My Effectiveness as a Leader is Judged When You Disappear Over the Next Hill

How easy is it to say you are a successful leader when everyone you lead is within your field of vision? Pretty easy. You can see everything your team does and they know that you are watching. But, it’s what they do once they are out of sight, over the next hill if you will, that determines if you as the leader have done a good job of imparting skills. I learned this lesson from a Scoutmaster who was a Great Leader in the eyes of the young men he had been given the privilege of leading.

The patrol his son was a member of had decided to go backpacking in the Pisgah National Forest to Shining Rock. All members of the patrol were teenagers between 14 and 16 years of age. As the Scoutmaster said, “they were young and hiked fast; he was not young and hiked slow”. Knowing that the young men would become impatient if they had to wait for the older adult leaders, he made a deal with them. They could hike as fast as they wanted to; but, whenever they came to a fork in the trail, they had to wait until everyone was there before anyone could proceed further. He told them that he knew he could trust them when they were in sight of him. It was how they behaved when they crossed over the next hill and he could not see them that would tell him if they were ready for the deal he had just made with them. He reported after the excursion that, whenever there was a fork in the trail, everyone was there, waiting for him and the other slow hikers. Sometimes they had begun pumping and filtering water from a nearby stream; other times, they had begun preparing an appropriate trail snack or meal. Always, they were waiting for everyone to arrive.

I was reminded of this lesson when I met a lady who had built a very large and successful team of sales professionals in one state and had to move to another state. She had been with her team constantly, encouraging, training, mentoring; always right there with them. When she moved, she was still their immediate supervisor and leader; but, she was not physically there. For some leaders, leaving the team unsupervised would be a recipe for team disintegration and ultimate dissolution. However, her team had learned valuable lessons in self-discipline, self-motivation, self-empowerment from her and continued to perform at a very high level. While she was still available to them by telephone and Skype, the team members had learned the business and life skills that enabled them to continue doing all the right things when she could not physically see them.

Great Leaders empower individuals and teams to find the very best within themselves and set examples that other individuals and teams can emulate and aspire to. They develop the mindset and skill set that make it possible for team members to lead themselves and succeed.

Have you had the privilege of knowing or working with a Great Leader who helped you identify the best within you and succeed when that leader was not present? Click “Comment” and share your experience with that Great Leader.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at

Lessons I’ve Learned from Terrible Leaders

When talking about leaders we’ve followed, the tendency is to talk about the good things that were learned; the habits developed; the techniques emulated. But, from time to time, we see or hear things that remind us of the worst behaviors we’ve witnessed from those who purported to be leaders. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from terrible leaders … the lessons that tell Great Leaders what they NEVER want to be like.

  • Don’t keep promises you’ve made – Nothing will kill employee loyalty and morale faster than broken promises. When the person who claims to be the leader (in reality, “The Boss”) cannot be trusted to keep his/her word, those who are required to follow may do so; but, they will follow reluctantly and with little faith that they will receive what has been promised. Many years ago, I met “Joe”, the owner of a company, who promised nearly every person working in his company that, when the firm moved to larger facilities, each employee would have a private office. When the “offices” turned out to be 7’ x 7’ cubicles, while “Joe” felt that he had delivered on his promise of private space, the employees felt that they had been lied to and several left the firm. LESSON LEARNED: Only promise what you know you can deliver; and, be clear what the promise will deliver.
  • Berate people who want to take vacations At a meeting with an employee who is considering a career change, the coach/mentor learned that when the employee had requested time off so that he could take his wife and kids on a one week vacation. The employee told “The Boss” a story about a contest between two lumberjacks to see who could chop the most wood in a day. At the end of the story, the lumberjack who took breaks and sharpened his axe was the winner. “The Boss” replied, “Well, you better figure out how to sharpen your axe while you work.” LESSON LEARNED: Recognize that people need breaks to refresh their minds and restore their creativity. Encourage them to take vacations and unwind. In the long-run, those breaks pay great dividends.
  • Get an overinflated opinion of your worth and wisdom – When a person is moved into a leadership position, there can be the temptation to believe that it is because “I’m the best that’s ever been … this proves that I’ve got the right to tell others what to do, to order them around, without any consideration for their feelings, talents, skills, and accomplishments.” This belief can be the shortest route to failure as a leader because it assumes that the newly promoted leader has all the answers and no one else can have a good idea. “Stephanie” shared a story with me about an encounter she had had with “The Boss” where she worked. Whenever “The Boss” disagreed with something she said, they had an honest difference of opinion. But, if she disagreed with something “The Boss” said, “The Boss” told her she was wrong. Consequently, she stopped offering ideas and feedback, ultimately taking a position at another company where her creativity could be implemented and was appreciated. LESSON LEARNED: Everyone has an opinion and ideas that can make a project more successful; a company more profitable. Listen and learn.
  • Assume that your promotion has given you license to take it easy The view of the top always looks like there is no real work being done, right? Now that you occupy that top rung of the ladder, you can sit back, tell others what to do, and watch it happen. Your job is to be “The Boss”, not to actually do the work. This was the opinion of Erin when she was promoted to a supervisory position and her actions reflected it. LESSON LEARNED: Being placed in a leadership position does not mean less work, it means more work and more responsibility. Sometimes it means being on-call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Do it right and those you lead will follow your example.
  • Don’t ask for input unless you really want it – I once attended a meeting where the CEO invited the field managers to ask him about anything that was on their minds. For several years the company had experienced declining sales and decreased revenues. Several of the field managers felt that they had some good ideas for reversing these trends and took the CEO’s assurances that the meeting was a “Safe Zone” where anything could be asked or said without fear of retribution. The first person to ask a question concluded his question with the words, “Could we try something like this and see how it works?” As soon as the manager finished his question, the CEO began a profanity laced tirade that concluded with the words, “Why don’t you concentrate on running your $#@%& office and let me worry about running this company!” Needless to say, no one else asked any questions and the CEO walked out of the room clearly saying that he knew this idea had been a total waste of his time from the beginning. LESSON LEARNED: Don’t ask members of your team for their ideas unless you are truly willing to listen to them and give them a fair hearing.

Great Leaders learn from the best and from the worst. Being willing and able to learn from both empowers them to embrace and build upon the lessons of the best; and, to develop skills that avoid the mistakes of the worst.

Have you learned lessons from poor leaders? Click “Comment” and share what you learned.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at

Allow Your Team to Know That You Care

I once heard the great platform speaker and founder of the National Speakers Association, Cavett Robert, say that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I was reminded of this quote at a recent leadership event which I was privileged to both attend and present.

A fellow presenter made the statement that he liked to, as he phrased it, “meet and greet” each team member as they arrived in the morning and ask a question about a subject that he knew was important to the team member. These questions had nothing to do with work or that person’s role within the team. Rather, to the person whose husband had had a surgical procedure, he asked her how her spouse was feeling; if he was recovering. To the person whose daughter had performed in a dance recital the night before, he asked the proud parent how the recital had gone; if there was a video he could see. He acknowledged that each team member had a life outside of work and that their personal life was every bit as important to that team member as his/her work life was. He developed a personal relationship with each team member and conveyed the assurance that, if there was ever a problem, he would be there for them and do all he could to help them.

Great Leaders are not afraid to develop this kind of personal relationship. They know that team members respond best to a leader that they believe in and have confidence will be there and “have their back”. Great Leaders understand that the development of these relationships enhances their “personal power” which is and always has been far more effective than relying solely on “position power” which invokes the phrase “because I said so”.

Have you had the pleasure of working with a Great Leader who let you know how much they cared about you, the person? Click “Comment” and share your story here.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at

Is This a Great Leader in the Making?

I recently had the honor and privilege of serving on an Eagle Scout Board of Review for a young man about to enter college. As part of the application process, the young man had written his “Life Ambition Statement” in which he stated that, after finishing college, he wanted to form his own company. One of the reasons that he stated for wanting to do so caught my attention. He wrote,

“As the head of my own company, I see it as my responsibility to inspire others as others have inspired me.”

One of the characteristics of a Great Leader is an ability to inspire. Recall, if you will, the Eagle Candidate who stated that a leader is someone “who inspires you to accomplish things you never thought you were capable of doing.” In both of these examples, these young men have focused on the critical element of inspiration.

Great Leaders see not only the current state of affairs. They also have a vision of what can be. They believe in this vision so strongly that they are able to inspire others to share the vision; and then, having shared the vision, they identify those who have the capability to help turn that vision into a reality and inspire them to join in a common effort to do so. They turn the vision of one individual into the vision of many. When many share a vision of the future, there is no limit to the power of that group to change the world.

Working with bright and talented individuals who have great dreams for the future, the vision to see them, and the will to make those dreams come true gives me great hope for the future. These are the leaders of the future and those of us who have been given the privilege of working with them today have been given the honor of helping create the Great Leaders of the future. We must do our very best. We dare not fail them.

Do you have ideas that will help develop the Great Leaders of the future? Click “Comment” and share them here.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at