Great Leaders Pay Attention to Tension

A while back I was having a conversation with a respected leader who used an interesting phrase. He said he likes to pay “attention to tension,” whenever he is feeling it.

If you stop and think about it, his philosophy is almost counterintuitive. Most leaders try to avoid tension.

If you want to be a great leader, I suggest you embrace my friend’s practice of giving attention to your tension.

Leadership, by its nature, will always have those moments where your instincts will speak to you. You will have a “feeling” that something just isn’t right.

One leader I know calls it the “cringe factor.” Others call it a leaders intuition. Whatever you call it, don’t ignore it.

I think you will find it is much easier to tackle something head on than it is to let it fester.

Tension can be a good thing. It brings great gain to athletes in the weight room, on the track, and in the pool. It can do the same for a leader in the boardroom.

Strong leaders are forged by embracing tension. Weak leaders chase comfort.

“Attention to tension.” Practiced by few, but a valuable discipline for anyone who wants to become a better leader.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are the consequences of avoiding the “tensions” of leadership?

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When is the Last Time You Went Barefoot?

“It is so good to see you, Daddy.” Not the words I expected to hear after work yesterday, but spoken nonetheless.

My reply, “You see me every day. We live in the same house,” fell on deaf ears.

“Yes, but do we really see each other?” came my daughter’s retort.

It is a great question.

For the last several days, I have been pondering a verse from Victorian poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It comes from book VII of her novel in verse, Aurora Leigh.

“Earth is crammed with Heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware

More and more, from the first similitude.”

The lines remind me that the earth is brimming with people that need to really see each other and places that can only be enjoyed when we take our shoes off and go barefoot. But for some reason, I seem to sit around with my shoes on missing the real thing. Settling instead for some empty substitute.

A glimpse of Heaven can be seen in the eyes of the single mom who works the counter at the grocery store. When you get down on your knees and talk to a preschooler in the church lobby. In the reading of a story book and the smile that results when your little girl is tucked in tight at night. In a kiss at the end of the day.

“Yes, but do we really see each other?”

Somehow we miss the checkout clerk, ignoring her as we browse our phone messages. Toddlers are not important enough for us to stoop to their level. Stories go unread, and kisses are withheld.

The fire of God burns bright in the common moments all around us and yet we settle for plucking the blackberries of pleasure, sadly unaware of His presence, refusing to go barefoot.

I’m guessing there is someone you need to “see” today. Someone you have been overlooking. Maybe even someone you live with?

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Only he who sees takes off his shoes. And only the one who is barefoot recognizes the Divine in the mundane.

Open your eyes today!

Leadership Begins at Home,


Do you ever find yourself too preoccupied to really “see” the people who are right in front of you?


You Can Only Have One Priority

For years the word priorities has bothered me. After all, how can you have more than one?

A priority, according to Webster, is “something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.” Some thing, not things.

Only in today’s world of business and competition could we make a singular word into a to-do list of tasks and errands.

If you want to do something great with your time (see yesterday’s post), may I suggest you focus on the thing that matters most.

There is something in your leadership world that merits your attention today. Something more important than the competing alternatives.

Find your “it” and you will find focus.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is your priority today?

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Know Thy Time

As you approach this week the playing field will be level in one area … TIME.

The size of your budget, team, or customer base may be smaller, but you have the same amount of time as everyone else.

Moses once prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom.” Peter Drucker wrote, “Know Thy Time.” 

What Moses and Drucker both knew was that how a leader uses his time ultimately determines the quality and effectiveness of his life and influence.

As you approach your 168 hours this week, I encourage you to give some thought to your time on the front end rather than waiting to give an account after it has been spent. Backside results are always better when front side planning has been done. Tell your time where to go or someone else will.

We frequently hear the phrase, “What a waste of time.” The word waste is defined, to use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose. Should we ever carelessly expend our time with no purpose? And yet we are all guilty of squandering our minutes more than we like to admit.

This week you will be tempted to allow your time to slip away. Like me, you will pay attention to your bank account balance, interestingly, ignoring your time, thinking you will always have more. The truth is, you can make more money, but you cannot make more time.

Know thy time this week and watch what happens to your production, influence, and, ultimately, your fulfillment. They will all increase. Please don’t allow the moments to tick away carelessly, extravagantly, or with no purpose. 

You really can accomplish something great this week, but it will cost you your most valuable resource.

Your TIME.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is one thing you hope to do with your time this week?

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If You are Weary … Keep Pursuing

One of my favorite stories from history is about an old warrior named Gideon who led his army to victory against insurmountable odds.

As the story goes, Gideon and his men were badly outnumbered, exhausted, battered and bruised, when they came to a crossing in a river.

The story is found in Judges 8:4 of the Old Testament. The verse reads, “Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing.”

You have to love a guy who keeps on keeping on and can convince his team to follow. One of the greatest attributes a leader can possess is perseverance.

As I look at my own life and leadership there are several things that make me weary. A lack of resources, challenging relationships, unrealistic expectations, demands on my time, endless meetings, and even a need to be relevant and creative, all cause fatigue from time to time. Each of these can be obstacles, and even enemies, waiting daily to attack me and steal my joy.

Like Gideon, I have a decision to make. I can either run and hide, giving in to the pressure, or I can keep on pursuing, seeking to make a difference with my life.

Today, I am choosing to pursue. Just like Gideon, I long to be marked by perseverance.

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How about you? If there is a place in your life where you have considered folding your hand, I say don’t – Keep swinging. Endure. Persevere. Finish

It is possible to be weary and still pursue. Make that choice, and you might find that your energy will return.

If Gideon can overcome, you can too. But only if you keep pursuing.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Who do you know that shows great perseverance?

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