What a mentor taught me about leadership.


Myth: Leadership and Management are the same disciplines.


When I looked up from a mass of accounting work-papers, I was surprised to see in my office the President and Chief Operating Officer of the healthcare company we were auditing (in preparation for offering its stock on the NASD exchange).  Moments later I was blown away when George Sloan asked me if I’d be interested in becoming his company’s Chief Financial Officer.

Initially I declined, thinking I wanted to invest my entire career in the public accounting sector.  But George persevered.  He was patiently determined.  Months after Touché Ross (now Deloitte Touché) had completed its work, he reached out to me again.  This time, he made an unbelievable offer to a 23-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears CPA.  Though I joked to myself, “What’s he smoking?” this time I accepted. 

And with ensuing years, I came to understand the potential George saw in me that I didn’t see in myself; yet with his great gifts of encouragement, as my mentor he enabled me to see my true identity and understand the big and important difference between leaders and managers. He felt both are very needful and immensely valuable, that sound organizations must have a good mix of both, and that being a leader and manager aren’t mutually exclusive possibilities…that some leaders can be good managers and some managers can be good leaders.  

So, What Are The Differences?

George said, “Leadership is about people and personal relationships, while management is primarily about administration of things…budgets, processes, systems, etc.” 

He described leadership behavior in phrases like “guiding others by being a vanguard who goes ahead, removing obstacles to the success of followers, opening doors for them, directing them along defined courses and serving as their channel for whatever they genuinely need.” 

George thought: “Managers are more focused on how to do things right, while leaders are all about doing the right things.”  He felt most managers tend to be left-brain, deductive reasoning types who prefer routines and sameness; while leaders tend to be inductive, deductive, whole-brain thinkers who constantly pursue good change.  He also believed managers “tend to lean toward the short-term and are reactive to circumstances; while leaders are more proactive, strategic, long-term thinkers.”

George said: “Leaders are visionaries and explorers who envision the future and don’t follow the crowd along the traditional path and waters, but instead are risk-takers who walk paths and streams less traveled, welcome and try new ideas and aren’t afraid of failure.” 

By way of contrast, George somewhat playfully referred to some managers as “cautionary undertakers…individuals who seem to always be trying to figure things out rather than trying new things, and too often they throw up yellow flags or seek to bury new ideas and endeavors.”

On The Job Learning

After I’d spent four years under his watchful and caring eye, George threw me at 27 in the operations waters...Read: Promoted me to Chief Operating Officer.   

As a great mentor and leader always does, during my growing process he gave me lots of room to swim, but made sure I had the emotional support, tools and resources I needed to succeed.  At the same time, he gave wise counsel, but didn’t “own” my problems or any consequences of my bad choices.  Rather than using the “seagull method”— to swoop in and dump on me—or the “Mr. Fix It” method of solving my problems for me, he let me own them, shared his thoughts, but then let me think and come up with appropriate solutions. From this trial-by-fire “lab” and George’s on-the-job training, I discovered that extraordinary leaders…

.Define and continually communicate vision, purpose, mission, values and priorities;

.Know community and relationships are superior to hierarchal approaches in organizations;

.Have entrepreneurial spirits, child-like curiosity and passion for what can be;

.Are human, not machines, persons who have deep sensitivity toward people, look less for flaws and more for people’s strengths and are complimentary of the latter and tactful in addressing the former;

.Don’t take themselves too seriously and laugh frequently…and most often at themselves;

.Delegate authority and fully empower those entrusted to their care;

.Teach followers how to fish rather than catch fish for them; i.e., teach followers to become problem-solvers who own their responsibilities, choices and consequences;

.Don’t cut corners, but do the little things and deliver more than expected – go the extra mile and beyond, not just for the reward personally, but because it’s the right thing to do; and…

.See adversity as opportunity and seek to convert liabilities to assets.

Closing Thoughts

George knew everyone has a deep desire to contribute, and as a great leader, he made sure they got opportunities to do so.  He gave everyone the space to be their best.  And he and we didn’t disappoint!  He led by influence and trust earned from serving and being loyal to me and all those entrusted to his care.

Though he was an exceedingly good manager, George was an even greater leader, who achieved superior results, not by simply managing things or applying abstract principles, but through leading people and building and maintaining healthy, covenantal relationships with them.  I was privileged and honored to work alongside this giant for a decade and have him as my friend for over a quarter century.  He has graduated to heaven, but I continue to experience his positive influence almost daily. 

About the Author

Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote inspirational speaker.  Click here to learn more about him and to inquire about booking his services.

This blog post is an excerpt from Cecil's new and critically acclaimed leadership book.  It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, other retail book stores and Cecil's online bookstore.  Click here to learn more and purchase your copy:  http://www.cecilkemp.com/store/






Research concludes this is best approach to leadership.


There's nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. — Victor Hugo

Style is the outward expression of a leader's inward beliefs and attitudes toward the role of leadership.  A group of researchers led by Kurt Lewin studied different styles of leadership. Their study pinpointed three broad leadership styles that continue to be widely accepted as today’s norms…in personal, family, business and other organizational forums. 

In this blog post, I identify and overview the one they felt is far superior to the others.  

Participative Leadership

I believe the most effective contemporary management process is participative management. — Max DePree

I agree with that and the findings and conclusion of the Lewin research group.  

That isn’t my opinion alone; it’s a view validated by millions of modern era leaders who’ve adopted this style of leadership and experienced enormous success and significance.    One of those is Max DePree, a globally recognized leadership expert and for many years, the COO and CEO of The Herman Miller Company, an American organizational icon.

Participative leadership is the third, and middle-ground style, cited in the Lewin study. It is an internally (heart)-based model that focuses on people, relationships and service rather than on transactions and material things which tend to be the focus of the other two popular paradigms in today's culture.  In my view, the Participative paradigm lacks the extremes and unbalanced approaches of the Dictatorial (Authoritarian) and Delegative models cited by the researchers.

Being a heart-driven, people-centered approach explains in large part why Lewin and his researchers concluded that this is the most effective style for the majority of leadership scenarios and forums. 

How It Looks In Practice

Perhaps the most important and relevant finding in Lewin’s study was that the contributions of Participative followers were much higher in quality than those of the other groups.  That outcome is likely because the individual members of the Participative group were being led, not pushed, given emotional and spiritual support and feeling appreciated, respected and listened to by their leader. 

Being served and cared for isn’t the leadership viewpoint of leaders who adopt the Participative approach.  For them, leadership begins with service to and care of others. They highly value the thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas, talents and creativity of their followers.  They take collaborative actions that invite and actively engage followers in the decision-making processes and rewards them for their contributions.

These leaders are in charge, but they share control with their followers via covenant-based relationships.  They remove obstacles and provide the tools and resources needed to help their followers be successful.  They offer them presence, access and guidance, rather than establishing the “separation factor” that’s a distinguishing characteristic of the Authoritarian and Delegative styles.  Instead, Participative leaders become members of the follower group and allow, indeed readily encourage and reward, input from followers.  They recognize the desires all their followers have for relationship and to belong and contribute to something greater than themselves.  Therefore, they understand the power of discussion and collaboration, and they facilitate those by creating an inclusive environment that nourishes followers’ growth and their contributions to the overall effort.  


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and II took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference. — Robert Frost

Three decades ago, after disastrous consequences from following the Authoritarian model, I consciously chose to adopt the heart-based, service-oriented state-of-the-art paradigm of Participative leadership that’s centered on relationships and people rather than transactional and quantitative in its focus.  Since, my experiences, personally and observing and consulting in thousands of family and business leadership scenarios, have been that this model and style lead to elevated care, cooperation, commitment, productivity, satisfaction and morale.

Leadership is a high calling and gift from God.  It’s a big responsibility, requiring lots of effort and sacrifice….but it’s immensely rewarding when enthusiastically and wisely pursued!  I’m obviously biased toward an approach to that calling, gift and responsibility in which leaders understand that their role is to be agents of positive transformation by believing in and helping their followers rise above mediocrity to achieve their highest possible potential.  This is the “road less traveled.”  BUT, when practiced it leads to out-of-this world inside transformation and superior outward results with amazing rewards! 

The winds of change are blowing over leadership worldwide…millions are renouncing the old, obsolete paradigm and adopting the new, state-of-the-art, heart-driven model...it's an idea whose time has come! 

About the Author

Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote inspirational speaker.  Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services.  

Below are the covers of Cecil's new and critically acclaimed leadership book.  It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, other retail book stores and Cecil's online bookstore.  Click here to learn more and purchase your copy: http://www.cecilkemp.com/store/

ABCs of DifferenceMaking Leadership


Genuinely difference-making leaders lead from the heart, from the inside out and practice history's greatest leader's ABCs of nurturing and nourishing intimate, trusting relationships. Through their practice of those ABCs, these special leaders facilitate follower growth and development.  

So what are those ABCs?  

DifferenceMaking ABCs

A)  Being available.

The way and frequency a leader connects with others significantly affects results.  People follow leaders who are committed, remain connected, who ask questions, who really listen with their hearts, who partner with followers to get things done and always show appreciation by recognizing the talents and contributions of those entrusted to their care.  They teach, coach, mentor, encourage, support and affirm their followers.

Like history's greatest leader, outstanding leaders are neither fear- or pride-driven.  They have patient spirits, and therefore don’t view people as impositions on their time, but rather as opportunities to serve.  As Jesus was, they’re very personal…high-touch, more than high-tech individuals.  They’re not afraid of intimacy.  They know closeness doesn’t lead to loss of importance, control or power.  They recognize that’s a myth, and thus they make themselves available to and diligently initiate contact with followers.

Truly great leaders know leadership is very much situational, and thus demands a participative partnership between a leader and his or her followers.  They realize unexpected circumstances occur and create “in the moment” situational twists.  Like Jesus, they recognize that effectiveness in leadership is driven by what followers need. Therefore, as he was, they’re attentive and flexible, adapting their leadership to what’s appropriate in the situation, without compromising values and without owning followers’ responsibilities, choices and related consequences. 

They read people extremely well, and when they respond they’re always pleasant and professional.  They teach, coach and mentor when they discern followers are uninformed and have learning needs, direct and guide when followers appear confused, challenge and provoke them when they’re reluctant, encourage them and keep their hopes alive when they seem down, affirm them when they succeed, and rather than swoop in to solve their problems, let them own those and come up with their own solutions.   

In all those situations, the leader behaves like Jesus, especially asking lots of questions to facilitate participation in their followers’ own solution-creation and learning, thinking and responding, rather than being told by the leader what to do and reacting without imagination.  In other words, great leaders patiently come alongside their followers to teach them how to fish rather than catching fish for them.    

Many other benefits ensue as well, from a leader being consciously connected and available to their followers, including opportunities to recognize conflicts and respond to them swiftly.

In summary, excellent leaders don’t isolate or unduly insulate themselves from their followers.  Rather, they believe in, partner with and interact personally, appropriately and in timely ways with their followers; thereby, they help their followers grow and shape them into responsible people, wise decision-makers and genuine difference-makers.

B)  Being approachable and coachable.  

Excellent leaders create atmospheres of openness, by maintaining open-door-and-mind policies.  These include viewing feedback from others as a gift and being truly open to others’ influence.  Excellent leaders don’t “shoot messengers”; rather, they consider their messages as opportunities to grow.  Truly great leaders are approachable about and open to correction themselves…from those they lead and from an inner circle of Spirit-led peers…leaders and mentors who are preferably removed from leaders’ immediate leadership spheres, not yes-people, but people who are wise and know how to pray.  These special influencers are skilled and strong individuals who’ve been given freedom by leaders to speak Truth, and who expect respect from other leaders, with whom the leader prays to collectively hear the voice of God for wisdom in the decision-making process.

You can only lead as far as you grow.  And, you will grow only as far as you let yourself. Bob Burg and John David Mann        

C)  Leading by The Golden Rule. 

Servant leaders have hearts for people.  As I’ve said multiple times in this book, they’re relational at their cores.  Thus, they place high value on others and behave well toward them.  Their godly examples are their best mentoring and coaching influences.  Those assure healthy development and growth of people entrusted to their care.  Their followers truly enjoy being around and working with these special leaders.  That’s because these leaders possess high levels of Emotional Intelligence (what I refer to as Skill of Heart)—the competency that assures that they see and handle people according to The Golden Rule. 

Practicing this One Indispensable Rule of Truth includes being tactful toward and supporting followers, respecting their individuality and treating them individually.  It doesn’t mean compromising values and principles, or owning their problems or consequences of their bad choices.  It does mean trusting, extending grace and rather than cornering, fanging, nailing, shaming, demeaning and punishing people, it means picking them up when they fall and being gracious and giving them space, the benefit of the doubt and wise counsel.  These coaching and mentoring rather than punitive, actions create stronger followers and organizations and greater mutual respect and trust between leaders and followers.  That mutuality assures that confidential matters remain confidential.  It assures that power of position is used only in appropriate scenarios, privately and with godly sensitivity and wisdom.  And mutual respect and trust of followers builds group relationships that maximize harmony and unity, while minimizing conflicts and division. 

Coaching is the most important servant leadership element in helping people accomplish their goals. Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges  

Click on this link to learn about Cecil's Coaching and Mentoring Services: http://www.cecilkemp.com/overview-of-coachingmentoring/


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About the Author

Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote inspirational speaker.  Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services.  Below is the front cover of Cecil's new and critically acclaimed leadership book.  Click here to learn more and purchase your copy: http://www.cecilkemp.com/store/



The Secret Ingredient of Success.


I believe there is one essential ingredient that is common to achievement of a truly special life of significance and genuine relationship, family, career and business success...significance and success that matter and last.  In this short article, I identify it and describe how it looks in everyday living, working and leadership.  

Source of the Secret

The following is an excerpt from my best-selling book, a parable titled: 7 Laws of True Prosperity.   The backdrop is that Sam, that book’s main character, has veered off the better path of living, working and leading.  Faced with some not so good consequences, Sam is searching for answers and discovers them in a fireside chat with his wise wife...Suzette. 

When he applies them, he experiences immediate positive results.  

Are you ready?  Here we go!

Suzette's Advice to Sam

"In three weeks your current project will be completed—or nearly completed,” offered Suzette to Sam. “Concentrate on your construction business. When the mortgage due date arrives, we’ll figure out what to do. For now, I encourage you to just love your work. Feel blessed by it, do your best by it, and support the people who work for you.”

Sam replied, “You make it sound so simple, but it’s not. How can I not worry about keeping this roof over our heads?”  Suzette said, “You have made your life—our lives—too complicated. Your focus is on prestige and making more…and more, and more money. With that as your motive, I’m sure my suggestions sound too simple.”

The words stung, and Sam remained silent.

“Sam, I know correcting our situation isn’t going to be simple.”  Suzette paused, and quiet filled the room.  Finally she said, “Why do we discipline and teach the children?”

“Isn’t that obvious?” Sam asked. “We do it because we’re their parents.”  “I believe the answer is even more simple. If we did it just because we’re their parents, that would mean it was merely a duty—and duty can only motivate for so long. Duty isn’t our core motive. Think about it again, Sam. Why do we put so much effort into showing them the best way? There is a much simpler answer.”

Sam stared into the fire and then looked at his patient wife.  “Because we want to. Because we love them.”  “We love them,” echoed Suzette. “That’s our true motivating force. Our love for God, for life, and for each other flows into our love for them. Not just because they are our blood and in our care, but because they are children—ours and God’s—and we can’t help but love them unconditionally. We so naturally act on that love that we sometimes don’t even think about love as our primary motive.”

“You’re right. Of course that’s right. We aren’t primarily moti­vated by duty but by abiding love. But what has this to do with work and finances?”  Suzette kissed Sam’s cheek. “I believe it has everything to do with everything!”

Sam looked at Suzette. Her eyes were dancing, and she appeared radiant.  “Suzette,” he marveled, “you’re aglow. What do you have that makes you sparkle like that?”  Suzette said, “Do you know why I work, Sam? Do you know why I look for­ward to receiving sewing commissions?”

Sam replied, “Because you love sewing and crafting fine clothing and linens. And because you do it so well and are rewarded for your work.”  “That is part of it. Yes, it’s what I do well, and God has gifted me with these talents. And He asked me to use them for His work. He has also asked me to love, so I use my work to love others.”

Suzette paused and they both stared into the fire for a min­ute or two.  Sam seemed to be pondering what his wife had shared.  Suzette looked at Sam and smiled before continuing.  “Sam, I truly love my customers—even the grouchy ones. When I sew a buttonhole, I imagine that man or woman prepar­ing for the day. I love that person and pray for them. So I put love into that buttonhole. When I stitch a flower into a baby coverlet, I love that child yet to be born. So I entwine love into that stitch­ing. Do my customers know? I’m not sure. But I’m not motivated by whether or not they know I love them or that I show my love through my work for them. I’m thankful God blesses me for lov­ing others. I’ve never wanted for customers or work, so I hope my love does shine through my work. Love inspires and motivates me to work. God allows me to minister to people through my skills, and I’m blessed with joy and monetary payment.”

After a moment of silence, Sam said, “And I know, dear wife, that you’re going to tell me how this relates to me.”  “Sam, you must not simply love your work or the monetary rewards of work. That is misplaced love and motive. If money is your motive, you won’t find true, lasting happiness. For people who focus on money, there is never enough of it. Instead, focus on loving God through your work. Set your priorities according to His wisdom. Love and serve people in His name in a way that uti­lizes your talents and skills. The true motive is love. Real, uncon­ditional, God-centered love.”

“Are you saying I need to love the people who have asked me to build their houses or buildings?”  “Yes. It’s that simple, Sam. Forget the money and concentrate on loving your customers and those who will live or work in the building. You also need to love your workers and what God allows you to create together in His name.”

“Hmmm. The folks I’m building the next house for aren’t par­ticularly pleasant. In fact, they’re somewhat surly. I’m the only one in this area who agreed to take on their project. They can be mean-spirited, and I’m fairly sure they’ll complain at every step.”  “Sam, love is not merely a feeling or emotion.  Genuine, God-like love is a behavior.  Just concentrate on making conscious choices to behave wisely by partnering with God to love them through your work. God doesn’t ask us to love just sweet people or those who need love. All people need to experience love. And I know God gives us the courage and strength to behave lovingly toward even the unlovable. Search your heart, Sam. God has given you the desire to love. Choose to be motivated by love in all your behavior...off and on the job. I know you too well to not be sure love is in your heart. I believe you’re afraid that if you let love be your pri­mary motive it will interfere with profits.”

As Sam heard the Truth and wisdom reflected in Suzette’s words, he realized he needed time to take it all in.  “I must think on what you’ve said,” he finally said.

(Click here to View and/or Purchase 7 Laws of True Prosperity)

Having Slept On It

After dressing for work, Sam ate breakfast.  He kissed Suzette goodbye and went to work with joy in his heart.

He met his crew at dawn at the cleared site. The men stood beside stacks of lumber and stone, awaiting Sam’s orders. But Sam just stood there and looked at them. Then he looked at his shoes. He looked up and his gaze wandered to some distant trees. Finally he turned to the crew.  “Men, I need to ask your forgiveness. For some time now I’ve focused on making money instead of serving our customers by doing quality work and adding the special touches that make our projects outstanding. With God’s help, I’ve discovered my prior­ities were wrong. So now, with your help, I want to focus on giv­ing our customers the best house we can build. Today we’re more than laborers; we’re also dream makers. We need to work within our budget, yes, but I encourage you to do your best work even if it takes a bit more time. And if you think of extra features we can easily add to the project for minimal cost, let’s discuss it. I want us to be proud of what we accomplish and have customers who are well pleased with our work.”

At first the men were stunned. They stared at him, expecting that any moment his usual scowl would appear and he would return to his Authoritarian style of leadership by barking orders.  

Sam went on explaining his new Servant approach to leadership.  “Men, today we’re going to add something to our building materials that I’ve been leaving out for too long. Today we’re adding something more permanent than mortar, more enduring than stone, and more valuable than fine wood. Today we’re going to add love.

The crewmen glanced at each other and then back at Sam, reveal­ing their uncertainty about how to respond to this new approach. They remained silent, fidgeting uneasily. What’s wrong with the boss? was their unspoken question. Most seemed uncomfortable, and some were frowning in irritation.

In the back row, one man leaned close to a coworker and said, “I’d heard he was having money prob­lems. Has it finally driven him over the edge?”  

Their confusion was broken by Sam’s firm voice. “Thomas!” The crew snapped to attention.  “Thomas, you will lead the crew today in making forms and lay­ing stones for the foundation. I want each stone to be set metic­ulously, taking care to make sure the layers stay level. And, Thomas, we’re not going to use substandard timber for the floor­ing as we’ve done in the past. Instead, we’ll use the best wood avail­able. Do you know why?”

“Because the owners of the house asked for this?”

“No, Thomas. Because we should always do the right thing, do our best and take healthy pride in our work. These people, their children, and someday their grandchildren will walk and play on these floors. Because we truly love and care for them, we want the floors to be sturdy and pleasing to the eye. We want the owners to have peace of mind that the floors will wear well and resist rotting. We want the floors to reflect that we care about the project, but even more, that we care about the people we’re building for. As we construct the stone foundation today, let’s think about this new approach. Let’s remember that this foundation is going to support a fine floor for people we care about. Let’s work!”

And so they did. As they constructed the foundation on the neatly graded dirt, the men whispered among themselves that Sam obviously wasn’t quite himself. And though it took some getting used to, they were intrigued by Sam’s new approach to leadership. Gradually they rediscovered the pride and satisfaction that came with working hard and doing their best. By lunch break, the crew welcomed Sam’s new tone. By the middle of the afternoon, some were whis­tling while they worked. And by the end of the day, a sturdy, well-crafted, level foundation was finished.

“Thank you, men,” Sam said. “Together we have done a good job today. I’m blessed to have you on my crew. I’ll see you tomor­row morning. Have a good evening.”

That Evening

That night Sam recounted his day.  “Suzette, at work today, I applied your words of wisdom last night on priority and motive. I think the men found it a bit puzzling and maybe even a bit amusing. But, from now on, I intend to stress that building this house is a labor of love for the people who will make it their home. And at the end…”

“At the end, Sam, we’ll see what money we have and visit the moneylender. For now, that’s the best course, is it not? So let’s sit down and enjoy this soup and bread I’ve prepared.” Then Suzette’s eyes twinkled as she added, “I prepared this meal with love because I knew you would be eating it!”

Each evening Sam told Suzette of the progress, and each eve­ning Suzette welcomed home a man who had a lighter step and seemed to have a lighter heart. Sam was a man who counted his blessings, realized how rich he already was and served God by living and leading by God’s priorities, including loving the work and customers God blessed him with.


Thank you, Suzette, for teaching us the importance, power and practical application of two of the 7 Laws of true Prosperity...The Laws of Priority and Motive.  You are a genuine difference-maker who teaches us that outstanding individuals and leaders like you aren’t afraid to call out phonies, even when they are our spouses!  You took the initiative, rose to the occasion and spoke up about what you strongly believed in.  You spoke Truth in love and consequently challenged Sam to examine his priorities and motives.  You did not sit idly, shunning action, but took the plunge when presented with the opportunity.

Like all special people and significant leaders, you knew there is no place for misplaced priorities, mixed motives or anything less than the best.  Because you cared deeply about Sam and the people he led and served, you provoked and lit a fresh fire under him about the priorities of God, Christ-like character and love…teaching him and us to not neglect God as our first priority, to seek to become like him, to receive his love and not dam it up, but pass it along at all times and to apply his wisdom for Kingdom business rather than the goals of worldly commerce.  Consequently, Sam became a person of highest integrity and a passionate, thoughtful and compassionate individual driven by unshakable convictions, highest motive and godly priorities…off and on the job.      

(Click here to View and/or Purchase 7 Laws of True Prosperity)

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About the Author

Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote inspirational speaker.  Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services. 


From the pit to the palace.

From the Pit to the Palace.

The Old Testament story of Joseph is a great example of what can be learned in the pits…about life, relationships, leadership and money.

In the eyes of some, Joseph had a pretty tough life.  But from my seat, he was a very blessed person who, through higher vision, supreme preparation and unnatural strength, endured hard places and bad circumstances and consequently came out on top…big-time!  Come with me to discover his most valuable lessons, as he went from pit to palace back to the pits and ultimately got a big hand up to the mountaintop.  

A Series of Pits

It all began when Joseph boasted to his brothers and parents about the dreams God gave him.  His reward was angry, jealous brothers who threw him in a literal pit, then pulled him out only to sell him into slavery.  And, they covered it all up by lying to their father, telling Jacob that a wild animal had killed Joseph.

Things got worse!  Joseph’s slave owner turned around and did a flip sale…resold him for a nice, quick profit. You know what I mean, right? Like good, savvy people who practice the destructive model of life and leadership…which says it is more blessed to profit and look out for #1 than it is to care for others.  But, because of God’s favor on his life and the character and skill set that God gave Joseph, he rose from that pit to be put in charge of all the business and household affairs of the slave owner.  God was with him, preparing him and prospering him greatly for greater purpose.  I love how Joseph guarded his heart and remained unspoiled by enormous success.

HOWEVER, things took yet another turn for the worse.  The slave owner’s wife had eyes for handsome Joseph. His strength of character assured he resisted temptations and refused her repeated advances. But, she knew what she wanted and did not give up.  She eventually lured Joseph into her pit…read: bedroom. When he fled, she grabbed his coat and used it to support her fabricated story of rape. Her angry husband had Joseph thrown in prison…out of the palace into another pit! 

But, God continued to prepare, be present with and prosper him.  Joseph consciously chose to continue to be at peace and serve others well.  He was faithful in very difficult places and strove for excellence to please God, not to gain the applause of people. 

For example, when another prisoner needed someone to understand his feelings, needed to feel needed and needed to be encouraged that he was not worthless because of his past failures, Joe was “da man”!  In his total dependence on God, Joseph was also able to interpret the dream of that prisoner who was soon released and restored to his position…but forgot about Joe.  Joseph's reward? More pit time!

That is, until one day the king had a dream no one could interpret.  His long released buddy told the king he knew just the man.  Summoned before him, Joseph again showed his total dependence on and continual interactivity with God.  When he prayed for insight, he was rewarded with the dream interpretation.  When he shared it, the ruler (Pharaoh) was quite impressed. 

The Bible says that the Spirit of God gave Joseph the following interpretation: Seven years of plenty would be followed by seven of famine.  Besides that forecast, another important part of Joseph’s interpretation was that Pharaoh was to find a wise man, set him over the land and let him appoint officers to lead a pioneering initiative …take up a fifth (20%) of the harvest in the seven plenteous years…planning and preparing during those to be able to have seed corn for future planting and navigate the seven coming years of famine.  

Guess what?  Pharaoh picked Joseph and he went from the pit to the palace instantly!

Note:  One of the often overlooked lessons in Joseph’s story is that God expects us to represent him well…to steward our leadership roles, money, talents, time and all resources he gives, by his blueprint and as his agent, for his benefit and according to his directions.

The Laws of Interactivity and Preparation

Exceptional leaders live and lead interactively co-operating with God…Great leaders are visionaries who see the future through God’s eyes and plan, prepare and navigate there in interactive partnership with him.  From my new leadership book.   




Joseph dreamed and lived out God’s bigger vision.  He wasn’t satisfied with just playing it safe.  Because He listened to and walked with God, Joseph was prepared by God to see what others didn’t, see farther down the path than they and see in time to plan, prepare and navigate what God showed him lay ahead.  Joseph’s family and an entire nation would have perished, had he not listened, caught God’s vision and used God-imparted wisdom, revelation, discernment and discretion to creatively plan, prepare and navigate.  

Because of God’s vision, preparation, peace, presence and favor and Joseph’s extraordinary faith in and submission to God’s leadership, Joseph’s earlier dream came true…Pharaoh put his signet ring on Joseph's hand and at age 30, took him from a series of pits and made him ruler over all the land of Egypt…second only to Pharaoh. 

Joseph then followed God’s plan and fulfilled his ultimate God-purpose.  Plenteousness ended, famine began, but in Egypt, there was bread.  Joseph opened storehouses and sold to the Egyptians.  And, people from every country came to buy food and seed corn.  Among those were his estranged brothers.  Rather than taking revenge, Joseph showed us how godly character returns good for evil…he made sure they, their families and his beloved father, Jacob, were well taken care and given the best of everything, including choice land.

Being responsible with and wisely managing God-given resources requires commitment to truly important purpose and careful planning. From my best-selling book: 7 Laws of True Prosperity (Click here to View the Book)

Bottom-line, Joseph followed God’s lead and his Servant model of life and leadership.  He practiced The Laws of Interactivity and Preparation.  He was prepared by God to be God-centered, God-guided, God-reliant and others-oriented. God, people and healthy relationships were his priorities. He was not fazed by personal lack or spoiled by personal prosperity.  When days of humiliation turned to a life of position, power and material plenteousness, pride did not take the place of humility and self-will did not supplant God’s will.  He did not think he existed to be served or that personal security and gain are God’s reasons for planning and preparing.  He knew caring for others and accomplishing the greater good are why God prepares us with the character needed to fulfill his plan for our lives.  


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you, do you good, give you hope and a future. —The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah

Any of us can be a Joseph-like individual and leader.  He was really just an average guy, not a visionary or intellectual giant, not born into royalty or wealth but into a very dysfunctional family. Despite all the good and bad that happened to him,  Joseph soared because he interactively co-operated with God, developed Christ-like character, received and applied God’s wisdom, revelation and love and emulated God’s goodness, kindness and compassion. 

Another way of saying that is, Joseph was prosperous at heart.  His internal being was wholly well. That internal state and its godly attitude showed up in every role of his life.  His godly character (heart) and faith assured God's hand of favor on all he touched and accomplishment of his God-purpose.  Prosperity of heart like his releases the prosperity of God in all life dimensions and allows the power of God to be displayed in our lives, relationships, leadership and resource management.

Joseph showed us that that state of heart and being ready, available and prepared by God to partner, pioneer and navigate life with God is essential to responsible and productive living and leading and critical to achieving all our possibilities.  He demonstrated that being prepared by God and committing our efforts to the Lord precedes achievement of plans.  From Joseph, we see clearly that it is in valleys that God prepares, equips and empowers leaders and followers with the character, motivation and skills necessary to be elevated from pits to mountaintops.

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About the Author

Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote inspirational speaker.  Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services. 




What's it all about, Alfie?


Alfie is a song written in 1966 by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  As a 1967 high school graduate pondering the future, I was captured by Dionne Warwick's performance of this song that posed and answered the question: What is life all about or better said, what should life be about?  In this brief article, I want to use a line from Alfie to answer the question: What does genuinely great leadership look like?

Multiple Answers

Different people have different answers to that question.  Some say it is know-how in action.  Others believe it's all about past experience utilized in the present.  Many declare great leadership depends on practicing one's skills.  Then, there is the group that says it boils down to character or personality expressed.  The best leadership books and gurus say being a genuinely difference-making leader requires a blend of all those...know-how, skill, character and personality.  

While I believe all those are informative answers, I do not believe they address the question with the clarity needed to be truly great leaders.  In a word that I believe nails it, I want to share my opinion of what genuinely great leadership looks like in everyday living and leading.

Leadership Style

Whatever you believe the answer to the question is, your heart-held belief system is what determines your leadership style...how your leadership looks in everyday living and leading.  Much has been written about leadership style or if you prefer, approach to leadership.  Though there are many variations, I believe there are only two major styles of leadership:  Authoritarian and Servant.  

 Authoritarian (Dictatorial) Style

Authoritarian leaders lead from a fear-based, power, position, command, control and manipulation model.   Based on their own ideas and know-how, these leaders define, provide and dictate to their followers clear expectations of what the dictatorial leaders feel needs to be done, the when and how it should be done and rewards or punishments associated with performance.  They call the shots…make decisions independently, seeking little or no input from their followers and offering them little or no emotional and spiritual support.  They lead by a false leadership principle…that followers exist for the benefit of leaders.  They tend to be abrasive, abusive and demeaning of people and pushers rather than leaders who pull followers toward them and upward to achieving their potential.  

Servant Style

Servant leaders lead from a love-based paradigm that focuses on people, relationships and service. These leaders believe it is their job to serve their followers by removing obstacles and providing the tools and resources needed by them to be successful.   They do not establish the separation factor from their followers that is a distinguishing characteristic of the Authoritarian style.  Instead, they become members of the follower group, offering guidance and allowing, indeed readily encouraging and rewarding, input from followers.  They recognize the desires we all have for relationship and to belong, participate and contribute to something greater than ourselves.  Therefore, Servant leaders understand the power of discussion and collaboration and facilitate those by creating an inclusive environment that nurtures and nourishes follower growth and contribution to the overall effort.

Most importantly, Servant leaders practice The Golden Rule. Because they have a heart for people, they are relational at their core and possess a high level of what some call Emotional Intelligence (I label it HeartSkill).  That skill assures they see and handle people according to The Golden Rule. They place high value on others and behave well toward them. Their godly examples are their best mentoring and coaching tools.  Those are what assure healthy development and growth of people entrusted to their care.  Their followers truly enjoy being around and working with these special leaders because they support  their followers, respect their individuality and treat them individually.  Servant leaders trust, extend grace and rather than cornering, fanging,  nailing, shaming, demeaning and punishing followers, they pick them up when they fall, are gracious toward them and give them space, the benefit of the doubt and wise counsel.  Their discipling, rather than punitive, actions create stronger followers and organizations and greater mutual respect and trust between leaders and followers.  That mutuality assures confidential matters remain confidential.  It assures power of position is used only in appropriate scenarios, doing so privately and with godly sensitivity and wisdom.  And, mutual respect and trust of followers builds group relationships that maximize harmony and unity, while minimizing conflicts and division.




My Answer

As sure as I believe there's a heaven above; Alfie, I know there's something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in; I believe in love, Alfie; Without true love we just exist, Alfie; Until you find the love you've missed; You're nothing, Alfie; When you walk let your heart lead the way.  

Two words: Unconditional Love.

While leadership is certainly about know-how, skill, character and personality, most importantly I believe real difference-making leadership is all about loving and serving the people God has entrusted to our care.  

For far too long, I practiced the Authoritarian approach to leadership...at home, in business and in all forums.  I learned the extremely hard and very expensive way how that style breeds nearly every conceivable bad attitude in leaders and followers, appeals to negative emotions and feelings and causes constant problems.  As I have discovered in my own life and those of thousands of leaders I have had the privilege to mentor and coach, most people will do as little as possible for title-slinging, card-toting and list-flashing drill-sergeant types, but will leap over tall buildings and run through walls for a leader who really lovingly cares for those entrusted to their care.  

Three decades ago, I consciously chose to follow history's greatest leader…Jesus…and adopt his heart-based, love motivated, service-oriented state-of-the-art paradigm of leadership that is centered on relationships and people rather than transactional and quantitative in its focus.  He went where there was no path and left a trail worthy of taking.  His is the best Servant model ever! 

In Jesus’ state-of-the-art paradigm, leaders lead from the inside out.  Being served and cared for is not their viewpoint.  For them, leadership begins with unconditional love that plays out in service to and care of others.    

My experiences personally, and observing and consulting with thousands of family and business leaders, has been the state-of-the-art Servant style of leadership leads to higher quality results and elevated productivity, job satisfaction and morale. 

Unconditional love is the motive of  meaningful living and leading.(From 7 Laws of True Prosperity)

Closing Food for Thought

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and II took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference. —Robert Frost 

Leadership is a high calling and gift from God.  It is a big responsibility, requiring lots of effort and sacrifice….but immensely rewarding, when enthusiastically and wisely pursued!  I am obviously biased toward an approach to that calling, gift and responsibility wherein leaders practice the answer to the question found in the lyrics of Alfie.  

As Paul shares in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, love is not merely a feeling or emotion.  It is behaving well toward others.  By applying Biblically-based unconditional love in their leadership roles, leaders help their followers rise above mediocrity to achieve their highest possible potential.  

The winds of change are blowing over leadership worldwide…millions are renouncing the old, obsolete fear-driven Dictatorial paradigm for the new, state-of-the-art, love-driven Servant model.  It is the road less traveled.  BUT, when practiced, it leads to out-of-this world, superior results with amazing rewards!  

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Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote speaker.  

Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services. 



How Much Do a Leader's Words Really Matter?

You’ve probably heard someone say, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt (or help) me."  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Let's explore why and how.  

The Power and Skill of Words

A leader's words frame their follower's expectations and often determine how they live and perform. They create either a constructive environment of life or a destructive atmosphere of death.   Followers either thrive or underperform their potential, depending on the tone set by the communication of their leader...especially through words spoken.  

In my mentoring and coaching efforts, I emphasize how truly great leaders share an essential skill - the wise use of words when communicating. They use the gift of communication to edify, uplift and affirm others.  They do not corrupt people, the environment and organizations with negative words that poison, spread rapidly, debilitate and impair.  Instead, the positive words of these genuinely difference-making leaders are powerful, life-imparting food and drink that nourish and nurture their followers.  Their words enliven and build up, creating and perpetuating the infectiously positive atmosphere required for progressive personal, relationship and organizational growth. 

Read more on this topic in my leadership book: Follow The Leader

Personal Example

I know from personal experience that the ROI (return on investment) of a leader’s positive words is out of this world!   My great aunt Gillie was an unassuming, humble and quiet leader who greatly influenced me as a child and teenager.  She possessed many traits we as leaders need…in particular, the gift to speak positive, Biblically-consistent words that encourage, empower and free our followers to achieve all their God-given potential. 

To me, her words were like honey from a honeycomb…health to the spirit of a young boy who some thought, and told, would never amount to much.  Like her, I was short in physical stature, but Aunt Gillie made me feel ten feet tall.  She was a significant leader who made others feel special…because they are!  She inspired me to dream and pursue big dreams with God’s great help. In my little accomplishments, she saw the possibility of great things.  While I enjoyed her world class cooking, she would take time to compliment me for those small triumphs.  Thank you Aunt Gillie, for being a leadership giant who taught me that positive words cost nothing but accomplish much!

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Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote speaker.   Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services. 

Counterculture Leadership

When we co-operate with God the Holy Spirit, we become less and less visible and Jesus becomes highly noticeable in our leadership and life roles. The old nature’s self-affirming and self-promoting tendencies are subordinated to the new nature’s predispositions toward declaring and boasting about Jesus to others...