4 Leadership Lessons From The Appalachian Trail



I just returned from a week long hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains.

It was such an amazing experience to spend the week off the grid and be able to hang out with some amazing friends. We carried all our food and gear in our backpack and ventured into woods. Even though we were taking long hikes each day, the days seemed to last forever. The only schedule for the day was to hike to the next camp and eat. It was amazing.
Leadership lessons from hiking the Appalachian Trail:
1. Know where you are going
Just like the map that we carried with us, we had a plan before we started our journey. Great leaders, ( as John C Maxwell says) know the way, show the way, and go the way. Your map or course of action is the vision for your organization. Charting a course is key to leading others effectively. We were referring to our map the entire hike. Now, the map gave us a course of action but it did not show us where what we would encounter along the way. Which leads us to our next leadership lesson. “Be flexible.”

2. Be flexible
Your terrain can change quickly. During our hike, the terrain was constantly changing. We had wide soft dirt paths, rock and boulder trails that were straight up, and then we would have to cross a stream and hard clay trails downhill. Leadership is like hiking the Smoky Mountains; you have to remain flexible. Great leaders understand that the path will be difficult and change often. Leading an organization is not easy just because you have a vision mapped out. One time during our hike we arrived at camp, and we discovered it infested with yellow jackets. We didn’t plan for this. It wasn’t on the map. It just happened. We had to flexible and adapt. The same is true with the course you have charted for our organization. The vision is a guide to get you where you want to go, but there is no way to know what you will encounter along the journey. Which leads us to the next leadership lesson: “You can’t make the journey alone.”
3. You can’t make the journey alone
During our hike, we all leaned on one another. Each of us had our gifts and talent that we brought to the journey. I was experiencing my first real extended hike out in the middle of nowhere. I had spent the last year studying, researching and buying gear. I studied the mountains and trails online but had never experienced them. I teamed up with seasoned hikers that had been hiking these mountains for over twenty years and glean from their wisdom. I had a bunch of head knowledge, but no hands on experience. Leaders need to surround themselves with men and women that are wiser and older than themselves.

Leaders can teach what they know but can only take people where they have been. We all did our part to help and encourage one another. It was an amazing emotional, physical and spiritual experience. Like my hike through the Smoky mountains, you can’t build an organization alone. Great organizations are built on great teams and great teamwork. Great teamwork means you work together to lead others. Which leads us to our next leadership lesson: Just because you can go farther, faster, it doesn’t mean you should.
Just because you can go faster, doesn’t mean you should

4. Leadership is about taking others with you.

The goal is to stay a few steps ahead of those you are leading not way out in front. During our hike, there was a time that I was about twenty minutes ahead of everyone on the trail. I was enjoying the trail when I encountered a black bear. There I was alone away from our team. I was out in front but had no team to bounce ideas off of on how to handle the situation not to mention I wasn’t carrying the map. ( stupid! ) Thankfully, the black bear was scared of me, and he shot off into the wood in the opposite direction. Great leaders understand that they need to lead the way. Leaders should be only a few steps ahead in the journey so they can take others with them at a healthy pace and be able to have a team to work through the challenges as they arise. And let me tell you challenges will arise. First off, I had never seen a black bear face to face, my team had. I had only read about how to scare them away. My team had the real life experience on how to handle the situation and I was far away from them. I should have stuck with my team. Just because I could go faster didn’t mean I should have. Another trouble spot was when we encounter the yellow-jackets that I spoke of earlier. We reached camp and could not stay where we had planned. When we assessed or situation, we realized that we could hike to the next camp and stay there or hike out of the woods completely and complete our hike. We decide we would hike to the net camp, eat lunch and decide what to do. During lunch, we discussed our plan, looked at the map. The most seasoned hiker in the group had laid out our hike for the week. He designed it with enough resting points, so we didn’t overdo it and hurt ourselves. When we were eating lunch, it was only 11:30.

We thought it would be a great idea to try to push through and hike out of the woods rather than rest at camp one more night. That day we encountered the worst trail on the hike. We had to climb several thousand feet above sea level to get out and then hike to our vehicle. It was exhausting and the wrong decision, and we missed having another night under the stars. Just because we could go faster didn’t mean we should. Great leaders understand that there are times to push ahead and times to rest. We need to have a vision. We need to be flexible. We need to have a team. But we do need to go farther, faster. When you get too far out from of those you are leading, and they can become exhausted because you are pushing too hard. Set a pace in your organization that pushes people to accomplish great things yet gives margin to their lives. Life is a journey, enjoy the moment each and every day.
I learned so much on my hike. It was an experience I will cherish my entire life. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. You have an amazing journey you are on right now. It’s called the journey of life. In the journey of life, you need to know where you are going. You have to be flexible. You can’t make the journey alone and in the journey of life, it’s now about how fast you go it’s about enjoying the experience because you only get one journey make it count.
Question: What lessons have you learned on the journey of life? Leave me a comment on my Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you!

9/22/15 Tuesday Tip!





What are the important things in your life? Are you are neglecting them?

[New Post] Who are you following off the cliff? How to avoid “Groupthink” 

Who are following off the cliff?

Over lunch, I was having a great conversation with friends about what make a great leader. We shared how great leaders are more concerned with results than being right. My friends brought up the concept of Groupthink”.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. ( Wikipedia )

What stands out to me are the words: “critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints.” Have you ever been at a meeting and know you should say something but were fearful to speak up? Group think. Have you ever gone along with the crowd so that you didn’t stick out even though you knew it was wrong? Group-think.
Now let’s take this a bit further. Nazi Germany. Groupthink.

Group-think poisons leadership teams when they become more concerned with avoiding conflict than results.

Things can go down hill when we refuse to receive alternative viewpoints.

Groupthink is a big deal.

When we isolate ourselves from outside influences, we can take a wrong turn. What’s even scarier is how deceived we can become.
As leaders, we need to:

  • Surround yourself with men and women that are wiser and smarter than you.
  • Surround yourself with men and women that are outside your sphere of influence.
  • Focus on results rather than being right or avoiding conflict.
  • Mine for conflict
    • I learned the concept of mining for conflict from Author / Speaker Patrick Lencioni.
      He shares how healthy leadership teams have the practice of allowing someone on the team to “mine” or force buried disagreements to light to work through them. In turn, this allows them to have lively, interesting meetings, extract and exploit the ideas of all team members, solve real problems quickly, minimize politics and put critical topics on the table for discussion.
  • Be willing to admit you are wrong.
    • No leader is right hundred percent of the time. Intact, I would say as leaders we never have the full picture or know the complete outcome of any decision we make. As leaders, all we can do is make the most informed decision we have at that moment. Our decisions will improve the more we include the critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints.
  • Be more concerned with results than ego.
  • Challenge the statuesque.

Groupthink is one of the most stealthy deceptive conditions that can creep in to your leadership and organization. Be willing to challenge your ideas no matter how passionate you are them.

Question: In what situations have you seen Groupthink at work? 

[New Post] The Seven T’s of an Amazing Marriage ( Part 7 of 7 )



Here we are in our final blog post in our series “The Seven T’s to an Amazing Marriage”.

Our seventh and final T to an amazing marriage is: Together

TOGETHER is about developing activities and hobbies that you both like to do together. As a couple, it’s ok to have hobbies that you don’t do together.

I love to golf and Jennifer does not. But we love to go antique stores together. As you read this, I am hiking in the Smoky Mountains on the Appellation Trail with five other guys, something my wife would never want to do! The fun part is she will go on a couple mile hike with me. Jennifer and I have hobbies we love to do together and things we do to show our love and appreciation for each other.

What do you like to do together?

What if you took up a hobby that your spouse likes or if the two of you decided to try something new?

Get creative. Find a new sport, or make plans to check out a new restaurant every Friday. The goal is to make a habit of having a hobby together.

Make time to do things that help to create memories for just the two of you.

Let’s recap the seven T’s to a breakthrough marriage:








The key to having an amazing marriage is making the decision today as a couple to change, and then living out the 7 T’s each day with consistency. It doesn’t mean that your marriage will be perfect.

Follow the seven T’s and you will have an amazing marriage filled with trust, healthy communication, love, respect, and intimacy.

Questions: What hobbies do you and your spouse do together? Leave me a comment on my Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn

[New Post] The Seven T’s to an Amazing Marriage ( Post 6 of 7 )



We are in our second to last blog post in our series “The Seven T’s to an amazing marriage.

In our series we have talked about:

  1. TUNING into each other.
  2. Being TRUTHFUL.
  3. Being intentional with our TIME.
  4. Giving, receiving physical TOUCH.
  5. Making TODAY count.

In our sixth blog post, I want to talk about TREASURE.
When I use the word treasure, I am referring to finances. How you handle finances will make or break your marriage.

One-half of the divorce rate – or about 1 in 5 of our divorces – are caused by money.

Being on the same page as our spouse with money will end many arguments.

Here are the ways Jennifer and I handle our TREASURE:
Handle your finances together

All our money goes into one checking and savings account. We do not have his account and her account. We do not have his bills that he pays and her bills that she pays. We have our bills and our money. It does not matter who makes more money. Every penny is ours as a couple. We decide what we spend and where together.
Have a budget!

You have to know where your money is going so you aren’t wondering where it went. We use the app “YNAB” which is an acronym for “You Need A Budget”. We love this app because it allows us to track our expenses in real time.
Have a Treasure leader

Decide who is the strongest with finances. Have them manage the budget and pay bills but work through this together. Remember, we want a leader that leads in the area of handling the finances with wisdom. We aren’t looking for a treasure hunter, someone who is trying to find where all the money went has gone.

Don’t spend money without letting your spouse know.

Remember, one our T’s in this series was TRUST. We show trust by being open and honest with our spouse. If we buy a set of golf clubs or expensive makeup kit without telling our spouse, we are asking for trouble. Plan large purchases together. Be open and honest about the things that you want, but live within your means.
Work towards being debt free

Financial guru Dave Ramsey says: ““If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

Living debt free opens you up to so much freedom. Imagine owning your home or cars outright or not having to pay any monthly bills except utilities? Working towards financial freedom will allow you to live the life you want and help others.
If most of your arguments in your marriage are about money, take a hard look at why. Are you so tightfisted with money that there is no freedom ever to enjoy what you earn as a couple?

Are you a spendthrift and you spend everything or run up credit cards and live beyond your means? Did you grow up in poverty so now you are always worried about money even though you have enough?

You see, you can follow this system laid out in this post with your spouse and still have a heart issue with money. Money is like a brick. You can build a wall with it or throw it through a window. The brick doesn’t care either way. It’s all in how you handle it.
Question: What tools or step do you have in place with your partner? Leave a comment on my Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you!