Archive for April 2015

3 Tips for Growing Your Own Replacement

I have always made it a habit to be intentional about teaching my assistants. I am a firm believer that part of my responsibility as a leader is to develop those who will be leading next. This requires me to spend time showing, teaching, and explaining, helping them to understand what I do and why I do it. When I do this, they become better leaders and become prepared to do what I do. If they take this experience and move on to another organization, then I have indirectly had an influence that is greater than my own organization. But sometimes, this has prepared them to step up into a greater leadership role within our own organization, especially when my path has moved me on to someplace else.

You see, although it is not a direct correlation, one of the marks of effective leadership is often seen in what happens after that leader is gone, in whether or not the organization continues to move forward. It’s not a direct correlation because people still have choices in the process, and because old habits can easily return, and so it may not necessarily be a direct reflection on the leader if direction changes after his or her departure. However, you can have a greater certainty of lasting impact if you do one thing – grow your replacements.

What typically happens when a leader leaves, regardless of the reason, as that a search committee, board of directors, president, owner, or some other designated party undertakes a search for the replacement. A job description is prepared or revised, the position is posted, and résumés are examined. After a lengthy (and hopefully thorough) process, a candidate is chosen and an offer is given. When the newly chosen leader arrives, there will be a time of transition while he or she learns the culture and the organization, then the new leader’s vision begins to be put in place. If he (or she) is a good leader, he will continue to move the organization forward in positive ways. But if the committee made a poor choice, or if the leader doesn’t connect with the followers, the organization could be in for a rough road.

But there can be a greater chance of continued positive direction if you already have a certainty about the next leader’s capability, if he has been intentionally developed under the guidance of the previous leader. If this can happen, then the future leader will have already had the opportunity to grow, learn, emulate, and gain experience. In this way, he becomes a known entity, prepared to step in and take over with much less of a transition. And in order to successfully grow your replacement, there are three things that you need to do.

1. The first thing you have to do is to “let them see.” By this, I mean that you need to give plenty of opportunity for your potential replacements to see your example. Of course, this also implies proximity – they need to be able to spend time in your presence, so that they can observe you in action from close range, and so that they can ask questions. This also provides you with the platform to discuss, teach, and explain, helping them to understand your reasoning, motives, and methods. It becomes a focused form of mentoring, with individualized training and development. Keep in mind, though, that the point is not to create a duplicate of yourself, but rather, to give them the opportunity to learn from your example and to give you the opportunity to shape their leadership.

2. The second thing you have to do is to “let them try.” This means that they need to do more than just observe; they need to roll up their sleeves and participate. This happens when you provide them with opportunities to gain experience by leading a project, initiating a program, managing a task, or taking other responsibilities. When you allow this to take place, you can then provide feedback and use those experiences as more opportunities to learn. You can assess and critique their performance, but they also get to learn from their own performance, both their successes and their failures (which leads to the third tool that you get to use).

3. The third thing you have to do is to “let them fail.” By letting them see your example, they learn from your experience, but by letting them try and letting them fail, they learn from their own experience. It is likely that you have already learned the value of lessons and growth that emerge from failures, mistakes, and difficulties, and the same process of growth is important for your replacements. But in order for them to learn from their mistakes, it first needs to be safe for them to fail. And you are the one who makes it safe it fail. Provide an environment that allows them learn from the mistakes they make, so that they can change and grow. And once again, take these opportunities to teach, intentionally developing their leadership out of those experiences.

Ultimately, part of your effectiveness as a leader is seen in how you develop others. Therefore, in your organization, you need to purposefully identify those who could become your future replacement and do these things – let them see, let them try, and let them fail – in order to develop their leadership. It’s entirely possible that, after you have invested in them, they move on to leadership opportunities elsewhere, but it is also possible that you are preparing your own replacement, someone who understands the organization and has been prepared to lead it well. In either case, your leadership will have had a longer lasting and further reaching impact, and you will have a greater certainty of the long-term health of your organization. Very simply, you will be more effective if you grow your own replacements.

Week of April 27, 2015

Take Advantage of These Available Resources!

Please and Thank You graphicWould you please help spread the word?  My advertising budget pays for the cost of the free use of social media and nothing more; therefore I am relying entirely on “word of mouth” to make people aware of the contents of this blog and the availability of my recently published book.  If you find either or these resources to be helpful or valuable, would you help spread the word?



Finding Purpose cover→ My book, “Finding Purpose at the Intersection of Passion, Ability, and Opportunity” is available on Amazon (also available for Kindle). Click here to order a copy.

What is God’s purpose for you? What are you supposed to do with your life? These are difficult questions that we all wrestle with, often causing frustration, anxiety, or indecision. Using the concepts of passion, ability, and opportunity, Dr. Jeff McMaster presents a road map for identifying your individual purpose, and finding fulfillment in it. Based on principles from the Bible, these simple ideas can help you gain a better understanding of what God made you to do, and find fulfillment in it.2) You can get a free digital copy of my “Three Keys for Forming a Good Team” by signing up for email notices! On the Common Sense Leaders home page, enter your email address and first name (and I guarantee your information will not be shared with anyone else), and I will send you a free digital copy, containing three important factors to keep in mind when putting a team together.



Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 1.03.32 PM→ You can get a free digital copy of my “Three Keys for Forming a Good Team” by signing up for email notices! 
On the Common Sense Leaders home page, enter your email address and first name (and I guarantee your information will not be shared with anyone else), and I will send you a free digital copy, containing three important factors to keep in mind when putting a team together.



What Do You Think . . . is an example of common sense leadership?

There are leadership practices and principles that seem to be common sense, but there also seem to be leaders who lack common sense. What is an example of common sense leadership that you have witnessed? And on the flip side, what do you think is a common sense leadership idea that people seem to miss? Please share in the comment box below.


“Leaders Ought to Know,” by Phillip Van Hooser

Leaders Ought to Know, Van Hooser, coverAccording to the textbook, Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience, 7th Ed. (2014), it is a myth that good leadership is all common sense, because that statement implies that all knowledge related to leadership comes from “a common body of practical knowledge about life that virtually any reasonable person with moderate experience has acquired” (p 11). However, there are leadership principles and ideas that require study to understand and learn, and there are also “common sense” ideas that are contradictory to each other (like, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “out of sight, out of mind”). Therefore, there is complexity – and both science and art – involved in leadership, and so challenges of leadership include knowing when common sense applies and when it does not, and knowing how common sense should be applied.

Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership (2013), by Phillip Van Hooser, attempts to identify eleven common sense ideas of effective leadership, and to provide an explanation of how they apply. This is where the challenge of common sense leadership happens: understanding where and how these ideas apply. He shares simple ideas – leadership is a choice, it requires the willingness to take action, it requires willing and able followers, it works to earn respect, it requires honesty and integrity, and several others. The ideas are basic and fairly easy to understand, and he generally provides good examples to illustrate those ideas, which is helpful. But the reality is that leadership is often much more complex, and therefore requires a deeper understanding of principles to be effective, therefore, although I did find the simplicity of the ideas he shared to be good reminders (and quite necessary for aspiring leaders who have not seemed to recognize the importance of some of these basic ideas), it was for me little more than a nice reminder of some good leadership practices. His “11 Ground Rules” were by and large common sense in that they should be basic, practical actions that every leader should recognize easily; but then, you have probably known leaders who lacked common sense.

With that in mind, if you are early in your leadership development process, this book can provide some basic, foundational, and practical ideas to help you in your leadership practice. If you are an experienced and effective leader, it may be worth a quick read for the reminders (partly because effective leaders are always willing to reflect and learn). But keep in mind, it is a simple read, and it personally came across to me like an attempt at inspiration from an expert speaker, rather than a study in leadership from an expert leader.

Van Hooser, P. (2013). Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership. John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ.

Week of April 20, 2015