Fostering Relationships: Perception and the Person

In developing your personal network and in your dealings with perfect strangers, remember this phrase...

"If you can't get past the perception, you will never get to the real person."

This phrase reminds us that in most cases there is great divide between the perception you have of someone you first meet and the actual person. Effective leaders who are great at fostering relationships develop a healthy interpersonal pattern of getting through the perception quickly and learning about and connecting with the real person. Some quick tips for doing that...
  1. Ask questions and listen (demonstrate interest and respect)
  2. Paraphrase their comments (language barriers equates to trust barriers)
  3. Seek first to understand and then to be understood (put your interests second and the relationship's interests first)
  4. Smile and just be friendly (puts you and them at ease)

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The Unmade Leader: The Jinga Moment

We are all born with others trusting us. The human baby is the international symbol of trust, kindness and innocence.

At some moment, that trust is switched off. It is similar to the Hasbro® game of Jinga. We build a tower of trust blocks. We then begin a precarious process of taking the blocks out (breaking trust with others) and placing them back on top (trying to rebuild that trust). We feel like we are succeeding, but in reality we are breaking down the integrity of our trust tower and if this pattern continues it will fall and the rebuilding process will be long and arduous.

Effective leaders understand the power of developing the correct patterns in life that serve to maintain their tower as is and they avoid the process of taking out and replacing trust blocks. They keep their blocks in place. If and when trust is diluted or damaged, they take the time to very carefully put the block right back in place. It takes time. It takes focus. But it is worth it.

An example is the pattern of Stop, Drop and ROLLL....

Stop... When you recognize that trust has been diluted or damaged, stop what you are doing and respond to it.

Drop... Drop your pride, drop your emotion (very difficult to do) and drop any old negative patterns that you know will prevent you from getting to the ROLLL.


Respect the other person first. When trust has been damaged, you need to focus on the person involved, not the process. Show them you recognize you were wrong. Apologize. Be humble. Ask their opinion on the situation and deal with the circumstances second. Deal with the relationship first.

Open the dialogue with seeking to understand the other person’s position first. Then work to help them understand your position and interests second.

Listen Like a Leader. After the dialogue has begun, your task is to listen like a leader. Effective leaders listen intently, actively, purposefully, and openly. They don’t just wait to talk. They purposefully listen.

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Integrity: Placed... Re-engineering Responsibility

A select few in this world are chosen to serve in a position of influence. They are placed as protectors of integrity and faith in a world of indifference and false-witness. Many assume this responsibility is a choice - a conscience decision. I believe this assumption encourages responsibility to be viewed lightly and without the appropriate level of intensity. When looked at from the point of view of the former, it becomes clear the position has chosen the person.

This demands respect and humbles the recipient into action. If you are in a position of authority and\or influence, it is your duty to hold yourself accountable and have the highest level of expectations in regards to your conduct and performance! You were placed in that position because you are part of a much larger plan! It is your responsibility to perform at your personal best, thereby inspiring the same in others!

So, how is this discussion relevant to you and your life?

First of all, it is human nature to desire to understand the meaning of life and why things happen as they do.

Secondly, we as a country desperately need to infuse a hefty dose of personal responsibility into the national psyche. Starting one person at a time.

It is also important to note this discussion is not meant to serve as a cop-out for those in less-fortunate or under-privileged situations. This is certainly not a ''life just did this to me'' philosophy. This philosophy and the supporting arguments serves the purpose of re-engineering the responsibility of those in power and influence in America – no matter the size of that influence.

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The Unmade Leader: American Airlines and The Middle Earth Moment

The Middle Earth Moment is when a person focuses more on what's going on in their own little world, ignores the needs of someone else and consquently damages their own ability to create value. On a recent trip home from speaking, I encountered someone who had a Middle Earth Moment. She was the "at-the-gate-take-your-ticket-service-engineer" for American Airlines. I travel frequently and have built up upgrades I use to move from coach to first-class. As I checked-in I asked if I could upgrade. She responded in haste that first-class was full. I said ok and walked to my 19D seat. After they closed the airplane doors, I checked the seating in first-class. There were 6 empty seats! She simply didn't want to deal with my request (which would have required her to re-issue me a new ticket - a process that averages about 2 minutes).

Her Middle Earth Moment caused her to think, "my need of getting everyone onboard is greater than this passenger's need for great customer service." Because in the end, it wasn't so much about not having my request filled, it was more that she deliberately lied to make her life easier.

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The Unmade Leader: Brainstorming the Book...

April 18, 2007 "The Unmade Leader" Brainstorming Output
Click on the image to enlarge

  • The left-hand column are the traits we are born with that contribute to our leadership effectiveness. They are in red are called "Switches."

  • The opposite of each Switch is in black text and in parenthesises.

  • The dynamic that exists that can keep the Switch on is in black text and in brackets.

  • The Switches are turned on naturally from birth and then something happens to switch them off. These are called the Unmaking Moments. They are green in the middle column.

  • Each Switch and Moment corresponds with one of the PLI Essentials. They are in blue in the right-hand column.

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The Unmade Leader: The Green Grass Moment

Review any posts titled "The Unmade Leader" to get up to speed on this concept. In short, our upcoming book takes a look at a new method of looking at the old question, "Are leaders born or made?" The concept statement is...

"Leaders are born and then unmade."

This unmaking process happens throughout our life. The identification and discussion of these moments and how to overcome them are the focus of The Unmade Leader. Here are the moments already discussed in previous posts...

Throughout the next few posts, I will highlight a few of the other moments that unmake leaders...

The Green Grass Moment

(The trait we are born with is a Connection With Others.)

Life is a team sport. This is no more evident than in the basic principle that we need others from the moment we are born. At some moment, we lose the ability to focus on and appreciate those around us and we start to think that the grass is greener on the other side, i.e. - new friends, new spouse, different co-workers, etc. will make life better. For many people, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy because they neglect their relationships and the "grass" on their side of the hill dies and the grass on the other side is greener. Effective leaders recognize the power of relationships and that the most important relationships are those within our close circle. They nurture these relationships and exercise leadership in this circle first and in outer circles second.

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The Unmade Leader: Can Leaders be Remade?

Over the past week I have been unpacking our new answer to the old question, "are leaders born or made?" The concept statement is...

"Leaders are born and then unmade."

Each post has revolved around a question. Here is the current list...

Born with what?
What is a leader?
Are leaders born with everything they need to lead?
What does unmade mean?
What are other moments that unmake leaders?

Today's question is, "Can leaders be remade?"

The short answer is yes, with the proper motivation and techniques. That is actually what my speaking and leadership training company, YourNextSpeaker, is all about: blocking the unmaking of leaders and remaking leaders. We call the framework for this development process Personal Leadership Insight and this is where the ten PLI Essentials come into play.

Leaders can be remade if they...

1. Identify that an unmaking moment has occurred.
2. Recognize and place value on remaking their influence ability.
3. Understand how their influence has been diluted, damaged or deleted. Is it in the area of relationships, goals, integrity, creativity, talent, communication, etc.?
4. Seek out techniques and tools to replenish, restore and revive their influence.

Point number four is why the Personal Leadership Insight curriculum exists. To provide leaders an information portal to remake their ability to positively influence people and situations to create value and growth. Chances are there is a point of interest within this blog that can help you today on your remaking path...

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General: The Uphill Journey

Hit the green play button to play and/or right-click the song title to download this grand finale song from my leadership guitar keynote "The Uphill Journey!"

Uphill Song, by Rhett Laubach [2:22, 5.5 MB, Mp3]


The Unmade Leader: What Are Other Moments That Unmake Leaders?

We are continuing to examine our new approach to the question, "are leaders born or made?" The concept statement is...

"Leaders are born and then unmade."

Each of the recent posts have addressed a certain question. Here is the current list...

Born with what?

What is a leader?

Are leaders born with everything they need to lead?

What does unmade mean?

Today's question is, "What are the other moments that unmake leaders?"

First an explanation of the concept. I believe that people are born with most of the significant traits and qualities that they need to have a positive influence on others (which is what I believe effective leaders essentially do). I also believe that based on the type of leadership acts that a person needs to do to make their positive influence, they have to learn skills and strengthen their traits and qualities to be an expert leader. However, I believe the most important dynamic that prevents leaders from moving to the expert level is the unmaking process. This is where we experience certain moments that dilute, damage or delete traits that we were naturally born with.

So, we circle back around to our question for today, "What are other moments that unmake leaders?" (see this post to view the first two I discussed)

(The born-with trait is first and the unmaking moment is second...)

Enthusiasm for life - The Energy Scales Moment. The phrase "youthful enthusiasm" is used often to describe the energy level of young people. Interestingly enough it is also a trait identified in highly effective leaders. A multitude of books and article have been written on the critical trait of a high energy level. However, at some moment something changes and our scales of energy tip to the lazy, idle, drab, unexcited side. For many people, this one dynamic alone is sufficient enough to unmake their ability to move from an entry level leader to an expert level leader.

Affection to Care - The Inner World Moment. As a full-time leadership trainer, I am often called to teach people about the life skill of motivation. If I only have a few seconds to relate something tangible about how to get and stay motivated, I always say go help someone. This is the most useful and relevant strategy for getting and staying motivated over the long haul - to take your daily focus off of you and put it on others. Now, this doesn't mean that you neglect your personal well-being needs. It means that at some moment, people unmake their ability to be an expert leader by only living in and thinking about their own little inner world. By doing this, they dilute, damage or delete their ability to care for others. Expert leaders overcome the unmaking moments in life, they develop the skills necessary to lead in their circle of influence and then they get out of their inner world and consistently put their focus and attention on others.
(PLI Essential of Service-Minded)

More to come...

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The Unmade Leader: What does unmade mean?

The past few posts have focused on a new approach to the answer of "Are leaders born or made?" The idea is this...

"Leaders are born and then unmade."
Each post is built around a question. Here is the current list...
Born with what?
What is a leader?
Are leaders born with everything they need to lead?

Today's question is "what does unmade mean?"

The "unmaking" that this concept speaks to is the process of a person, who is born with most of the natural gifts and qualities that they need to positively influence others, experiencing moments in their life where they dilute, change, damage or downright lose these gifts and qualities. Here are a few examples (the trait we are born with is first and the moment of unmaking is second).

Curiosity of life - The "Knowledge Jar" Moment. As we progress through life we are learning constantly. At some moment, something changes and we begin to think differently about this learning process and begin unmaking our curiosity for life. We begin to see our knowledge as being contained in a jar and once that jar is filled with the knowledge that we need to do what we are doing now (personally and professionally), we put a lid on it and stop being curious. Effective leaders have many jars and few lids. They are constantly examining old knowledge, replacing bad knowledge with better knowledge and adding new jars to fill with new knowledge.

Courage to risk boldly - The "Two-Steps Back" Moment. As a child and an adolescent, we possess unbridled and sometimes reckless courage. At some moment, we begin letting our fear of pain and embarrasment from the negative results of this courage change the way we think about risking boldly. We begin taking two steps back for every one step forward and we begin unmaking our courage to risk boldly. Effective leaders learn to embrace this fear and embarrasment and are emboldened by it. They learn to flip the equation... they take two steps forward for every one step back.

This process of identifying what we are all naturally born with that is at the core of effective leadership, attaching a moment that changes things and then highlighting strategies and tools for overcoming these moments (and/or avoiding them) is the core focus of our new book that will be coming out in a few months. If you would like to receive a personalized first-run copy, just shoot me an email at rhett@yournextspeaker.com.

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The Unmade Leader: Are Leaders Born With Everything They Need to Lead?

We are still dealing with the question, "Are leaders born or made?" My new take on the answer is...

"Leaders are born and then unmade."

We are unpacking what that means and why I believe that way. We started with the question, "born with what?" Then we asked "what is a leader?" Today the question is "are leaders born with everything they need to lead?"

The obvious answer is no. However, upon further thought we find that the answer is actually yes (at a very basic level). John Maxwell says that, "Leadership is influence." When we use this definition of leadership as our foundation, we can say that at some basic level everyone is a leader because everyone has some type of influence on others and this dynamic starts at birth.

However, this only explains the entry level of leadership. For leaders to move beyond this point to the emerging, engaged and expert levels, they must actively apply their natural traits, learn the wordly standards and conduct codes that go along with the type of leadership they need to perform and watch closely that they do not fall victim to the "unmaking moments" that can ruin leaders.

So, are leaders born with everything they need to lead? Yes at an entry level. No at an advanced level.

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The Unmade Leader: What is a leader?

We are still dealing with the question, "Are leaders born or made?" My new take on the answer is...

"Leaders are born and then unmade."

We are unpacking what that means and why I believe that way. Yesterday's unpacking question was "born with what?" Today's question is "what is a leader?"

To begin answering this question, let's look at our definition of effective leadership...

"Effective leadership is positively influencing people and situations to create value and growth."

Key words...

Positive - Most people associate leadership in general with being good or positive. They see leadership as a good thing. Even though leadership can certainly be negative and leaders can use their power and influence to do bad things, our definition of effective leadership is rooted in the examination of what it takes to be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Influencing - At its core, the act of leadership is about influencing another person to act.

Create Value - The key deliverable of effective leadership is value - something now exists of purpose and use that didn't exist before.

With this definition in mind, let's look at four levels of the definition of a leader...

Entry Leader - A person who has influence (everyone).

Emerging Leader - A leader who uses this influence in a positive way (less than everyone).

Engaged Leader - A leader whose positive influence creates followers (even less).

Expert Leader - A leader who creates tremendous value for their followers (the select few).

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The Unmade Leader: Born With What?

For the next few days, the blog will be focusing on the discussion of my new take on the old question, "Are leaders born or made?" The concept is this...

"Leaders are born and then unmade."

There is a powerful amount of discussion, arguments, viewpoints, assumptions and underlying-concepts within those six simple words. I want to spend the next few days unpacking them.

The unpacking process will be framed with the PLI structure and in the form of one question per post.

Today's question is "born with what?"

I believe that the core of a leader's effectiveness contains most everything they need to be effective and that they were born with these basic elements...

  • Enthusiasm for life
  • Curiosity of everything
  • Courage to risk boldly
  • Happiness to laugh
  • Affection to care
  • Thirst for information
  • Confidence to ask questions
  • Spirit to trust
  • Internal compass to know right from wrong

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The Unmade Leader: Are Leaders Born or Made?

One of the biggest leadership questions of all time is...

"Are leaders born or made?"

One camp thinks leaders are born - that people either have or don't have the qualities and traits to effectively influence others.

Another camp believes leaders are made - that the skills it takes to lead are partly genetic, but mostly learned.

A concept I would like you to consider and then analyze how it applies to your leadership journey is that leaders are born and then overtime they are unmade through the struggles and trials of life. Meaning that everyone is born with ears to listen, a mouth to smile, a heart to care, a conscience that knows right from wrong, a spirit of enthusiasm, etc. and then overtime we slowly lose those or we do not get rewarded properly for using those.

Now, we still must learn the mechanics of effective leadership (eye contact, time management, intellectual pursuits, etc.), but chiefly our purpose is to not let others, the pressures of life, the really good times or the really bad times to unmake our inherent ability to be an effective leader.

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Integrity: What I Believe

There are three things I most believe in that direct everything I do and everything I am.

Belief I

I believe God is the creator of heaven and earth and I believe Jesus Christ is my personal savior. Which is a good thing because I struggle at life sometimes. But every time I make a mistake, I know He's got my back. This belief also allows me to have a self-worth that isn't based on my behavior or other people's opinions or in comparison with my peers or society. My self-worth is worth more than I will ever be able to comprehend (so is yours by the way.)

Belief II

I believe my most important task in life is to be a great husband. Three reasons why...

  1. My wife is my best friend and I want to keep her loved and happy! It is a phenomenal place to be when you know that your actions every day, big and small, are bringing joy to your best friend. I also have the benefit of having a strong mental anchor that keeps me focused on how lucky I am to have the most beautiful woman in the world (she's pretty cute on the outside, too) as my best friend. I still vividly remember the first time I met Ashley in January of 1997 and I still remember thinking, "Whoever marries this gal is going to be one lucky guy."
  2. I believe that being the best husband I can be is the most important thing I can do to be the best father I can be. This means that of all the things I need to do to be a great father, and that list is long, doing what I need to do to be a great husband will have the greatest impact on my daughters. I want them to see and feel and know what true love and commitment to another person looks like.
  3. I believe many of society's ills would be closer to being solved if we had a wide-spread epidemic of fathers being better fathers. Especially the fathers of our young boys. Because if we don't solve that problem, helping the fathers of boys be great fathers, then we have a self-perpetuating problem that nothing else will wholly fix.
Belief III

I believe everyone is born with what it basically takes to be a positive leader. We were all born with ears to listen, not just hear; mouths to build others up, not just tear others down; eyes to see the good, not just the bad; minds to learn, not just to waste; and hearts to care, not just to beat. The great leadership question of our time is,"Are leaders born or made?" I believe leaders are born and then they are un-made. Our ability to listen, to build others up, to see the good, to learn and to care become filtered and weakened and neglected and over time the leader in us becomes un-made. We teach each other not to be leaders by criticizing and demoralizing those who step away from the pack and risk boldly. We have also created too many very attractive reasons to be a negative leader.

  • At home - We can get a $99 divorce and have half of our adult peers to lean on for reasons why it was acceptable and prudent to not follow-through on the most important commitment we will ever make.
  • At school - We can cheat on our tests and still get the grades we need because we are mainly tested on whether or not we got the answer right on paper instead of being tested on how we went about answering the question.
  • At work - We can lie, cheat and steal our way to the highest rung on the "success ladder" and no one is there to boldly convince us that we aren't truly a success because our ladder is leaning on a wall of dishonesty, deceit and moral bankruptcy.

These three beliefs operate as magnets for how the ten PLI Essentials manifest themselves in my life. They impact greatly my Vision, my Integrity, my Innovativeness, my Wise Judgment, my Service-Mindedness, my Goal Processing, my Skill Assessment, my Emotional Maturity, my ability to Foster Relationships and my Masterful Communication. What impacts yours?

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