What we say versus what we mean.

What we say versus what we mean.

By Jon Acuff on Feb 02, 2015 04:00 am

The craziest part of the ridiculous photos people put on Instagram is actually the captions they include. It’s in the captions where we tell our biggest lies. It’s where we cover our tracks and try to justify or ignore our real motives for posting a photo.

Case in point, my friend Donald Miller had given me and the 1,200 other people at his conference a sample from his new book, Scary Close. His New York Times Bestselling book Blue Like Jazz sold 1 million copies and he’s definitely an author I look up to.

I thought for a minute about posting a photo of the pages with the caption, “So proud of my friend Donald Miller. Can’t wait to read his next book!”

That’s a noble caption at first glance. Look at me celebrating a friend! Look at me helping drive more book sales! I am such a giver!

But if Instagram had an honest caption filter, this is what it would have said:

“I’m friends with Donald Miller and I want you to know that. He gives me stuff that he doesn’t give you.”

Well that’s a tad bit gross. I don’t think I like that caption nearly as much as the first one. I was a hero in the first one! And there’s the rub. Most of us aren’t true because we want to lie or trick people. We just want to look like more of a hero than we really are.

We want people to think we’re cool. Or that we win a lot. Or that we’re smart. So we do things online that perpetuate that perception. We create a character instead of living with character. The first step to being true is to just gut check our motives.

I’m not asking you to go off in the woods and beat a drum each time you’re about to tweet or post something on Facebook, I just want a 3 second pause. Sometimes simply asking the question, “What’s my motive here?” is enough to bump us back to the land of honesty.

Live with character online instead of playing a character online.

Live with character online instead of playing a character online.
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Reblogged: The post What we say versus what we mean. appeared first on Jon Acuff.

Great leaders don’t need to pull rank

The days when leaders could succeed by pulling rank and asserting their own authority are long gone, writes Frank Sonnenburg.

Today’s best bosses focus on building trusting relationships with their workers, and rely on humility, credibility and integrity to win people over.

“[T]hey’re effective because they’re knowledgeable, admired, trusted, and respected,” Sonnenburg writes.

5 Measures of a Great Leader

By Frank Sonnenburg


By: Burazin/Getty Images

Published 12/24/2014

The world is changing at a blistering pace. In years past, the health of a company was measured by the size of its balance sheet. While that still may be true today, an organization’s competitiveness is clearly determined by its ability to harness the power of intangibles –– often referred to as “soft issues.” The truth is, any organization that wants to achieve excellence must emphasize the importance of intangible factors such as empowering its workforce, communicating in an open and honest manner, building trust among employees, promoting continuous education and the personal and professional growth of its employees, creating a work environment that encourages risk and discourages fear, improving business processes and eliminating waste, nurturing long-term relationships with suppliers and customers, working hard to develop an impeccable reputation, living according to sound business ethics, and unifying the organization around a mission and shared values.

In order to address our changing times, the leadership function is also going through a metamorphosis. In the past, all-knowing leaders resided in their ivory tower. When they spoke, their subjects faithfully obeyed their commands. Indirectly, these “rulers” implied “I am the boss,” “I know best,” and “I am in control. I will lead you to the Promised Land, but I will reward you along the way.” So, they used the carrot and stick and treated the minions with kindness as motivation. The central premise was “We call the shots and you implement them.” Today, if you want to attract and retain top talent, you have to offer employees more. Employees want to make a meaningful contribution, be self-fulfilled, and embrace the organization’s values and goals.

For today’s employee, being part of something special and making a difference in the world is much more important than the rewards sought by yesterday’s “me” generation. Employees want to work for an organization they can feel proud of — one that contributes back to society; an organization that has values and viewpoints compatible with their own; an organization that is oriented toward the long haul, working toward the prevention of ills, not just curing the symptoms; an organization that cares about morals and ethics and doing what is in the best interests of its customers; an organization that doesn’t dominate their life but rather allows them ample time to spend with their families. Employees want this because they recognize that such an organization will also care about them.

Today, great leaders have no need to pull rank or resort to command and control to get results. Instead, they’re effective because they’re knowledgeable, admired, trusted, and respected. This helps them secure buy-in automatically, without requiring egregious rules or strong oversight designed to forcecompliance. Great leaders hire great people, train them well, inspire them, and then get out of their way.

Vision. Great leaders are visionaries with a “can-do” attitude. They take on the impossible, while their fearful colleagues look for the exits. In the process, great leaders confront issues and obstacles head-on and make decisions that position their organizations successfully for the future. This means that their decisions won’t always be popular, but they will be considered deliberate and fair; short-term results won’t always be stellar, but long-term investments will secure a brighter future. These leaders won’t always be loved, but they will be trusted and respected.

Conviction. Great leaders have a backbone. They make every effort to gather information, weigh alternatives, secure buy-in from their constituents, and determine the best course of action. Great leaders focus precious resources in areas that provide the greatest opportunity rather than trying to please everyone or making arbitrary, across-the-board decisions.

Humility. Great leaders do what’s right — period. Great leaders recognize that their stance represents something much larger than the whim of any one individual –– as such, they put their egos and self-interests on hold. Great leaders do what’s in the organization’s best interest rather than trying to win a popularity contest, playing politics, or advancing their own private agenda.

Integrity. Great leaders operate with integrity at all times; they are passionate about protecting their personal integrity and the reputation of their organization. They understand that trust takes a long time to develop, but can be lost in the blink of an eye. Great leaders know that instilling a strong culture and promoting ethical core values are instrumental measures for success. In fact, in today’s turbulent times, everything is subject to change except an organization’s core values.

Credibility. Great leaders maintain a balance between short-term performance and building a better future. Great leaders know that short-term wins enable leaders to build trust, instill confidence, and maintain momentum. This provides them with enough credibility to make strategic investments and tackle the long-term challenges that ensure success. Great leaders understand the importance of motivating others to accept personal sacrifice to benefit others.

The bottom line is that great leaders win the support of their constituents by earning their trust and respect. Great leaders achieve success by setting high standards, remaining true to their beliefs and values, and listening to their conscience. They never stop trying until they do themselves proud. Great leaders encourage teamwork, promote win-win relationships, and demand everyone’s best effort. The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, work on the top floor or in the basement, everyone earns trust and respect the same way. You can’t require it or demand it. You can’t cut deals or take shortcuts. You can’t buy it or even place a price tag on it. And that’s because earning trust and respect is priceless. Great leaders do it every day!

Reblogged from: money.com

About the author:

Frank Sonnenburg is an award-winning author. He has written five books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and nominated as one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs.” Frank’s new book, Follow Your Conscience, is now available.

Rediscovering Leadership: Service Versus Self-Interest

Rediscovering Leadership: Service Versus Self-Interest.



Throughout time, leaders who have exhibited the proper kind of custodianship—that is, leaders who have sought service over self-interest—have been held in high regard. People have gladly looked to them for direction and guidance in times of indecision, turmoil and trouble.

Late American newspaper commentator Walter Lippmann, in his syndicated column Today and Tomorrow, defined leaders as “the custodians of a nation’s ideals, of the beliefs it cherishes, of its permanent hopes, of the faith which makes a nation out of a mere aggregation of individuals.”

Custodian. The word means a keeper, a guardian or a caretaker. It is a proactive word that implies action on the part of the bearer. Custodians hold something in trust on behalf of others. Custodianship does not imply behavior motivated out of self-interest.

A custodian, then, is an individual who upholds what is best for all people, even if it may not be in his or her own interest to do so. A custodial role must be approached as a temporary role, preserving something greater than the self—principles of enduring and lasting value. This embodies an attitude that focuses on the task at hand and not on what the leader may gain from the position. It implies a caring and concerned relationship between leaders and followers; it implies individuals motivated by their constituents’ best interests.

This idea seems at odds with what we see happening around us. In all too many arenas, we see leaders holding nothing in trust for those they purport to serve, instead merely advancing their own ideals and hopes. It is often difficult to tell whether our leaders are serving themselves or us. And it is all too common to find leaders simply helping themselves to privilege, prosperity and power. Mismanagement, deceit, greed and from-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire problem solving all beg the question, Where are our leaders leading?

True leadership is and always has been a selfless action. It involves taking yourself out of the picture and considering the needs of others. It is a way of thinking that takes other people into account even when your own needs are pressing. It asks what is right or best in the wider interest. Few would doubt the need today, in this respect, for more leaders like Cincinnatus and George Washington—leaders who will complete the job they are asked to do without regard for themselves, and who will lead rather than merely registering the collective will of the people.


Clearly leadership is an issue that affects all of us. Not only are we impacted by it, but we are also called upon to exercise it. Whether we are involved in leading government or business; guiding young minds; leading a family, a sports team or a committee; organizing a dinner, a class project, a carpool or a household; or just standing for what is right—everyone has a leadership role to play. We are each thrust into many different leadership roles again and again throughout our lives. We are each called upon to be custodians of what is right and good, lasting and of value, for those in our care.

When we are called upon to lead, what kind of custodian we are will depend greatly on what we understand a custodian to be, how we think about other people, and how we determine what is right and worth holding in trust.

The word custodian, in this context, is the same as the word steward as it is used in the Bible and throughout history. A custodian or steward watches over that which is placed in his or her trust by the one who owns it or for those who will benefit by it. Stewardship is a service performed for others. It is not about ownership or control. It is not a technique. It is who and what the leader is. It is an attitude—a state of being—a way of looking at the world. But it is not the passive, hands-off leadership that some have attributed to this way of thinking. It is a component of leadership without which leaders cannot fully function.

It means not only maintaining the vision of and faith in ideals, beliefs and hopes, but also living those values as a model and example for others to follow. It means raising the sights and holding the focus of those we lead so that they are empowered to reach their potential. It means enabling people by getting the roadblocks out of their way and often out of their thinking. To do this, of course, the leader must visualize the big picture at all times and hold the course for the benefit of all.


This nouveau stewardship, as we will refer to it here, has as a guiding principle the belief that people have the knowledge and the answers within themselves.   As such, there is no need for a leader to manage other adults—no need to teach others how to think, behave or conduct themselves. While this sounds very  appealing, democratic, liberating and almost mystically primal, it is naïve. We know from experience that people do not always act in their own best interest, much less that of others.

To suggest that this approach is naïve might sound arrogant in a society that has placed personal knowledge in higher esteem than external guidance. As we see the structures and institutions that have traditionally provided us with external guidance dissolving—family, schools and religion—the desire to believe that we are our own best source of wisdom and will act accordingly is strong. Theoretically, it would seem to make sense. Practically, however, it has never worked in any sustainable way. Studies have shown that we all take our cues not from the realities of the environment but from our own biases, desires, perceptions and distractions. A function of leadership, then, should be to help followers create a more accurate and constructive view of reality by painting the big picture.


What is critical to the leadership process and its success is where the values come from that determine these boundaries. They can’t come from a single individual. Nor can they come from the collective whole. Where do we get the ideals, the beliefs and the permanent hopes that Lippmann wrote of and that define the boundaries—those guides that mold and shape us?

George Washington believed that those values and boundaries came from God. In his first inaugural address he asserted that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained” (emphasis ours).

Again, truly effective boundaries must come from something outside of ourselves. An effective leader has an agenda designed to produce results, but is guided by a core of values that come from outside and not from within. This process is maintained by means of the leader’s integrity—his custodianship of those values.

Stressing the need for integrity to an outside core of values in the performance of proper leadership, John Adair, visiting professor of leadership studies at the University of Surrey and Exeter in England, stated: “Although it is impossible to prove it, I believe that holding firmly to sovereign values outside yourself grows a wholeness of personality and moral strength of character. The person of integrity will always be tested. The first real test comes when the demands of the truth or good appears [sic] to conflict with your self-interest or prospects. Which do you choose?” (Effective Leadership).

Perhaps it is time to apply those “eternal rules of order and right,” those “sovereign values,” to the leadership roles we perform at every level in life. Even everyday, mundane activities are opportunities to demonstrate and illustrate the values and beliefs for which we must be custodians. If each of us works to uphold such values, the element of empowerment is introduced into our lives: every person becomes in some sense a leader, rather than only those over us who provide us with direction and instruction.

The Being who created us is the ultimate source of the values we must demonstrate to function effectively. In His Word He teaches us how to serve, how to look after each other, how to esteem others more highly than ourselves, how to teach—in other words, how to lead. The Bible is where we will find the guidelines we seek to steer a course through this complex age. We would do well to become more familiar with it.

excerpts taken from Fall 2009 Issue Vision.org