Leadership Posts

Attila the Hun

I just finished the book, The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, by Wess Roberts, Ph.D. Depending on who you ask or what source you read, Attila the Hun is portrayed as a ruthless tyrant or as a noble king. In his book, Roberts assumes the best of him and makes up leadership advice that Attila might have said to develop his chieftains. Mixed within a brief, and somewhat sketchy, timeline of Attila’s life, is the relevant leadership info Attila would have learned and taught to his men. There are some great leadership ideas here and ultimately it makes for an entertaining way to read them. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from “Attila”:


Winter Reading 08′

A handful of us get together and pick a history book to read during the winter time. This year, the book was Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. Below I have included a handful of my favorite quotes organized in different themes throughout the book. Sorry for it being so long, but the book is 500 pages!

18th Century American Culture
— “People in the late eighteenth century were helpless in matters of health. They lived in constant dread of sudden death from disease, plague, epidemic, pneumonia, or accident. Their letters always begin and usually end with assurances of the good health of the letter writer and a query about the health of the recipient. Painful as the death of an honored and admired father was to a son, it was a commonplace experience.”

— “Thus ended Meriwether Lewis’s scholarly career. What had he learned? No enough Latin to use the language in his extensive later writings, nor any other foreign language. Not enough orthography ever to be comfortable or proficient with the spelling of English words—but, then, he lived in an age of freedom of spelling, a time when even so well read and learned a man as Jefferson had trouble maintaining consistency in his spelling.”
— “Jefferson, believing that the taming of the horse had resulted in the degeneracy of the human body, urged the young to walk for exercise. Lewis took his advice and became a great hiker, with feet as tough as his butt. As a boy and young man, he went barefoot, in the Virginia manner. Jefferson’s grandson claimed not to have worn shoes until he was ten. According to Jefferson, the young Lewis hunted barefoot in the snow.”

— “No man did more for human liberty than Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and of Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom., among other gifts to mankind. Few men profited more from human slavery than Jefferson.”
— “Profitable as it was to him, Jefferson hated slavery. He regarded it as a curse to Virginia and wished to see it abolished throughout the United States. Not, however, in his lifetime. He said that his generation was not ready for such a step. He would leave that reform to the next generation of Virginians, and was sure they would make Virginia the first southern state to abolish slavery. He thought the young men coming of age in postwar Virginia were superbly qualified to bring the American Revolution to this triumphant conclusion because, as he said, these young men had ‘sucked in the principles of liberty as if it were their mother’s milk.’
— “Of all the contradictions in Jefferson’s contradictory life, none exceeded this one. He hoped and expected that the Virginians from the generation of Lewis and Clark would abolish slavery—even while recognizing that anyone brought up as a master of slaves would have to be a prodigy to be undepraved by the experience. And it should be noted that, as far as can be told, he said not a word about his dream that young Virginians would lead the way to emancipation to precisely those young Virginians he knew best, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.”
— “Lewis could no more escape the lord-and-master attitude toward black slaves than Clark could—or, come to that, than Jefferson could (Jefferson also sold slaves and separated families). No wonder Jefferson could write, ‘I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.’”

Leadership / Exploration
— “Lewis had the frontiersman’s faith in his rifle. As long as a man had his rifle, ammunition, and powder, he would take on anything the wilderness could throw at him.”
— “It was remarkable for Lewis to propose a co-command. He did not even have to add a lieutenant to the party, and most certainly did not have to share the command. Divided command almost never works and is the bane of all military men, to whom the sanctity of the chain of command is basic and the idea of two disagreeing commanders in a critical situation is anathema. But Lewis did it anyway. It must have felt right to him. It had to have been based on what he knew about Clark, and what he felt for him.
— “Lewis and Clark had not been together in seven years, but even before they met their partnership was flourishing, their trust in each other’s judgment complete. There were no perils in divided command for this pair.”
— “For the next seven years, only Dearborn, Jefferson, a clerk or two in the War Department, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark knew that, as far as the army was concerned, Captain Lewis was in command of the Corps of Discovery, with Lieutenant Clark as his second-in-command. For the men of the expedition, it was Captains Clark and Lewis, co-commanders. That was all that counted.”

Finally, there was one quote that summed up my greatest reflection from this book: the cost of success. If you aren’t familiar with history, Lewis ended up committing suicide a few years after the expedition. How could someone who had accomplished so much give up on his life? This is something that I will always remember and keep in the back of my mind.

“Lewis was leading a very heady life. At thirty-three, he was the most celebrated man in Philadelphia, a city world-renowned for its celebrated men. He was the protégé of the president. Balls and testimonials were held in his honor, the biggest in the nation’s capital. He had been generously rewarded by Congress, praised by the leading scientists of the day, appointed governor of the biggest territory of the United States, and was the center of attention wherever he went. His prospects could hardly have been better. It was, perhaps, too much success too early in life. There were, perhaps, too many balls with too many toasts.”

Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell

I just read Oren Harari’s leadership book about Colin Powell and was very impressed. It’s not a biography and it’s not written by Powell so it doesn’t matter whether you are a fan of him or not. It’s probably the best leadership book I’ve ever read. There is too much to quote (I drained a few highlighters) but let me highly recommend this to any leader.

6 Sources of Power

I’m reading through Leadership Divided and it quotes something from John French and Bertram Raven. They call these the 6 sources of power but they could just as well refer to influence in general. They are:

    1. Positional – based on a person’s role, which gives them the ability to give orders and make demands
    2. Referent – based on being liked or admired
    3. Coercive – based on having the ability to control something someone else needs
    4. Reward – based on the ability to grant or distribute rewards, including money, recognition, promotions, referrals, or other favors
    5. Expertise – based on having knowledge and skills that others do not possess or that are needed for a specific task
    6. Experience – based on having information or perspective that others do not have

This got me really thinking about what I naturally do and what I see those who I follow use. It seems to me that there are really only half of these that I would consider positive ongoing reasons for people to follow you: referent, expertise, and experience. This offers an interesting filter from which to observe and navigate the workplace.

The Relationship of Power

I’ve been thinking through an idea that keeps getting bigger as I read more and think more about it. It was triggered by something that I read in the book Spiritual Leadership by the Blackaby brothers. It says that

If Jesus provides the model for spiritual leadership, then the key is not for leaders to develop visions and to set the direction for their organizations. The key is to obey and to preserve everything the Father reveals to them of his will. Ultimately, the Father is the leader. God has the vision of what He wants to do. God does not ask leaders to dream big dreams for him or to solve the problems that confront them. He asks leaders to walk with him so intimately that, when he reveals what is on his agenda, they will immediately adjust their lives to his will and the results will bring glory to God. (pg. 29)

What this quote is alluding to and the bigger idea that has been brewing in my mind is that maybe a lot of Jesus’ power came from His intimate relationship with the Father. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that Jesus was God in flesh but maybe we attribute too much of what He did to His divine nature as opposed to His relationship with the Father. I think it’s safe to assume that Jesus was closer with the Father than any person has ever been.

The really intriguing idea that comes from this is: what could God do through us if we were more in tune with Him? I’m starting to believe that we could have almost “supernatural” abilities because of how close we would be to what God is doing. The reason I started thinking of this idea in this way is that I heard a person that I really respect tell me about an opportunity that he recently missed. He said that he could have noticed something that was going on with a person if he would have been closer in his walk with Christ.

How would I act differently if I were closer in tune with God’s heart, with God’s purpose, and with God’s values? Could I discern things that would be otherwise impossible? Could I know about things that God would do but hasn’t yet? Maybe we are our greatest limitation to living a powerful Christian life.

Leadership Lesson Learned

Wow…that is my most impressive alliteration title I’ve written yet!

We had a leadership camp for some of our students in JH and HS and we spent the week listening to different leaders share what they know about leadership and life. One of the speakers gave us a list of things to remember as we try and lead others and one thing stood out in particular. He said to remember that,

“Nobody cares how busy you are.”

While that may seem like a trite lesson on leadership it really hit me. How often have I explained to someone how busy I am (and almost always as an excuse of some kind)? Everyone is busy and the truth really is that people don’t care when we use this as a copout. I’ll definitely try and alter my vocabulary from now one to avoid this one.