Lessons Of The Year

Why 2015 was my watershed year

To know goodness needs just a taste. Greatness, on the other hand, requires a mastery and a willing soul.

Year That Was

Consider the katana, a Samurai’s sword. It is a confluence of strength, finesse, and deadly artistry. In the right hands, the katana will cut through bone as easily as a razor blade on paper. But what keeps this millennium-old weapon so treasured?

The answer lies in the purest of steel in the hands of highly skilled smelters, smiths, sword blade polishers, and carpenters. To create one katana takes 15 men nearly six months. It is a tedious, patient and meticulous process.

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Being Vulnerable Wins At Leadership

Why you must always lead from your authentic self

I am excited to share this heartfelt post from my friend Dr Faith Ngunjiri. She is the Director, Lorentzsen Center for Faith & Work, and Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Offutt School of Business at Concordia College, in Moorhead, Minnesota. She blogs at Ruminating on Faith.

I have experienced both personal losses and professional failures in my life. As a leader, some of these losses and failures have been publicly visible.

Last year, I grieved through a failed adoption. Two weeks after we had taken a newborn home as her new parents, her birth family asked to have her returned. They wanted to raise her. Not only were we left empty-handed but it also crushed our hearts!

And that wasn’t the end of it. I was to facilitate our monthly leadership luncheon. My dean had announced I wasn’t available for the event as I was away taking care of the newborn. The girl’s picture was even shown to all present!

Over the next several months, I fielded many questions about our newborn. Each time, I had to explain that the adoption had failed all over again. To say this was a painful experience is to grossly understate the case.

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Leadership Is Until The Whistle Blows

5 Leadership Lessons From A Mountain Bike Trail

The morning was chilly and cloudy as my seven-year old son and I set out on an adventure. We were off to a father-son event out in the forest. And for me, it was time to take my leadership and mentoring a notch higher.

5 Leadership Lessons From A Mountain Bike Trail

At the staging area, there were trampolines, slides, obstacle races, and great music. But our attraction was to ride our mountain bikes into the forest. My son had made it very clear that it had to be done.

I had been to this particular forest many times before. We had walked the trails with family and friends. In my mind, our bike ride was going to be a walk in the park. And the first leg was exactly that.

We accompanied our under-12’s on a four-kilometer ride. When we got back to the staging area, I was in for a big surprise. The adults were to race on a real mountain bike trail!

In our briefing, we were warned to ride carefully. There were twists, turns, and some rough sections. This wasn’t what I had signed up for! I just wanted to hang out with my son for some easy Saturday morning fun.

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When Forgiveness Begets Leadership

medium_11230538153The year I turned seven, my father, a government employee, was relocated to another town.

Myself, my mother and my siblings couldn’t move with him and stayed back home. I thought it was because we were already settled into our own simple house and in local schools. As kids, we weren’t prepared for this major upheaval in our family. My hero had been torn away from me.

The next thirty years were spent hating, regretting; living in fear instead of to my full potential. I couldn’t stand the thought of ending up the disappointment I perceived my father to be. But that was exactly where I saw myself heading.

I had dreams, aspirations and a bubbling heart, but somewhere along the way it had become a struggle to even think of waking up each day, let alone getting out of bed.

For many years, I harbored a longing to serve people in a significant way, yet I was doing nothing to fulfill that desire. I was too paralyzed by my fear of inadequacy.

Then I chose forgiveness… [TweetMe]

Read the full article on The Gift of Writing.

Question: Are you struggling to find your full potential as a leader, father or mother? I hope my story will inspire you to take the critical steps to be the leader you were meant to be. Down But Not Out is available at your favorite online bookstore, or a bookshop near you.
 photo credit: symphony of love via photopin cc

Mothers are Leader Number 1

Happy Mother's Day

What does your mother mean to you?

This morning, I thought of a special type of leader. They go about their day with diligence and sometimes unnoticed. They lead from the heart, are uncompromising and loving.

Mothers are leaders beyond belief [TweetMe]. They don’t just bring us into the world, they are there when we scraped our knees, calmed us when ‘monsters’ attacked us at night, and saved the day when our stomachs threatened to ‘kill’ us. Mothers are PRESENT as they are a GIFT.

Today, I want to honor two special mothers in my life. Her Greatness Mum (my mother) and Her Highness Harriette (my best friend and the mother to our children). You are great leaders that evoke emotions and memories in us that are out of this world [TweetMe].

From our mothers, we have come to appreciate many lessons to last us a long time to come. And as someone once said, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. So here goes…

Marmalade – Delectable, carefully prepared, and enjoyable. You care

Oatmeal – Filled with wholesome goodness. A healthy body, mind and home…

Tortilla – Our tastebuds do a crazy dance. We’re in colourful warmth

Honey – Your sweetness is unmatched. We treasure your love for us…

Eggs – A comfort for all times, good or bad. We love your magical presence

Ribs – Sticky and finger-licking good! You’re consistent even when we yo-yo…

Take the time to thank your mother. As you do so, I urge you to ponder on the following. What will it take for you to show more care, be wholesome in your approach, warm when engaging others, love more, be present for your people, and finally, consistent in your leadership.

To all mothers out there, we love you more than anything else in the whole wide world… Happy Mother’s Day! [TweetMe]

[photo credit: Carolyn_Sewell via photopin cc]

Endurance, Fitness and Leadership

medium_4065213505It feels like we are living our lives at a break-neck speed. There is so much around us that is clamoring for our attention. Many times, it feels like I am just treading water trying to survive. There is a resignation that there just isn’t enough time to go around. It feels like I am participating in a marathon-like endurance event.

Back when I was in my happy-go-lucky at twenty’s, life was one big party that was regularly interrupted by work. Every evening, I was meeting with one group of friends or another. I was fit as a fiddle and could perform many physical activities at the drop of a hat. One fine Saturday, I woke up and remembered that our church had a fund-raising run at 10 o’clock. Two hours later, without any preparation at all, I ran fifteen kilometers. Afterwards, my body felt like it had gone through a meat grinder. In two days, however, all the aches and pains were gone. That is the power of youth that can overcome any endurance test.

What I do with the time I have determines whether I’ll grow as a leader or not. [TweetMe]

About a month ago, fifteen or so years after this event, I was part of a group of men that went climbing an innocuous-looking hill. We were to climb over an elevation of 400 meters (to 1,900 meters above sea level). It all began well. We were engrossed in conversation and the prospect of conquering this mole-hill with relative ease. The reality was different. Half-way up the hill, I discovered it was a battle for endurance. I was out of breath, my body was battered, and my spirit completely crushed. I was giving up.

My salvation was on a small yet significant set of decisions: stop, rest, refocus. This redeemed the day and I was able to catch up with everyone else and complete the climb.

Now, I had approached the climb with my twenty-five year old heart. However, I had over the years neglected an important part of my being. I had not kept my body in good physical shape. Of course, I have many hypotheses that could explain and excuse my condition. I had a career to build, a family to bring up…

What I had done was to commit the grave mistake of breaking up my life into unconnected compartments. This was plain foolish! I had forgotten was that there is only one of me. It was a major wake-up call. I needed to ensure that my physical fitness is looked into.

Leaders take time to stop, rest, and refocus. You can’t lead from confusion. [TweetMe]

I started small and joined my wife in her power-walks. It is amazing how the walking affected my mind. I felt more alive and alert. Why had I neglected my body to keep my body in shape?

The people you lead will do great things because of the influence you have on them and not the controls you impose. John C. Maxwell says this, “I believe that success is within the reach of just about everyone. But I also believe that personal success without leadership ability brings only limited effectiveness. A person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with effective leadership. The higher you climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be. Whatever you accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others.”

How then can you become a balanced leader? To influence others into leadership, you have to keep up with your leadership fitness. There is only one of you and it is impossible to split yourself! Just like my bravado reminded me when I was going up that hill, it is utterly important that you fully understand your season in life. You may have to jettison some things for other people to grow and make very careful choices.

What will you have to give up for your leadership to thrive?

[photo credit: Randy Le’Moine Photography via photopin cc]

Take Your Stand!

medium_11329609296On 19th September 2005, I jumped on a train that was to take me through an amazing journey. I was provided with the opportunity to work at building a brand and to lead a cause. I’d been married to my awesome wife for just a year and a half. And our first child was on the way. Actually, she was born just four days into this new journey.

This was the first time I had gotten a job after an extensive interview. All other positions I had held before transitioned into each other. I was hired because someone had interacted with me and loved my ability. This job, however, was different. I went through a rigorous interview. When I started work, I dug into it with gusto! It combined two of my passions. What a blessing to do work that you love!

As I disembark from that train today, I will treasure the experiences I went through. However, the sights sounds found beyond the railway tracks beckon to me. I experienced mind-shift some time back. From now henceforth, I will engage my mind, body and soul on inspiring courage in people to discover their potential, their destiny.

It all started when I discovered that leadership is a verb, I prayed that God would give me the courage to follow my dreams. Jeff Goins couldn’t have put it in a better way than this; “The experience of living a dream is more about what happens before you quit than what comes after.” I realized that to dream, I could not help but take leadership of the following choices: Learn, Love and Labor.

“Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive.”
~David S. Muzzey

Learn: Time came when I had to lean the way of my values [TweetMe]. Although it has been a chapter in my life filled with great lessons, personal growth and awesome moments, it has also been punctuated with long paragraphs of challenges, disappointments and pain. However, these strengthened my resolve, fortified my resilience and built my character. “The one who sweats more in practice bleeds less in war.” ~Spartan Warriors

Love: I made some great friends that I will treasure for life. I learned from my mistakes as much as from my achievements [TweetMe]. As Muhammad Ali said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.” I am happy to emerge a better person hardened in battle but working towards excellence.

Labor: Pushing hard is inevitable as I will always face dream-killers [TweetMe]. These are fears and people who don’t want to see me grow. Here are my thoughts to you from a man I greatly admired. This is a man who inspired me to innovate even in the face of resistance. I hope these words will to spur you on… “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way you do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found that yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” ~Steve Jobs.

Are you living your dream or is someone else living their dream through you?

 [photo credit: thor_mark via photopin cc]

A Leader’s Legacy

Anna“With great sadness in my heart I must tell you that…” was the opening of an email message I received last evening informing me of the closing of another life. I was shocked, confused and all that my quivering lips could utter was a pained “No!” It was a legacy refined, one that began in life and shall forever be immortalized.

I still remember these words that I wrote to Anna back in December 2011. “You are what I call the Swedish Iron Lady. Your attention to detail is unrivaled! I always knew that you would spot any full stop I omitted in my work. You provided an opportunity for me to prove my worth. You mentored me, trained me, and above all believed that I could become a better communication specialist. In you, a platform existed from which I could launch myself into the future. Thank you Anna for giving me the opportunity.”

She had a beautiful smile that let me know all things would work out even in the most bleak of situations. She was gentle as she was tough is her expectations of me. Resilience was her hallmark and she would not stop until she was sure that I was close to my potential. Her inspiration allowed me to bridge the gap and reach out to that potential.

As I went through all these emotions, it dawned on me what a great leader she was to me. To date, every work I do has her imprint on it. I can’t stand bad writing. My temples pulsate every time I receive a poorly punctuated email message. I think structure any time I hear ‘content’.

Anna leaves behind a few lessons for all of us aspiring to be better leaders.

Smile often: It communicates warmth and the humanity in you [TweetMe]. It is amazing the effect a smile has on someone else. It breaks down barriers and helps unlock the magical door into their hearts. A smile shows a healthy dose of optimism that all will be well, regardless.

“We become what we think about most of the time, and that’s the strangest secret.” ~Earl Nightingale.

Gentle is okay: Leaders do not have to lead by fear [TweetMe]. Temper your firmness with love. You are leading people, not robots. In your toughness, your followers need to remember that you have their best interests at heart. It helps to build trust between you and your followers. That will always win the day.

“The glue that holds all relationships together – including the relationship between; the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” ~ Brian Tracy

Inspiration is possible: I don’t need to be a great orator to inspire others towards their potential [TweetMe]. All I need to do is to figure out their potential and partner with them to realize their innate ability. Once we are both on the same page, difficult situations become learning opportunities.

“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay for the price the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.” ~ Vince Lombardi.

Seize the moment: The last time Anna was in Kenya, she invited us to join her and her daughter on a holiday. It was an impromptu proposition. My silly excuse was that we could not afford the trip. I have learned a heavy lesson, and I will now invest more in meaningful relationships. That is what legacies are made of [TweetMe].

Anna, you lead, cared and built. You are gone in body but your legacy lives on in many of us. Your legacy is built not on what you are, but who you are, and the hearts you touched.

Are you reaching out to people’s hearts?

 photo credit: Paul Mundy

Leaders EAT Flatbread

medium_18497964What can we learn from a ‘flattish’ loaf of bread? A few weeks back, our 8-year old daughter evicted all of us from the kitchen. She was on a mission to wow us with a magnificent display of her culinary skills. Execute Mission Bread… 3, 2, 1… Blast away!

Well, we did not know what she was up to until she emerged from the kitchen covered in flour. It was only then that I got a glimpse of her handiwork. Like the true leader she is, delegation is one of her strengths. My services were urgently required to fire up the gas oven.

Laid in baking tray were two rolls of wet dough. Into the oven they went. That’s when I asked her what she had used as the raising agent. “Yeast!” she proudly pronounced. That was the same stuff my wife had agonized about. Apparently, my wife thought the yeast was not active and shelved any idea of baking bread.

This young girl took me back to Leadership 101. Just EAT it, don’t over-process stuff. Kill the excuses, attempt what I can, and, tear into leadership roadblocks [TweetMe].

EXCUSES not allowed.  The yeast may have gone bad, but that was no excuse for not testing it out. It’s not like we were baking bread for one hundred people. It was just two loaves! Leaders don’t give excuses; I just need to get it done with whatever resources I have available to me [TweetMe].

ATTEMPT. Launching out is the best way I get to grow as a leader [TweetMe]. I need to pursue and look for opportunities to grow my skills. Many times I second-guess myself on ability or preparedness to lead, even before I make any attempt to.

TEAR down barriers and share whatever you have with love [TweetMe]. Seth Godin says that it’s “Better to pick just one thing you can be proud of, rather than offering just about everything in an attempt to please just about everyone (and thus no one).”

So, what are you planning to EAT?

P.S. You may have noticed that there is a change with my blog. To serve you better, I have moved the service to a self-hosted blog. Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Just enter your email address at the top right.

Thank you for your support.

[photo credit: MrTopf via photopin cc]

Leadership In The SUN

medium_6045855541I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was worried, thoughts ravaged my mind, I pondered over many scenarios. Then fear put a cold, solid grip on my heart. What would the future be for my family and I?

Like many a man, not having a solid feeling of control can leave me in a mental vortex.

In the sleepiness that plagued me that early morning, I remembered the following passage from Jeff Goins’ book, The In-Between.

“In frustration, I’m confronted with an old lesson of letting go, of looking beyond personal ambition and replacing it with something better. The slow growth that happens when I surrender to what life — and maybe God — is trying to teach me. So it seems, despite a penchant for travel, that the antidote to my restlessness is not another trip or adventure, but a deep abiding in where I am really matters. I don’t like it, but I’m starting to see the value of the times in between the big moments in life.”

My in-between is to activate the Suspend, Understand and Nurture model [TweetMe]. I needed to step into the SUN now to take control of my fears. As I wait for the next phase of my life to kick in, I can maximize on the present. The now becomes my launch pad.

SUSPEND my fear and embrace the possibilities by focusing on the vision [TweetMe]. I don’t live just for myself but to bring forth leadership that brings meaningful change to others. Succumbing to fear of failure reduces my chances to advance and possibilities to learn. I am robbing others of an opportunity to be led. When I progressively overcome my fear, I increase my chances of growing leaders, not just gaining followers. As Seth Godin puts it, “Fear the fear, feel the fear”.

UNDERSTAND the right tools required for leadership to thrive within me [TweetMe]. I must invest in the right attitude to engage with others, leaders and followers alike. However, these tools will not be available to me at the same time. I need to capture the moment and use what is at hand to gain what I can’t reach. Joseph Lalode shares the secret sauce for testing the waters and getting something done, pulling a ready, fire, aim on life. That attitude will be guided by the knowledge that there is always space to learn. It is only a fool who doesn’t change his mind!

NURTURE is paramount for any meaningful growth as a leader [TweetMe]. A frequent detox is required to get rid of the dirt/baggage for best results to emerge and leadership to shine. I need to learn and sit at the feet of great men and women who have gone before me. This includes a desire to be more accountable to myself and significant others. Learning to be humble will nurture my leadership and ability to mend fences and build bridges, especially with those I have wronged.

For any leader, those in-between moments can be make-it-or-break-it scenarios. I now have a deeper appreciation for what Steve Jobs once said, “Believe that things will work out… Trust your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path. Trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”


Q. How can you apply the SUN model to grow your leadership?

photo credit: Kevin_Morris via photopin cc