As John Maxwell states, “Everything rises and falls with leadership.”

Leadership is real, it’s vital, it’s powerful, it’s regarded. But most importantly, it’s experienced, whether good or bad.

As a leader, it’s critical for you to understand just how important your leadership skills are.

Good to Great

You mean more to the success of your company than perhaps you know. Understanding your worth and value is not arrogant, it’s necessary! Companies like having great leaders, but they need exceptional leaders.

We are all traveling down the road from “good to great” that has been paved for us by the genius and generosity of others who have gone before us. They escalated our thinking and challenge us to new levels. And for that, we are all eternally grateful.

However, since leadership is never a destination, but always a responsibility, let me ask you: When is the last time you sat down and thought about the job you were doing, the leadership you were providing, and how effective and valuable it is to the company and its organizational objectives?

The Driving Force

This is a common challenge for most leaders, so you’re not alone. I don’t think we give enough thought to the value of our leadership. I think we kind of do what we have to do because we are the leader, right? We juggle a lot of balls. We typically have more balls in the air than most. Often, those balls have us so occupied that we rarely get a chance to focus on our own development because we’re too busy making sure we don’t drop the ball.

Whether you’re a Pastor, CEO, department manager, supervisor, team leader, restaurant owner, pizza shop owner, mother or father, your leadership is the driving force behind the success or failure of the business.

Before we go further, I don’t want to make any assumptions about our discussion. So, I’d like to define what I mean by leadership. In the word leadership, there are three words: Lead, Leader and Ship.

To provide as much clarity as possible, let’s take a close look each of these three words, define them, and combine them for maximum understanding:


At the core, the word lead simply means, “to guide someone or to guide others.”

If we think about a guide, we think of a person who has been where we are all trying to get to, or a person who knows the way by experience or direction.

Now, to the degree that we follow the guide depends largely on how much we trust and believe in the guide’s ability to get us to the destination, the guide’s ability to communicate effectively, the guide’s ability to handle the unexpected, and the guide’s decision making ability when we are all faced with uncertainty.

Additionally, a guide usually takes us where we want to go, not where they want us to go.

The Situation

I’m reminded of a situation I faced years ago as the new supervisor of Organizational Development for The American Red Cross. I started out with the organization as a trainer. Within a few months of being there, the position of Supervisor O.D. became available.

Initially, I did not apply for the position because I felt I needed more time to learn the organization, build deeper relationships with key personnel, and become a trusted source; e.g. earn influence.

Frequently, I was asked by my peers and by department managers if I was going to apply for the position. After about two weeks of that, I had enough. I was tired of the question, so I asked my direct manager, should I apply? She said, “YES!”

Note to self: If your direct boss tells you to apply for a position, that’s usually a darn good idea. So, I applied!

Good News Depends on The Listener

However, there was one of my peers who wasn’t very happy about my decision because she was also applying. She began a series of competitive moves to attempt to position herself for the job. I, on the other hand, did not engage in the game with her because I knew they were in pursuit of a leader, not necessarily a follower.

You Must Plan For Influence

During this time, I began to think and plan for my response to getting, or not getting, the job. If my peer got the job, it was going to business as usual for me. If I got the job, I knew there was going to be trouble. She was trying so hard to make herself look good and me look bad.

What’s important here is the new team that one of us would inherit was observing the whole thing, and making assessments that would affect leadership.

Before we become leaders, people are assessing us. So make sure you don’t negatively affect the relational capital you need later to lead effectively.

The Announcement

Well, I got the job, As predicted, she was not happy. She went to HR stating that she would not work with me. HR suggested that I consider letting her go – I flatly refused!

Two reasons:

  1. She was very good at her job.
  2. I did not want to do her job and mine while I was learning a new role which could have possibly affect my influence later.

So I met with her. And let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty, but I retained her because of her value and because I knew that the other team members were watching how I’d handle my first leadership crisis.

I guided her through that process and indirectly guided the rest of the team as well.  Remember, “LEAD” means to guide.


At the core, the word “LEADER” means, “one who has influence”.

Influence is best when earned through a series of positive interactions. For example, communications in person or electronically that starts earning influence.

Other ways of earning influence include, but are certainly not limited to: timely meetings, keeping your word, likability, thoughtfulness, thoroughness, humility, confidence, character, integrity, sincerity, and even toughness.

Influence is most definitely earned. But it can be lost in one wrong move. So guard your influence with exceptional responses because it’s your relational capital that fuels your leadership.


At the core, the word “SHIP” references quality.

Your leadership must be a ship of quality. Remember, you are a guide and you are leading with influence. And it all must be cloaked in quality.

Tools to take on board your LEADER-SHIP

1. Understanding your worth and value is not arrogant, it’s necessary!

2. Companies like having great leaders, but they need exceptional leaders!

3. Don’t forget to focus on our own development.

4. Your leadership is the driving force behind the successful or failure of the business.

Bonus Take-Aways

  • Remember that you are a guide for the people you lead.
  • Plan for influence – every interaction counts especially with peers.
  • Influence is best when earned through a series of quality interactions.
  • Your leadership must be a ship of quality.

How Do You Get On board the Leader Ship?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Mark Hampton
Mark founded FTL Leadership Group in 2005 when he wrote his second book “Follow the Leader” a leadership book that improves personal leadership ability with a focus on high quality people interactions.