Leaders Own It

This is a leadership layer that cannot be overlooked. To have ownership means as leaders we own it ~ not rocket science that. When you own something you act in a different way towards it.

You take care of it.
You protect it.
You make sure it doesn’t break.
If it breaks you mend it or make arrangements to have it fixed.
Maybe if its become out of date, you replace it for a newer one.
You spend time, energy and money on it.

I have paid the price for not truly owning something. When I first started out in a leadership role I loved taking credit when things went well, otherwise it was the other persons fault. I was good finger pointer. Passing the buck, it’s not my fault, I don’t have the right resources, they were just some of my excuses. All just to save face.

To become a good leader means this layer of leadership has to be handled carefully. Who wants to follow a leader who doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to own what they lead?

Here’s a few things I have learned along the way…

Ownership is 24/7.
Ownership is action more than words.
Ownership is about adding value wherever you can.
Ownership is inconvenient. 
Ownership should produce a determination to get it right.
Ownership is for everyone.
Ownership isn’t easy.

Don’t step up if you are not willing to take full responsibility for what you are stepping up to take ownership of. If you don’t own it, you will not get given it. Or if you have it, get ready for it to be taken out of your hands.

The Credibility Factor

I put this as a layer but I am not sure how to write about it. This is just a thought.

Anyone can have credibility for a moment. Do something well, experience a success, achieve a goal, reach a target – you gain a certain amount of credibility. The challenge is maintaining your credibility over the long term.

The challenge with building something over the long term is that you just don’t know how long that will be. Is it 6 months, a year, 5 years, a lifetime? My answer is YES. All of them. My experience is this: if you want credibility then always do things well, always use discretion, always maintain your integrity, always work on your attitude, always be someone that others can trust. Once is never really going to be enough.

Credibility has two levels: personal and positional. (Perhaps)

Even after 25 years of leadership I still hope I have earned enough credibility so when I mess up it won’t be fatal to my leadership. I think I’ve noticed something about credibility, about how my reputation is affected by the not so good things I have done.

My personal credibility can protect my positional credibility. Within reason anyway. I think if I murdered someone or committed adultery both will be affected quite seriously. However, I can look back on my life and see mistakes made that before great damage to me and my leadership could be done, friends rallied around me, supported me, encouraged me, protected me and my reputation. They helped me journey through it. Helped me to make good decisions and stay on track. Maybe the credibility I had earned personally with them over a period of time was enough for them to think, ’this is not the real Julian here’.

Of course, the contrary can also be true. When we don’t know a person except for the position they hold we can be quick to judge them, to almost encourage their downfall. Our assumption that somehow they should be perfect is unfair. They are just people like ourselves. Think politicians. Think highly-paid athletes. One mistake and quickly question their reputation. We must fight against this tendency, especially those of us who are Christian leaders.

Personal credibility and positional credibility are not separate. I have learned they are inter-twined. One impacts the other. Both must be protected. Yes, achieve great things. Yes, be successful. Alongside that though, build great friendships, encourage healthy relationships. Then, if/when you mess up, your personal credibility may just be enough to outweigh the damage to your positional credibility. Those closest to you can help you maintain the credibility you have worked so hard to build.

I’m not sure is this is right. It was just an observation from my own life. Maybe it’s a little naive. One thing is for sure, we don’t know what our credibility is actually worth until we do something that makes others question it. By then it might be too late to discover if the only credibility we have is because of the position or title we possessed rather than on a personal level. To recover we should admit the mistake, seek to recover, make restitution and begin building all over again.

Things That Help Build Trust

It has been a continuous discovery over the past 25 years of leadership that all of these layers I have been mentioning are connected. Break one, go without one, decide to have a day off from one and you potentially disconnect them all.

Discretion. Integrity. Attitude. They all add to the level of trustworthiness people feel you bring. There is a simple truth as a leader: if people don’t trust you, they won’t follow you.

I have built up trust with people and then knocked it down myself. I have had golden moments of inspiration that have shown those I lead how valuable they are, followed by moments of absolute stupidity which probably had them wondering if I knew they even existed.

Here are 5 things which can help build that layer of trust:

1. Think before you speak
In a world of immediate connection, a pause before we respond, can be an invaluable tool. Fools rush in. Wait a moment. Think it through. Don’t just say something because you have the right, instead learn to say the right thing

2. Respect those you lead
As leaders we won’t always get the opportunity work with our friends. We have to learn to work with those we don’t know as well, or maybe even struggle to get along with. Learn to respect them. The work they do. The skills they bring. The results they contribute towards. The opinions they may have. The ideas they share. To respect another is our choice. It builds trust. No one wants to follow someone who they feel disrespected by.

3. Understand what’s going on
I have made this mistake before, not really knowing what’s going on with my team or with the project we have responsibility for. Good leaders have their finger on the pulse. Leadership awareness is a necessary skill, not just in respect of your team but also in respect of your own leadership too. Know what’s happening.

4. Secure leadership builds trust
An insecure leader will struggle to gain the trust of others. It can lead to indecision. It can weaken your leadership position. It’s not about faking it but I have learned that I cannot reveal my insecurities to everyone. Have someone you can turn to when it comes to sharing your frustrations. I have found that when I think before I speak, respect those I lead and know what’s going on, I don’t need to feel insecure. I’m being the best leader I can be anyway.

5. Time builds great trusting relationships
25 years of leadership doesn’t come in one year, obviously. Sometimes we are in such a hurry to be liked and believed in that we forget that building trust takes time. After 20 years in my Church I’m hopeful I have enough in the ‘trust bank’ that even if I made a mistake (depending on it’s severity) it wouldn’t be fatal to my leadership. You can’t hide from the fact – trust takes time.

Q: What would you add to help us build our layer of trust?

How’s Your Integrity?

As discussed before, leadership is not about levels but more about layers. Lots of different layers. The challenge with layers is that they take time. A level can possibly be won quickly, through a promotion or just because someone else quits. It doesn’t always mean you have what it takes for people to want to follow you.

Layers are not so much about what you do but more about why you do it. They are defining who you are. They are your character and people follow your character, your person, the who and the why, more than they do the what you are doing.

At 19 you don’t really think about integrity. I know I didn’t. I would have been more conscious of how I lived a very hypocritical lifestyle. I was doing leadership as a role but it was just something I did, it wasn’t who I was. At least not yet. At 19, when you first step into leadership, you don’t really understand how everything is connected. That even though you are successful at the doing, if another aspect of who you are is in competition with that, then ultimately you fail. Just think politicians. Think sportsmen. Too often they are great at how they perform but fail miserably in being people you would actually want to follow. They lack good character. They lack integrity.

I am not perfect. Wasn’t at 19 and even though 25 years have passed, I’m still not. In the beginning I didn’t consider my integrity but now I do. It’s taken 25 years to earn it, to grow it as a layer. I have become aware how some foolish moments could definitely give it a hefty dent or see me lose it completely.

Integrity takes time.
Integrity has a cost.
Integrity covers everything.
Integrity is a choice.
Integrity is a personal discipline.

I can’t make you a person of integrity, I can only sell you the benefits.
No skeletons in the cupboard.
No awkward conversations.
No moments of indecision.
No double-mindedness.
No more living two different lives.

Integrity helps make your yes is yes and your no a no. Boundary lines for your life and how you will live are drawn when you have integrity. You know who you are and other choices have to line up with that. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about others but it does mean that sometimes what you care about has to come first.

Integrity comes from your why and it influences your what and your how. The why of my life is built on my Christian faith and the lifestyle that Jesus would ask me to live. I want my life to be whole and complete, in line with the word of God, thereby helping me maintain my integrity. I hope people see that. If I ever doubt they do then I have some work on my hands.

If you desire to be a leader who others want to follow, then work on your integrity. Who you are when no-one else sees. In word, in deed, in every facet of your life.

If you want help in unpacking this idea further then I would recommend a book by Dr Henry Cloud called Integrity. Read it with a willingness to be honest about yourself, to make the hard calls and make changes if necessary. Identify those areas where you lack integrity and grow a new layer of leadership. It will make so much difference, you will wonder why you never did this before.

Q: What do you think about integrity? Why is it so important? How is it challenging for you?

Leadership Discretion

A few weeks ago I wrote that leadership was about layers not levels.

Here’s my simple thought on discretion – you need it. As a leadership layer it will protect you. If you want to fail in leadership then be a leader who demonstrates a distinct lack of discretion. Not many people want to follow someone like that.

In the book of Proverbs we are told that ‘discretion will preserve you’. We understand this statement and how important it is yet I am amazed how many times I have watched people learn about it the hard way. In other words they have not used it.

We open our mouths too soon. 
We pass on information that was not ours to pass on. 
We give opinions even if others don’t want to hear it. 
We speak over people just to be heard.
We share half-truths.
We lack the ability to know what to do with what we know.

Many years ago I attended a Youth Leaders Conference. I can only remember one thing from it but it has stood me in good stead for the past 25 years. It’s a simple phrase that has become an essential filter for me in leadership and how to handle what I hear…


In 25 years of leadership I have discovered that on most occasions the answer to this question is simply…not as many as I think. Actually it’s most often no one. We struggle with knowing something. We feel the uncontrollable urge to pass it on but once it’s out there it’s practically impossible to get it back.

I have learned to temper my opinion.
I have learned to not just pass it on because I know about it.
I have developed the ability to be discrete.
I have noticed over the years that people don’t come to me for gossip.
I am not giving my opinion just because I have one, I often wait to be asked.
I am listening first and therefore responding more appropriately.

It’s hard to instruct you on how to become a person of discretion but if you can master it, if you can learn to keep your mouth shut when in the past it opened way too freely, then your influence as a leader will be changed forever.

What do you think? How has your ability to use discretion saved you in leadership? Or how has a lack of discretion caused you unnecessary pain?