The Art of Leadership

Leadership is both an art and a science. Many leaders, however, emphasize the science of leadership at the expense of the art of leadership, which often leads to less than desirable results in terms of engagement, performance, and teamwork. Whether you are a business leader, coach, or parent, you know that leadership is hard work but can have a lasting and meaningful impact in the lives of the people you lead and influence when delivered in the right way.

business team at table

To understand these terms more and explore what effective leadership looks like, it is important to define what the art and science of leadership means. You can apply both of these terms in all areas of life including sports and business. The “science of leadership” refers to instructing and teaching a technical discipline or path. It includes directing and guiding someone on how to do something the right way effectively and efficiently. It is the most common technique that leaders demonstrate, because most leaders were promoted based on their ability to produce and do things well.

The “art of leadership” is more subtle and esoteric and is often forgotten, discounted, and abandoned when trying to get people to accomplish a task or achieve a mission or goal. Yet, the art of leadership is essential, because this aspect of leadership penetrates to the heart of the people you are leading and influencing. It engages their minds AND their hearts and allows them to perform with purpose and passion. In fact, Max DePree, the former CEO of Herman Miller, wrote a whole book on this topic entitled Leadership is an Art. In this great book on leadership, he said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”

Here are 10 things you can do to improve your leadership effectiveness through the “art” of leadership:

  1. Encourage the heart of your people.
  2. Reinforce your belief in their abilities.
  3. Empower them by trusting them with opportunities.
  4. Care for them by coaching them and delivering both positive and constructive feedback that will help them grow.
  5. Lead them by communicating a shared vision that includes their contribution to the mission.
  6. Remind them of times when they have succeeded when they are in the midst of a setback.
  7. Instill confidence in them, so they can perform on “game day.”
  8. Listen to them.
  9. Invest time with them.
  10. Be responsible for their development.

The art of leadership is about helping individuals or a team perform on “game day” with trust, belief, and confidence. Yes, the science of leadership is important, but once people have a base level of skills and mastery of something, leaders must demonstrate the art of leadership to help them unleash their potential and consistently perform at their best. As DePree also said, “In a day when so much energy seems to be spent on maintenance and manuals, on bureaucracy and meaningless quantification, to be a leader is to enjoy the special privileges of complexity, of ambiguity, of diversity. But to be a leader means, especially, having the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who permit leaders to lead.”

By applying the ten tips mentioned above, you can become a more effective leader, and the people you lead will be appreciative of your interest in their growth and dedication to their development!

10 Ways To Enhance Your Role As A Leader And Coach – Podcast: S01E011

Leadership is important in sports, business, and life! We love working with leaders who are passionate about growing their skills and developing the leadership culture of their teams and organizations. The Invisible Hand of Leadership© is one of our foundational programs that we offer to businesses, schools and universities, sports teams, and non-profits to help them grow their leadership potential and experience. In today’s podcast, I discuss one part of the program – the 7 Roles of a Transformational Leader – and offer 10 ways that you can enhance and grow your role as a coach, counselor, and mentor to the people you lead and influence.

Episode Outline

  1. Constantly ask the question, “Am I unleashing the creative brain cells of my people?”
  2. View the recruitment and development of talent as your number one priority!
  3. Take responsibility for their careers.
  4. Build a relationship with the people you are mentoring, counseling or coaching.
  5. Model the way!
  6. Pave the way!
  7. Invest time with your people.
  8. Listen empathically.
  9. Motivate and encourage your people.
  10. Care about your people.


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Father’s Day – Podcast: S01E010

In today’s podcast, I talk about 2 men who stepped up and assumed a leadership role in my life after my father left me and my mom at a young age. I am forever grateful for the role these 2 men played in my life and what they taught me about faith, integrity, responsibility, commitment, sports, leadership, and making the most of the moments in my life!

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The Voice of Effective Leaders – Podcast: S01E009

Leadership is important in sports, business, and life, and the best leaders know how to find their leadership voice in order to communicate well with the people they lead and influence. In today’s podcast, I explore 5 techniques that can help you communicate and connect authentically with your team. I also offer 6 questions that every great leader should ask.

Episode Outline:

5 Effective Leadership Communication Techniques:

  1. Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood© (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey)
  2. Communicate the Right Ratio of Positive to Constructive Feedback
  3. Communicate Feedback in Terms of the Other Person’s “Potential To Be”
  4. Be Vulnerable and Open
  5. Encourage Others and Connect to Core Values

6 Questions Every Great Leader Should Ask:

  1. How are you doing?
  2. What are you most proud of over the last few months?
  3. What opportunities have you leveraged?
  4. What successes have you had?
  5. What challenges, if any, do you have in front of you?
  6. How can I help?


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Questions Every Great Leader Should Ask

Speaking is an essential skill for transformational leaders, but every great leader also needs to be able to listen. I often see leaders who focus more on telling without gathering the proper context, which always begins with asking the right questions. When you engage the people you lead with great questions it builds rapport, allows you to collaborate with them, and provides the necessary context for you to pour into them and provide the right advice, guidance, and encouragement.

Leader standing with colleagues

In working with leaders and helping our clients to develop their leadership culture, we have found the following questions to be especially helpful and effective if you want to be a transformational leader:

  • How are you doing? – Notice that this question is not “How’s it going?” which demands a response of a status report. This question focuses on them and how they are personally doing. It can be a conversation starter and allows you to understand what has been going on in their lives. It also gives them a chance to voice their level of engagement in life and expand on personal activities that they are passionate about or have brought meaning to their life. It facilitates a connection.
  • What are you most proud of over the last few months? – This is a different way to ask “How’s it going?” When you ask this question, it gives them a chance to passionately talk about the work they have been doing and the impact it has had on others including team members, clients and customers, and the community. It also gives you a lens into what they are passionate about, which can be helpful as you assign them to future roles. This question reveals what brings them the most contentment.
  • What opportunities have you leveraged? – This question allows you to gauge their initiative and creativity. Many times when I have asked this of the people I have led, their eyes begin to light up as they talk about new ideas and the process of discovery. The best leaders help others discover possibilities and leverage opportunities. This question facilitates curiosity.
  • What successes have you had? – Great leaders catch people doing the right things and celebrate their successes. Asking this question allows them to articulate the wins and breakthrough moments and gives you insight into their strengths. This question strengthens commitment.
  • What challenges, if any, do you have in front of you? – Some leaders fear asking this question, because there may be a response that requires them to do something. Moreover, these very same leaders don’t want challenges, they want things handled and solved. While it is true that responsibility and authority should be given to others along with the permission to solve challenges, the best leaders ask this question to gather context and stay engaged in the process. They also ask this question to gauge the intuition and discernment of the people they lead. Finally, great leaders ask this question, because they must. It is their opportunity as a leader to invest in and show concern for their team and to collaboratively engage with them. This questions serves as a catalyst for courage.
  • How can I help? – A lot of leaders fail to ask this question, especially after asking the question about challenges, because they know this question demands an answer that will require their time, commitment, and effort. They seem to disappear from the conversation almost in a “Good luck with that one” kind of way. Truly engaged leaders consistently ask this question after gathering the proper context in order to leverage their power and influence to pave and prepare the way for the people they lead to be successful. Asking this question promotes collaboration.

Transformational leaders are purposeful and passionate about engaging with their team. They listen well and ask the appropriate questions in order to provide the right support. As you consider the roles that you play in life and the leadership opportunities and influence that you have, I encourage you to ask these questions. They will help you effectively connect with the people you lead and help you make a positive impact that extends beyond your reach.

Question: What questions have you used to effectively connect with your team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Building The Production Capacity Of Others

Great leaders know that in order to produce, they have to build the production capacity of themselves and of those that they lead and influence. This is true in sports, business, and life. The best leaders that we have researched, studied, and worked with are transformational in their approach versus just being transactional. The brilliance of their leadership style is their ability to get things done while also developing the leadership capacity of others in the process. We call this process “activating the performance of others.”

Female leader in front of group

In our “Invisible Hand of Leadership” program, we felt so strongly about the importance of this concept that we dedicated modules around both the role of being an “Activator” as well as the habit of “activating” the performance of those you lead and influence. It all centers around 2 basic philosophies of leadership:

  • Exponential Leadership – the ability to produce beyond yourself in an exponential way, impact, and return on investment
  • Generational Leadership – the focus of going beyond just collecting followers who execute tasks to developing leaders who build and transform the team, organization, and culture.

Sometimes, we find the challenge with emerging leaders is that they get so obsessed with producing that they become oblivious to the benefits of building the production capacity of others. Entrepreneurs and people in business development and sales roles that I have coached often refer to this as “working in the business versus working on the business.” This reference is somewhat analogous to the idea of developing leaders and the production capacity of your team and organization. You have to rise above the everyday tasks and transactions and make leadership development a strategic priority.

But how do you do it? Here are 3 quick tips on building the production capacity of others:

  • Time – You will never produce beyond yourself if you don’t make and take time to invest in the growth of others. John Maxwell refers to this principle as the “Law of the Lid.” At some point, you reach the “lid,” or limit, of what you can do with the time that you have. No matter how good you are and how productive you can be, you only have so much talent and time. The best leaders prioritize the growth of others not only in their annual goals and role description but also in their weekly calendar. In other words, they act on their intentions. Think about who you can invest in and then begin to schedule regular time with them to help them grow into the leader you know they can become.
  • Teach – Great leaders are always teaching and sharing insights with others in order for them to learn, grow, and take those ideas further based on their insights and talent. In leading teams myself, I always try to assign responsibility based on a person’s experience and potential and then support them in the process. I also strive to be purposeful about teaching them things I have learned and having a dialogue with them based on questions and things that they are interested in that I can help them learn and grow faster. The goal is to accelerate their learning through your journey. Teaching begins with developing a “teachable point of view,” which involves drawing clarity around the experiences you have been through and discerning principles from those experiences that can help you and others in the future. Make it a priority to teach in the midst of tasks.
  • Trust – Ultimately, growing the production capacity of others becomes a matter of trust with the key question being: Do you trust this person to take on this task? Most leaders rise through the organization based on their ability to produce, not necessarily their skills in building the production capacity of others. Yet, when you arrive at the title of leader, you have to make a shift and learn how to lead which involves producing through others. In order to be an effective, transformational leader, your whole mode of thinking has to shift from “I’ll just do it myself!” to “I need to grow our collective production capacity in order to produce exponentially.” This mindset shift is based on trust. You build trust by giving up control of things you used to control yourself and coaching, encouraging, and giving feedback in the process.

Whether you are a leader in a company or non-profit organization, a leader on your sports team, or a leader at home and in your community, learning to grow the production capacity of others is an important and essential skill. In order to make the most impact through your life, you have to learn to make an impact through others. Great leaders know and realize this, and they also recognize that their investment in others goes way beyond just getting things done. The return is revealed in the changed lives of others and helping them become who they were created to be!

We offer some great leadership, consulting, and coaching programs that are growing and developing the leadership capacity of some incredible organizations like Accenture  KPMG, Rice University, NCI Group, SpringSpirit Baseball, Kendra Scott, and Baylor University. We would love to help you, your team, and your organization grow as leaders through one of our leadership programs. Email me to discover how we might be able to help you create an “invisible hand of leadership” that transforms your leadership culture.

Embracing Your Role As A Leader – Podcast: S01E003

In this podcast, I share 5 ways that transformational leaders embrace their role as a leader to make an authentic and positive impact within their sphere of influence.

These principles and techniques can be applied in any area of life including sports, business, and life. Whatever roles you play in life, you are a leader, because you have influence. Every day, you have a choice to make a positive impact on the world around you.

Episode Outline:

How do transformational leaders embrace their role as leader:

  1. Lead The Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Create Positive Change
  4. Activate The Performance Of Others
  5. Be Resilient

Employe engagement is essential to making a difference and leading people effectively, and it is important to understand that up to 70% of the people you lead and influence may be either not engaged or actively disengaged according to Gallup Research.

Leading the way is all about making the right choices and decisions in our lives and ensuring that our actions and words are in sync.

Inspiring a shared vision involves connecting with the people you lead and influence in order to communicate a vision that is shared and also heard, received, understood, and incorporated into their lives and everyday tasks.

Creating positive change involves:

  • Challenging the process
  • Asking the right questions
  • Conquering limiting beliefs
  • Being a part of the solution vs. part of the problem

Activating the performance of others involves effectively delegating to others and creating operating principles for effective teamwork.

Being resilient involves possibility thinking when setbacks and challenges occur.

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The Key To Effective Leadership

The key to effective leadership is something we are all searching for. Some leaders think it is all about developing a brilliant strategy. Other leaders place emphasis on systems and structures.  Still other leaders argue that the golden key is found in compensation, incentive, and rewards. Finally, some leaders put all of their attention into modeling the way hoping something will catch on in the process. While all of these methods need to be in place, I have learned that none of these can bring about impact and influence in another person’s life all by themselves.

Do You Want To Be A Leader on a wall

In working with leaders, teams, and organizations, I believe that the key to effective leadership is found in your ability to inspire, impact, and influence other people to grow as leaders and achieve a goal – what we call your “leadership effectiveness.” James Macgregor Burns in his appropriately, yet simply titled book Leadership said it this way:

You can articulate a super strategy, implement seamless processes and structures, and roll out a rewards structure that creates potential financial success; but if you can’t tap into the needs, motivators, and activators of the people you lead, you will never engage the full person into affecting long-term change – in themselves and in their organization.

keys to activating performance

Where this hits closest to home for me is my actual home. I am a husband and a father of five boys and have important leadership responsibilities in both of these roles. I don’t always lead in an effective manner and in a way that is achieving the results and, more importantly, the goals of my calling as a husband and father. Sometimes, I articulate what I think is a brilliant strategy that doesn’t reach its full potential with my boys. Sometimes, I use pay to motivate them. Other times, I stress systems, procedures, and structure. And when these things fail, I dig in hard to modeling the way wondering why no one is following. The key is wrapping all of these methods into an overall approach that focuses on my ability to tap into their unique motives and needs to accomplish a shared vision for their lives. Each of them is wired differently, and I have to understand that concept as a leader in order to affect change in each of their lives.

Knowing and understanding the people you lead is the first step to engaging the talents and passions of your people. Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson said it this way: “A great manager [leader] … forces you to have a good opinion of yourself. He lets you know he believes in you. He makes you get more out of yourself. And once you learn how good you really are, you never settle for … anything less than your very best.”

That is exactly the kind of leader that I want to be at home, at work, and in my community. As you consider your leadership style, influence, and platform, here are some key questions to consider:

  • How are you tapping into the hearts and minds of the people you lead?
  • What do you do to improve your “leadership effectiveness” and inspire, impact, and influence change and growth in your people?
  • Do you truly know the people you are leading including their needs, motivators, and activators?
  • Are your collecting followers or creating leaders?

Question: What ideas and techniques have you found to be successful in leading others effectively? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Living A Life of Humility

A theme can bring energy and passion to your annual goals.  A theme also provides a summary that encapsulates everything that you are going to do and be about in a particular year or for your whole life. A few years ago, I used the theme of “Be Humble and Hungry” as my theme for the year. I also often text this to the people I coach in sports, business, and life.

As a competitor, it is often a fine line to walk between being humble versus being self-confident bordering on arrogance. Your competitiveness and drive give you your edge to succeed, but you don’t want that to tip to arrogance and pride where falls and paths to destruction often occur. As a leader, you need to command the respect of your people and that is often seen as competence and mastery, but you don’t want to come across as a “know-it-all” and someone who is not open to ideas and input from others.

Humility Sign

Humility and vulnerability are words not often associated with the best competitors; yet, they are essential components of the character of champions. Specifically, there are 3 aspects of humility that champions embrace on their leadership journey and allow them to separate from the rest of the field:

  • The Definition of Humility – C. S. Lewis defined it this way: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”  In all my endeavors, I want to engage and fully utilize my God-given strengths, talents, and passions to maximize the opportunities within my sphere of influence.  I believe that is what fulfilling your purpose is all about.  As you consider your strengths, talents, gifts, passions, opportunities, and sphere of influence, I encourage and challenge you to fully embrace them in a way that makes a positive impact on others vs solely promoting yourself.
  • The Spirit of Humility – Humility also demands a spirit and attitude of gratefulness.  It means to accept opportunities with enthusiasm and be appreciative of all that God brings your way.  There are many things that have happened in my life that can only be explained through the power and presence of God in my life.  My faith provides the main foundation for my life and is the cornerstone for everything that I do.  I thank God for this moment called my life, and I want to make it count.  Having a spirit of gratefulness allows you to enjoy the journey. When you are grateful for what you have, you are more generous to offer what people need.
  • The Product of Humility – Finally, humility promotes and produces a pursuit of excellence in all that we do.  If you are appreciative of the moments in your life, you will do all that you can to excel and do your best knowing that not everyone receives an opportunity to do what you are uniquely gifted to do. You will lead more effectively serving the needs of others in the process. You will pursue your goals more passionately knowing that the outcome is worth the journey, and you will do it in a way that leads to impact in the lives of the people you lead and influence. In essence, the more humble and appreciative you are, the better you will embrace your role and carry out your responsibilities! That’s the way that I feel about my work and my life.

Humility is not cowering low; it is charging forth with the right attitude and actions toward a mountaintop of opportunities and moments to make a positive difference and accomplish meaningful work! Living a life of humility is all about serving the needs of the people who are in your story with the unique talents and opportunities that are in your journey.

If you want to develop more as a leader who humbly serves the needs of others, connects with people, develops other leaders, and makes a positive impact within their sphere of influence, check out our Invisible Hand of Leadership© Program.


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Your Opportunities As A Leader

As a leader, it is easy to understand your role and responsibilities as they are often defined in terms of an org chart, job description, and company objectives and goals that are handed down to you. Your “duties” as a leader often include completing tasks, managing projects, developing and delivering presentations, meeting with customers, developing new clients and business, and maximizing the profitability of a business unit or entire company. These responsibilities are truly important for any leader to stay focused on and perform with excellence.

Leaders and teams

What are sometimes more nebulous are the “opportunities” that you have as a leader. “Opportunities” are not often measured by a metric and take time to be able to see the return on investment. Yet, “opportunities” often yield the greatest return on investment for leaders in terms of building the production capacity and margin that great teams and organizations need to thrive! Here are some specific “opportunities” that you have as a leader to make a dramatic difference in the lives of the people you lead and influence:

  • Invest in Their Growth – Your platform as a leader provides you with a unique opportunity to help the people you lead to develop and grow both personally and professionally. These opportunities include sharing and teaching principles and techniques that will accelerate their growth and advance their careers. Investing in the growth of another person also allows you to not just manage their tasks but maximize their potential, which enables you and the organization to take on new responsibilities knowing and trusting that they can be counted on to deliver.
  • Connect Mission to Tasks – In his book The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey cites research conducted by Harris Interactive which indicated “only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why and only one in five said they had a clear ‘line of sight’ between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals.” Great leaders connect vision and values to tasks and time. If someone you lead truly understands how what they do every day connects to the mission and vision of the organization, they will truly invest their time in making a positive difference and will fully demonstrate and represent the core values of the organization.
  • Serve Them Well – The difference between managing and leading is often found in how leaders support their people. Inefficient managers typically tell someone what to do and then measure if they completed the task on time and within the budget allowed. The middle piece of supporting them in in the process is often left unattended and uncared for. Great leaders serve as a resource to them and consistently ask: “How’s it going? How Can I help? What roadblocks have you encountered? What opportunities have you uncovered? What resources do you need? How can I help?
  • Encourage Their Soul – The best leaders that we have studied and worked with encourage the people they lead – not just on the surface but deep within their soul! The words “encourage” and “courage” are rooted in the Latin word “cor” meaning “heart.” To have courage means to have heart in the face of challenges. It’s the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear. Great leaders discover new ways every week to encourage their people. They recognize what their people are doing well and reinforce their belief in each person’s potential and ability to be and do their best work now and into the future.

Your “duties” and “opportunities” are equally essential to your leadership effectiveness and impact. While your people are expecting you to follow through on your duties and responsibilities as a leader, they are also hopeful that you will recognize, discover and appreciate the opportunities that you have as a leader to invest in their future. Make time in your schedule to identify the opportunities that you have as a leader at home, at work, in sports, and in your community, and then develop an action plan to follow through. The people in your sphere of influence will be so glad you did!