom we trust – recognize and tell us. In this instance, their opinion confirms and validates our conviction.

There are aspects of my own development about which I am so certain that even if the world’s foremost mental health expert told me I were wrong, it would not alter my personal perspective. However, when it comes to qualities requiring direct interaction with others such as kindness or generosity, simply believing that we have grown in that area doesn’t make it a fact.

There are times when we question our growth or feel that perhaps we’ve lost some of the ground we gained. The best way to combat those thoughts is through self-assurance which is aided by authentication from close and trusted friends.

This week, take some time to reflect back over the past several years and notice the positive and uplifting changes you have made. Also, go out of your way to validate and affirm the same in others. It just might continue to add to yours as well. Thank you and I look forward to your comments.


Living with Discord


Photo By Zachary Nelson

“Creating harmony with dissonance is the goal of every great artist.”

In last week’s article, the concept of living in harmony was compared to how a symphony orchestra functions (click here to read that article). While all of us aspire to live our lives in total harmony, it simply is not going to happen. It many cases, the reverse appears to be the norm; discord is all around us. The key is dealing with it in a harmonious manner. Composers and songwriters face the challenge of how to take those dissonances and turn them into beautiful music.

When 3 or more notes are played together, they can form a “chord”. The more pleasant sounding chords are called major chords which can be virtually free of dissonance. However, many composers purposely write discord into the music and resolve it in an artful yet memorable way.  It’s not about avoiding or getting rid of the perceived conflict, it is learning to except its existence and working with it. Furthermore, great composers enhance what others perceive as ugly or spiteful, and transfigure it into meaningful masterpieces.

Dissonance is everywhere and constantly tooting its horn, so to speak. There are subtle moments as well as overwhelming events. No matter how much we strive to circumvent or thwart them, they arrive at the most unpredictable and unavoidable occasions. It’s important that we learn to, well, in a way, harmonize with disharmony.

Learning to work in conjunction with those who resonate with us on different levels requires a unique kind of patience and understanding. When challenging situations are resolved with kindness and thoughtfulness, it fosters an environment that works in everyone’s best interest.

Lately there have been countless examples of the opposite behavior. Leaders, as well as those in positions of authority, are displaying superb examples of taking tense situations and transforming them into even more unharmonious situations with ridiculous and childish tactics. Name calling has never been a technique used to unify and telling others their ideas and values are “stupid” isn’t going to convince them you are correct.

The art of working together is not an easy undertaking but is there a better way to resolve a conflict in a fair and equal society? Anything else would likely be usurpation of power for an unfair or selfish advantage.

On that note, focus this week on what can be done to make those around you and this world a better place by arranging to work more harmoniously; especially with those whom you may consider to be difficult. Just as those who work to perfect their craft, your skills in dealing with these situations will also improve. Pay attention to those moments when discord shows up and see how it can be turned it into a beautiful work of art.

Thanks to Zachary Nelson for the amazing photograph. Find out more about him at zacharytnelson.com. I look forward to your comments.