Where Do You Stand On Patriotism (1-10 Scale)?

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your patriotism? 10 is completely sold out for your country, 1 is 100% cynicism about the USA.

Over your lifetime, has your level of patriotism varied?

StatehouseI ask you these questions because of an unexpected and enlightening experience. Recently my son participated in a mock legislature program called Boys State. It’s put on by the American Legion. A group of 225 young men were selected from high schools around our state. They run for elected office, create bills and even sue each other during the week-long program.

My son was fortunate to have been elected governor. That came with an unexpected privilege. Boys State asked our family to attend the closing night program. We were the only parents to experience it. We found ourselves in a world very few civilian adults get to see.

Wow. What a message the American Legion had for our impressionable young adults. There were peer speeches on the U.S. Constitution as a living document. There was an empty chair in memory of our country’s prisoners of war and those missing in action. There was the pledge of allegiance. There was proper respect shown for our flag. There were reenactments of the greatest presidential speeches in history.

American FlagAnd then there was the show stopper. It was a 20 minute video of music and images from throughout U.S. history. The images spoke for themselves. The United States is a country that has truly struggled with incredible challenges. It has had some remarkable moments of leadership. It has had imperfect leaders with incredible courage and character. America is as much an idea as it is a place.

My reaction to this incredible display caught me off guard. I suddenly found myself asking the question above. . . ‘Where do I stand on the subject of patriotism?’ The more I thought, the more I wondered. Have I changed? Have I grown skeptical? What about those around me?

I used to be a television news director. Questioning those in power is part of being a good journalist and a good citizen. But has a healthy skepticism turned to unhealthy cynicism? Our country has a lot of serious problems facing it. How does someone stay patriotic without being a patsy for political spin and partisanship?

I suspect that the answer lies in this inescapable truth: If we don’t love our country, no one else will. Our relationship to our country is no different than that to our friends and family members. They may have big problems, but we love them anyway. Patriotism is about being on-board despite imperfections.

United State of ArtAmerica’s current problems seem insurmountable. Incredible indebtedness, runaway health care/educational costs and employment/economic challenges make it easy to be sour.  But it’s wise to consider these things in light of our past problems. The US has overcome separation from England, being split in two (The Civil War), two World Wars and the nearly-apocalyptic Cold War. We’ve overcome many hugely-difficult social and economic challenges. Many times we’ve been able to solve our problems honorably and intelligently. If the only decent way to predict the future is the past, we’re going to solve our current problems too.

Don’t let patriotism become the space of cheesy politicians, Madison Avenue and partisan news outlets. Know the real story of our country and its grand experiment in freedom for humanity. Warts and all, we are citizens of one of the most remarkable countries in world history. As patriots, let’s love America, make it better, more caring, more intelligent and more honorable.

No one else will.


I highly recommend the Boys State and Girls State programs mentioned earlier. The programs are held throughout the country each summer for students entering their senior year of high school. Encourage students you know to participate. Click here for the introductory video. Click here for more information.

A special thank you to Evergreen Boys State for the experiences they provided to my son and our family.


Transparent Leaders, What Do You REALLY Think About Sharing Your Failures?

Transparency is all the rage in leadership circles these days. Faith in our once-trusted institutions has been severely taxed. Many see scandals and selfishness when they look at the government, media, religion, charity and business. The thinking is that leaders can combat this increasing cynicism by being transparent.

Some aspects of transparency are no-brainers. It makes sense to keep people informed about what’s happening in the organization and why. Transparently admitting to your leadership weaknesses is harder, but it’s obvious (people see your weaknesses anyway, you owning them just shows that you’re honest with yourself.)

Red UmbrellaHowever, there is one aspect of transparency of which I have never been quite convinced – sharing your failures. I already know leaders have had failures. . . it’s a given. We’re human after all. Listening to leaders recount their failures can seem like false humility. . . or “forced” because the leader thinks its a trendy thing to do.

All of my skepticism about sharing failures came to an end recently, because of a lesson my son taught me. He was asked to speak at a commissioning breakfast for graduates. My son shared ten things that graduates should know as they move on. He had A LOT of great advice. In the days following, many people remarked to me how much they appreciated the speech. Strangely, despite the large quantity of excellent content, nearly everyone focused on the same part of his speech. It was the part where he mentioned failure.

My son was elected to student government in all three years of middle school. When he got to high school he ran again. . . only to lose. Then he campaigned the following year and lost. It was  uncomfortable territory for someone who was generally used to being successful. My son then shared that while God had closed the doors in student government, he opened up an even greater leadership opportunity in a different area.

The graduates latched on to my son’s story. They remembered it and discussed it. Seeing him try, fail and then ultimately prosper resonated with them. It made it okay for them to do the same.

Leaders, this is how to share failure in an authentic way. . . when it genuinely helps others. People get the heart behind what we do. When our motives are pure people will see that we are transparent for their sake (and not simply to call attention to ourselves or that we can jump on a leadership trend.) Stories of failure are a gift to others, helping them learn and liberating them to try new things (even if they risk failure.)

As a leader, have you shared your failures? What was the response? Leave a comment below.

It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates

All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes. – Winston Churchill

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt



Life’s Transitions: How To Handle Them Well

This year I was asked present the commencement address at a middle school in the Seattle area. I was quite honored. It is a tremendous opportunity to share a little of life’s hard-gained wisdom with young people (and at a moment when they’re listening well.) Graduation is a natural time to talk about handling life’s transitions.

Transitions have always been a challenge for me. I was happy in middle school. Part of me didn’t want to move on to high school. After all, I had good friends and was well known around campus. On one level, starting over again at high school seemed wasteful. . . an unnecessary duplication of effort. I would go on to have similarly wonderful experiences in high school and in college, but was equally challenged when making those transitions.

With time, I have come to understand life is a series of transitions. You never arrive at a place of stability and permanence.

Big TuesdayGrowing up in San Diego, I would watch the endless swells coming in on the Pacific Ocean. Surfers would catch a swell as it broke near the shore, ride it in, and then swim out to catch the next wave. What a beautiful metaphor for life. Transitions come at us like waves on the ocean. It’s a perfectly natural cycle to surf a wave for the short time it exists, then move on and enjoy the next wave. I used this idea as the basis for what I shared with the graduates. Here are my ideas for handling life’s transitions well (a transcript of the commencement address):

Something amazing is about to happen.

In just a few minutes, Mr. Erickson is going to step up to this microphone and is going to dismiss you from Northshore Christian Academy (NCA) for the very last time. And it’s going to be quite a moment. How do I know? Exactly one year ago I was sitting right about there watching it happen to my daughter and last year’s eighth grade class. It was quite a moment.

As Mr. Thornton said, I’m Rob Cizek. I’m the executive pastor here at Northshore. I’m the behind-the-scenes guy who works with the school, the church, the buildings, the budget and the staff.

I’m also a Northshore dad. My son and daughter both graduated from NCA. As a matter of fact, this year has been the first where I haven’t had a student at the Academy. I know what you’ve experienced here through the eyes of my kids… from uniforms and weekly chapel… to athletics and walk-a-thons… to Mr. Erickson’s curious obsession with birds. Yeah, we all know about that, don’t we?

For many of you, leaving middle school and moving on to high school is the biggest transition of your life so far. You’re excited, nervous… and maybe a little sad about leaving behind the familiarity of this place and the friends you’ve had for a long time. Know that you are not alone. Every one of your fellow graduates feels pretty much the same way you do.
I would love to tell you that this transition will be your last, but of course I can’t do that. It won’t be. A few years from now you’ll be graduating from high school to college. Then from college to life. Then life will have plenty of transitions of its own.

Life’s a lot like a series of waves… you get past one transition, only to find there are several more on the way. So perhaps this is your greatest learning opportunity this year… to learn to transition well.

The first thing to know about life’s transitions is that they are normal. Your life may have been pretty steady these last several years at NCA. But in the future change will come more quickly. You’ll have only four years in high school, another four in college and probably fewer than that on your first couple of jobs. Adult life is a series of predictable and not-so-predictable transitions. It’s best not to fight them, but to welcome each transition as an exciting new chapter in life.

Look at transitions like a surfer looks at waves… catch a good wave when it comes by, work with it and get as much from it as you can… and then move on so you can catch the next wave.

stl 012Another way to navigate times of transition is to focus on what’s in front of you. . . out the windshield, not what’s behind you in the rear-view mirror. Did you enjoy the friends, teachers and experiences you had in middle school? Celebrate them. Get together in the coming days. Connect from time to time in the future. Let these people know how precious they are to you.

And then let them go.

Let them go.

You see life is a long journey. Very few people will be by your side the entire time. That’s okay. The precious years we have with our middle school, high school and college friends are supposed to be seasons… times to be savored. But when they’re over, they’re over. You are released to the next season of life. Celebrate what has been, stay connected in a healthy way, but don’t try to hang on too tightly to what’s in the rear-view mirror.

Here’s a thought. Right now, your high school best friend is out there and you probably don’t know them. They’re sitting at graduation, not knowing that they’re going to meet you freshman year. . . and you’re going to become best friends. Right now there are activities, experiences and life-long memories about to be made. I can’t say what exactly will happen to you in high school. But I can predict, with certainty, that if make the effort you have many wonderful experiences in front of you. . . just out your windshield.

While I made the transition to high school some time ago, there’s someone in our family who did it just this year. With some additional thoughts on how to transition well, here is my daughter and NCA 2012 graduate, Alex Cizek.

Thanks Dad. . . The first is getting involved. It’s the thing that separates the winners from the losers in high school. Find two or three things freshman year to be involved with. It can be sports, music, drama, DECA, academic clubs or leadership. For me, it was volleyball, color guard, choir, ASB and tennis. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do it. Your high school memories and friendships happen in the places you get involved in. It may seem scary at first, and I’m not going to lie, it can be a little intimidating but it is SO worth it. You just have to put yourself out there and get involved.

My second piece of advice is even more important. Transitions either draw us closer to God or they take us further away. High school is when you… you alone… decide whether you take Jesus seriously. Like me, most of you are going on to public school. You’re going to be outnumbered by people who don’t know God. Some will be hostile to Him and to you. Where you go with your faith in high school will have a major impact on the rest of your life. Is your faith your own… or is it just something to make your parents happy? This summer I encourage you to think about that. Commit to God… this time not as a kid, but as the young adult you are. Maintain that commitment every day. If you do, God will be there and see you through not just high school, but every transition in life.

Dad . . .

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a powerful tool. You can use this tool in any transition or anytime you want to go somewhere in life. It’s this thought:

Where I am today is a result of the decisions I made yesterday. Where I will be tomorrow depends on the decisions I make today.

Where I am today is a result of the decisions I made yesterday. Where I will be tomorrow depends on the decisions I make today.

I know this sounds pretty simple. . . but are getting the power here? You are not a victim of circumstance. If you really want to be somewhere next year, you can do things today that will get you there.

Going back to my daughter Alex’s story… She wanted to play volleyball for her high school team. She played here in middle school, but wasn’t sure she had the skills for high school. So last summer she attended volleyball camps. She practiced in the backyard. She went to summer practices at the high school.

When tryouts were over, she made the JV team… completely bypassing the freshman team. I say that not to brag on my daughter. . . but I was so proud that she took steps today that got her where she wanted to be tomorrow.

Another way to think about this… The things we do today put us on a path. More than anything else, it’s our direction determines our destination. Set your course in a good direction and your path will lead you to a good place.
NCA class of 2013 I wish you the best. I pray that I will see you transitioning well… that you’ll be looking forward through windshield, getting involved in your school, growing in faith, and making decisions today that will get you on the path to where you want to be tomorrow.

Two books helped inspire this speech and expand on the ideas presented here: The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley and Today Matters by John Maxwell. I highly recommend these books to anyone experiencing one of life’s transitions.

NEXT: Legacy Countdown – The Insidious App That Tracks Time Remaining With Your Kids


photos by: iansand & rockygirl05

Key Take-Aways from The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick

An important part of a leader’s job is to look on the long horizon. It’s to see what’s coming. It’s to be ahead of your people so you can take them somewhere. TED is a great place to be exposed to emerging ideas. So is Catalyst, an organization designed to help young adult leaders quickly reach their potential.

Catalyst Leader BookBrad Lomenick is head of Catalyst. He is a leader’s leader. Everyday he is immersed in new ideas about what’s next, coming from many of the best leaders of our day. That’s what makes his book The Catalyst Leader – 8 Essentials For Becoming A Change Maker one of my “must reads” this year. Brad brings together great ideas in a uniquely transparent and accessible way. Here are the key takeaways:


There will be times when you are called to do something, but not equipped to do it. (Recognize this is an increasingly common dynamic for young leaders.)

Yesterday young people had to wait as their elders aged out of office. Today organizations are opening positions for young people’s fresh thinking and idealism.

For better or worse, young people can grasp life’s reins earlier than ever before.

Many have platforms that exceed their wisdom.


Focus on what God has called each of us to do (not on comparing each others’ callings).

Be faithful where you are. God is responsible for how big your influence gets. – Rick Warren

Pursuing one’s calling isn’t a life sentence. (Your calling is for now and may change with time).

When people lead well they are more likely to finish well.

The goal is not perfection, but a posture of moving toward healthy habits.

Ambition must be grounded in wisdom. Inspiration must be built with boundaries. Passions need the steady hand of principles to guide them.

Choose integrity over immediacy.

Don’t allow your ambitions to blind you to the team’s needs, the organization’s health, or the well-being of your family.

Seeking God’s will for your life begins by asking yourself, “What keeps me awake when I should be falling asleep at night?

Questions to ask that help you discover God’s will:
> What are your passions and gifts?
> What would you work on or want to do for free?
> What energized you when you were a child?
> If you could do anything and take a pay cut, what would that be?
> What barriers are preventing you from pursuing your true calling?
> If you aren’t engaging your gifts where you are now, could you make changes in your current role to better engage those gifts?

The divine course is not mysterious or evasive, but walking it likely requires sacrifices.

Higher calling matters. When you care so deeply about the why – why you are doing what you are doing – then and only then are you operating in a way that allows you to overcome the obstacles. – Dave Ramsey

Never compare our beginning with someone else’s ending. – Jon Acuff

Instead of wondering what your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from. – Seth Godin


Brad shares, “I’m best when I’m being me. Every leader faces a temptation to project a persona rather than be themselves. They think that in order to maintain the confidence of their team, they must appear faultless, flawless and ever wise. Most organizations need an authentic leader, not a perfect one.
(Our organization) needs someone they can trust and follow. That can only happen if I embrace who I am rather than try to be someone else.
Be yourself. Authenticity trumps cool every time. – Craig Groeschel

Perhaps the ultimate freedom is the freedom to be one’s self. – Daniel Pink

If we don’t learn to be content with who God has made us and called us to be, then we will never reach our potential as influences.

People are more perceptive than we give them credit for. They recognize when we’re putting up a front or constructing a false persona.

Usually the leader is the only person who doesn’t realize how uncomfortable they’re making everyone else (when they construct a false persona).

When you find yourself in uncomfortable situations and feel the urge to pretend you’re someone else, resist it. The best person you can be in that moment is the one you already are.

The digital age makes it easy to be inauthentic. Individuals now have the power to create a person in whatever image they choose, even if it doesn’t match reality.

New media encourages us to be “on” all the time, an in such a setting, authenticity requires intentionality. Social media must be viewed not only as a way to connect, but also an avenue for honesty about who we are.

There’s beauty in imperfection. When something becomes too polished, it loses its soul. Authenticity trumps professionalism! – Christine Caine

Our society has created an appetite for authenticity. Consumers crave magazine covers without unrealistic, Photoshopped veneers.

47% of young leaders said they first look for authenticity in a potential boss.

40% of young leaders say authenticity is one of the most important leadership traits of the next decade.

A journey begins with learning to be comfortable in your own skin.

We must grow comfortable with who we are before we can share that person with others.
No one wants to work for someone who seems unaware of his or her faults, failures and weaknesses.

Authenticity is the new authority in leaders. – Mark Batterson

Sharing your failures and weaknesses is crucial to letting people in and empowering you to lead well.

Those around you will connect with you when they share in your failures and not only your successes.

It’s okay for those around you to see your weaknesses. We don’t have to be perfect, but to be catalyst leaders, we’d better be authentic.

Originality is overrated. Authenticity is what matters. – Whitney George

The more ladder rungs you climb within an organization, and the more power you have access to, the more chance of being inaccessible and protected. -Chris Seay

Leaders who are willing to share honestly about their own struggles immediately gain influence.

When you are in a hurry or think someone isn’t worth your time, remember that you were once in that position.

When you’re small, act big. When you’re big, act small.

With social media and technology, the game has changed. People expect to be able to always connect with you.

Best practices for cultivating authenticity:
> Practice self-awareness. Before you can release your true self you have to recognize your true self.
> Question yourself. Whose attention do you crave? What is it that you don’t like about yourself, and how can that short-coming also be a strength?
> Move from self-promotion to storytelling. If you want to be a change maker, begin to see public outlets as places for sharing your personal story.
> Resist the urge to create a digital alter ego. Claire Diaz Ortiz says “Social media is not just about being connected. It’s about being transparent, intimate, and honest.”
> Learn to laugh at yourself.
> Build a support network. Keep honest people in your life that can help you stay grounded and keep you from thinking that you’ve arrived.
> Be interested over interesting. Be more concerned with listening instead of talking.
Constantly turn over the rocks in your life and leadership. Uncover areas that need to be made clean. Big things are at stake.
It’s easier to impress people from a distance, so many leaders keep others at arm’s length.

You can impress people from a distance, but you can only influence them up close. – Rick Warren

We often prefer digital interaction to life-on-life exchanges. This insulates us and prevents others from uncovering our weaknesses. But it also reduces our ability to influence others.

The result of authenticity is freedom from fear, and this is a liberty that every leader needs to truly reach their potential.


Being a change maker means realizing that commitment to God and passion for following Jesus cannot be compartmentalized. For the catalyst leader, Mondays  through Fridays are holy days.

No matter where you work, your job can be an act of worship and service to God.

The way we live out our personal callings says a lot about how we see ourselves. It reveals whether we view ourselves as worshipers or ones who desire to be worshiped.

A catalyst leader understands that the foundation of life and the source of true influence must be a deep love for God and desire to glorify Him.

Passion is infectious, so I try to fill our team’s ranks with people who display this trait.

Christians today like to debate whether following Jesus with great passion is a matter of doing or being. But I think it is both.

Following Jesus cannot be purely private. When God touches you, your passion for him flows out of you and onto those around you.

Your internal passion determines external reach.

Your heart will shape the actions of your hands.

Too many build up their heads without minding their hearts. Spiritual development is often ignored.

Christian leaders who are most successful today tell me that spiritual ardor is integral, rather than accessory, to leading well.

Many people today claim to love God but aren’t rooted in God’s Word and in their relationships with Him.

I encourage leaders to set aside portions of their week to block out their pressures of life and pray, meditate, and seek God’s face.

Sustained leadership requires practicing the discipline of replenishment. Nothing will sap your passion for God like burnout.

Building margin in our lives is powerful and absolutely crucial for leaders. Margin is the fuel for responding to the unexpected.

As a leaders’ margins decrease, so does their spiritual vitality.

Petition God to light a fire for His glory inside you.


Just keep taking the next step and keep having excellence in the ordinary. – Dave Ramsey

There are at least two components to leading capably: the right standard and the right staff.

Being a capable leader doesn’t mean being big. Or being expensive. It’s called being excellent.

Every great organization has a few areas where their standards are so high it’s annoying. this is a good thing. Set standards that scare you, and work to achieve them.

The best ideas win.

God is an excellent God. He does things as well as possible. So should we. We want to do things the best we can do it, because God deserves our very best. God living in us informs the way we do things and the kind of excellence that God demands. – Shelley Giglio

Excellence is built on three pillars: clarity, focus and connection. – Holly Green

Excellence starts with getting very clear on the end state you wish to achieve (winning) and relentlessly driving towards it every day. – Holly Green

No on ever said leadership is easy. Your job as a leader is to make the difficult decisions and carry more responsibility. Embrace it.

When filling an opening, I look for make-it-happen kind of people.

Capable leaders:

> Constantly push forward.
> Are team players.
> Own their mistakes.
> Willing to take risks.
> Constant learners.
> Aren’t entitled.
> Are anticipators.
> Are persistent.
> Are trustworthy.
> Deliver.

Hard work is a prison cell only if the work has no meaning. – Malcolm Gladwell

Resist the temptation to believe that you can carry an entire organization on the back of your talents or passions alone. You must surround yourself with equally gifted leaders who share a common commitment to excellence.

A high standard of excellence starts with you.

Excellence is a spirit, rather than a presentation. But if the spirit is there for excellence, then a great presentation will follow. – Joel Houston

Do two things to maintain excellence: lead by example and value your people. – Joel Houston

If what you are doing is important, you will encounter resistance. If what you are doing isn’t important, it will be easy. – Donald Miller

Capable leaders hustle.

Capable leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty and reach down into the mess to move things forward.

Whatever you are, be a good one. – Abraham Lincoln

One way to increase your organization’s capability is to reduce sideways energy (wasting time on little things when the energy could be spent better elsewhere).


A single act of courage is often the tipping point for extraordinary change. – Andy Stanley

Courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s inspiring others to move beyond it. – Nelson Mandela

Small acts of courage are possible every day, but we shy away from such deeds due to our fears of ‘rocking the status quo.‘ – Jamie Walters

The influencers I respect the most are the ones who live and lead bravely.

Courage is not just an individual trait but an organizational one.

Do the thing you fear the most. – Rick Warren

Fear in leadership is connected to uncertainty about the future. But uncertainty about the future is never going to go away. Uncertainty is why there are leaders. Uncertainty gives you job security. – Andy Stanley

Tips for building a culture of courage in your organization:
> Set scary standards.
> Allow for failure.
> Reward innovation.
> Pursue the right opportunities. Not every risk is a good one.
> Learn to delegate. If you want your team to be courageous, give them the chance to lead.

The road to success is many times put together through multiple failures. Allow for and even encourage your team to fail as they attempt to succeed.

Courage calls us to confront and push, even when everything inside of us beckons us away from it.


Greatness is not about personality. It’s about humility, plus will. That is where the essence of leadership begins. – Jim Collins

Leaders are defined by their inner strengths and convictions, not the outer portrayal of who they are.

You character will determine your level of leadership and even your legacy.
Reputation can’t be delegated.
Reputation takes a lifetime to build but only a few seconds to lose.
The best leaders are reflectors of praise, not absorbers. (Redirect praise back to your team & God.)
Humility is not denying your strength. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses. – Rick Warren

The way a person speaks often reveals much about their level of humility. Humble leaders use phrases like:
> I’m sorry.
> That was my fault.
> Thank you.
> I’m listening.
> I trust you.
> Great job.

Hype never trumps hustle or humility.

Humble yourself enough to focus on others.

Power is one of the great corrupters of would-be leaders.

Character and integrity is built over time in the insignificant moments when you think no one is watching.

The people who know you the best should be the ones who respect you the most.
To get to the top and to be successful at the top are two different skills sets. – Nolan Ryan

When we lead we must continually engage in the act of self-questioning:
> When I look at the sum total of my efforts this year, do I believe I’ve done my best work?
> Have I finished everything I’ve started, or have I left piecemeal projects behind?
> Did I give in to the temptation to cut corners?
Discipline is hampered by distraction.

Leaders lead from who they are on the inside. And that is why the God who made us is so eager to remake us on the inside. – Gary Haugen

Our tendency as human being is to favor the quick over the slow, the cheap over the expensive and the easy over the difficult.

God often requires that we choose the slow, difficult and costly.

There are very few overnight successes, and most leaders who take shortcuts don’t finish well.

Influence is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

In anonymity and obscurity is where most leaders are truly developed and made.

See where you want to be, and lead like you’re already there.

The great temptation for Christians is to allow one’s efforts for God to replace one’s journey with God.

Demand perfection from yourself, before anyone else demands it from you. Become an expert now, even before you need to be.

The attention spans of leaders are getting swept away by the deficit of attention in our culture. – Louie Giglio

In a world of skeptics and pessimists, people are more attracted than ever to leaders of integrity.

We plant sod where God wants to plant seed. He’s more interested in growing our character than having us look finished. – Bob Goff

What are your hidden weaknesses that could blow up in your face?

Create a personal board of directors made up of friends who know you and have the freedom to call you to account on anything and everything.

In order to lead well, you must avoid insulating and isolating yourself.

Who can honestly tell you when you are wrong and keep you in touch with reality?

You can’t necessarily control your reputation, but you can control your character.

The greatest threat to our influence is our tendency to read our own press clippings and protecting ourselves from honest feedback.

What kind of person are you when no one is looking?

Leadership functions on the basis of trust, and when the trust is gone, the leader soon will be. – John Maxwell

Your heart is the starting place for character, and it’s what gets God’s attention. – Andy Stanley

Character is what turns your giftedness into influence, and unleashed God’s power. – Andy Stanley


Vision is the most powerful weapon in the leader’s arsenal. – Bill Hybels

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

When we fail to dream, to envision the potential of tomorrow, people grow desperate.

Leaders look through the windshield rather than stare in the rear-view mirror.

We will be known by the problems we solve. – Jeff Shinabarger

You can gain influence by doing something. – Jeff Shinabarger

While managers are tending the grass, leaders are peering over the hill.

To better lead twenty-somethings:
> Give them freedom with their schedules.
> Provide them projects, not a career.
> Create a family environment.
> Cause is important.
> Embrace social media.
> Accept that they are tech savvy.
> Lead each person uniquely.
> Make authenticity and honesty the standard for your corporate culture.
> Understand they are more interested in making a difference than leaving a mark.
> Give them opportunities early with major responsibility.
> Accept that they want the larger win, not the personal small gain.
> Realize they’re not about working for a personality.
> Provide opportunities for mentoring, learning and discipleship.
> Coach them and encourage them.
> Create opportunities for quality time, individually and corporately.
> Hold them accountable.
> Grasp that the sky is the limit in their minds.
> Recognize their values, not just their strengths.
> Provide a system that creates stability.

By balancing younger, more optimistic team members with older, more realistic team members, you’ll be able to strike a crucial balance where hopefulness can thrive.

To imagine things other than they are is the essence of hope. It is also the stuff of revolution. – Leonard Sweet

Strive to be a hopeful visionary, not an unrealistic dreamer.

Don’t buy into hype-centered thinking that leans on sensationalism and inflates you goals so large that people won’t take you seriously.

A true visionary operates on hope rather than hype.

Hype produces chatter but hope inspires action.

Vision-center leaders are:
> Optimistic about the future.
> Focused on the best in their people, not the worst.
> Never satisfied, but always content.
> Consumed with making tomorrow better than today.
> Accepting of change.
> Inclusive, not exclusive.
> Personally bought in.

You want everyone involved using words like”we” and “us” instead of “you”.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to set up, cast vision, and lead with courage even when immediate pressures suffocate us.

Dream about accomplishing a project so out of your abilities that it keeps you up at night. God calls us to think big.

People won’t willingly follow you until they can see the role they play in the future you envision.


Refuse to do anything less than collaborate with people as you lead. Pull other people’s leadership into play. – Nancy Ortberg

Collaboration is integral for leaders moving forward. It is part of the framework for trading equity and value in today’s economy.

We desire to be known by what we are for, not by what we are against. That is where unity starts.

Three positive effects of collaboration:
> Collaboration creates innovation.
> Collaboration reduces unnecessary risk.
> Collaboration amplifies success.

When you collaborate with other leaders, you’ll gather more ideas and have more hands to carry them out.

You don’t have to blow out someone else’s candle to make yours shine brighter.

Some people would rather throw rocks and grenades than life preservers.

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. – C.S. Lewis

Good contracts make good partnerships.

Collaboration is built on generosity, which is a new currency in our culture.

The most influential platforms today revolve around sharing and generosity.

The paradox of collaboration is that when you help others succeed, you almost always create a win for yourself in the process.

The old system of ‘command and contol’ is being replaced by ‘connect and collaborate.’ – Dov Seidman

Keys for collaboration and building bridges:
> Make sure expectations are clearly laid out on the front end.
> Stay adaptive, humble and accessible.
> See collaboration as a need, not just an option.
> Choose wisely.
> Be intentional in finding common areas of interest and connection.
> Make connections for others.

You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things. – Mother Teresa

Always take the chance to ‘plus’ someone on your team. Make your partner look good.


Life only moves in one direction: forward.

Sadly, few leaders today are tapping the great well of wisdom found in a mentor.

More young leaders need to put down the microphone for a moment and pick up a pen and paper and start taking notes.

If you are in your 20s or 30s, find someone much older than you who can pour into your life.

If you are an older leader, you can’t just sit around and wait to be asked (to be a mentor)… you need to pursue younger leaders to invest in.

The wisdom and experience you hold doesn’t do anyone good if it remains bottled up. It must be poured out.

Every leader – regardless of age – should have at least one mentor and should be mentoring at least one other person.

Final thoughts:
> The time has come for you to be who God has called you to be, to live out His purpose for your life.
> Never let your ambition force you to create a false self. As you lead, share the real you with others.
> Root yourself in an untamable love for God. Seek Him first and let him handle the lesser things.
> As you pursue this calling, make excellence a nonnegotiable. God deserves your best.
> When the time comes to taking a risk or make a difficult decision, push through the fear. God will sustain you.
> Let your convictions and principles steady you. Hold fast to your integrity, discipline, and humanity.
> When stress runs high and difficulties arise, keep hoping. Remember that with God on your side, a better tomorrow is possible.
> Build bridges, not walls, with those around you. There’s power in partnerships.
> And finally, don’t believe the lie that you are the center of the universe. Seek out older leaders who can help grow you, encourage you and guide you. And then pour your life into others.

While this summary hits a lot of the main points, it misses Brad’s personal stories and how he models transparency in his stories. These make reading the entire book worthwhile.




NEXT: Top quotes from the Catalyst Dallas conference.