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


Saturday, April 26, 2008

What's in Your Wallet: Revisited

Several months ago I posted an article on values called whats in your wallet. It was an interesting piece to write because at the time
values were a central theme of the blog. Of course they still are but now we are writing about purpose. By the way the third interview will be out within the next two weeks. I recently came across a post on MSN on the same topic. I thought I would share with you the link to what they had to say...

What Your Wallet Says About You

So let me know what you think about the post. While it has little to do with leadership per se, a wise leader will see that actually it has everything to do with understanding people and since leadership is about influence is about relationships and is ultimately about... you guessed it people.

I like the post especially because it pokes fun at my own wallet.

Lead well know your people


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Recent Read

Well it has been a while since my last post and in that time I have been engaged in many things. Life in particular. No excuses though just balancing priorities. I have been working hard at finishing up interview #3. It is more difficult than I had originally anticipated. Interviews 4 and 5 have been secured and I anticipate will follow shortly thereafter.

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind

T. Harv Eker

In the mean time I have been reading a truly remarkable book that I wanted to mention. Not a leadership book in particular but in that it deals with the inner workings of the mind and how it manifests itself in lifes actions and behaviors, it is very much on point with this blog. That is at least the posts of last year. I love this book and highly recommend it. In the coming weeks it will influence my blog and posts. I encourage you to read it if you have not already done so. Check the book out here

Lead well


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Interview 3: Coming Soon!

This past weekend interview number three was completed. I believe it will take a few weeks to truly capture the essence of the discussion. The man I interviewed is a well known author and consultant. His work was instrumental in how my perspective on leadership is framed. The interview was a study in contradiction yet not. It was actually an authentic leader living his purpose. You see he interviewed me for the first twenty minutes of our conversation. He wanted to be certain to capture the essence of what I was searching for. He wanted to know me first and answer me second.

The conversation was a blur he spoke with such wisdom and authenticity that I found myself just listening. Every now and then I would jerk myself out of the student role long enough to ask another question. I felt as if I were listening to a master story teller, a man of great wisdom. I took a different approach with this interview. I provided my guest with a scenario and asked him to analyze the actions taken against his model. From this discussion I was able to learn even deeply about his model and how it plays out in the real world.

We talked about the motivation for his work. He told me about an injustice perpetrated against the Malay people as recounted in a book by M Scott Peck. His passion was evident even now as he recounted his emotional reaction to a book he read over 15 years ago. It was clear that tragedy was a significant framing concept in his work. His efforts to teach a beacon of how to transcend tragedy in our day.

I know you will want to read this post as much as I want to write it.

Lead well


Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Purpose filled Winter

Hi everyone

This winter has turned out to be one of the highest demand times of my life. I have to say I am fully engaged with work, with family, with church, with volunteering, with school, with hobbies, with fitness and with blogging. Unfortunately because it is last on the list the frequency with which I blog has decreased.

“High Capacity Season”

I get tired just thinking about the list above. It is certainly exhilarating yet it wears me down. This is where faith and fitness come in. These are my recharge activities. With out my time in worship and prayer, without time in exercise I simply could not keep up the life I am leading. With these activities I can continue on like the Energizer bunny I just keep going and going and going. The important issue though is that the only reason I can sustain this relentless pace for weeks and months on end is that all of what I am doing is aligned to my purpose.

“Check Your Alignment”

I shared my own purpose with you a few months back in a post called Finding Your Leadership Purpose. For me it is:

To make a difference in the lives of those I meet through my faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the what, the how comes to life in my values; faith, family integrity, teaching, and learning. If you look at the list of activities I mentioned above you will see a clear link between each activity and the list of values. I translate integrity as a core aspect of leadership by the way.

“Stay the Course”

Most everything I do stems from or is related to one of my values and fits my purpose. Recently I was asked to take on a significant leadership role in a community outreach event. The event was massive, large budget thousands of lives touched. On the surface of it, the event fits neatly into my values and mirrors my purpose. To make matters more difficult the man who asked me to help him is a mentor to me, helping me grow in my faith life. What was my response to this friend and brother? I prayerfully said no.

“No, I cannot”

How could I do that you might ask? Well it was not easy yet I realized that as aligned as this event would be to my purpose, it would undermine my effectiveness in nearly all aspects of my life. The commitment asked for was beyond the resource I had available by so much that I would have had to walk away from nearly everything else I am doing in the next three months. Had I been given a sense through prayer that I needed to do so I would have. I was not and so I respectfully declined the opportunity.

“Learn More about No”

In my other blog I wrote a leadership tip on saying no, it really is a critical tool in a leader’s arsenal. I encourage you to join my mailing list there at developing leaders and consider it thoughtfully. I promise not to spam you.

Lead well


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leaders Purpose: 2 Down 3 or more To Go

So here we are two interviews down and at least three more to go. I am working out the details with these three "high capacity" ;-) people. I hope to post an interview within the next two weeks. I realize this is taking longer than I had originally foreseen to get these perspectives published. I sincerely hope they have been worth waiting for. I have learned a lot and hope you have too.

I believe there is value in this effort and plan to continue. Last weekend I was asked by one of our upcoming interviewees what I have learned so far. I reflected on the question and then shared that while I have learned many things, I am trying to hold off until the end to synthesize the results. I know the perspectives that will be gained will be wise and useful. I suspect there will be a few threads of commonality that when pulled upon will reveal a rich truth about the search for purpose. We mustn't try to pull on them prematurely, the web of connectivity may yet be too weak to reveal the truth lying just beneath the surface.

So we soldier on.

This by the way, diligence in leading, is a prerequisite of effectiveness. I could tell you stories of long hours, stressful days, emotional strain. I cold talk about the struggle for balance, searching for clarity, seeking schedule synchronization, but I won't. This blog is a challenge. It is a challenge to be transparent, to write with clarity to seek knowledge. It challenges me in so many ways. The benefit I receive back is in the knowledge that in some small way I have helped you, an anonymous reader. So I soldier on toward my goal; clarity in understanding a leaders purpose.

lead well


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Interview 2: Terrence Seamon The Leadership Coach

Before I begin let me start by sharing that if you want to find out more about our guest Terrence Seamon you can do so through his blog at

"You have to know who you are deeply so you can really convey your passion to them"

Early in my career I would have paid plenty to have access to wise counsel. To have someone walking beside me that could offer perspective; offer a different approach to difficult conversations, difficult circumstances. I would have loved to have a leadership coach!

This is part of the reason that I coach others. I want to help those I work with to avoid some of the land mines I have stepped on. Not all of them of course. Read my post on adversity, you will know how much I value learning from mistakes and interpersonal conflict. No, I am talking about the types of mistakes that you should just avoid. In a leadership position there are things that you just should not do; walking into an important meeting without having thought out your approach, entering into a difficult conversation without considering alternative explanations of what might have happened. There are many things a coach can offer you that you just want to know.

The Coach

So it was with this in mind that I asked the next interviewee on our purpose series to participate. Terrence (Terry) Seamon has been involved in leadership development and leadership coaching in the greater New York City area for over 25 years. He has worked with clients in a vast range of industries and organizational levels. Terry is a coach with considerable experience in helping clients improve their leadership game.

I met Terry through Linked In. I love to answer other member questions related to leadership development in the forums there and so does Terry. It’s one of those things where you start to see the same names popping up time and time again. I always found a wise ring of truth to his responses and a clarity that comes only from years of experience. Terry and I have had a number of conversations on the elements of leadership development and it was for this reason that I thought you would benefit from his perspective.

The Twist

This interview took a twist. Rather than discussing Terry’s leadership purpose, I asked him to walk me through how he approaches the coaching process. I wanted you to be able to get inside the head of a leadership coach; to look at the client as he sees them. To go after a leaders purpose from a coaches perspective.

The Interview

I suppose there are as many approaches to getting through to people as there are people to get through to. Ultimately to make a difference in the life of a coaching client, a coach must get through. Terry and I talked about this aspect of the process for some time; it was clear that we were in agreement. [Side note there is an excellent book by leadership development coach Marshall Goldsmith called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. In this book Marshall clearly states that if the client is not ready to change and listen to feedback then it is time to move on.]

Terry’s perspective was not substantially different from Marshall’s. Change requires an ability to hear what is being said, process it and evaluate your own behaviors against the feedback. Only then can a client begin to see the need for change.

Somebody is not going to be coached until they are ready for it. Creating readiness is partly a thing you can do as an external agent. But it’s also got to come from the person themselves.

Terry related the story of an executive who had been abrasive with his team and frankly had gotten to the point where the aggressive behavior was career limiting if not down right career threatening. He coached the executive to look at the feedback from his team. Not surprisingly he experienced push back from the executive. After all the very behaviors that had to this point seemed to help him succeed where now being called into question.


Terry’s perspective on purpose entranced me; he had an elegant way of getting at the question without the directness you might expect. No Terry takes a subtle yet effective approach getting at purpose in unique ways. When I asked him about this he shared an example where he was assisting a client with their resume. Terry noted his client had no summary statement on his resume and dug in.

“I noticed that he did not have a summary statement at the top of his resume of who he was as a person… That was my recommendation to him and he had no idea of what I was talking about. “

I shared with him…You want to know what you are going after. At the same time you want to know who you are. You need to be able to convey that in writing and in speaking to people that you hope will invite you into their organization.

Fascinating approach, Terry was able to ask his client what is your leadership purpose without uttering a single word of the actual question. Once interested he was able to guide his client through the process of self discovery and a definition of purpose. Armed with a clear sense of purpose a leader has the ability to make informed choices about career opportunities and roles.

The Power of Feedback

Arguably the most important theme in Terry’s responses was the wisdom he conveyed regarding feedback. In all aspects of our time together this activity seemed to bubble to the top. Whether through questions meant to spark self examination or survey feedback from peers, direct reports and supervisors the role of the leadership coach is to provide an external force that helps the client to see the context from a different perspective.

Remember the hard charging abrasive executive? Feedback, Terry offered him the data that challenged the executive to look in the mirror and see what others saw. Between this and some external “heat” by his superiors, the executive opened up and began to learn a new approach.

The application of external heat (force) would be a general principle here Ron.

Hopefully the client begins to internalize the feedback and accept that they need to embrace the possibility of change.

“One Size Fits All”

Well no this would be incorrect. It may seem rather obvious but people are different and the approach taken by a leadership coach depends on the client and what will work with them to affect change.

No. Everybody is different; there is definitely no one size fits all here… A lot of people are looking for the recipe just give me the five steps that I follow every time and get a quick result. Unfortunately the world does not work that way. Yet there are many vendors out there who will try to sell you the recipe.

The reality of any growth process is that it is gradual. There are no quick fixes only long term solutions. Terry’s wisdom on this point reflects my own philosophy. Organizations who want to be successful in the long term must invest in the growth of their people and realize that immediacy and reflexive action can cause more harm than good. Without the delicate balance of execution and reflective consideration we can become a train wreck begging to happen or a ponderer who never ventures into reality. Either choice seems unacceptable to a purposeful leader.

Process…When Required

Terry and I also discussed how the coaching process progresses. IS there a standardized approach? Do you wing it? Do you set up accountability meetings?

Terry conveyed that it is difficult to say that there is one approach. His starting point allows for many potential directions, in keeping with the diversity of his clients. Once a direction is decided however process is definitely invoked. This is a critical aspect in that change does require a level of accountability. It is those coaches who are hardest on us, that care about us who drive us to our greatest performance level. So Terry takes on this role challenging when needed, offering guidance where appropriate. In the end however he is there holding his client accountable to their own success however that might be defined.


So what takeaways can we glean from Terry’s contribution to the conversation on a leaders purpose?

  • Feedback truly is a gift to effective leaders
  • Leadership development is not microwave popcorn it is a rich stew cooked gradually in a slow cooker
  • Development is primarily an internal process but can be influenced by surgical applications of external force or heat
  • How you apply external heat can either help a client grow or scorch them altogether.

I will leave you with a final quote from Terry who offers his best wisdom on personal development and the role of experience…

Experience is the best teacher but she is rough on her students.

Lead well


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Leaders Purpose: A High Capacity Day

Have you ever noticed when you greet someone during their day and ask them how things are they will often say "very busy"?

In the past several weeks this word “busy” has taken on new meaning to me. Ironically it has taken on the meaning to have little meaning or purpose; to work hastily getting the tasks of the day accomplished all the while losing sight on what is important.

Perhaps this is an unfair assessment. Well perhaps, yet I do not judge others I simply wonder whether the list of tasks that people scurry about to complete have any meaning in the grand scheme of things. What eternal value do our tasks have? Could this be a deception that keeps us at bay; to keep us from fulfilling or perhaps discovering our true purpose?

I believe it is…

So I have created a new answer to this question. When someone asks me how things are, I reflect on how well I am doing against my purpose. How am I progressing those strategic activities that bring life value and meaning. Am I on track in my leadership role in achieving the goals set out before me.

If I am doing well I respond to the question; I am having a high capacity day and I am blessed that supply is level with demand. This gives me an ability to create a nuance for those days that are overwhelming (supply is not meeting demand) and awesome days where “Bring it” is the quote of the day.

On days that are simply lost, that is I am not working toward my purpose, I can still respond that I am busy if I am or whatever else I am feeling. Only thing is now I have an external prompt to get myself back on track working toward my purpose.

How do you stay in your purpose?

How do you find your purpose?

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