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Characteristics of Great Leaders

Elon Musk

Positive characteristics exhibited by great leaders are important keys to their success.  These characteristics arise from several overlapping and interrelated general areas.  The characteristics leaders select to utilize and portray from within these areas, in conjunction with their personality type, will help define who they are, how effective they will be, and how successful their companies will become.  These general areas of characteristics include each leader’s:

  • Viewpoint. (The “position” from which the leader perceives and approaches the future.)
  • Knowledge.
  • Wisdom.
  • Skill set.
  • Abilities.
  • Beliefs.
  • Emotional intelligence.

They also include how leaders:

  • Are perceived by others.
  • Interact with employees.
  • Deal with situations.
  • Approach their work.

Many leaders employ and master only a subset of the possible characteristics from within these general areas.  Therefore, great leaders, who own an understanding of their inherent strengths and weaknesses, will take steps to hire direct staff members based upon a need to complement their capabilities and leadership characteristics.  Great leaders will also seek to enhance their leadership proficiency over time by improving upon or incorporating additional positive characteristics from within these areas. (A discussion on how leaders may adjust their personality, characteristics, and approach is presented in Focused Leadership, A Mindset on Execution, Results, and the Future.)

This article is specifically limited to exploring the positive characteristics displayed by great leaders.  The discussion of poor, and even toxic, leadership characteristics and personalities has intentionally been excluded.  However, the impacts of negative leadership characteristics are important to point out in passing.  They are potentially catastrophic to everything from employee morale, to product sales, and ultimately to the success of a company.  A leader, harboring toxic characteristics, must either change their demeanor or be prepared to suffer a significant reduction in their effectiveness at bringing their dreams to fruition.

The following is a list of leadership characteristics, by general areas, which great leaders may draw upon in accomplishing their dreams and aspirations.  The article also briefly touches upon why each of these general areas is important to their company.

The viewpoint of great leaders:

  • Dictates “winning is everything” (for the correct reasons).
  • Shapes their mindset.
  • Is directly intertwined with their vision and mission and the perspective required to attain them.
  • Is based in a concept which balances the long-term success of the company, the return to investors, and the well-being of employees on an equal par.
  • Is based upon their personality type.
  • Positions their company to achieve something larger than themselves.
  • Is focused on the future.
  • Positions the company to grow successfully into the future, after the leader is no longer at the helm.
  • Takes into consideration the needs of support entities such as suppliers, distributers, subcontractors, or logistics required for their company’s success.
  • Helps to inspire others.
  • Assists in setting direction.
  • Provides a platform to portray their dreams from.
  • Defines their approach.
  • Delineates tangible results and expected milestones.
  • Aids in setting goals and objectives.
  • Yields the potential to learn from mistakes, build upon successes, and seize opportunities.

The viewpoint of great leaders sets the direction for their company’s journey in reaching their desired future position within their business niche while properly balancing between return on investment, the company’s future, and employee well-being.  Their personality, approach, mindset, and exhibited characteristics will shape how inspirational, rewarding, and successful that journey will become for others who join in.

Knowledge great leaders command:

  • An intimate understanding of their vision and mission.
  • An understanding of their role in the company.
  • An understanding of their personality type and the related leadership pluses and minuses associated with said personality type.
  • Aids in their understanding of human nature.
  • Provides an understanding of what customers want, need, or will fall in love with instantly, once it is on the market.
  • Shapes their strategy and approach toward marketing and sales.
  • Includes details about their product, their company, and their niche.
  • Includes an understanding that employees and organizations do the work while leadership and management only set the tone and direction.
  • Includes a solid understanding of adaptive leadership and management. (Because change is a constant in the business world.)
  • Furnishes insight into the process of financing their vision.

Knowledge and understanding helps great leaders frame how their company’s work will be accomplished.  These characteristics aid in determining the sideboards for the company’s journey toward their desired future position and in adapting to change as needed.

 Wisdom great leaders draw upon:

  • Allows learning from their experiences.
  • Provides the opportunity to learn from other leaders and businesses.
  • Is derived by listening to advice from those who have been successful in the past.
  • Is gained by evaluating what is occurring within their business environment.
  • Is the result of constantly seeking insight, knowledge, and information.
  • Aids in reviewing their position on issues and adjusting said position when needed.
  • Arises from a solid understanding of human nature.
  • Includes their ability to measure and evaluate the inner qualities of others.
  • Improves their ability to size up and evaluate situations faced.
  • Is rooted in common sense and good judgement.
  • Is based upon deeply held personal direction or beliefs.

The wisdom of great leaders yields better decisions, and therefore better results, in moving their company successfully into the future.

The skill set of great leaders includes:

  • A business acumen.
  • Their technical and professional training and background within their industry.
  • Sound, objective interpretation of data, trends, and statistics.
  • The capacity:
    • To facilitate the development of a promising, yet flexible, strategic plan.
    • To evaluate the company’s niche, where it is going, and in predicting the future wishes and needs of consumers.
    • To evaluate risks.
    • To review and comprehend financial options and make financial decisions.
    • To make sound operational decisions.
    • To hire great employees.
    • To tell their company’s story and thus convince potential investors and employees to join up for the journey.
    • To market and sell their product.
    • To coach.
    • To adjust their personality type, if needed, to improve their leadership effectiveness.

The skill set held by great leaders assists in setting direction, goals, and objectives for employees, telling their story to potential investors, and in selling their products to customers.  Their skill set should be grounded in the technical, mechanical, or business management nuances of their company and augmented by their capability to make great decisions.

 Abilities great leaders hold or develop include:

  • To communicate and articulate.
  • To sell themselves, their end products, and the company mission.
  • To utilize an appropriate perspective in their quest to meet their specific vision. (Insight.)
  • To comprehend implicit issues in accomplishing their vision, based upon the size, scope, and complexity of this perspective.
  • To execute their strategic plan.
  • To make sound decisions.
  • To think issues through.
  • To prioritize.
  • To inspire and motivate employees, across the full spectrum of the company, representing differing backgrounds, cultures, and internally held personal motives.
  • To focus themselves and others.
  • To stay on task, on track, and on message.
  • To delegate.
  • To instill confidence in others.
  • To facilitate discussions leading to outstanding concepts, ideas, and solutions.
  • To adapt to change and lead others through the process.
  • To generate a winning, can-do, optimistic culture within the organization.
  • To create a teamwork environment and approach.
  • To listen.
  • To process information quickly.
  • To bring out the best in people.
  • To set the bar higher.
  • To develop and take on a leadership role, attitude, and approach.
  • To transform their personality, i.e., the ability to learn, evolve, change, and improve.
  • To ask the right questions at the correct time.
  • To keep track of the niche their business model resides in.
  • To remain positive, optimistic, and steadfast in the face of setbacks.

Great leaders must possess the ability to: motivate investors, customers, and employees; stay focused; adapt to change; execute and obtain results; and prioritize.

Internally held beliefs of great leaders include:

  • Their core values. (Including transparency.)
  • Their principles. (Winning is everything.)
  • Confidence.
  • Positive outlook.
  • Holding themselves accountable.
  • Accepting responsibility.
  • Holding high standards for themselves and for the company.
  • Good habits.
  • Humility.
  • The “reasons” behind why they provide direction and how they provide that direction.
  • A corporate moral responsibility.
  • Respect for others.
  • Understanding confidence, attitude, and approach are everything in the moment and honesty and integrity are everything in the long run.

The beliefs great leaders display and follow, will convince investors, connect with customers, and gain the trust of employees.  The beliefs, principles, and core values of great leaders will be a driving force in establishing the culture, goals, and objectives for the company and thus setting it up for success.

Emotional intelligence of great leaders includes:

  • Their level of personal emotional and intellectual awareness.
  • Self-understanding, self-evaluation and critique, self-monitoring, self-motivated, and self-controlled.
  • Understanding when their personality type or exhibited characteristics need modification.
  • Knowing how to build confidence within their employees.
  • Understanding trust is earned.
  • An understanding of, and appreciation for, other people’s feelings.
  • Knowing when to appeal to the feelings and emotions of people as part of their approach.
  • Compassion.
  • Nurturing.
  • Mentoring.
  • Understands strengths and weaknesses of both themselves and others.
  • Creating an atmosphere where employees’ strengths and weaknesses become complementary to each other and thus benefiting the company.
  • Understanding CEO leadership is a responsibility and not a right.
  • Understanding the need to keep the company moving forward, to maintain morale, and to remain optimistic.
  • Understanding when they have been wrong on a subject and willing to own up to said error.
  • Understanding wars are not won by strategy and words alone. Sometimes to stay connected, leaders must be hands-on, out in the field, working in the trenches, or getting dirty alongside of their employees.
  • Understanding the increased productivity resulting from employee self-esteem which may be generated through intrinsic values the company adds to society. These values must be engrained as important within the company culture and touted as benefits of the products produced for consumers.

A great leader’s emotional intelligence will assist in communicating with employees, marketing their products, and taking their company to the next level.  It is centered upon a self-understanding of the leader’s personality and their ability to adjust said personality in order to become a more effective leader.

How great leaders are perceived by others:

  • As visionary.
  • Based upon their actions. (Actions speak louder than words.)
  • Based upon the justifications presented for decisions made and actions taken.
  • With a positive and optimistic attitude and approach.
  • As winners.
  • As a result of their persona.
  • As the result of their charisma.
  • As vibrant.
  • As bright.
  • As competent.
  • As outgoing and upbeat.
  • As flexible and adaptive.
  • Because of their ability to connect to people.
  • Because of how they make people feel.
  • As bigger than life.
  • By exhibiting sincerity.
  • As polite.
  • As respectful.
  • As objective.
  • As consistent.
  • As fair.
  • As logical.
  • As inspirational.
  • As open.
  • As approachable.
  • As relentless and determined in reaching their goals.

How a leader is perceived will be directly correlated to how they connect, inspire, motivate, and/or captivate the imagination of employees, investors, and customers.

How great leaders interact with employees centers upon:

  • Their ability to motivate, influence, and persuade in unleashing people’s full potential.
  • Their ability to successfully challenge people to rise to the occasion.
  • Their ability to align the internally held motives of employees with the mission of the company.
  • Presenting ideas, concepts, and direction in a distinct, understandable manner which is comprehended, appreciated, and then implemented successfully by others.
  • How they deal with difficult people.
  • How they deal with conflict.
  • How they deal with mistakes and failures.
  • How they accomplish their oversight. (Do they allow people to do their jobs with suggestions or do they micro-manage?)
  • Providing constructive feedback.
  • Abhorring groupthink.
  • Empowering employees.
  • Treating others with dignity.
  • Coaching.
  • Mentoring.
  • Focused on developing managerial and leadership skills within their employees for the future.
  • Listening, and then acknowledging or summarizing, to show they care about what others are saying.
  • Their openness to employee generated ideas, innovation, feedback, and dissenting points of view on issues, in their efforts to reach the best decisions for the company.

How leaders deal with employees will directly influence the level of productivity, engagement, and commitment they obtain from those employees.

How great leaders deal with situations by:

  • Willingly accepting challenges.
  • Embracing the need for change, and in the process, searching for and capturing potential opportunities.
  • Maintaining a deliberate, focused, optimistic approach.
  • Systematically evaluating situations as they arise and developing measured and calculated responses.
  • Making informed decisions.
  • Facilitating the generation of resolutions (strategy) and then leading the implementation of those resolutions.
  • Acting in a timely fashion.
  • Staying ahead of the curve whenever possible rather than operating in a crisis mode.

Great leaders realize every second lost in dealing with issues, allows their competition an opportunity to gain traction on them.  Dealing with foreseen and unforeseen issues is an important role of great leaders.  The faster they identify, evaluate, and resolve issues, protects the company’s bottom-line and their potential for future success.

Great leaders accomplish work through:

  • Focusing on execution and results.
  • A driven attitude and approach.
  • A profound passion.
  • Seeking exceptional solutions.
  • Persistence in solving problems quickly.
  • Remaining mindful of the examples they set.
  • Encouraging and rewarding new ideas and innovation.
  • Tirelessly setting milestones, reaching goals, accomplishing objectives, and pursuing the company mission and vision.
  • Constantly moving forward.
  • Setting priorities.
  • Taking decisive actions.
  • Reaching difficult decisions in a timely manner.
  • Taking calculated risks.
  • Remaining flexible.
  • Announcing, celebrating, and rewarding important accomplishments.
  • Discipline.
  • Dedication.
  • Determination.
  • Approaching issues, and the need for change, proactively rather than reactively.
  • Exhibiting common sense.
  • A focused mindset.
  • Attention to details, data, and analytics.
  • Utilizing feelings and emotions as part of their approach.
  • Finding the good within bad situations.
  • Giving credit where due.
  • Holding people accountable by tying back to the company’s mission, goals, and objectives.
  • Encouraging teamwork.
  • Constantly evaluating opportunities.
  • Turning setbacks into rallying points.

How great leaders work will set the tone and the standards followed by their employees. The approach of great leaders toward their work will also provide the company with a competitive edge within their business environment.  These two factors when combined, will help the company in accomplishing their shared mission, goals, and objectives in staying ahead of the competition.

Conclusions: Great leaders, in moving their companies successfully into the future, exhibit overlapping positive characteristics from several interrelated areas.  A leader’s internal drive, a balanced approach, and a winning viewpoint, coupled with the ability to lead, execute, and adapt to change, will yield exceptional results over the long term.  This is accomplished through fostering teamwork, empowering employees, setting the bar higher, effective communications, and a shared dedication to a strongly held vision/mission.  Great leaders, via their characteristics, create vibrant, optimistic, can-do organizations which build upon their own success and internal culture while standing the test of time.

Feature Image by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA.  This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Leadership’s Role In Fostering Teamwork


This article outlines the importance of a leadership inspired teamwork culture in positioning a company for success.  Leadership must be directly engaged in:

  • Implementing the company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives.
  • Delivering services to customers.
  • Providing for their employees.
  • Being a responsible business owner/CEO.
  • Monitoring the company bottom-line.

Leadership must also be focused on creating a culture which produces exceptional teamwork, across all departments, divisions, and locations, to accomplish required tasks within these five areas.

No matter what foundations you wish to instill within your company culture, the approach starts at the top!  For example, if upper management is not focused on safety, the company will not be focused on safety.  If upper management is not focused on innovation, the company will not be focused on innovation.  If the CEO does not live, breath, exhibit, and promote a teamwork culture, the company will not develop a teamwork environment.

It is not a complex concept.  It is a way of life, a direction, and a consciously set keystone priority.  It does not make any difference how you look at it: sport franchises which function as a team produce better results; military units which function as a team accomplish more; and businesses which operate within a teamwork culture are more successful.

Teamwork becomes a part of an organization because leadership holds it as a core value.  Leaders must be totally dedicated to making teamwork a part of their company’s culture.  They must display a commitment to teamwork in:

  • The direction they provide.
  • The goals, objectives, and milestones they set.
  • The actions they take.
  • The principles they expound.

Leadership must understand and appreciate the importance of teamwork to their employees’ productivity, attitude, and approach.  They must also focus in on seeking new hires with a proven commitment to teamwork.

Leaders build teamwork centered organizations in order to:

  • Improve the bottom-line.
  • Increase productivity.
  • Enhance innovation.
  • Facilitate problem solving.
  • Adapt to change and seek silver linings in the process.
  • Encourage optimism about the future.
  • Inspire greatness.
  • Successfully face challenges.
  • Stay ahead of the competition.
  • Motivate employees.

What are the trademarks of a leader created teamwork environment?

  • Positive results and outcomes.
  • Buy-in from everyone.
  • Working for the common good.
  • Working together to solve problems.
  • Open, respectful discussions which yield new ideas and solutions.
  • Encouragement and mentoring.
  • The feeling of excitement or exhilaration from vital accomplishments.
  • Selfless motives exhibited by employees, who are focused upon what is best for the organization.
  • Working easily across artificial organizational barriers.
  • Outstanding working relationships between people and departments.
  • Motivated, engaged, committed, and productive employees.
  • Winning attitudes and a “can-do” spirit.
  • Ability to adapt to change.
  • Using setbacks as a rallying point and motivator. (Refuse to lose.)
  • Successes are shared company wide.
  • Leadership and management accept responsibility for failures.

How does a teamwork centered organization function and succeed? 

  • Leadership’s commitment to teamwork, fosters an environment where each employee, regardless of their specific contribution to the company, is 110% dedicated to meeting the same goals, objectives, and mission of the company as everyone else.
  • Each employee must fully understand that working in concert with every other employee within the company, requires they put aside their personal, professional, or departmental agendas for the greater good of the organization.
  • Employees must focus their time, energy, and priorities on contributing to the company’s success and bottom-line, in a coordinated effort.
  • If the company requires products, services, or materials from other companies, leadership, management, and employees must also work to promote the same type of teamwork approach with these critical assets to their company’s success.

Bottom-line: Building a successful teamwork environment begins with the leader’s core values, priorities, approach, and dedication.  It results in a win-win for the company and the employees.


Damon Foreman Music Academy Joins Leading Maryland

Damon Foreman

We are excited to have one of the best music schools in Howard County as a member of Leading Maryland.

Music as well as education has been a lifelong passion for Damon Foreman, owner of the Damon Foreman Music Academy.  Through music, he has been able to travel worldwide and perform at some the worlds best venues.   Damon studied music performance at Rutgers University and has a BA in Guitar Performance.  He has created seven music albums, some of which can be purchased on CD Baby.

See the Damon Foreman Music Academy listing here.



Hunt Valley Business Forum Partners With Leading Maryland



We are excited to announce that Hunt Valley Business Forum has partnered with Leading Maryland.  Our team of business executives and educators will collaborate with Hunt Valley Business Forum to provide additional business and leadership resources for their members.

Our members may want to expand their networking and business knowledgebase and learn more about becoming a member of the Hunt Valley Business Forum here.

Leadership’s Goals In Asking Pertinent Questions


The value derived by leadership, from asking well-thought-out questions, is found in two areas:

  • Constantly reaching better solutions to problems and issues confronting a company.
  • Building for the future of a company through leadership-initiated employee development.

Leaders wear many hats within successful companies.  They inspire, point the way, make decisions, and set milestones.  They should also play a key role in the company by asking meaningful questions.

There are four distinct reasons why leaders should ask questions:

  • To engage their staff and employees in the process of making the company successful and thus involving them as an integral part of that success. This promotes employee self-esteem, dedication to the company, and buy-in with decisions made.
  • To encourage their staff and employees to be critical and creative thinkers.
  • To foster a culture where employee generated problem solving, new ideas, and innovations are encouraged at every level of the company to stay ahead of the competition and improve the bottom-line.
  • To stay in touch with important day to day operational details within the company.

Dynamic leaders have insight, a dream, a vision, and/or the drive to be successful.  They are constantly involved in answering key questions, making decisions, and moving the company forward.  Leaders also have a responsibility to develop their employees in the process of building their companies: to make the company more competitive, to help solve problems, to encourage innovatively, and to be able to adapt to change.  Therefore, great leaders must spend time, energy, and their own personal capital in asking measured questions which will help in developing skills, abilities, and the self-confidence of their staff and employees.  Investments by leaders in these areas will help staff and employees perform their current jobs better, prepare them for higher-level positions, and contribute to the overall success of the company.

Leaders can enhance the skills and abilities of their employees by:

  • Asking the employee to present “possible answers” to appropriate questions they have posed to the leader, rather than answering them outright.
  • Anticipating when a question will need to be answered and then asking said question of key employees at the correct time.
  • Understanding when an issue or concern is not being fully evaluated and asking questions of the employee(s) which will broaden their viewpoint or perspective on that issue.
  • Asking questions which will help employees unlock ideas and solutions based upon their own experiences and background, allowing them to buy into those solutions, and helping them to build their confidence in the process.
  • Asking questions which will help employees prioritize their actions.
  • Asking questions which will help employees view a problem from the standpoint of other divisions of the company or other employees impacted by the problem.
  • Asking subordinates to justify their statements or stance with facts and numbers rather than feelings and beliefs.
  • Asking employees to help find solutions to complicated and/or difficult situations the company is facing.

In understanding what questions might need to be asked, leaders must know what their business niche is, where it is going, and how their business model fits into the larger market scheme.  They need to anticipate when changes might be on the horizon within their industry.  They must stay in touch with potential changes in consumer demands.  They should keep track of national economic trends and how they might impact their bottom-line situation.  They must also stay in touch with what is happening on the sales room floor, in the factory, or at the warehouse.

The goal of asking questions may include trying to focus employees on:

Company mission, goals, and objectives.

Customer service and satisfaction.

Product quality and/or price.

Current priorities and away from distractions.

Problem solving.

Seeking innovations.

Finding the root cause of their issue.

Fostering teamwork.

Strengthening company culture.

Improving the company bottom-line.

Building buy-in on decisions needed.

Building the future of the company.

Dealing with change.

Dealing with conflict.

Unlocking their ability to find their own solutions to problems.

Developing their self-esteem and sense of self-worth (value) within the company.

Growing within their position and potential future positions.

To gain the greatest value, leaders must learn to ask questions of their employees at the correct time and in the proper situation.  Leaders should pose questions to those employees which hold insight into a specific issue.  The correct time to ask a question is when you can be proactive on an issue rather than reactive to a problem created by that issue.  The best place to ask a question is in the location which will result in the greatest chance for success in finding the best answer.  In certain situations, it might be in a private one-on-one chat.  For others, it might mean in a group setting where the question can be discussed by several people.  In certain cases, it might be next to the assembly line machine which is constantly breaking down and needs to be modified to remedy the problem.  This question needs to be posed to the engineer who designed/installed it in the first place, their boss, and the employees using the machine.

Three questions, relating to a hypothetical Midwest regional chain of truck stops, are presented to illustrate a few of the concepts above:

  • To engage employees with a question linked to the bottom-line, an owner might ask: “Should we consider adding self-checkout lanes in our convenience stores, like big-box stores have done, to reduce the costs of employing checkers?” (Issues involved: possible increases in theft rates; the cost to install more security cameras; the costs of programming and tracking of in-store produced, non-barcoded products, such as soda pop, coffee, or hot dogs; and the cost and remodeling involved with installing new self-checkout lanes.)
  • To encourage employees to contribute to the future direction of the company, an owner might ask: “If in ten years, 50% of all trucks on the freeways will be autonomous, how will this impact the services we will need to be providing to our historic customers in the trucking industry?” (Responses might include: adding shop trucks and technicians capable of analyzing problems, and then repairing, the computers operating those autonomous trucks out on the highway when they breakdown. Adding tractor trailer wrecker services and increasing the size of their traditional truck repair service shops.  This would allow them to bring disabled trucks (both autonomous and human-operated) back to their facilities to complete needed mechanical repairs and thus better utilize the space available on their properties as the direct result of lower autonomous truck visitation rates.)
  • To solicit ideas and react to change, an owner might ask: “If those 50% of autonomous trucks are no longer stopping at our stations, how could we modify our business model to replace lost revenues?” (Responses might include: changing the model to encourage more automobiles to stop at their stations, adding services such as full-scale restaurants – versus just fast food, looking into providing services needed by the local communities, and/or adding motels to their footprint.)

Leaders must make the decision to ask appropriate questions in their efforts to resolve issues, develop their employees, make the company better, and to improve the company bottom-line.  It is their responsibility to lead the company and its employees into the future.  If a leader’s goals are to have their employees fully engaged and willing to help move the company to the top of their industry, then that leader must know how to use great, discerning questions, at the appropriate time, to capture and utilize the creative genius of those employees.

Featured Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Coasting, Growing or Dissolving; Look to your Culture


No less than doctors and healthcare are practicing medicine than corporations are also practicing Business. We’ve not found perfection in either and while it’s no one’s fault, we must keep searching for optimization; the perfect blend of conscious design and a profitable approach.

Organizations typically use protocols or best practices (of the time) as their guiding script for action.  Doing so allows individual and the collective workforce to understand expectations and while in the beginning, it’s necessary to exert additional energy, ultimately we learn the “new way”, which quickly dissipates to unconscious actions with very little energy utilized.  In other words we can begin coasting.  What are the costs of coasting as a person?  What are the costs of coasting as a company? Leaders, we must sincerely and bravely dare to ask, “Is our organization coasting with the goal of stasis or evolving with the times?  Have we institutionalized a growth mindset or a comfort and conformity mindset?”

How many of us just want to coast?  Why strive?  Why yearn for something better? Accept what is, right?   It’s so much easier, isn’t it?  OR, does this stagnate, mental-state steal away our individual and organizational spark, life and vigor?

The practice of operating unconsciously is both a blessing and a curse.  The obvious blessing is that we save tremendous amounts of energy by having habituated our daily tasks. We don’t require near the focus and concentration we did when we were first learning the role.

The real threat here is one that exists in every person and consequently every organization is what happens when stasis or unconscious, habitual action is our end game? This tendency drives one toward comfort and protection of that comfort both of which, are a death sentence to growth.   When stagnation and mediocrity become the status quo and everything new and outside of current practices are seen as a threat to the status quo, what kind of culture does this describe?  A dying one, I believe.  Some organizations we can see nearly dissolving in front of us.

One cannot thrive when the goals are to continue to do the same things over and over.  We as people are simply not wired for repetition, but require novelty to increase and maintain energy in our lives and spirits.   The sooner organizations become more employee-centric the sooner they will realize exponential growth.  Employees automatically become more invested in an employer when the employer becomes more personally invested in them.  Taking the time to understand an employee’s personal goals and values is an outstanding way to ensure (as an employer) we are providing the rewards and culture important to our talent.  Practicing the actions that help employers get to know their employees individually and collectively creates the energetic bonds that lead to greater tolerance for complexity and adaptability; two central factors recognized for business success today.

The very simple and similarly very complex matter at hand is that most of our organizations are no longer aligned; not to organizational purpose or even what attracts and retains top talent.  Ask any CEO today and he or she will tell you talent attraction, engagement and retention are the most serious and difficult strategic and competitive challenges they face.

Yet, to do something different, something would have to change.  The question is, would you rather that change be designed by you or forced upon you.  These are really the only two options; evolve and change with the times or do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

Listen, I get it.  Change is hard and while you initially may want to respond with “no thanks, its good enough”.   What you may not remember or even know is what you are missing by not changing.

I invite you to think about it this way (and isn’t it all mental?). Think about when you first learned to drive a car or use a computer. You had to change how you thought and operated to be good at either and now you’re likely quite accomplished in both! This simple example demonstrates at first you didn’t know what you needed to know and with it came a little anxiety. However, over time the understanding came and came quickly, and what have become the new habits and ways of thinking are now enabling you to accomplish your goal(s)!

In other words, what once was seen as a huge hurdle, learning to drive or use a computer is now something you probably do unconsciously today.  Looking back you can see that, the effort made long ago was exactly what made “the doing” so easy today.

We may have also noticed that when we get on the other side of a change we often think, why didn’t I do this sooner? Obviously, something keeps us from stepping out of our comfort zones.  It’s time to start identifying what it is that may be keeping us stuck, be it intrapersonal or collectively be it People, Processes or Systems.  It can only be one or a combination of all of these (which, it is for many of us).

Evaluating issues to be systemic, procedural or talent-based is a great beginning for coming to a conscious understanding of an approach designed to align with organizational purpose.

A consciously designed organization will reflect and be supported by talent, innovation and culture; made evident by passionately pursuing the highest good for all stakeholders.

When we face another hurdle whether it is a new job, better results for your team or starting a new business we can remember “what once was difficult, I now take for granted how easily I can do these things.  My next challenge will be the same; a little extra effort and a lifetime of new skills and positive habits will be my reward. Besides… to date, I’ve already proven I can overcome any challenge I’ve faced. Right?!”

It’s time, have faith and start sooner to get what you desire.  Otherwise, ask yourself what’s it costing you to stay the same?

By: Ryan McShane

Ryan McShane is the President/CEO of HR Evolution a local HR, Leadership Development and Career Consulting Company supporting individuals in career transition and businesses with HR, Workforce, Training and Leadership challenges.


Featured Image by rawpixel from Pixabay


Bill Gates On Making One Of His Biggest Mistakes

Bill Gates

Recently, Bill Gates, sat down with Eventbrite co-founder and CEO Julia Hartz to discuss the many decisions involved in starting and maintaining a growing business.   Bill Gates talks about how he has evolved as a leader and the many challenges of work-life balance.

We found the article on Tech Crunch.  Feel free to read the entire article here.

Featured Image by Won-hyoung 김원형 from Pixabay

Emotional Intelligence and It’s Impact on Revenue

Emotional Intelligence also referred to as EQ has a significant impact on relationships, communication, conflict and change management or the lack thereof within teams and across organizations. What can EQ do for you and your team? Watch and find out.

What the Best Leaders Know: It’s an Inside Job

entrepreneurs Leading Maryland Article

Leaders and entrepreneurs alike are known to blaze trails and find creative ways to build wealth for their company.  From the outside, most see wealth creation as the common measurement of a quality leader or entrepreneur; however, the best leaders know what preceded wealth creation, and it started from within.

While the entire world surrounding our corporate structures has changed and evolved significantly, it’s quite remarkable that our leadership and organizational approach has largely stayed the same for over 140 years.  That said, it’s the best of leaders and entrepreneurs alike who have the courage to diverge from the pack.

This article will examine common questions for leaders and entrepreneurs: how to hire talent, how to engage staff in organizational purpose, how to establish a purpose driven culture and how to customize our approach to meet individual stakeholder needs.


The best leaders and entrepreneurs recognize none of the external pillars of business success can occur without first focusing on the person behind the competencies and skills doing the work.  In other words, they take care of their top talent!

Top talent typically have several career options so, as an employer, it’s vital to take care of those who take care of you. This is also true of the sole proprietor of a startup. After evaluating the cost/benefit and appropriate fit for the organization, if the analysis leads to a decision to hire, we then must develop and support our talent.

“In the earliest stages of growth, the right hire can be rocket fuel. The wrong hire can be a disaster,” according to Tor Constantino, ghost writer for Entrepreneaur.com in the article titled, “4 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Consider Before Hiring Their First, or Next, Employee.”

Constantino cites the following questions common to entrepreneurs when considering how to grow their company.

Should they hire a family member?

The best fit is the focus, not necessarily who.  While it may be easy and convenient to hire a family member, first consider if the relationship can storm the worst.  If you have to terminate the employment relationship, will this affect the personal relationship?  If so, you’re better off finding someone outside the family.  Again, the better placed focus is on the skills and competencies most aligned with the vision, mission and function to be performed.  How does the new hire add to the collective goals, and are these person’s skills and competencies complimentary or duplicative?  The new hire, to best earn their value, will enable efficiency and have expertise that you as the leader or entrepreneur do not, and vice versa. We can also see here the business case for diversity among teams and organizations.

Should the person be brought on as a contractor, or as a part-time or full-time employee?

The answer to this question is at the end of pure number crunching.  One must consider the market value, hence the compensation rate, the expected revenue generated by the new hire and the difference between the two to determine the most efficient means of accumulating the greatest revenue with the least costs to the company.  Contractors provide the flexibility and limited costs comparable to full time employment that are attractive to entrepreneurs.  However, lacking an official employee/employer relationship may not secure the desired talent, leaving him or her to potentially seek more security through other opportunities (and possibly with the competition).  Therefore, the kind of employment relationship must also be a top consideration for the entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.

Should they work onsite or remotely?

The answer to this question comes down to the function and level of face to face interaction necessary to successfully perform the position.  Gone are the days of “If I don’t see you at your desk, then you’re not working” mentality.  No, technology has enabled work to be accomplished almost anywhere.  However, what needs to evolve is how we measure productivity and accountability for performance.  Personally, I see the positives for remote work being a shift in focus to meritorious outcomes of our work, rather than simply a presence in the work site.

Should they be US-based or ex-US?

Evaluation of employing US based employees or persons outside of the US comes down to cost vs. benefit, as well.   Ask yourself, what advantages are realized through employment of US persons or non-US persons?  Developing a pro or con list may also be helpful too.

While most leaders and entrepreneurs are focused solely on an efficient operational model, a quality product, good service and high profit margins, human or person-centered organizations place people at the center of their business model.  The approach ensures people are not an afterthought to business processes but an integral part of the business processes themselves.  By doing so, organizations further engage staff in the direction of the company, enhancing commitment to positive business outcomes.


“Change makes people feel like they are part of the problem, while evolution makes people feel like they are part of the solution”, according to Glenn Llopis, VIP Contributor of Entrepreneaur.com.  Are staff told they must change, or are they expected to evolve?  This may seem like rhetoric to some; however, the approach is significantly different in how it’s viewed by those expected “to do” differently.

The difference in expectation is one of reaction or innovation, says Llopis.  Are we standing back to determine what is needed and align our approach based on this question or are we simply reacting to market and clientele needs? Are our current systems aligned with our intentions (vision) or are we realizing certain functions, approached and behaviors are no longer supportive and possibly even a detriment to the company’s intended purpose?

Very simply, evolving is a participatory approach to aligning functions to meet intended outcomes to advance the organizational purpose.  Whereas changes are more often than not reactive and do not consider the entire system in response.


Once we hire and impart the vision and mission and how the function contributes to each, leaders are well served to ensure cultural norms are in place to perpetuate the kind of work environment desired by staff and are most conducive to productivity, collaboration and relationship development.

While many leaders and boards of directors are typically focused on quantitative measures of productivity, costs and revenue; it’s the most progressive and accomplished of which that provides equal focus on the culture that supports a growth mindset for staff, enabling innovation and a competitive edge over others in the market.

However, we have seen the inverse is true too, that when boards are so focused on profit that they don’t care how the money is made, which often leads to toxic cultures, rampant harassment, and other behaviors that break down the culture and lead to top talent to leave the organization for less stressful and more supportive environments.

According to Nithya Das, guest writer for Entrepreneur.com leaders and board members should be asking their organizations the following five questions to ensure environments of inclusivity:

  1. Is the leadership team operating with a high level of professionalism and integrity? Do they value diversity and inclusion?
  2. Do legal and HR have a seat at the table in making key strategy, organizational and business decisions?
  3. Does the company have published policies, processes and trainings so employees easily understand what type of behavior is unacceptable and what to do if they have a problem?
  4. What is the company’s strategy to create a diverse and inclusive environment on the board and in the office?
  5. Does the board have oversight and access to management, so as to be informed about the company’s internal controls and policies and when the same are violated?

 I have to wonder whether VW, the Weinstein Company and others in the news recently for illegal behavior, had they asked these questions and not been solely focused on finances could have avoided the behaviors that, ultimately created financial devastation for the companies and their stakeholders.

 No more one size fits all

 The approach today is no longer “Build it and they will come”, but one of “What is the need and how can we provide that better than anyone else?”  Once we identify the “what”, we then identify the “how”.  How we are going to provide our products or services considers the make-up of our workforce.

The largest and most diverse generation to date, Millennials are soon to become the majority demographic by 2025, making up 75% of the total workforce.

The generational values of Millennials are found to be highly altruistic and much less focused on accumulation of wealth or status, as was a more predominant value in prior generations of Gen X, Boomers and Veterans.  As such, what motivated staff in the past through extrinsic rewards will not motivate this generation who is more intrinsically motivated.

Glenn Llopis, VIP Contributor of Entrepreneur.com suggests we pause and step back for a moment to evaluate the big questions with our staff, asking, “What are you solving for? Are we adding value? What makes us great?  How are we serving each customer?

Notice none of these questions include any financial aspect, market data or revenue goals.    Each starts with the fundamental notion of why are we here, what do we want to do, how do we want to do it, and how do we want to be seen by our target market.  This is a highly individuated focus of who do we want to be and how can we best be that?

By focusing on answering these questions first, prior to any financial-based questions ensures a culture and workforce aligned with purpose and consequently creates uniformity of intention among the workforce and clear messaging of value for the targeted market.

The best leaders and entrepreneurs know that wealth and business success are preceded by purpose and vision; a consciously designed state of the future organization that is so attractive that it compels the workforce to be guided by the new vision.

Leaders who initiate systems and cultures that align purpose with function are best equipped to realize their vision.  To do otherwise is putting the cart before the horse!  Yet, how often is this exactly what happens when leaders and entrepreneurs only look for the external measures of success?

By: Ryan McShane, President, HR Evolution LLC,  RyanM@marc3solutions.com

HR Evolution provides small to medium sized businesses Fortune 500 Level Resources, creating “High Performance Organizations” with Greater Profit, Top Talent, and Outstanding Culture.

Contact Ryan to get the results that, elevate individuals and organizations to their highest potential.

View Ryan’s website at:  www.HRevolutionllc.com


Nineteen catch phrases for managers and leaders to enhance communication skills.

Catch Phrases Leading Maryland Article


  1. Speak to the common person and you will be understood by most. Speak to your peers and you may be understood by only a few.

If you communicate technical information and concepts in a fashion the lay person on the street can grasp and understand, you will be more successful over time at transmitting your message to more people.

  1. The three most important concepts to retail business before the internet were “Location, Location, and Location”, and the three most important keys to business communications are “Listen, Listen, and Listen.”

We all want to be heard.  To be an effective communicator, you must actively aspire to hear what others have to say, and be willing to appreciate their point of view.  Then, you must clearly demonstrate you heard and understood what they have presented.  (Number 3 below, applies after you have learned to be a good listener.)

  1. Ask questions, before you start speaking, to ensure you understand the other person’s story completely.

Always remain open.  Never stop learning and pursuing the truth.  There will be adequate time to get your two cents worth in at an appropriate point in the conversation.

  1. Sort out BFF. (Beliefs vs. Feeling vs. Facts.)

To fully comprehend another person’s position, distinguish between the facts they present, the beliefs they hold, and the feelings they express.  Remember the interpretation and meaning of the exact same facts often vary widely among individuals, based upon such things as their perspective and motivation.

  1. Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Take the time to concisely articulate what you really need to convey, especially in writing.  This is clearly a developed skill.  With the ambiguities of language, it is easy to have your message misinterpreted.

  1. Would I buy a used car from that person?

In the vast majority of circumstances, it is best to give others the benefit of the doubt.  However, natural instincts and feelings can sometimes assist your communications skills by providing feedback.  Be vigilant to warning signs.  Unfortunately, there are individuals who will intentionally misrepresent the truth to promote their own agendas.

  1. What do you talk about at lunch, or when you socialize with your co-workers: people, events, or ideas and concepts?

Those who focus their conversations and energy on ideas and concepts are often the ones who bring forth new innovations, profound ideas, and meaningful change to fruition.

  1. Encourage, expect, reward, and be totally open to: discussion, honest challenges, dissenting opinions, and new ideas which will allow your group to fully explore all realistic opportunities.

Actively engage each member of your group to participate in discussions.  As important, seek to explore any underlying issue(s) when someone is having trouble coming on-board.  Honestly caring enough to get to the bottom of their concern(s) may help to bring them along.  It might also help to shine a light on an important point they have been quietly chewing on.

  1. Know when to facilitate a group conversation.

Time is money.  It is your responsibility to bring the discussion back to the task at hand and sense when to put side-tracking issues on a “to do” list for later consideration.

  1. Be transparent to all when others are correct and/or you were mistaken.

Willingly acknowledge another’s accuracy and/or your own errors.  In so doing, everyone will trust you are open to challenges in your pursuit of the truth and in seeking to accomplish your mission.  “Coming Clean” always builds credibility.

  1. Walk the talk. Be truthful.  Be consistent.  Be on point.

One of the worst things you can do is speak out of both sides of your mouth.

  1. Actions speak louder than words.

Some people get things done, others pontificate, or take credit.  Make sure when the discussions have been adequate, you become the doer, the torch bearer, the motivator, and openly give credit where due.

  1. Endeavor to be positive and upbeat in all discussions.

Focus and frame your discussions on: organizational goals, objectives, mission, and core ideology.  Accentuate and foster: cooperation, problem solving, teamwork – across all boundaries, creativeness, enthusiasm, and optimism.  Always seek to improve customer service and relationships, (both internal and external).

  1. Never argue or debate.

Even if you win the debate, you lose, because the other person comes away embarrassed, or wounded, and often times more entrenched in their position.  Seek ways, even when you truly disagree, to move the discussion to a positive outcome.  Attempt to explore areas of common ground and agreement between both parties, which will build trust and more open discussion on the points in conflict.

  1. When you have a critically important message to deliver: 1) write it down, 2) deliver it orally, 3) hand it to the other person on paper, and 4) make them articulate back to you what you just said.


  1. Never rely solely on oral conversations for any business transactions.


  1. In conflict or disagreement, conduct your conversations in a manner which shows respect and protects the dignity of all people involved.

In doing so, when the smoke has cleared, the healing can hopefully begin sooner than later.

  1. Request, imply, mentor, ask questions, seek input, coach, or make suggestions.

Avoid giving orders unless you have no other choice.

  1. KISS.

Keep it sweet, simple, and to the point.