Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Leadership Lessons from Elon Musk

I read Walter Isaacson’s new book Elon Musk for two primary reasons. First, to see what we can learn about Musk’s leadership, and second, because I had enjoyed the author’s book Steve Jobs. At the time of the book’s release, Musk was amazingly running six companies: Tesla, SpaceX and its Starlink unit, Twitter (now X), The Boring Company, Neuralink, and X.AI. One of Musk’s primary goals is to colonize Mars, so humans can survive if and when Earth becomes uninhabitable due to climate change.  He is also striving for “Full Self-Driving” vehicles, which he promises will revolutionize the world.  Isaacson tells us that a core question about Musk is whether his bad behavior can be separated from the all-in drive that has made him successful.

The book discusses Musk having Asperger’s, a common name for a form of autism-spectrum disorder that can affect a person’s social skills, relationships, emotional connectivity, and self-regulation. Regarding Musk’s leadership, his innovation, vision, and results are to be admired – his people skills not so much. How much of the latter is due to his Asperger’s is hard to tell. In some ways, his leadership reminded me of that of Steve Jobs. Continue reading

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Reflections on Vocational Regrets

I want to take a few minutes to address the subject of regrets again. Previously, I had written “How Should We Handle Our Regrets”. Recently, while reading John Maxwell’s latest book The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication, I came across a section where he wrote about a study in which people were asked to respond to the following:
“When you look back on your experiences in life and think of those things that you regret, what would you say you regret more, those things that you did but wish you hadn’t, or those things that you didn’t do but wish you had?”
He goes on to state that of those who responded, 75% replied that they regretted those things that they didn’t do but wish that they had. It surprised me, but immediately what came to mind for me was not becoming a pastor, but instead having a career in the general marketplace. I say it surprised me because it isn’t something that I had really thought about. Continue reading

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Leaders, Do Your Team Members Know How Much You Care?

One of my favorite John Maxwell quotes (though he certainly wasn’t the first to say it) is “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I love the quote and have repeated it often to those I mentor over the years. This statement is true in many walks of life, as a friend, pastor, mentor, politician, etc. In this article, I want to look at what this means between a leader and their team members. Teams generally aren’t going to be impressed with a leader’s prior experience, results, reputation and advanced degrees until they are convinced that the leader cares about them as an individual. What are some ways that a leader shows their followers that they care about them? Here are 4 ways: Continue reading


How God Providentially Worked in My Career

I was recently reflecting on how my career path could have been so much different than it was. For some reason, I never developed good study habits. Looking back, I don’t even recall doing much homework in high school. Sadly, my grades reflected just that. As I recall, I barely got into college. These days, I would have probably started my college career at the community college just a few minutes from our home, rather than going to the local university that I did.
My lack of good study habits hurt me at the university. Although I worked hard, I achieved just barely average grades. And then when I met Tammy, who would become my wife, well, let’s just say my grade point average just went lower and lower. Continue reading

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2 Things Leaders Must Be Brutally Honest About

It’s important for leaders to be honest in all things. If team members cannot trust their leaders to be honest, they will no longer follow them. Given that a leader must be honest in all things, there are two specific areas that are so important that a leader must be brutally honest with their team members about – their performance and their potential.
Performance. Annual performance reviews were without a doubt one of the least favorite aspects of my job as a leader. Doing a good job on these reviews is hard and takes discernment. The reviews were very important, not only for that particular performance period, but in the career of an individual, especially if they were pursuing a leadership position, for whom excellent reviews were expected. Continue reading

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Why It’s Important to Get Off to a Good Start in Your Job

It is very important to get off to a good start in any job. Why? Because people begin making impressions and forming judgments about you – your attitude, your work ethic, your approach to your work, how you handle yourself, your relationship to your boss and teammates, etc. – the minute you walk in the door and show up for work. In her book Crush Your Career: Ace the Interview, Land the Job, and Launch Your Future, Dee Ann Turner writes “The first ninety days of any new job are critical. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that is exactly what the first ninety days are – a first impression.” She goes on to state that “The relationship with your new boss is the most critical element of success in your new job.” It’s very difficult to overcome a rocky start with a new boss. Dee Ann adds “Of all the reasons I have seen people fail in their career, by far the most common is the inability to build positive and productive relationships in the workplace.” Continue reading

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What is Emotional Intelligence, and Why is it Important for Leaders?

We all know what intelligence is, but are you familiar with what is known as Emotional Intelligence? This is a relatively new concept, first labelled in 1964, and popularized in the 1980s. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ  by Daniel Goleman is a book that some recommend to find out more about this topic. Goleman tells us that emotional intelligence is the ability to proactively manage our own emotions (EQ-self), and to appropriately respond to the emotions of others (EQ-others). He also states that emotional intelligence is the capacity for recognizing our feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships. Continue reading

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Leadership Attributes: Character

In our series on leadership attributes, we now look at character. British Pastor Charles Spurgeon said that a godly character is the best tombstone. But what exactly is character, or more specifically good character? It may be one of those attributes that are hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.
Many years ago, one of my supervisors and I were interviewing candidates for an entry level position in our organization. The individual selected for the position would be working on the second or third shift, essentially unsupervised. A person of good character was critical in this position. One of our interview questions was “What does character mean? What does it mean to say that someone has good character”? Although each candidate tried, we never did get a satisfactory answer to our questions about character. We then told the interviewees that a definition that we had heard that we liked was:

Character is doing the right thing when nobody is watching 

A dictionary definition that may come closest to what I am talking about here is “moral excellence”. Continue reading


Don’t Underestimate Your Team Members

I enjoy looking at my “Memories” on Facebook each day. These are select items that you have posted on the particular date the past few years. Recently, the above photo showed up, reminding me of a day six years ago in which I learned a valuable lesson – not to underestimate my team members.
For the majority of my career as a leader in a Fortune 50 organization, my team members were located in the same town that I was. They might not be in the same facility, or the same building or floor of the campus I worked at, but they were always in the same town. But in the last year and a half of my career, that changed. First, I had an opportunity to lead a five-person team in Atlanta, and later, I also had the pleasure of working with one person in our Phoenix facility. Although I sadly was never able to make a trip to Phoenix, I was able to visit the Atlanta team four times. During those visits, one of the things we made sure to do was some type of team activity to better get to know each other. The first we did was the Escape Room. Continue reading

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Focus on Results, Not Activities

Many of us are extremely busy in our jobs, callings and vocations. But being busy is not the same as being productive. In the Fortune 50 organization that I worked at for my nearly 38-year career, we would often talk about “results, not activities”. One of the first times I heard this was after turning in my comments for my mid-year review of my goals. That task was always one of my least favorite to do, and I was always happy to get it done. Unfortunately, on one occasion, shortly after turning in my mid-year document to my leader, she returned with it all marked up in red ink. She handed it back to me and said that I had listed a lot of activities. What I needed to do was show results.
This makes sense, of course. Organizations will reward workers for achieving results. Being busy in and of itself will not move the organization forward. What do I mean by focusing on results, rather than activities? Let me give you a few examples. Continue reading