3 Tips I Learned Recently About Being Flexible

Recently, I encountered a potentially awkward situation during a meeting with a client. While in the middle of a meeting, I started to get a runny nose. The only problem? It wasn’t snot. I had a bloody nose. Of course my instant reaction was to excuse myself and let them know I had to run to the restroom. So picture me in the bathroom, head tilt back, a bloody paper towel in one hand and another shoved up my nose (Gross picture, right?), hoping nobody walks in to this potentially awkward sight. While simultaneously trying to get my nose to stop bleeding, I was attempting to think of an excuse since my client was probably wondering where I was and why I had been in the bathroom for several minutes. So what solution did I come up with? Since I am one to joke around, I decided to bring light to the situation and laugh it off with the client. I figured that if I could laugh about it and, at the same time, get the client to laugh about it too, I’d be in the clear. As a result, it worked and I spent the rest of my appointment with a kleenex up my nose. The good news is that we are working on a potential good-size project and we didn’t miss a beat.

I learned a lesson on flexibility through this situation. It’s easy to sit here and write about leadership lessons and principles. It’s another thing to encounter actual situations where you have to react properly and accordingly. There are going to be situations that come up where you didn’t exactly plan for things to happen that way. For example, I was all prepared for my meeting that day and me and my colleague had it mapped out. I have news for you: a bloody nose wasn’t on the agenda.

The following are three tips on flexibility in less-than-ideal situations that I learned from my blood nose incident:

1. Be honest
I didn’t really have a choice in my situation since I was wearing the truth on my face, but the worst thing we can do is be dishonest. If I had tried to play it off and returned to my client acting like nothing was going on, my nose would have started bleeding again and I would have had to excuse myself again. At that point, the client would be wondering why I keep leaving the meeting. He might even think that the reason I keep leaving is because I have something more important to tend to than him . Does anything good ever really come out of being dishonest? Rarely does that happen. Just be honest.

2. Laugh it off
This whole bloody nose incident could have been very awkward. Although it may be cliché to say this, I think it runs true anyway: It’s only awkward if you make it awkward. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I heard someone say once, “Take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.” Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. John Maxwell says, “You better laugh at yourself, because everyone else is laughing at you!” This particular situation made for a good laugh.

3. Keep your goal in mind
Remember your goals and objectives. For me, I knew what my goal was for that appointment and what I wanted to accomplish. Even though I may have taken a detour to get to the destination, we still made it. More times than not, your journey isn’t going to consist of a straight line from the starting point to your end goal. Detours are going to occur. In fact, you should be prepared and expect them. However, don’t veer too far off the straight line. Keep your end goal in mind because all that matters is that that is where you end up. Whatever happens inbetween is just your story.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

Four People (Dead or Alive) I Would Invite To My Dinner Party

I came across a blog post recently that really got me thinking. The title of that post was “Ten People You Would Invite to Your Dinner Party”. Since the goal of having this dinner party would be to soak up wisdom and knowledge and learn from the greats, I’ve decided that four people would be a perfect number. In my opinion, a smaller group equals a more intimate and special setting. With that in mind, the following are the four people (dead or alive) I would invite to my dinner party:

Guest #1 – Ronald Reagan
If you know me, you know that I am extremely passionate about politics. I love studying past history and have spent many late nights reading about past Presidents and the United States’ Founding Fathers. One of my favorite Presidents is Ronald Reagan, not only for his accomplishments, but also for a few other qualities. First, Reagan was a phenomenal storyteller which allowed him to draw the interest of the American people and effectively connect. At my dinner party, he would keep us entertained with his entertaining stories. Also, Reagan had a great sense of humor and ability to lighten the mood when the time was appropriate. As the story goes, following the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, as he lay on the hospital table, he looked up at the surgeons and said, “I hope you’re all Republicans”. Another story goes like this: during mike check for his Saturday radio broadcast, Reagan came on and said to everyone’s surprise, “My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes.” He had a great personality and ability to make people laugh.

In addition to those qualities, I would love to pick his brain on why he was so successful as President. In the future, I plan on running for political office so who better to take mentorship from than the one they called The Gipper.

Guest #2 – The Apostle Paul
If you’ve read any of my past posts on this blog, you would know that I speak often of the Vertical Alignment. The Vertical Alignment is how we prioritize our lives. For me, God is #1 in my life. Therefore, everything I do, believe, value funnels through my personal Biblical worldview of how I see the world.

The quality that stands out to me about Paul is that he was fearless and unapologetically bold about his faith. Paul knew he was called to be set apart for the gospel and, as a result, had purpose in everything he did and preached to all with absolute boldness. When someone is sold out for something like that, it is contagious and that’s why Paul’s ministry was so successful. My prayer is that I am unequivocally sold out for my faith like Paul was.

I would love to have Paul at my dinner party because I would love to be around somebody like that who is so contagiously sold out for his faith. Also, I would love to hear some stories that didn’t happen to make it into the Biblical canon.

Guest #3 – Rich DeVos
Hands down my business hero is Rich DeVos. For those of you who know me, you know that I have a background in network marketing that began when I was 19 years old. While I’ve since moved on to other ventures, I would not be the person I am today if not for my time in the Amway business (co-founded by Rich DeVos). A quality that sticks out to me about Rich is that he believes in people. That belief is so evident in the Amway organization. In Rich’s book, “Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People”, he writes, “It’s been said there are two types of people–those who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are.” Rich is the second type of person. It’s no coincidence that the last phrase in that book is a simple one: I love you. I can attest that Rich uses that phrase. I was lucky enough to receive a few wedding presents from Rich in the form of signed books. Each one at the bottom is signed with “To Brandon. Love Ya, Rich”.

I want to emulate that kind of belief in and love of people and would love to pick Rich’s brain. Not to mention, he’s a phenomenal communicator and storyteller as well.

Guest #4 – John Maxwell
I love to read books on leadership. Specifically, my favorite author is the leadership guru, John Maxwell. In fact, it is because of him that I blog on the topics of Proverbs and Business. I heard a talk of his a few years back in which he told of many leaders he knows personally that consistently read the book of Proverbs each month (one chapter per day). John is not only a leadership author and speaker, he is also a pastor. I love that he comes at you, the reader and listener, with leadership knowledge based on a Biblical foundation.

If you are looking for a good book, you won’t go wrong by picking up any of his books. My favorite, especially, is his book Failing Forward. I’ve written in the past about an online community I’ve co-founded in Metro Detroit, along with two others, called Fail Detroit which is based on the idea of failing forward like John talks about in his book.

I would have a ton of leadership questions for John and he would probably get tired of all the questions I would throw at him. The guy has one of the greatest leadership minds so I’d definitely take advantage of having someone like that to talk to. Not to mention, he is also a phenomenal storyteller as well. Seems to be a common thread among many leaders.

I think this would have to be an all-night dinner party or maybe week long because between all the knowledge, wisdom and entertainment, I wouldn’t want it to end.

Your turn: What four people (dead or alive) would you invite to your dinner party?

Being Content With Your Station in Life

Proverbs 30:21–28

21 The earth shakes under three things; under four things it is not able to bear. 22 Under a court official that becomes king; and a fool that satisfies himself with bread. 23  Under a hated woman that is married; and a female slave that dispossesses her queen. 24 Four things are among the smallest things of the earth; and they are extremely wise. 25 The ants are a nation that is not strong, they still prepare their food in the summer. 26 The rock badgers are a nation that is not powerful, they still fashion their homes in the cliff. 27 There is no king for the locust, they all still march forth divided in groups. 28 The lizard is regularly caught by hands, but that animal is in the palaces of a king.

by Trevor Tarpinian

Are you familiar with Mickey Mouse’s performance as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” in Disney’s Fantasia? Do you remember the disastrous series of events that follow his attempt at playing sorcerer? Of course, Disney still manages to pull off its trademark happy ending (even to a Goethe poem!). No one can stay mad at Mickey Mouse. In fact, we might even sympathize with Mickey and applaud the cunning scheme that he devises to avoid doing his chores – until that terrible moment when he loses control. Everything falls apart because he was not yet ready to be the sorcerer or wield his power. Walt Disney saw the lesson to be learned in being discontent with one’s position or status, just as Goethe did centuries earlier, and the writer of Proverbs 30 before him.

Let’s observe a few select features of the passage:

Monarchies and empires in the ancient world operated by the divine right of kings. If God appointed a leader, anyone who usurped a king’s reign disrupted divine order. This explains David’s hesitancy to lay a hand on Saul, the “Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 24:6). Prov 30:22 highlights the upheaval caused by a servant’s usurpation of his king’s throne. The Hebrew word translated “servant,” might be better read as “court official” here (cf. Neh 2:10, 19; 1 Kings 1:47; 2 Kings 24:10; 25:24.1 ). If so, it paints an even more sinister picture of a trusted official betraying his king. In either case, it demonstrates gross disrespect for the divine appointment of a king.

The word for “fool” in v.22b is found elsewhere in the OT. In 2 Sam 3:33–34 it means “lawless one” and is parallel to “sons of wickedness.” In Isa 32:5, the “fool” parallels “the rogue” or scoundrel” and next in v.6 describes one who occupies himself with evil, practices ungodliness, and spreads heresy. Jer 17:11 describes this person as one who gains wealth by injustice. Psa 14:1 describes this person as a vile evildoer. Prov 17:21 and Job 30:8 demonstrate that this person is a disgrace and a dishonor to their kin and community, possibly even divested from an inheritance. Given this character profile, the “fool” deserves physical punishment, disinheritance, and death. His consumption of food runs contrary to this in two ways. First, it reflects society’s permissiveness toward the fool. His ability to eat well demonstrates that society rewards rather than ostracizes him. Second, his nourishment gives him sustenance to continue his evil.

Examples of the “hated woman” in Prov 20:23 occur in other OT passages. Gen 29:31, 33 refer to Jacob hating Leah. Deut 21:15, 17 describe a married woman who is despised in comparison to another wife. These texts refer to women that were already married and lends support to understanding the woman in Prov 30:23 as already married (so the NIV; contra the KJV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, NRSV). Since this despised wife is in harmful competition with another, more favored wife, the “earthshaking” feature of this line is unrest in the sphere of the family. It negatively demonstrates that God intends tranquility in the sphere of the family. Anxiety, disfavor, and competition – all symptoms of a despised wife – metaphorically shake the world’s fundamental social institution to its core.

The use of the number four in Prov 30:21 and 30:24 provides us introductions to two separate, but related proverbs. It helps us structure two units of thought that we can summarize in the following:

Unit 1 Summary: Prov 30:21–23 observe four things that turn the world upside. They run against the grain of God’s intended social order. Usurping power because of disloyalty (servant) or seduction (maidservant), especially among public figures, corrodes polity and society. Further, an evil “fool’s” provision attests to society’s permissiveness toward unjust gain. A disfavored wife shows distress and upheaval at the family level, a place in which God intended tranquility and safety.

Unit 2 Summary: In contrast to four social upheavals that can cause headlines and commotion in the world, Prov 30:24–28 show four creatures that unceremoniously demonstrate wisdom in overcoming their limitations. Ants and rock badgers accomplish their self-preservation by storing food and building fortified shelter respectively, despite being small or weak. Locusts overcome their bulk by acting in solidarity. Lizards, although vulnerable to capture, have the ability to find safe residence in palaces.

In our first proverb (vv.21–23), we observe four people that act out of dissatisfaction and profoundly disrupt social order as God has ordained it. In our second proverb (vv.24–28), we observe four ordinary but wise creatures in the natural order that seem to get by just fine with the resources at their disposal. What significance does Prov 30:21–28 have to your business practice? Let me offer some suggestions for implementing two principles from these proverbs:

  • Be respectful to the authorities in your realm of business because it helps maintain order and stability, especially for your clients.

Think your derisive comments about upper-management are inconsequential? You might set office precedent and subsequently become the object of similar hissing from your subordinates next week. If you are an independent professional who doesn’t report to anyone, think of how your attitude toward vendors, companies, regulators, and legislators might influence peers in your network of influence? A few words could sway them to change their business practices, ultimately affecting the products or services to their clients. Have you ever known better than an experienced superior, only to realize down the road how ignorant you must have sounded and how disastrous your ideas would have been if implemented? Consider writing one of these memories down (or better yet, submit it to FailDetroit) and reflecting on it the next time you’re dissatisfied with an authority. Their installation in a decision-making position might be harmful rather than orderly, but your involvement might be even worse.

  • Find contentment in the rhythm and cycle of your work.

We shouldn’t expect a 3,000 year old proverb to be any less counter-cultural. We value constant upgrading and upsizing – our meals, phones, computers, cars, houses, careers. We like novelty and change (unless it’s Mr. Obama’s variety). We get bored quickly and most of us find routine to be a threatening tedium. In fact, this may be an implicit motivation for the earth-shaking actions of 30:21–23. Yet the sage points to four unremarkable creatures and illustrates how easily they flourish within the confines of their “routine.” Consider the challenge employee retention poses for many companies. You feel under-appreciated, under-paid, under-challenged? So does everyone else. What would it mean for your retention if you could model contentment to your employees? We all experience burnout and boredom. We go through the motions in any job. How valuable would your experience be to your employees if you could share the tricks that got you through their position for eight years? You’ll never be able to share it if you haven’t done it. What message do you communicate to your colleagues and customers if you change jobs every three years? What does it tell them if you have established yourself in a single industry for two decades, despite recessions, markets swings, and legislative challenges? It doesn’t take a sage to know your clients want long term consistency and stability from the people with whom they work. Identify aspects of your work that offer you fulfillment. Use them to get yourself and others through the dry seasons so you can ensure long term benefits to your clients and yourself.

It could always be worse. You could be pointlessly carrying water buckets for a sorcerer.

Trevor Tarpinian is a financial representative for all things insurance at TFI Insurance & Benefits, a Michigan native, and a beer league hockey player. When he’s not watching the Detroit Red Wings, he’s helping professionals and business owners manage risk, minimize tax exposure, and strategize succession planning. You can contact him via e-mail at Trevor.t@tfiins.com or follow him on Twitter at @FerrisBueller66 (Personal) or @TFIInsuranceBen (Business).

1 So Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15–31, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 494.

What We Can Learn from Insanity

Proverbs 26:11

ESV- “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”

I was taught at the beginning of my business career that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I later found out that it was Einstein who said that quote.

What practices are you holding onto that aren’t producing the right results yet you continue to do them in hope that your fortunes will change? I wrote on a similar topic in my post on Proverbs 29:1. In that post, I wrote this:

“There is a difference, however, between being stubborn and refusing to quit. When we face challenges, there are those who truly believe in what they are doing. Then there are the people that the NIV translation calls “stiff-necked”. Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance.” People like this hold onto ideas or practices that haven’t worked in the past and continue not to work in the present. They stand in denial of a problem refusing to accept a need for change. This stubbornness is not only stiff-necked but also foolish. Furthermore, the end result is never positive and can usually be summed up in one word: regret.”

What are some things that you can think of off the top of your head that you are doing over and over yet not getting the results you’ve been hoping for? As the verse says, fools repeat their folly. So the question I want to answer is this: how do we not continue to repeat folly? Here are 4 check-marks that we should review when things aren’t going the way we’d like:

1) Listen to the Holy Spirit

First of all, I’ve written from day one on this blog that we need to pursue God and offer up everything we do so He can lead us. We need to be in tune with what God’s plan is for our lives. He has a plan for each and every one of us and it is our purpose to figure out what that is. If you don’t feel God’s calling on what you are doing, then it may not be right. However, if you do feel God’s call on whatever venture/project you are pursuing, then run forward.

2) Personal Growth

Have you grown through the process of pursuit? If a venture/project isn’t going to stretch you and/or force you to experience personal growth through it, then it isn’t worth it. In that case, you might want to take a step back and analyze what you are doing. On the other hand, if it has stretched you, then you are probably on the right path. Keep stretching and growing yourself.

3) External Impact

Are you impacting others through the process of pursuit? External impact is similar to personal growth. If a venture/project isn’t benefiting others around you then what’s the point? It’s very difficult to get any type of satisfaction out of a venture if you are having zero impact on others. But if you are impacting others positively, then keep doing what you are doing.

4) Making Some Progress

This one is a tough one. There are going to be times when you feel like you aren’t making any progress. That can be a very discouraging feeling. If you truly believe that you are doing what God has called you to do, then make it a goal to take baby steps. Don’t go for the home run. Just do a little bit everyday to move yourself and your venture/business/job forward. On the other hand, if you are going backwards with little hope, then you might want to rethink what you are doing. It may be foolish to keep going.

The definition of a fool (according to the dictionary) is someone who “acts unwisely or imprudently”. The French writer, Simone de Beauvoir said, “In the face of an obstacle which is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid.” It’s imperative we understand when it is okay to be stubborn and when it is not.

Next time you hit an obstacle, analyze your expectations and use the 4 check-marks above to help you figure out if you are moving in the right direction. Are you doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? If so, make some adjustments. Maybe even try something new. You’ll be happy you did.

Be Faithful: There Are No Overnight Successes

Proverbs 28:19-20

NIV- “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”

On the news these days, I seem to hear more than ever about get-rich-quicks and the “next greatest thing/overnight success”. Having a network marketing background, I heard it way too often from others in that industry. In my four years in the industry, I came across businesses I couldn’t believe were even allowed to open their doors. I heard promises of riches in a month, two months and sometimes even sooner. Way too many today are looking for the easy way. Here’s a secret: there is no such thing. If you so choose to pursue the easy way, your prophecy is right above in Proverbs 28:19-20.

In today’s business world of Facebooks, Googles and Instagrams, it’s easy to imagine smooth journeys straight to overnight success. But how many people are truly overnight successes? A lot of times we see the success and celebration of “making it”, but we rarely see the journey that led them to that point. And more often than not, it is a story that is filled with countless setbacks, failures and crushing defeats.

It’s the journey, not the success that moves and inspires people. Why? Because people want to see evidence and proof that they can be great too. Nobody would want to listen to someone get up in front of an audience to tell their story if they had no setbacks and failures along the way. Can you imagine? Their story would consist of: “Well I built this business doing X, Y and Z and we had success right away. The end.” How boring…We want to hear what worked but we also want to know what didn’t work and how people responded to the trials along the way.

In business, you can expect failures to happen along the way. It’s part of your journey and, most importantly, it’s part of your story. As verse 20 above says, though, be faithful. If you are faithful in pursuing the seed and purpose that God has planted in your heart, as the verse goes on to say, you will be richly blessed.

A few friends and I recently launched a new project called Fail Detroit. The premise of  it is this, “We all fail. Learn from it.” Those 6 words are gold. In our business and careers, we are going to experience failures and mistakes that are painful and humiliating. Bank on it. The reason we started Fail Detroit is because of what is on the other side of those failures and setbacks. What would the world be like if Thomas Edison had stopped after failed attempt #9,234 to create the light bulb? What if James Dyson had quit before his completing his 5100 experiments that eventually led to his revolutionary vacuum cleaner? Get the picture?

It’s not just your personal success that is on the other side of perseverance and faithfulness. It’s your lasting impact and potential lasting legacy. I read this in a recent post by Josh Linkner:

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites in history, but struggled for a long time. Pinterest’s CEO recently said that they had “catastrophically small numbers” in their first year after launch and that if he had listened to popular startup advice he probably would have quit.”

As a result of their perseverance, Pinterest has now made (and continues to make) an enormous impact in several ways: creating jobs which adds to the economy, giving entrepreneurs and others with hobbies ways to showcase their products and talents and offering entertainment to those who get satisfaction out of “pinning”, just to name a few.

So next time you are going through a trial or a setback, think about what is potentially on the other side. If you refuse to quit, the world will be a better place as a result of you persevering and being faithful.

Find Your Groove and Start Dancing

Proverbs 29:10

NIV- “The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.”

ESV- “Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.”

This verse in Proverbs is a warning that we, as Christians, must endure persecution if we choose to take up our cross and follow Christ. Persecution is promised all throughout the Bible. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

And how should we respond to persecution? Persecution is something we should wear with a badge of honor. Jesus says to “Rejoice” and “Be glad”. It’s proof that we are living for something greater than ourselves. But at the same time, we are told to love those that persecute us. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

If you truly believe that God has called you to do what you are doing, here’s the best way to respond to the persecution: Love your enemies that persecute you but combat the insults and curses by continuing to pursue what you have already begun pursuing.

In the same way, as entrepreneurs and innovators, those of us that step out in faith to follow God’s plan for our lives are going to get those tomatoes thrown at us. In a recent blog post, entrepreneur and writer, Josh Linkner, likens it to dancing and calls it “following your own groove”. I’m going to re-word that: God has planted a groove in our hearts. Our job is to figure out what that groove is and start dancing to it. Josh goes on to say this:

“Ever notice the people making the biggest impact in the world?  They are the first to be shunned.  When these rule-breakers emerge, they’re told to “get back in the line” and are pressured to comply with the “social norms.”

The heroes we celebrate, from the Beatles to Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison to Dr. King, were first laughed at and sharply criticized.  Thankfully, they didn’t waste the time or energy to care much about the onlookers pointing fingers.  The jealousy and fear of others didn’t strip these renegades of their vision; the world would certainly be a much duller place if it had.”

If we, as believers of Christ, make a decision to follow what His plan is for our lives, there are going to be naysayers. Sure, we’ll have some supporters but the naysayers tend to be the loudest. They’ll think we are crazy. They’ll probably tell all our friends about how we went off the deep end. Why? Because us stepping out in faith to do something great makes them feel uncomfortable. I love Mr. Linkner’s message later in the post:

“In your own pursuits, don’t validate those casting doubt and ostracizing your fresh approach to comfort their own selves. Focus every ounce of your energy on your art, and you will change the hearts and minds of those that lack the courage to dance their own dance.

The more original you are, the more friction you’ll notice (if you bother looking). So let the naysayers blend into the background while your unique rhythmic interpretation shines. Before long, they’ll be copying your moves and celebrating your creativity.”

So figure out what that groove is that God has planted in your heart. Enduring persecution from naysayers is part of the process. But, as Josh says, let them blend into the background. If you pursue and achieve the dream God has planted in your heart, eventually the naysayers will become your biggest supporters. So what are you waiting for? Start dancing.

Three Weaknesses to Avoid as Leaders

Proverbs 29:2

NIV- “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

MSG- “When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans.”

Have you ever had a boss that makes everyone groan when he enters the room? The type of boss that, in anticipation (and fear), forces people to grip their chairs in an effort to hold on for the potential roller coaster that may ensue. I’ve heard these types of people referred to as sunshine: the instant they leave the room, everything becomes brighter again. It is my prayer that I never turn into that leader.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with and for some very good leaders in my young business career, but no one is perfect. Every leader, including you and me, has his or her strengths and weaknesses. In my leadership training, I’ve learned that it is important to emulate the strengths of leaders we admire as well as learn from their weaknesses. In the end, as leaders, no matter how hard we work we will never be perfect. However, we will only be most effective if the strengths we have outweigh the weaknesses.

Recently, I came across an article titled Five Characteristics of Weak Leaders by one of my favorite leadership authors, Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In it, he tells of a book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals which gives an account of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. While Goodwin writes about Lincoln’s overall political genius and leadership abilities, his leadership was not always perfect. During the Civil War, Lincoln appointed General George McClellan to be commander of the “Army of the Potomac”. Later, McClellan would become first general-in-chief of the Union Army. Ultimately, this ended up being the wrong decision by Lincoln.

In the article, Hyatt points out five weaknesses McClellan had: he was hesitant in taking action, complained about the lack of resources, refused to take responsibility, abused his leadership position, and engaged in acts of subordination. Based on the examples Hyatt uses to demonstrate each of McClellan’s flaws, it is easy to understand why the Union Army performed so poorly under his leadership and why he ultimately lost his job.

These are all leadership traits we want to avoid as leaders. In my own personal career, here are three more I’ve experienced:

1. Lack of consistency

This is the leader I described above. They are a roller coaster. When you see them in the morning, you wonder what kind of mood you are going to have to deal with that day. Are they going to have a Monday attitude or a Friday attitude? A rainy day attitude or a sunny and 75 degree attitude? Not only is it difficult for the leader to be effective when lacking consistency, it makes their employees’ job very difficult due when having to constantly adjust to the roller coaster of moods the leader brings to work each day.

2. The overworked

This is the “old-school” leader. A character from a TV show that comes to mind is the dad in The Wonder Years, Jack Arnold. In the show, it seems like every episode he comes home from work exhausted because he is overworked. He can’t even enjoy dinner with his family because he is so worn out, overwhelmed and stressed. This is a heart-attack waiting to happen. God makes it clear that we need to give our all in everything we do when in 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says:

“So whether we eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)

However, it’s important to work hard but we need to play hard too. Being overworked is not healthy. We need to have balance in our lives.

On the other side of this trait, the overworked too often expect their employees to overwork. No one wants to work for a leader that overworks their employees.

3. Lack of integrity

This one is simple. A long time ago, I heard this quote, “If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. If you lose a friend, you’ve lost something. If you lose your word, you’ve lost everything.” Don’t ever lose your integrity. Two of our guiding values as leaders always need to be honesty and integrity. Leadership guru Brian Tracy said this, ”The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”

It is so important we learn from those like General McClellan in order to not repeat the missteps he took while in a leadership position. At the same time, it is also important we have self-awareness. Don’t fool yourself. We all have weaknesses. Focus most on your strengths but find out what the weaknesses are and work to minimize them.