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


Monday, October 29, 2007

Leadership Development Training

Last week I traveled to San Diego CA to attend a leadership development training conference hosted by the Center for Creative Leadership and listen to a talk by Jim Kouzes. He and Barry Posner are the authors of the book The Leadership Challenge. This book as you know is in my top five leadership books and will not soon be dislodged because it is the most comprehensive leadership development book available. All the others in my top five appeal to me for numerous reasons, but none are as complete as this book. I am sure you can appreciate how excited I was to meet one of the people who have significantly influenced my leadership style. Not to mention the chance to have my book signed now by both authors!

The chance to hear Jim speak was fantastic. It got even better though since one of my grad school Profs was also there and she and Jim are friends. I had an opportunity to talk with him after the presentation on leadership development. Very cool to interact with some one with this degree of influence on the practice of leadership development. During his presentation Jim waged in on the age old leadership development debate of born versus made. Clearly this was a home town audience; a crowd full of leadership development zealots. I have never heard it put as well as he did this afternoon. His argument made me chuckle at the thought of updating the argument on this topic on this blog.

Leadership development is hard work. It demands sacrifice. It demands that the leader have the best interests of the institution as their priority rather than their own. However, when someone claims that leadership is a born condition or genetic endowment, this implies that working at it is relatively pointless since you either have it or you don’t. By extension those who believe that leadership is solely a born condition must be inherently lazy. After all there is no value in developing it so why bother…

So is leadership made or are you Lazy!?

What a deliciously provocative question!

Lead well


Friday, October 26, 2007

Don’t just go where the coffee is warm

Don’t just go where the coffee is warm

For several years now I have interacted with a gentleman that I just could not figure out. When he makes sales calls he takes on the role of technical support, sales, marketing you name it he can do it. He is ruthlessly consistent. He stops by to say hello every visit. If I am not there he leaves his business card on my seat. (He knows I cannot help but see it there). He always has a friendly smile and an engaging demeanor. And he is exceptionally good at what he does.

I cannot help but like this guy even though I have yet to figure him out.

The other day he was congratulating me on a recent promotion and shared with me in a solemn voice, "don’t just go where the coffee is warm." As he explained what he meant I realized that this guy was giving me a present that was as timeless as it was invaluable. Do not fall into the pattern of dealing with only those people who like and accept you. Continue to reach out to those who you know do not like you. Don’t give up on them.

What a valuable life lesson and so in keeping with the importance of building effective relationships in leadership.

Do not stop reaching out to others, they matter

Don’t just go where the coffee is warm

Where is the coffee cold in your leadership world?

Lead well


Monday, October 15, 2007


So fresh in a new position I find myself reflecting on transitions and what brings them about. With that here is one topic in this area


Have you ever noticed that the amount of energy and focus you have for a specific activity or role changes? I am not talking about the daily variations that seem to follow our moods, fitness levels, or attitude. I am talking about a long term trend. You may start out in a role excited fresh energetic and after several months perhaps a few years you slowly lose your passion.

This is definitely my pattern. There are two reasons why this happens for me.


Most people want to know they are following a solid leader. Whenever I get to a point where I know that the leadership capacity of the leaders ahead of me is waning or has peaked, I struggle. I want to follow a dynamic leader that will challenge me to be my best. I want them to capture my imagination and my heart for the enterprise. If they can do this I will lose myself in the effort of organizational goals. If they cannot I will find my own leadership vision and live it out until I have completed the vision or until I stop…


For me learning is almost on par with eating. Not the rank of breathing but definitely close to eating. I can go without that for days. I once fasted for four days so I know I can do it. Same with learning. I need to learn, to figure things out and improve them. When I reach the point of diminishing returns, that is when the investment in learning does not outweigh the benefit, I start to disengage. My cycle lasts 3-4 years at most and seems to be shortening.

So how about you? Do you follow this pattern? Are you capable of sustaining your performance in a role for an elongated period of time? If yes I would love to hear from you. I confess I don’t get you if you do. I respect you but do not understand. If you are open to it and this is you email me or leave a comment. I would love to learn from you :-)

Lead well


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Relating to Others

As a leader we must have the ability to relate to any number of people. This weekend I had a unique experience that I would like to share with you. I met a biker.

Larry was a biker. Not your forty something midlife yuppy trying to redefine his manhood on a Harley. No Larry was a biker. He carried a carved bone handled knife in a leather sheath. He wore road cured chaps over well worn levis and a broken-in leather jacket that clearly was the cure for serious bouts of road rash. A black bandana covered thinning hair; sunglasses protecting eyes that have seen more of life than many ever will. A hand rolled a cigarette dangled from his lips. No filters, no conforming to the ways of civilized man here. A guy that cussed as easily as he breathed. Rough and tough a guy who has seen things you don't ask about.

He should have scared us. He should have had us quaking in our shoes. Two middle aged guys meeting on a Saturday morning to discuss the bible; two men who admittedly have seen little of the violence and tragedy of this world. But there was no fear, we were firmly rooted in our faith and open to what may happen.

My friend and I talked to Larry for over half an hour. Two disparate worlds met this morning on a patio. We learned much from Larry. Most of all we learned that he was just a man who like any other was interested in connecting, in discussing life over a cup of coffee.

We learned about his occupation, his hopes, his frustrations, his leisure pursuits. We asked him questions we answered his. We shared openly and offered him friendship. We withheld judgment and met him as another man interested in sipping coffee on a wonderful Saturday morning in the California fall.

The real lesson here relates to respect, dignity and seeing others as worthwhile human beings we just might learn something from. What opportunity might we have missed had we been closed off to Larry fearing what he represented?

As a leader this same lesson holds true. We need to respect others and realize that they can teach us a lesson we may not see coming at first. If we remain open to their perspective, open to their influence we will gain the opportunity to also influence them

Lead well


My Favorites

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