Great Leaders Under-Sell and Over-Deliver

Have you ever followed a leader who “promised the moon” and delivered nothing more than a “Moon Pie”? How much did you trust that leader the next time a promise was made? Believe me, I had no trouble hearing your answer to that question; and, while each of you had a slightly different way of expressing it, it was resoundingly negative.

Great Leaders know that they have been given the privilege of leading teams of highly talented, extremely capable, individuals. They also know that their own credibility is going to be key in helping the team deliver its very best efforts. The Great Leader knows that he/she must be honest and tell the team the truth. Here are three rules that Great Leaders abide by …

  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep – Nothing undermines a leader’s credibility than failing to keep promises. Great Leaders don’t make promises unless they are in a position to make sure the promise is kept. Great Leaders don’t say, “I promise you it will happen”. Rather, the Great Leader says, “I won’t promise you that this will happen; but, I DO promise you that I will do everything in my power to make it happen.”
  • Always tell the truth – A leader’s credibility will be destroyed when he/she is caught telling lies. Telling the truth can be uncomfortable, particularly when it shows culpability in failure; failure to deliver a product; failure to develop and implement a project; failure to keep a promise. Great Leaders know that making excuses and trying to shift the blame won’t work. They understand that they must tell the truth and accept full responsibility for their actions … or inactions.
  • Deliver more than “just enough” – Great Leaders know that “good enough” is never good enough. They understand that “squeaking by” is bound to disappoint even the most ardent supporter. Great Leaders advocate delivering “above and beyond” expectations; and, they go out of their way to make sure that they do go above and beyond what others expect from them.

How do you go “above and beyond” in the performance of your leadership duties? Click “Comment” to share your thoughts.

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

Leadership as an Opportunity to Serve

In his book, Servant Leadership”, Robert Greenleaf wrote that “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” This is not now, nor was it then, a new concept. References to the leader being a servant can be found in the Bible and the writings of Lao-Tzu. For the Great Leader, service to others is a prime concept and a primary goal.

While the mediocre leader sees his/her position as an affirmation of his/her authority and recognition of his/her own greatness, the Great Leader recognizes that it is an opportunity to serve.

  • Great Leaders look at each individual team member and learn what is important to each; their goals, their aspirations, their motivations. The Great Leader recognizes that an opportunity exists to help each team member reach their goals and serves each by opening doors that will lead to the attainment of those goals. They help their team members grow professionally and as people.
  • Great Leaders offer help when it is needed. They know that there are times when the team member is very capable of performing unassisted and are wise enough to stand back and watch. But, when help is needed, the Great Leader serves the team member by providing guidance and instruction in such a way as to empower the team member to learn by doing. They help the team members gain the knowledge and experience that enables them be more self-sufficient and more autonomous.
  • Great Leaders provide team members with opportunities to serve others and become servant leaders.

The Great Leader does not seek nor take credit for these things, choosing instead to recognize the accomplishments of the team member and giving credit to that individual. Those who would choose to become a Great Leader will see that in serving others, he/she is building a solid foundation upon which the team, the business, and the community can grow and thrive.

Have you had the privilege of serving others; of working with someone who served you? Click “Comment” to share your experience and what you learned from it.

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

Saying Goodbye to a Good Friend and Great Leader

Working with a Great Leader is a wonderful experience. It affords the opportunity to study a leadership style; to see how it works in real life; to identify traits and techniques that can help you grow as a leader; and, if you are fortunate, benefit from the mentoring of that individual.

Sadly, though, each of us is born with only a set number of years or days to walk this earth and then we are called home. I recently had to say goodbye to a friend who was, in my opinion, a Great Leader because he lived the traits of great leadership.

  • Commitment: When Steve accepted a responsibility, he committed himself to doing the job well. When he became the Outdoor Committee Chairman for his son’s Boy Scout Troop, he promised that the scouts would have good, safe, outings. When it was time to leave on a camping trip, he had pre-planned the transportation ensuring that every scout had a seat and a seat belt. His was always the last vehicle to leave the meeting place so that he could make certain that no one was left behind. He did the same thing when it was time to leave the campground. At the end of the outing, he did not leave the parking lot until every scout had been picked up by a parent.
  • Lead by Example: Wanting to go backpacking at the Philmont Scout Reservation with his son, he began a physical conditioning/exercise plan and lost a significant amount of weight to make certain that he would be able to make the trek and support the scouts without becoming a burden on them. At monthly campouts, he firmly believed that those who prepared the meals should not have to clean afterwards; and, he made sure that his vision was reality … not by telling others to clean or wash dishes but by standing and announcing that he was going to start the clean up process and asking who would help him.
  • Caring: Steve cared about the boys and his fellow adult leaders. Noting that one of the adults was terribly overheated, Steve took a cold drink to that individual and had him sit in a car with the air conditioning running to cool him down. During that time, he educated that individual about outdoor clothing, helping him to see the value in wearing clothing that wicked moisture away from the body and helping it evaporate quickly in order to keep the body cooler.
  • Knowing How and When to Relax: When circumstances required a serious attitude and focus, he knew how to be both and how to bring others to that same level of concentration. Steve also knew that relaxation was also needed. He had a great sense of humor that never tore anyone down or belittled others. His joyous, heartfelt laugh could be heard throughout the campground and he told jokes, good clean jokes, that brought smiles and laughter to those around him.

At times, Steve was my student. At other times, he was my teacher. Always, he was my friend. I and those he lead will miss him. We say goodbye, for now, with this prayer …

May the trail rise up to meet you;
May the wind always be at your back;
May the sun shine warmly on your face;
When you come to the river, may you cross over gently
and rest in the shade of the trees;

And, until we meet again, may the Great Scoutmaster
of all Scouts hold you in the palm of his hand and give you peace.

Rest In Peace, my friend.

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

Can a Great Leader “Play to Win” and Still be Ethical?

I once worked with a man who had an interesting way of viewing all potential actions. He asked himself if the action was ethical. He explained himself this way …

“Some will ask if a course being considered is legal. Many things are legal. However, just because there is no law prohibiting an act does not make that act ‘the right thing to do’. The more important questions must be ‘is it the right thing to do … is it the way I would want to be treated … does the course of action improve the lot not only of my business; but, does it benefit or harm the other party?”

This person is a Great Leader. Great Leaders in business recognize that they must “play to win”. They understand that, in the final analysis, the company must show a profit in order to succeed and survive.

Great Leaders also recognize that a reputation is a double-edged sword. Those who always choose to do the right thing … to make certain that deals truly benefit all parties … will have customers who are loyal and return time and time again; plus, those customers bring others with them and recommend that their friends do business with the firm as well.

Conversely, the individual who looks only at the immediate, short-term, picture will say and do anything to “do the deal”. This individual does not care if the customer truly benefits, only that the company does this deal. He or she will get a reputation for caring only about his/her own benefit and customers will look to do business with someone else … someone who is working toward the customer’s benefit.

Great Leaders win in business and in the game of life because they make ethical choices and do the right thing.

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

A Great Leader’s View of Character

Presidents’ Day morning. My “In Box” contains a quote from a Great Leader, President Abraham Lincoln, about a person’s character and reputation. Lincoln wrote, “A man’s character is like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing”.

Reputations are funny things. In some instances, they are based entirely on facts. In other cases, they are based on perceptions held by individuals or groups of individuals. By way of comparison, let’s look at two fictional individuals that we will call Clay and Stone.

Clay has a reputation for being a real savvy businessman. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time; a guy who can turn a profit no matter what he does and no matter how adverse the situation may appear to be. It’s as if he has an “inside track” on information that no one else has … because he does. Clay has built his business and his reputation by using inside information to the detriment of those he exploits to his own personal benefit. If Clay were in the securities industry, he would be guilty of insider trading … of using information that is not available to the general public for personal profit … a criminal act. Clay has a reputation for being in the right place at the right time. But, his character is lacking a strong moral compass. In Clay’s mind, what he is doing is wrong only if he gets caught. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that the sun moves; the shadow shifts; and, ultimately, the deeds done within the shadows of unethical behavior will be exposed and the wrong-doer will be caught.

Stone, on the other hand, has character. As a Great Leader, Stone is “the real deal”. When presented with opportunities, he first checks his personal moral compass and asks, “Is it legal; is it ethical; does it treat others as I would wish to be treated?” If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, he abstains and allows the opportunity to pass him by. Great Leaders such as Stone know that if they conduct themselves and their businesses in a manner that never calls into question their character or their morality, the world will beat a path to their doors for the opportunity to associate with them, to work with them, to do business with them. They will be presented with more opportunities than they will be able to handle; opportunities to grow personally, professionally, and financially.

Reputations are mere shadows of the person they purport to be; always shifting, intangible, subject to the shifting tides of opportunism and “what’s in it for me?”. Character, when it is grounded with a strong moral compass, is unyielding in the face of temptation. When the character of a Great Leader is consistently asking the three questions above, constantly and routinely reminding itself to do what is right both morally and ethically, it is then that this character stays away from temptation and keeps itself morally straight. Great Leaders present their character in their daily conduct and allow it to speak more loudly than any reputation can.

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

Even Bad Leaders Can Be Great Role Models

In the article titled, “Let Great Leaders Pause to Give Thanks”, we talked about the importance of Great Leaders taking time to give thanks. Reflecting this past week, I realized that there were a few thank you’s that I had neglected to offer. While Great Leaders are usually the result of the wonderful examples set by other Great Leaders, it occurred to me that, sometimes, bad examples are also instrumental in the development of a Great Leader.

This realization was prompted by a short time spent at the counter of a diner I ate at while traveling. It was late Saturday morning and the diner was relatively busy. The manager was standing at the “pass out window” where the cooks would set the plates that were ready to be delivered to the patrons at the tables. His job was to organize the various meals by ticket so that the server could pick up a tray and all of the meals for that table would be on the tray. While the manager was doing this, he was constantly yelling at the cooks and berating the servers. The overall attitude of the staff was very negative and it was reflected in the service that they provided. This incident brought to mind a time when I worked as a cook in a coffee shop and the manager, we’ll call him Larry, was a crude, rude, and verbally abusive drunk. I remember watching the way he treated everyone and thinking, “I don’t ever want to be a manager like him.” Through his bad example, he made me realize the importance of treating others with courtesy and respect regardless of their position in the company’s hierarchy. Thank you, Larry, for setting that example of how NOT to treat employees.

While I’ve frequently cited the great leadership skills of my first agency manager, Ray, I also recall the behaviors and actions of several agency managers that I met who belittled their agents, questioned the agents’ potential to “ever amount to anything”, treated staff members with disdain, were deceitful, and were generally rude to everyone. One of the agents who transferred to my agency after working for one of these other managers remarked, “I learned a lot from (former manager). I learned what I don’t want to be like.” Thank you, (former manager), for showing me why agents left other agencies to work for a different manager.

Great Leaders, today and always, learn from everyone around them. On some days, they see an example of how they want to lead, an example that they want to emulate. On other days, they see, first-hand, behaviors that they want to avoid at all costs. Regardless of which day it is, Great Leaders see and learn from everything and everyone around them. For this, we should all give thanks.

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

Great Leadership Requires Teamwork, Right?

It’s a funny thing about Great Leaders. Their alphabet seems to be missing a letter. The alphabets of Great Leaders also seem to have a letter or character that appears to be missing from the alphabets that many people use. Have you figured out what letter is missing and what letter has replaced it?

Great Leaders seldom use the letter “I”. Listen carefully and you soon realize that you seldom hear, “I did this” or “I did that”. In fact, Great Leaders use the letter “I” so seldom that it is only natural to assume that it has been removed from their alphabet. Instead, they’ve added the letter (character?) “we”, as in “we did this” and “we did that”.

Assembling and using the talents of a team is one of the great talents of true leadership. It is the abandonment of the concept that one must do everything oneself in order to have it done right. It is the mark of a Great Leader to embrace the realization that together, we can do so much more that we could ever hope to accomplish individually.

I remember, as a child, hearing a story told by the great singer Tennessee Ernie Ford. He told of a father watching his son try to move a large rock. The boy tried pushing, pulling, rolling … everything he could think of. Still, the rock remained unmoved. Finally, the boy stepped away from the rock and declared that he could not move it. The father asked if he’d tried everything that could be done and the boy responded “yes”. The father thought a minute and then asked, “are you sure you’ve tried everything?”  Exasperated, the boy affirmed that he’d tried everything. The father waited a moment and then suggested that there was one more thing the boy could do. “What is that?”, asked the son. The father replied, “You could ask me to help.”

Great Leaders do not believe that they must be capable of doing all things well. Great Leaders recognize that there are people who have talents and strengths that they themselves do not possess. Great Leaders willingly accept this fact and ask those others to join a team that, together, will accomplish so much more than any one individual can achieve. And, in the end, when the goal has been met, the Great Leader gives credit where credit is due … to The Team.

Have you had the joy of being part of a team that accomplished more than its individual members could have done individually? Click “Comment” and share what made the leader of that team a 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

How Do Great Leaders Show Respect for Self and Others?

The Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, wrote, “Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.” This is good advice for one who wants to be a Great Leader. Consider this example of how a leader pursued a course of action that he thought would give him an advantage but ended up costing him dearly.

Shirley had been a counselor at the Family Counseling Center almost from its inception. As the agency grew, more counselors were brought on staff and everyone played “musical offices” so that clients and counselors could conduct sessions privately. In fact, Shirley had gone from having a private office to sharing the office with other counselors; to having a desk in the front office/reception area so that other counselors could use the office for private meetings with clients. Shirley was a team player and accepted the move cheerfully and was given the assurance that when the agency moved into a larger space in a few months, she would again be given a private office in recognition of her tenure and the nature of the work she was doing in addition to providing counseling.

On the day of the big move, Shirley picked up the box containing her personal belongings and went to the new office. Walking in the door, she was greeted by the FCC’s Director and led to a cubicle in what the floor plan called “the bullpen”. The Director told Shirley that he’d changed his mind, he didn’t feel that she needed nor deserved a private office. Other, less senior, counselors would be given the private offices. Needless to say, Shirley felt that she had been lied to and her dedication to the agency had been betrayed.

In the ensuing months, she wrapped up the various projects that she was working on and, when they were completed, she tendered her resignation and opened her own practice. Today, she has a very successful practice and does not regret her decision to “go independent”. As for the FCC, at last count, the Director had hired four new people to do the work that Shirley had previously done by herself. Over half the people who were on staff at FCC have now left having seen how the Director treated Shirley.

While it is unclear what advantage the Director believed he would achieve by his treatment of Shirley, what is clear is that the FCC lost a knowledgeable counselor who had been a valuable resource for the agency. It is also clear that he did not value or respect the talents and abilities that Shirley brought to the agency.

Great Leaders recognize the talents and abilities of those around them. They treat team members with respect, courtesy, and dignity. They keep the promises that they make. In doing these things, Great Leaders earn the loyalty and respect of the people who make up the team they have been given the privilege of leading.

How has a Great Leader demonstrated that he/she recognized the talents that you brought to the table? How did that individual show you respect? Click the “Comment” button and share your story.

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