Personal Development

5 Indefinite Laws of Leadership



A quick Amazon search for “Leadership” will return over 77,000 results, so chances are that a definitive approach for leading others doesn’t exist. In fact, the specific tenets of a leadership philosophy are probably secondary to actually having one in the first place. So even though I’m about to lay out a set of components that frame my beliefs on becoming a better leader, know that I encourage folks to define their own path. For me, that self-discovery process was supported by becoming familiar with multiple viewpoints on the subject. Perhaps this will help in a similar way.

*Disclaimer: This is not meant to represent an inclusive framework for leadership (not sure that exists). Rather, this outline has been a way for me to narrow down numerous principles and traits of leadership into a manageable approach. I simply can’t keep track of 20+ laws of leadership AND put them into action on a daily basis, regardless of how irrefutable they are.

I. KNOW THYSELF
It’s been said that “You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself”. There aren’t many people interested in following someone who can’t even lead themselves. Also consider that leading by example contributes to your credibility while providing a model for others to follow. For these reasons, self-reflection is the first place to start when developing as a leader. My intention is to first lead myself, then lead my family, and finally be a leader for friends and peers. I’ve found that these 5 elements provide the clarity to best know myself, and as such, they also serve as a roadmap for me to more effectively lead my own life. You can find examples at https://coachemup.wordpress.com/purpose-and-beliefs/.

a. Purpose: A life purpose is a personal mission statement which answers the question – “What were you put on this earth to do?” Try to keep it short and sweet so that it can be easily articulated. Ultimately, it’s something to compare your daily activities to. Are your actions congruent with your mission in life? Knowing your life’s purpose will help you stay focused on activities that matter the most to you.

b. Strengths: The majority of people focus on their shortcomings in order to improve their productivity and fulfillment. But maximum potential for success is driven by our innate talents and abilities. Instead of continuing to fight against your weaknesses, your energy is better spent targeting and developing your personal strengths. When we can live our purpose while leveraging our strengths, we’ll accomplish more with less effort.

c. Core Values: These are the attitudes and beliefs that form an internal compass upon which you navigate through life. A clearly defined set of core values helps you to align your decisions with what you stand for. Without them, it becomes difficult to consistently achieve a sense of wholeness from your actions and behaviors. Your personal core values (and who you are as a leader) are often a reflection of the leaders that made an impact in your life (parents, bosses, coaches, teachers, friends, etc.).

d. Why’s: Most people/companies communicate a combination of three things to others. What they do, How they do it, and Why they do it – and usually in that order. This sequence is certainly a logical and systematic way to deliver information. However, if we study the great leaders of our time, we see the exact opposite. First and foremost, they have inspired action by speaking directly to our emotions – not our sense of reason. Simply put, people don’t buy into what you do; they buy into why you do it. The last time you made a significant and meaningful change in your life, it was probably a deep visceral response to an ideal or belief that moved you enough for you to make a lasting commitment. It’s in that primitive place in us that the “Why’s” exist. From a leadership perspective, I need to know my own “Why’s” before I can communicate or model them to others.

e. Vision: A life vision is a snapshot of the future in which all the things important to you are manifested. Together with your core values, it will provide direction for your daily choices and behaviors. Some people will literally draw a picture of a scene from the future and make decisions that bring them closer to that vision (70th birthday party, retirement party, first book signing, etc.). Another way to develop your personal vision is to draft a copy of your own eulogy. It’s a bit morbid, but deciding what you’d like folks to say about you after you pass can be an effective way to frame your life path. Whatever your vision is, use it to answer the question – Is what I am doing now bringing me closer to my life vision?

II. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Expecting people to follow you based on your position or title is awfully short-sighted. Instead, what great leaders know is that followership is something earned by those who take a genuine interest in others. They ask about things like family, hobbies, unique skills, likes, dislikes, aspirations, and other aspects about people’s lives outside of work. Then they actually listen to the responses. Having these types of down-to-earth interactions is essential to building trust and will foster a culture of positive energy and support. It’s human nature to seek out those who show concern in getting to know us. And when we find it at home, or work, or wherever, we’re happy to deliver the best in us – without being asked or reminded. Theodore Roosevelt may have said it best – “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

III. FOCUS ON STRENGTHS
People achieve a high level of fulfillment and happiness when passion and skill intersect. Without a high level of natural acumen, passion will only get us so far. Conversely, it’s completely possible that we can be good at something, yet not possess an inherent desire to do that thing for the rest of our lives. Leaders can assist folks in finding this intersection by looking for, and magnifying, their skills/strengths. In fact, great leaders are able to identify strengths within people that they themselves were unaware of. Once identified, tell them and tell them often (it will probably be the first time someone has taken the time to tell them what they do better than anyone else). Follow this up with a plan to further develop and hone these strengths while putting them in positions to best leverage them. Imagine the possibilities of a passionate team composed of individuals who appreciate their own strengths and the complementary strengths of each other.

IV. THINK EMPATHETICALLY
The hard-lined, opinionated, black and white leadership styles are becoming less and less effective. Modern high achievers are seeking out leaders that inspire action, not dictate it. This isn’t to say that a firm approach doesn’t work, in fact, articulating distinct values and a clear vision is important. The key is being able to align your vision with the visions of others. That connection is most easily made when leaders use their emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is characterized by making concerted efforts to understand what makes other people tick, finding out what’s important to them, how they feel about what’s asked of them, and most of all – what inspires them. When a leader is attuned to others in this way, they begin to see the world as their followers do. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is a mark of serving as a vehement advocate for others – which builds trust. Thinking empathically doesn’t mean you’ll always agree with their viewpoints, just that you honor their perspective and humbly adjust the way you interact with them.

V. BE AUTHENTIC
Fundamentally, leadership is not just something we do – it’s a candid expression of who we are. So much so that when people try to fit into a persona of leadership, they come across phony and insecure. On the other hand, authentic leaders who are true to their values and walk the talk, are masters at gaining the trust and confidence of others. They are at ease with not having all the answers and instead foster a culture of synergy that captures the power and wisdom of many. The way that they allow their ego to die and embrace a level of vulnerability also makes those around them feel comfortable in doing the same. In the end, cultures built on a foundation of authenticity simply won’t be subject to the ceilings that stymie artificial and flimsy environments.

Here are some of the resources that helped form my thoughts on leadership;

1. Book: The Element – Robinson
2. Book: How to Win Friends & Influence People – Carnegie
3. Book: The Four Agreements – Ruiz
4. Book: Strengths Finder 2.0 – Rath
5. Book: The High Achiever’s Guide to Happiness – Caesar, Caesar
6. Book: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – Maxwell
7. Book: 25 Ways to Win with People – Maxwell
8. Book: Linchpin – Godin
9. Article: “What Makes a Leader?” – Goleman, Harvard Business Review, Nov. – Dec. 98
10. Article: “Managing Authenticity” – Goffee & Jones, Harvard Business Review, Dec. 05
11. Article: “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time” – Schwartz & McCarthy, Harvard Business Review, Oct. 07
12. Blog: Harvard Business Review Blog Network
13. Web Video: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” – Simon Sinek http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html
14. Web Video: “A Life of Purpose” – Rick Warren http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/rick_warren_on_a_life_of_purpose.html
15. Web Video: “True Success” – John Wooden http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success.html

– Coach Hall

What Does a Coach Make?

Occasionally, someone will ask me if I make a good living as a coach. It’s usually pretty clear that they’re talking about money, so I catch them a little off guard with my answer. First off, I believe that money is only one form of currency that we receive from our chosen career. In his book, “The High Achiever’s Guide to Happiness”, Vance Caesar provides a list of career currencies that won’t show up on a W-2 or 1099 Form, but are arguably more valuable and deserve ample attention;

  • Knowledge and Growth – This one is critical for me. A systematic personal and/or professional development plan will pay dividends long after you retire.
  • Relationships – Leadership and influence are contingent on strong relationships. As a coach, I thrive on them, particularly the ones that give me positive energy. You know that feeling of being more alive after working with a group of exceptional athletes?, that’s the value of relationships.
  • Fun – Don’t forget this one.  Do you have fun at work? If so, then you can hardly call it work.
  • Life Choices – When assessing a potential career opportunity, or even your current situation, how well does it fit into the type of life you want? Can you live close to family? Are your nights and weekends free to spend time with your kids? Are you able to travel the globe and experience other cultures?
  • Legacy – If you enjoy building something from the ground up, then legacy is important to you. Particularly if what you build outlasts your own career. Knowing that you’re contributing to a cause that will in turn benefit others for a long time can be way more rewarding than a paycheck.
  • Reputation and Brand – Most coaches would take a pay cut if it meant they were able to become part of an industry-leading organization that they respect.

Of all these currencies, the coaching profession is rich in Relationships, Fun, and Legacy. Certainly, there are opportunities to maximize Money, Knowledge and Growth, Life Choices, and Reputation and Brand, but most of us are in the game to connect with athletes, play every day, and make lasting impressions.

One of my favorite video clips looks at this concept from a teacher’s perspective, but the coaching applications are obvious.

So, what does a coach make?

  • A coach makes athletes work harder than they thought possible.
  • A coach makes athletes develop discipline, focus, and work ethic.
  • A coach makes athletes realize how special they are.
  • A coach makes athletes think critically.
  • A coach makes athletes more self-confident.
  • A coach makes athletes aware of the path where the heart leads.
  • A coach makes it possible to fail without fear.
  • A coach makes personal connections that last a lifetime.
  • A coach makes a difference.

– Coach Hall

Wise Words from Busta

There are a handful of factors I consider whenever approaching a professional opportunity. One of them is Professional Development. When an employer or manager doesn’t have an established system of development, there is a good chance I’m not going to be interested. At the very least, I am looking for regular evaluations so that I can make the appropriate steps to address my critical areas of improvement. However, in the athletic development coaching industry, these employee development programs are few and far between. Additionally, guided professional development becomes exceedingly difficult when you become a Head Performance Coach or Director and are now responsible for the development of others. Who is left to develop you? Or what if you’re an entrepreneur and run your own business?

Although development systems are great, especially when individualized, I might also look at the prospective coaching staff that I would be joining. Early on in my coaching career, I felt like I made the biggest strides in my professional development when I was working with coaches that were more experienced and simply just better coaches than I was. Having models of coaching excellence to learn from cannot be replaced by an employee development plan. However, there may come a time when you are the best coach on staff and you are the model of excellence that others are learning from. Again, what about you?

Well, I think Busta Rhymes said it best in his late 90’s chart topping hit Gimme Some More.



If I ain’t gonna be part of the greatest,
I gotta be the greatest myself.

When you work somewhere that doesn’t have a development system in place, where you are the best coach on staff, and you lack the opportunity to access a suitable mentor; it is time to take control of your own development. Listen to Busta. After all, he does own a green Lamborghini Murciélago nicknamed “Peppermint”.

Here are 10 ways to become master of your coaching destiny:

Self Reflection: Across the board, all great coaches are constantly evaluating themselves. Much of this happens internally, but you could also have someone take video of some of your training sessions so that you can assess yourself at a later time. The point is to be consciously aware of what is working and what isn’t working, then seek more optimal behaviors.

Circle of Peers: Establish a group of fellow sports performance coaches that you can bounce ideas off of. The key is to make sure each member of your group has their own strength and is willing to offer honest feedback and analysis. A group of coaches that are so like-minded that they agree on everything and are afraid to provide constructive criticism won’t do you much good. Before recently relocating, I was part of a small Mastermind group like this.  We met twice each month to talk shop, discuss training and leadership, review industry products, and troubleshoot dilemmas. It was invaluable.

Observation: Take time every few months to remove yourself from your own coaching environment so that you can visit and observe someone else in their facility or gym. Visiting local competitors can be a little tricky, but when handled professionally, most folks realize that sharing amongst coaches is a win-win. Additionally, observing sport coaches during their practices is great to find new ways of organizing and communicating with large groups of athletes.

Literature: Combine a library of classic training and coaching books with industry journals and/or online articles. Make it a priority to read every week. My book and article collection is a point that if I stopped adding to it today, I would still have material to read until I retire. I might not ever get to read all of it, but the process of searching and sifting through literature always leads me to interesting concepts that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

DVDs: For those that don’t enjoy reading, there is a plethora of DVD or video products on performance training. The growing trend is for industry experts to re-purpose live presentations, which typically have poor production value, but the information is readily available nonetheless.

Conferences and Clinics: Not only a chance to get with other coaches and “talk shop”, but the presentations at the NSCA and Perform Better conferences are also an excellent way to see what other people are doing and hear what concepts are being refined. Big events also draw the exhibitors anxious to show you new products. Hard sells are annoying but being aware of new technology and equipment is part of being a great coach.

Mentorships: These aren’t cheap, but being able to spend 5 days with Mike Boyle, Athletes’ Performance, or Vern Gambetta is probably well worth the cost if you can swing it. I haven’t attended any but the Boyle Mentorship is first on my list.

Discussion Forums: For the quick sharing of information, ideas, and opinions with tons of other coaches; you can’t beat online discussion forums. The ability to ask questions that are answered by some leading minds in the industry is completely unique to online forums. Even if you don’t post on the discussion threads, you can get great information from old threads. My favorite forums are on http://www.strengthcoach.com/ (paysite), Supertraining Yahoo Group, http://www.nsca.com/, and http://www.charliefrancis.com/.

Blogs: If you are reading this, then you have already figured this one out. Find a handful of good blogs that you can check throughout the week to stimulate thought or just remind you of stuff you already know. I’ve listed my favorite blogs by category on my Resources Tab.

Podcasts: These are great for commutes or if you want to torture your wife and kids on long road trips. Best of all, they are usually free. Some of my all-time favorite podcasts are interviews with Mark Verstegen, Al Vermeil, Brian Grasso, Loren Seagrave and the stuff Gray Cook does for the Strength Coach Podcast. I also like the Strength and Power Hour internet radio show.