Ron's Material Leadership Blog

It is my sincerest hope that the stories I share are helpful to others. I have experienced first hand that many people toil in obscurity, searching for answers, ashamed to reach out and ask for help. This blog will contain experiences and wisdom that I have gained over the years that I hope will offer guidance in dealing with some of life's challenges.

Why the name material leadership? If you are curious the answer is on my website.
The link on the side bar.

Lead well


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Going, Going, Gone! 756 Homeruns!

How can I resist the opportunity to talk about leadership and 756 homeruns?

Barry Bonds….

Steroids yes or no?

Does it matter?

Regardless of your opinion on this debate these questions matter. They matter for the theme underlying the questions as much as the questions themselves.

What is really being asked is Can we trust Barry? Did he achieve this record with integrity?

That is the underlying theme, integrity. It is not my intent to take a position on how Barry achieved the homerun record. I don’t believe it is any of my affair. I am a hockey fan anyway. Talk about beating Gretzky’s scoring records then I might get interested. What I want to address is the importance of integrity in the life of a leader. I mentioned in “Are you a leader” that integrity is one of the foundational bedrock qualities of a leader. It is upon this rock that trust, respect and even faith are forged. Undermine your integrity and you will find it an uphill battle to just return to the height you fell from.


One of the most elegant aspects of integrity is the concept of transparency. I once tried an experiment at a social event during my masters program. Instead of wearing one name tag, I wore two. The first was on my chest reading “Ron” The other was in the exact same spot on my back reading “NOR”. People would ask what on earth are you doing? I would respond “I am working on being transparent. What you see is what you get.” I am a little peculiar like that. For me there is always room for a lesson. In a room full of aspiring leadership experts, I sought to teach a simple lesson, be transparent.

What does this really mean? For me transparency is the congruence of thought and action, of intent and behavior. When I say I will do something, I do it or explain why I cannot and apologize. When I have something to say I say it with respectful intent and dignity in the delivery. When someone is not present I chose not to speak about them. When I am tempted to stretch the truth, I stop take a breath and say no, and tell the truth. I have always loved the fact that telling the truth greatly uncomplicates life. You simply don’t have to remember everything you say since it won’t change anyway.


Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. Shakespeare

I think Shakespeare’s Macbeth was dead wrong on this point and a bit too morbid. A leader is always on stage and their actions are very important. Those who forget or chose not to acknowledge this simple truth can undermine their own credibility. Leadership is a responsibility not an entitlement and must be honored as such. In January 2006 I attended a University of San Diego leadership course taught in the Tavistock tradition. This thing was bizarre. The faculty talked but did not interact. The 200 students interacted with each other but only partially with the faculty. Faculty would interject comments about the process how we were not doing the work of the event. This course made brainwashing sound like a welcome escape. The deeper we went in the weekend long event, the more my brain felt like Gumby on a blistering hot day. I am being melted and stretched in ways a brain just does not want to be stretched.

In the end what astounded me was not the weirdness factor but rather the students. How sobering was it when a faculty member interjected an emotion charged accusation complete with a choice expletive and the whole crowd, the herd per Nietzsche, immediately degraded their vocabulary to a learned cussing match. I could not believe my eyes and ears! Had 200 graduate students and professionals been led to cuss because of one comment? Amazing! They had. Throughout the rest of the course I took charge to change the context of every space I was a part of. I gathered a group who instinctively had an affinity toward me and we led sections of the course. Our outcomes were amazing and incredibly insightful, we changed the context because we chose to be present in the moment and own our influence on the larger group.

A leader’s presence is bigger than he realizes. This is our opportunity, this is our challenge. Leadership is born in the space of our influence. Every interaction, every moment is precious to a leader. Use them well.


People need to know how much you care before they care how much you know.

Someone very close to me once shared a frustration they were dealing with. They had recently gotten into a community group that was somewhat disorganized. This person made numerous attempts to offer their assessment and their help solve the problem. At first as this story unfolded I first considered maybe the group was so disorganized that they could not see that they had a problem and looked at the advice as unnecessary criticism. Then I realized, this person was new to the group and had not yet proven their commitment to the effort or demonstrated any value. So efforts to help were politely and at times not so politely rebuffed. The challenge, this person was not an equal member in the enterprise, they were an outsider.

Until we physically demonstrate that we care about others and care about the cause people will not chose to follow us. We must through our words and deeds clearly demonstrate our values and our commitment to the shared purpose.

In the end integrity for me is very closely allied with authenticity.

How authentic was Barry in his quest to break the homerun record?

How authentic are you in your leadership role?

Lead well


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Thoughts on a Recent Read

The Dip by Seth Godin

This was the first of Mr. Godin’s books I have read and I must say it will not be the last. I enjoyed this book and found its message wise and on point for our age. The premise of the book is that there is a time to quit a role, project, effort and a time to stay. When we have the opportunity to be the very best and are willing to pay the price, it is time to stay. When it is clear that staying will result in mediocrity or worse yet (Mr. Godin’s term for a dead end) a cul-de-sac, it is time to move on to something where we can be our best. The dip is the place in between. The place where we face opposition, adversity and discouragement. It is here that many wrongly chose to give up when greatness is not that far away for the brave souls who persevere.

Complexity: Low

Length: Short

Compelling: Very much

Worthwhile: Definitely