Recently, I received a book in the mail from a person I had met 2 weeks before. He was making an impact on my life by adding value – his intention was to pass along to me something that had a significant impact on his own life.

The book’s main focus was a short poem. Before I continue, you have to know I’m not much of a poetry guy; I’ve not developed an appreciation for this type of written expression. As I began to read this book and learn the subject was a poem, I was really tempted to put it down, pack it away on a bookshelf and never open it again.

…However, this person had gone out of his way to purchase it and mail it to me from Canada – I’m sure he spent twenty dollars to do all that – I thought the least I could do was to read a little further before I cast judgment on the usefulness of the book to me.

I’m glad I continued to read it!

You have likely heard about the topic before in a variety of ways:

  • Steven Covey suggested writing your obituary to help define what you would do with your life.
  • Mark Twain famously said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
  • I once heard a motivational speaker years ago give a talk entitled, “What Will They Say When The Potato Salad Is Served?”  

The name of this book and the poem is The Dash.

We all have a year we were born and will have a year we will pass from this life. The thing in the middle is the dash. The dash represents all the time you spend alive on this planet and what matters is how we spend our dash.

What does this have to do with leadership? Pretty much everything!

What are you doing with your leadership to have an impact on those you lead? We can substitute the year of our birth and the year of our passing for the year we became a leader (even of your family) and the year we “retired” from our leadership role. There will still be a dash in the middle.

As a leader, are you using your dash to:

  1. Gratefully appreciate those you lead? Successful leaders intentionally spend time recognizing and encouraging those on their team for the effort, commitment, attitude, behavior and results they produce.
  2. Add value to and develop those you lead?Successful leaders look for opportunities to provide growth experiences to those on their team.
  3. Build healthy relationships with those you lead?Successful leaders establish trust among those on their team and know trust is the foundation of healthy relationships. They demonstrate honesty and vulnerability; they never want to be the smartest person in the room.
  4. Create and share a vision of something that goes well beyond what you alone are able to accomplish?Successful leaders are visionaries who know the way and show the way to bigger and better accomplishments making the organization they lead stronger along the way.
  5. Empowering those you lead to maximize the use of their natural strengths?Successful leaders truly enable those on their team to take ownership of the results and actions used to accomplish goals. Leaders ensure resources are available, obstacles are removed and talents are fully utilized.

How are you doing with your leadership dash? It is a serious question I hope you deeply consider in the coming days. If you are not fully happy with this, you can make the choice to change. The sooner you make this choice, and commit to the necessary changes you will have to make, the more time you will have to really make a difference in the lives of those you lead.

As you make the choice, realize you may need some help in staying on the new course. It is perfectly natural to need some help. I’d be happy to help you think this through.

Happy Thinking and Best Regards,


PS, In case you are wondering, “The Dash” was written by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson and published in 2005 by Simple Truths. You can order it from the publisher’s website