Leadership Basics

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“I learned courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not the one who does not feel afraid. But he who conquers that fear. Nelson Mandela

To be yourself requires courage. Pursuing dreams, seeing life as limitless opportunities, and pursuing leadership requires courage. In a world filled with negativity, haters, and critics, it isn’t easy to stay on course, be strong, and develop what we are all designed to be, and that is to lead. Most people settle for average, mediocrity, and the status quo.

Some people plot their course and know where they are sailing to. Others drift aimlessly, allowing the current to take them wherever they desire.

This world needs more leaders, and the time to start your leadership journey is now. We cannot see our potential, but those around us can. Use this book to start your leadership development and your journey. You can become a leader.



“Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great if they realize that greatness comes from helping others.” Martin Luther King JR.

A true leader adds value to others. They see opportunities that lead them to help others who need assistance. Leaders do not need to search for these opportunities; they are naturally directed to them. Leaders are people of action. They think of others’ needs before their own. Leaders break free of their selfishness and put the needs of others first.

Your job title does not make you a leader, nor does a position on a team or your intelligence. You may hold a leadership position, but a position alone does not guarantee leadership. For example, being the captain of your hockey team is only an opportunity to lead. The position does not make you a leader. It is an opportunity to develop your leadership skills and gives you the responsibility to lead. Leaders don’t boss people around. Leading means people will follow you. Most people will not willingly follow a bossy person.

If you are in a leadership position and don’t have anyone willing to follow you, you are just going for a walk.


“Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing Less.” John Maxwell

The foundation of leadership is trust. Trust is necessary to influence people and develop into a good leader. Who wants to follow someone they cannot trust? Trust is the foundation on which you will build your leadership credentials. So, tell the truth, even if it hurts, as this will allow others to see that you have integrity and are a person they want to follow. If you make a promise, keep it. Don’t say, “I was just kidding,” or your fingers were crossed to get out of a promise. A promise must be solid.


Your credibility is tied to your believability. When people meet you, they ask themselves, “Why should I follow this person?” “Is this person all talk, or is there substance to who they are?” Your credibility or believability is connected to whether your words match your actions. Are you telling people to act one way when you are acting oppositely? Do your words match your actions? If, for example, you are telling people that swearing is not something a leader should be doing, and you are swearing, then you lack credibility. If you highlight the importance of hard work and taking a lot of time off or not working as hard, if not harder, than the people you serve, you lack credibility.


Leaders learn to respond to situations rather than react to them. When you react to a person or situation, you are emotional. You need to be problem-solving or thinking through a solution. You are reacting. If you respond to a person or situation, you are thoughtful, not emotional, and can think through a solution. You responded appropriately and with a well-thought-out response.


When you are playing a game, follow the rules. Some people want to win no matter what; however, if you cheat, you have not won. Winning only happens if you play by the rules, play hard and then win. Cheating is connected to lying, poor character and lack of integrity. It’s all connected. Cheating is a reflection of poor self-esteem and a lack of confidence. When you cheat, you negatively affect your reputation and how people see you. This may affect potential friends, whether people want you on their team and your credibility as a leader.


So that you know, promises must be kept. Breaking a promise directly affects your leadership credentials. You cannot cross your fingers to get out of a promise. Saying, “I was only joking,” doesn’t work either. If you have strong leadership influence, you must become someone others can rely on. Telling the truth and keeping your promises will help you build your leadership credentials.


I believe in the saying, “Nice Guys Finish Last.” This is a saying by Leo Durocher, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was commenting on players from the New York Yankees. The inference is that if you’re too nice, you will lose. I believe this statement to be true because I believe in the complete phrase. Nice guys finish last only because they put others first. They add value to other people’s lives by turning away from their innate selfishness and turning toward looking for ways of helping others.

One of my favourite quotes from Mother Teresa is, “People may see your deeds as having ulterior motives, but do them anyway.”

I enjoy helping others, and I look for opportunities to take action as a leader. My reward is not money or acknowledgment but the ability to contribute and add value to another person’s life. There have been many detractors in my life, thinking that the sole purpose of my actions is to promote what I do. I cannot change their opinion. All I can do is seek these opportunities to take action and make a positive change. This is my focus. This is my purpose.


Detractors, often referred to as “haters,” dislike and criticize you, and they feel inferior because of your success. There is no rational reason for them to dislike you. You have not done anything to them. They dislike you because you are doing something they are not or have a quality they don’t possess. It’s like the good-looking girl hating the cute girl because she feels the cute girl is taking attention away from her. She is losing her status of being a good-looking girl.

The danger detractors pose is that they lead their victims to believe that there is truth in their statements. If you start to think the detractors, you could stop doing the great doing, things you are, or you could believe their lies. If, for example, the detractor told you you were dumb, you may believe them. The more you repeat this lie, the more likely you are to believe it to be true. If you think it, it becomes your reality and rules your life.

People are funny. When you are bobbing along and coasting on mediocrity, no one notices you, nor do they give you any grief. Most people can handle moderate success, but watch out if you become too successful. The razor-sharp talons come out, and people try to tear you down. There are so many examples in the celebrity world. I have witnessed this happen with numerous musical pop groups. When they first came on the scene, almost everyone loved them. As they start to gain momentum and reach the peaks of success, the same individuals come out with phrases like: “They are not that great, or We are better than they are!”

I believe success mirrors people’s insecurities and feelings of inferiority. As leaders, we must understand that this reaction exists. However, it should not deter us from becoming successful or reaching our goals. It should empower us with determination and motivate us to use the gifts we have been given to help ourselves and those around us. Keep your eye on your goals and aspirations and focus on adding value to others. Along with your journey, some people will try to push you off your course, but become resilient and never take your eye off your target, and you will positively affect the people you reach.


Leaders learn to discern. Discernment means to figure out what is true and what is false information by analyzing the facts and not relying on others to think for us to lead us in a direction we do not want to go. We are constantly being fed opinions by the media and our peers that are not based on fact but on misinformation or simply opinion. Just because it’s written in the newspaper or televised doesn’t make it true. Leaders think for themselves. They don’t turn opinion into fact or spread rumours as fact. We hear about celebrities and their failings because it’s newsworthy. It’s only newsworthy because it’s sensational, and we digest information without considering whether it’s a half-truth or a fact. Leaders base their opinions on facts, not rumours and hearsay. Don’t hate a person because someone tells you to. There is always more to the story than you are led to believe.


A young man came to school every day crying. No one knew why. All they could see was that this boy was upset at least once during the day. The boys in his class eventually started calling him a crybaby. Midway through the school year, it was disclosed that this boy’s mother was in the hospital dealing with a rare form of cancer. The boy was worried that he would lose his mother to the disease. The reason behind his daily crying became understandable when the entire story was disclosed.

Bobby Madison was known as the meanest kid in school. He would punch you in the nose for just looking at him. Bobby had no friends and was constantly suspended from school for his behaviour. At the end of the year, a social worker visited Bobby’s house so she could get a handle on why Bobby was misbehaving. The social worker soon found out that Bobby’s father had recently passed away. His older brother was beating him up daily, and his mother was never at home as she was always working. It became evident that Bobby’s behaviour reflected what he was dealing with. It is easy to judge before we have all the details of a person’s story. Leaders are not quick to judge. They look for ways of helping a person by getting to know the entire story.


Something should distinguish you from the people who are not leaders. How you present yourself does make a difference. First impressions will have an impact on how people perceive you and on your credibility. We are all judged by our behaviour, what we say and how we dress. Just be conscious of this, as it will impact whether people see you as a leader. If you are a teen and wear pants highlighting what kind of underwear you wear, you probably need to leave a better impression. If you are a girl and wear shorts that are too short, again, you may not be leaving a positive impression. These are examples of types of clothing that may lead to negative impressions of you. There is a fine line between self-expression and clothing that leads to a bad first impression. It would be best to decide how to come across to people and dress accordingly. This depends on your behaviour and choice of language. When you tell people you are a leader, there will always be someone who will try to discredit you. Please don’t give them the ability to take you down. Be aware of how you dress, speak and behave, as they always watch.

When you greet someone, 1) look the bully in the eye, 2) Give them a firm handshake, and 3) use an assertive tone to introduce yourself. This form of introduction for youth makes a solid impression on those you meet. It leaves a solid, positive impression.


Building our resilience is the best defence against bullying and the challenges we all face. Resilience is our inner strength, our ability to stand up to the forces that try to bring us down. It is necessary to rescue children from hardships, as no one wants to see a child suffer. It is important to protect children from dangerous situations; HOWEVER, it is not in their best interest to rescue children from everyday conflict and hardship. Sometimes, the best lessons learned are from life’s hardships and mistakes.

There was a school trip planned for grade 8s. It was planned for February. These students were going to go on a ski trip. When parents gathered to discuss the trip, the concerns were: 1) Why February? The bus could hit a patch of ice and slide off the road. 2) Who will make sure my kid has their hat and mitts on when they are outside? These students are 14 years old. If they go outside without hats and mitts, they will soon realize they should put them on or freeze!

I had a mother at my camp who was upset with my staff because her child came home with a mosquito bite on his ankle. Another parent was upset because her kid was playing outside all day. It is summer camp. Aren’t kids supposed to be playing outside all day? These examples are extreme. However, they deliver that children must figure out how to deal with daily struggles alone, with only a small amount of parental help, not a parental takeover.


When you try something new, you should never quit after trying something once. It would be best if you always gave whatever you do a three-time try whether it’s an activity, a camp or food. After three tries, you should know whether it’s for you. I see so many kids give up after one try. You do not know whether an activity is fun after one session. When you give up after one try, you are giving up on an opportunity that could lead to a potential success. You don’t know if you are good at something after one try. Who knows, maybe you will meet your best friend at this activity if you give it a few more tries.


Tenacity refers to never giving up. In this world, many things can discourage you as a leader. It may be your friends, your peers or yourself. It would be best if you kept your eyes on the prize. You should focus on where you want to go and not veer off course because of naysayers. I offered a conference for free to 22 schools. The conference was a success. I received no “thank you” from any of the schools. This could lead me to think, “What’s the point of giving such a gift to so many when it is unappreciated?” My focus needs to be on the conference’s positive effects on the 1600 students who attended and not the fact that schools lack gratitude. Remember that where focus goes, energy flows. Focus on the important aspects of what you want to contribute to life. Be tenacious. Do not let the negative influence the positive.


Leaders realize that small things do make a big difference. This includes manners, showing gratitude, tolerance, tenacity, and compassion.

Using words like please and thank you makes you stand out as a leader. Listen carefully to your peers; you will notice that most need to make the effort. When you use words like please and thank you, you stand out and let people know you are a leader.

It is important to let people know you are grateful for what they do for you. When you don’t thank people, the inference is that you take their gestures for granted. Send a thank you card, email, or phone call to let people know that their actions are noticed and appreciated. Small things can make a huge difference.

I remember hearing a story about a boy named Eric being bullied. The bullies knocked all his books out of his arms in the school hallway, attacking him with words like loser and nerd. Fellow students walked by this young man as he tried to pick up all his materials. No one was willing to stop and help him. After a few minutes, a young man named Sam stopped and asked if he would like help. Sam helped Eric with his books and walked home with him. Eric and Sam eventually became friends. Years later, at graduation, Eric became the valedictorian of his class. The first thing Eric said when speaking to his peers was to thank Sam for saving his life. You see, Eric was going to go home and end his life, but because of Sam’s act of kindness, he rethought his actions and decided life was worth living. Small actions can make a huge difference.


Being tolerant can be a challenge. Being tolerant means being patient. This is not always easy, and some people can find it very difficult. Being a leader can be challenging. When you deal with a difficult person, stay calm and think about your words and actions before you take action. Difficult people love it when you get angry and do not control your actions because they will use these situations against you. If you blow it, use the experience to learn and grow. We all blow it sometimes but can use our mistakes as life lessons and opportunities to grow as leaders.

Just recently, I had to deal with an angry dad. He was angry because all the doors in the school were locked. This is a standard policy now. It ensures that all adults check in through the main office after entering the school. I calmly explained why the doors were locked, but he didn’t care. He continued to talk in circles, getting angrier and angrier. It was inappropriate to behave in front of his boys. I became very frustrated and launched a few very inappropriate adjectives his way. After they left my mouth, I could not believe I had said what I had said. All day, I was rationalizing why I said what I said. The reality was that I blew it. I lost control and misbehaved. I apologized for my behaviour and learned that when I get frustrated, it is better to walk away than to continue a conversation that is going in circles.


Schools need to make it easier to keep organized. You get a small desk and a small locker. Being organized helps reduce frustration and increase your ability to get things done. Don’t you hate it when your teacher asks you to find your work and you can’t because your desk is such a disaster? You can never find a pencil or an eraser or your completed homework. You must redo the homework you have already completed because you can’t find it. Take action! Keep your desk and locker organized; you will have more time to do what you want. This goes for your bedroom at home, too. It allows you to enjoy your time instead of wasting it!

Suggestion: Get a folder for all your loose paper. Keep your exercise books on one side of your desk and your “needed” text boxes on the other. Have a sharpened pencil and eraser handy at the front of your desk. Do not put any unneeded materials on your desk. Keep your extra supplies in your locker. You can buy organizers for your locker that will help you keep organized. Because lockers are so small, keep the necessities in your locker. Lockers are for your coat, hat, gym, lunch, and boots. Please keep it simple.


There are a lot of entitled people these days. People who think the world owes them. People who believe they should always be first in line for a prize, first in life. The world owes you nothing. If you want to accomplish something, then work for it. Don’t wait for someone to give you “your goals and dreams.” Work hard, be persistent, and have courage; you will receive what you worked hard for. Those who wait for a handout usually need a hand-up when they realize the game is over and everyone has gone home.

Entitlement robs you of opportunities to learn and develop confidence. I met a boy who received everything he asked for. If there were a toy he wanted, he would need to ask. When he reached the age of 16, he, of course, was given a car. The moment “entitlement” bit him in the but was when he left home and had to do life himself. When he didn’t have a mom to buy him everything he wanted, this realization often led to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Anything worth receiving only has worth when you put in the elbow grease to earn it. Then, it is worth something.


People who bully can now inject their abusive words right into your bedroom through the glass screen of your computer. The internet seems to be a popular tool for bullies. They slander, abuse, gossip, spread rumours and do whatever they can to negatively affect your life.

If you are being bullied online, please don’t hesitate to reply. When you respond to online bullying, you give power to the bully.

Document everything. Record text by taking screenshots. Could you print off the text if possible? Record dates and times of the bullying.

If the bullying continues, report the bullying to your parents, school or the police

Do not put anything up on the internet; you won’t be happy to share it with your best friends and family. Just remember that everything that goes up into cyberspace is forever.

One year, I was hired for my summer camp staff. I received an application from a young man who is studying outdoor education. His references and resume were amazing. I was about to hire him when I decided to check out his Facebook page. There was one photo of him at a questionable party. He was not hired. Everything you post online is a reflection of you. Make sure people see the best side of who you are.


You may receive hundreds of positive criticisms. However, why is it that when you receive one negative comment, it has so much weight? We spend so much unnecessary time focusing our energy on negative comments. The reason for this is how we process negativity. Our brain processes it differently, and it affects us differently emotionally. Words are powerful. They can raise us, or they can tear us down. The next time you are the victim of negative criticism, try to refocus your attention on positive comments. Be in control of where your focus goes.

“Where focus goes, energy flows” Anthony Robbins.


The biggest obstacle we all face that impedes our success is fear. Individuals who are successful in life are risk-takers and can push through their fear of failing. Most people, however, take life as it comes and don’t want anything better. They limit their success by playing it safe. They accept mediocre jobs because they are afraid that there isn’t anything better. They settle for relationships that are not fulfilling because they feel there is nothing better. They are limited by their limited beliefs as beliefs dictate behaviour. What is holding you back? What are the obstacles in your life that are preventing you from achieving your ultimate life? Write down all the obstacles and limited beliefs that are slowing you down. Then, write out your goals, your dreams, and aspirations. You won’t get to your destination without a map. Modify it if you have to, but have a plan. Those who go through life without a plan float back and forth in the water of life but get nowhere or are stranded.

If you want to be successful, have a plan, set goals, and take action. Figure out what you want in life and go for it. Don’t settle. Become the leader you are destined to be.


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