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, November 26, 2007

Finding Purpose in Life

Over the next few weeks I a going to bring to you the stories of some people who have had a significant impact on me as a person and a leader. In each case their story was compelling and what stood out was a clear sense of purpose. I hope you like them. I hope you will join me in a discussion about them.

If there is a specific question that you think I should ask an interviewee let me know and I will try to include it. Although you would never know it from this blog, I love interviewing people. I have found that most people are pretty open about sharing of themselves when you want to listen. I have also found that just about everyone has a compelling story to share.

I hope you get as much value from this as I do. Later this week the first of these leadership interviews will be posted.

Lead well


Friday, November 23, 2007

Finding your Leadership Purpose

Have you ever thought about why you are here on this earth?

What is it that you were destined to do?

Do you even consider that you have a destiny and a purpose?

I think it would be incredibly difficult to be a leader without a clear sense of purpose. In my case I have found that for the majority of my life I had a diffuse sense of purpose. It has been kind of like someone who needs corrective lenses, while not wearing their glasses. You can see things but they are fuzzy and indistinct. You want to rub your eyes and clear things up, but it does not work.

My corrective lenses as it turns out were prescribed in the late 90’s. In my case it was my Christian faith coming to life. My purpose has been honed and clarified in the past 10 years and I can now say clearly:

To make a difference in the life’s of those I meet through my faith in our Lord Jesus Christ

I live this purpose in this blog and my other two, in my professional life as a general manager and in my volunteer activities. I joyfully serve the poor, lead in the men’s ministry and consult as a leadership coach at my church. So that’s me. What about you? What is your purpose?

Have you considered how you might find out what it is?

There are many paths to discovery of the answer of what your purpose is.

Here is what I recommend…


First get in touch with your personal values. These will allow you a clearer sense of what matters to you and hence where your focus would be best placed. There is a remarkably deep well of energy and motivation available to any leader who aligns their actions with a purpose congruent with their values. I am regularly astounded at how much I am willing to sacrifice for a cause I am committed to. I believe that this is true for everyone. We are made for a purpose; the challenge is finding it.

I wrote about values several posts ago. I recommend you go back and review that post for a more in depth approach to this aspect of finding your purpose.

Your values, your sense of self, integrity and adversity


The most complicated aspect of finding your purpose is to be aware of those things that you are passionate about. Like most I struggle to be fully present in the moment. Awareness of your emotional state is not always easy but is definitely powerful. As I discussed in the post on emotional intelligence a while back, awareness of your emotions is the first step to managing them. The other important aspect of emotional awareness is the opportunity to discover the events, issues, topics that you are passionate about. Those things we are passionate about offer us clues as to what our purpose is. You can learn more about emotional awareness and emotional intelligence by clicking here

Purpose Exercise

  • As you go through the next 30 days pay attention to those things that cause emotional spikes then right them down.
  • After compiling at least five events engage in the following process for each event.
    Ask why the first event caused an emotional reaction. Write your response.
    Ask why the explanation of your emotional reaction was the case. Write your
    Ask why at least twice more until you reach a point where you cannot reasonably ask
    why again. Write your response again.
  • Capture the key theme of this event on the left side of the page in block letters.
  • Repeat the process for all other events.
  • Compare the key themes and look for trends. Circle the most obvious key themes.
  • Ask yourself where these key themes are played out in your life?
  • Look for a volunteer activity in an organization engaged in addressing this type of theme.


Early in my career I met a guy who was amazingly talented. He was a hobby plumber, electrician, and carpenter. He was president of the lodge he attended. Yet at work he moved heavy steel plate from one location to another. He had an important job, but one that used almost none of his talent. He asked one day to take computer software courses. His manager refused telling him the courses were unnecessary for his role. This angered me.

Why was I angry?

His manager failed to see that this guy wanted to learn.

Why would this bother me?

I knew this man to be far more capable than his current position required. By refusing him the opportunity to learn, his manager was de-motivating a talented individual.

Why did it matter that the individual was being de-motivated

This man had more potential than the manager in question could ever realize. Her ignorance angered me because the organization would suffer and not benefiting from this individuals unrealized potential.

Why did this bother me?

This story bothered me because the manager and the organization for that matter, were demonstrating poor leadership, wasting talent, and under performing.

I am about developing leaders. Even fifteen years ago the deliberate waste of human capital angered me. I need to develop leaders, this is central to my purpose.

From this exercise the theme of leadership, high performance, employee development, and continuous learning can all be identified. From this and other similar experiences I arrived at my own life purpose.

Your Turn

If you enter into this exercise you may find multiple passions. Some may burn brightly while others are a slow simmer, perhaps others still on defrost in the microwave. The point here is to become aware of them and then ask the right questions about them to discover your purpose(s). Take the time and discover your purpose.

When you have identified a key theme that may be your purpose take action. Find a way to learn about the theme and discover if it ignites your internal passion

If you want to learn more about this or other leadership development topics, visit my leadership coaching blog Developing Leaders or contact me at

Lead well


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Leader

Today is a day for reflection and thanksgiving. I wish all my readers a peaceful day filled with family and friends. May your celebrations be all that you desire. May you find many reasons to be thankful. I hope you take the opportunity to thank those who have been a blessing in your life.

This is my 10th American thanksgiving celebration after over 30 of them in Canada. It is a fascinating thing to consider the differences between the two. Today however I can only focus on the common theme of gratitude and thanks.

To all my family, friends, and acquaintances I thank you for the influence you have had in my life. To my work team I thank you for your hard work and the opportunity to serve you. May we have many successful days together. To my school chums, sports team mates over the years I hope to enjoy your company again in the future.

Happy thanksgiving


Monday, November 12, 2007

To those who lead (Read)

I am so humbled. The internet is a fascinating thing. In the past six months I have learned much about how to create and maintain Blogs. Only a couple of years ago I did not even know what this term meant.

For four months now I have been sharing stories and lessons that I have learned into an electronic void. All the while I wondered would anyone read this stuff? How would they find it? Would it be valuable to them?

With all these questions I forged ahead knowing that what I had to offer was hard fought for. Someone would value it. Someone would find value in it.

Leadership is a calling. It is a calling that must be shared with others, for it is at its core about relationship. So I share and share and share.

Again I say I am humbled. Why because in the four months of writing, this blog is now read by many people from all over the world. On average it is read 2-3 times a day. Many return regularly and read for up to ten minutes. I do not write in this blog in sound bites (the language of the day) as you know; I write in stories. I always earnestly attempt to speak the language of leadership.

So those of you who read this I would like to ask you to,
say hello,
share your story.

I want to meet you

I want to know who is reading this blog. Leadership is after all a relationship

“To those who lead, with diligence”


Monday, November 5, 2007

A New set of Links: Blogs I like

Hey everyone

Over the past 6 months as I have entered the Blogging world, I have been exposed to a number of excellent blogs. Some are written by friends others by new acquaintances who I want to introduce to you.

Management by God

By Dan King

This is a great Blog that explores management and leadership from a wholly biblical perspective. It is very well written and has the added benefit of getting a solid Bible study in as you read. I have always been a fan of the "two fur". The world would be far better off by learning from this blog. I highly recommend this blog.

Results Through Integrity

By Doug Ross

Doug and I met through Linked In and have been friends since. He has a unique way of crafting stories that make learnings come easily. He and I share many core values not the least of which are faith and integrity. Integrity as the name suggests is the central topic of his blog. The world would do well to learn from this one also.

Develop a Leader

By Myself ;-)

So I write it. I have pretty high standards; I wont write it and publish it if I don't think it is good.
This blog is targeted at those who have not yet begun to be coached into leading. The younger generations. It has more of an edge than this blog. I really wanted to cut the crap and deal with the reality of leadership development without coddling people.

Lead Quietly

By Don Fredricksen

I just found this one and like it a lot. I am a big fan and student of servant leadership. This blog speaks to that and actually mentions Robert Greenleaf. For those who do not know Mr. Greenleaf is credited as one of the early modern writers of this leadership genre. Don covers a lot of important ground in his blog and I find it complimentary to my own thoughts on leadership and leadership development. Check it out!

The Engaging Brand

By Anna Farmery

Anna has a great podcast by the same name. I really love the podcast as I find her to be a highly skilled interviewer. She asks the type of questions I want to know the answers to. The people she interviews are very interesting to me. Her blog and her facebook group, are similarly intriguing. I have to confess though it was her blog and the facebook group that made me mention her blog on this list. I just like her approach to community.

So that is it. The list is top left in the sidebar.

Happy reading and

lead well


Thursday, November 1, 2007



A while back I mentioned that I was planning to transition the focus of this blog from the internal nature of a leader toward the purpose of a leader. In other words moving from self leadership to other leadership. As we make this transition I am compelled to comment on why I spent so long on self leadership.

Frankly the main reason is I have seen leadership lived out poorly in others as well as myself. We must learn to lead ourselves well before we ever consider leading others. To do otherwise sets you up for failure. In some cases very public failure.

My early leadership experiences were BAD. Yes bad with a capital B. I want to share two of them with you as a testament to what can happen to those willing to do the work to learn to lead.

When I was starting my senior year in college, I attempted to take on a significant leadership role…

Super Plumber!!!

This story was instrumental as a case of BAD leadership for me. Our engineering school had a special welcome for incoming frosh into the program. This is the stuff that makes college reminiscing worthwhile. We did pub crawls (literally after the fifth pub some were crawling) we did parades, we sang terrible songs, we introduced the frosh to our uniquely brash and arrogant culture. During this week were led by a fictitious character we named super plumber. I have no idea where the name came from it was one of those things, a legend that emerged from graduating classes of decades gone by. Super plumber was always a senior who best personified the engineering spirit. He was voted upon by all the other seniors who led frosh week. It was a great and prestigious role that allowed the senior to play the ham, have a lot of fun, and drink a lot of free beer.

So at our organizing meeting I made my pitch. I donned a cape and acted mysterious. Sharing stories of greatness of our school, our program. I explained how I had helped organize the raid on a rival engineering school, made the lives of all the campus arts students very uncomfortable during homecoming, how I had organize the bathtub races, how I had led activities in our icy January beach party the year before (Brrrr I still get the chills to my bones when I think of that icy lake). As I walked through my accomplishments I was heckled by a few fellow seniors but overall I thought it went well. When it came to the vote I lost handily to a friend. I was devastated. Did I mention I hate losing? I have not forgotten that bitter taste of loss. I tried to soldier on and be a good loser but that is not my style. I hate losing. I did not handle it well, I sulked and became somewhat detached.

You Don’t Even Want to Work Here

Unfortunately this same engineering culture led to another early leadership failure. When I left college I went to work in the steel industry. My first job was in a training program where you worked in various departments seeking a place where you would ultimately fit and stay. In my first placement I worked in one of the toughest parts of the steel industry, the blast furnaces. It was a place where men dealt with life and death every day and it showed on their faces. They had seen much and did not suffer fools, or young engineers, well. Just like the name of the area suggests this was a place that could make or break you. In many ways it broke me. I tried my best to fit in but it was a struggle. I loved the guys working on the furnaces, but the staff, I could not figure them out. I did not fit in at all; I just could not get over my engineer attitude and connect with the other salaried folks. In my exit interview I was told that “you don’t even want to work here”. I was dumbfounded; I had said nothing of the sort. Sure, I was struggling with the shift pattern, with the work, with the salaried folks, but I had never said anything to anyone about not wanting to be there.

Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions

For the longest time I struggled with this placement. A negative performance review and a feeling of rejection, again. What an opportunity! I sulked and whined for some time; in fact my attitude adversely impacted my performance at my next placement. They did not want me either. Only thing was that I was slowly starting to process what was going on and accept the feedback I was given as my own. I learned that I came across as cocky and aloof. I appeared as a know it all, insensitive to others. I was in it for myself and did not care about the bodies I left in my wake. None of it was true to me, I cared deeply about those around me! I may have had no life experience in showing it, but I cared! This feedback cut deeply, it hurt. I resolved to change. I took it upon myself to befriend people who could tech me about the area I was weak. Ironically in 1989 I was laser focused on improving my emotional intelligence; of course Daniel Goleman and others had not yet coined that phrase. I connected with admin assistants and female colleagues, those I reasoned had this interpersonal stuff figured out. It was a slow process but I grew. Since I had sooooo far to go even growing quickly it took time to get decent at this.

I Quit

By the time I left that organization twelve years later, I had made life long friends, been a part of awesome high performance teams, had a respected list of accomplishments that the teams I was apart of had won. Most importantly I had learned the basics of being a leader and finding purpose in leading. It was ironic that the reason I resigned was because of an interpersonal challenge that had become untenable. It was not performance, it was not the lure of more money, it was a poor manager who cared only about himself and how he was perceived by the organization. Irony irony…

I sit here 19 year later reflecting on emotional intelligence and purpose. My most recent opportunity offered in the largest sense because of my ability to connect with people, to have a clear sense of purpose and align a team to achieve it. Irony irony…

What is leadership development about?

Hard painful self assessing, self breaking work. It is anguish and uncertainty, suffering and second guessing, it is discomfort. Leadership development; is it worth it?

You bet your life it is.

For me there is no greater calling, no more fulfilling activity than to lead well. It warms my heart to see others grow and flourish in an environment of healthy leadership. I smile inwardly like a proud father when one of my team steps into the breach and leads. The thought that I had an influence on their life and leadership is a great altruistic treasure.

This is not for the feint of heart, it is for the courageous. It is for those willing to seek their purpose, their leadership mantle.

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