12 Strategies for Leadership Success

This is a guest post by Margaret McSweeney. She is the author of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace (Moody Publishers, July 2009) and A Mother’s Heart Knows (Thomas Nelson, 2005). She is also active on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

My father, the late Dr. Claude H. Rhea, Jr., executed and exemplified lessons on leadership throughout his short life of sixty-two years. He was a strategic visionary, a 32-year colon cancer survivor, a member of the prestigious Royal Society of the Arts, an accomplished international lyric tenor who recorded five albums (one with the Concert Orchestra of London), a published author (including his autobiography, a cook book and two song books for children), a Dean of a Music School and a President of a College.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Sportstock, Image #10121450

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Sportstock

These are his life lessons for leadership:

  1. Creed. Create a mission statement for your life and your job. Each professional and personal project you undertake should fall under the tenets of your creed and belief system. An important part of my dad’s creed was to make faith an action verb and to honor God in all that he did.
  2. Heed. Surround yourself with people that can provide insight and wisdom, even if you disagree with them. You should always understand all sides of an issue before making key decisions. Connect with others and network.
  3. Read. Empower yourself with knowledge. My dad started each morning by reading the Bible. He was a voracious reader of all types of books. Throughout his whole life, my dad learned a new word a day. He always said a common thread of leaders and CEOs was a powerful command of an extensive and excellent vocabulary. Here’s a good resource. (Click here.)
  4. Knead. Work hard at what you do! Success doesn’t just happen. You must roll up your sleeves to roll in the proverbial dough. And, an important part of working is asking. That was one of my dad’s greatest leadership lessons for me. He applied this to his fund-raising efforts: “Don’t be afraid to knock on a door and ask. The worst thing someone could do is say ‘no.’ and then you just knock on someone else’s door.” Kneading takes commitment and perseverance. Never give up!
  5. Feed. Even as a college president, my dad would invite new students and faculty to our home. He would prepare the meal and serve the guests. My dad had the heart of a servant. He also believed that many problems could be resolved and goals discussed over a full stomach.
  6. Seed. Take the time to invest in other people’s lives either intellectually or financially. Grow your business or ministry by planting seeds of wisdom, hope and experience within others. I found out after my dad died that he had set aside a Seed Fund to quietly help families that needed a little extra financial sustenance and students that needed scholarships.
  7. Weed. Yank negativity by the roots and banish it from your organization and home. Be positive and stay positive even when challenges arise. At breakfast each morning, my dad would start my day by saying, “Something good is going to happen to you today.”
  8. Speed. Be quick with compliments and always respond in a timely manner to phone calls and correspondence. Don’t be in a rush to make things happen. My dad always said, “God’s trains run on time.” During the “meanwhile”; however, when nothing seems to be happening in spite of the hard work, we can still learn strategic lessons and encounter opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  9. Greed. Avoid it! Make each challenging situation a win/win for everyone. Share your success with others. Typically, you alone are not responsible. Success comes from teamwork.
  10. Deed. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Each person needs to feel validated in life no matter who they are or what they do. My dad treated everyone the same—CEOs and janitors. He always taught me that “Everyone is God’s child.” I’ll never forget one afternoon when I visited him at his office. As we were leaving, he spent ten minutes with the janitor who was mopping the floors. My dad asked by name about each member of this janitor’s family.
  11. Exceed. Go beyond expectations. Deliver quality and quantity and always be consistent with delivering your top performance.
  12. Need. My dad’s mantra was to “touch the near edge of a great need and at some sacrifice to yourself, act upon it and make a difference.” Go beyond the here and now of your life. Identify a real need in your community or in the world and do something about it. You will inspire your employees, friends and family with your actions to effect change.

These twelve points are just a few of the lessons from my dad on how to lead and succeed. He always stressed that each person should have a vision of what it is he or she wants to do, to build, or to become. As Dan McCreary said, “Managers think about today. Leaders think about tomorrow.” Dream big and go for it!

Question: Which of these life lessons spoke top you?
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  • http://www.asim-ahmed.com Asim


    Excellent post, I am sure your father was a very successful individual. I really admire the 3rd lesson which is to empower yourself by reading. I think this is absolutely crucial, the power of reading is limitless. All of the great successful leaders in the past and current state of time have been voracious readers. What many people don't understand is that books can not only give you more skills, and entertain you but they are also a means of changing ones life. One example would be Abraham Lincoln who read his way to his presidency

    My recent post 3 Lessons to Improve your Concentration

  • Edson Souza

    Dear Margaret,

    Thank you so much for remembering and allowing me the privilege to comment on your Dad leadership legacy. I still remember very well that Christmas Eve 24 years ago when I had the opportunity to meet your Dad in that restaurant in Rio as I worked as a waiter. That encounter changed my life forever. After a few talks he offered me to go to America and attend College at PBAU with a full scholarship. It was powerful. During the several meetings with this man of great vision, I can point it out 2 good ones, the first was after a few months at the College, I was homesick and did not have the chance to talk with my family in Brazil . So, He saw me in the hallways and asked me if i had call my family lately, And I said no. Than with that amazing smile he said please got tomorrow to my office, sit in my chair and call your family and friends and make sure you are doing fine. There I was a kid from the slums of Rio sitting in the President’s chair.

    And the second one was during one of the many dinners he offered to the international students. While enjoying a delicious meal, He said, Edson one day you will be back to Brazil and impact the live of many people. He was right. For the past 9 years my family and I have a school for poor children in one of the largest slum in Rio . These principles I will carry with me and pass them on to my students.

    Many thanks,


  • Christine

    Dear Margaret, These are such true sayings from a sage not just a saint. I recently read that we should strive to be sages – being part of our cultures and living wisely in them, rather than living as saints apart and exclusive of our world. In all the points above it is clear one has encountered a man of pure creed and faithful deed as a true sage. What an inspiration!
    Christine Gunn-Danforth

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  • http://twitter.com/mcsweeney @mcsweeney

    Thank you, Mike for the incredible honor and opportunity to share my dad's lessons on leadership through a guest blog. Also, thank you to all who posted comments. How special to reconnect with people who knew my dad and to celebrate his life. This year will mark my father's 20th anniversary of his homecoming in heaven. I plan to print this post and the comments for my daughters who never met their granddad. If you have a chance, please read Edson's comment. My dad met him 24 years ago in a restaurant in Rio where Edson was a waiter. Stepping in faith, my dad offered this young Brazilian a college scholarship at Palm Beach Atlantic University where he was president, and now Edson is touching and changing lives in the slums of Rio through his ministry http://www.newhopebrazil.com Only God could orchestrate that encounter. A reminder that even though we may lead, God is the one who is directing our paths.____Happy New Year, and thank you again for your comments.____Margaret McSweeney

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  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    Margaret, I know this is an old post, but I have to tell you that this was a very good post, and probably something that I will use in my own life and with my family. I especially liked #7: Weed. There’s so much negativity that can creep into my life, and I need to aggressively weed it out.

    • Margaret

      Thanks, Robert.  What a “hug from heaven” to hear that my late father’s wisdom continues to bless lives.  He was a huge influence in my life.  I am so thankful and honored to have the opportunity to share my father’s insights on Mike Hyatt’s blog.  And by the way, my parents’ 60th anniversary is today.  

  • Anonymous

    For the 1st item, I’d also stress the importance of revisiting your creed. In my Church we read/recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday. I love the reminder, “Here’s what I believe”. 

    I’m co-chairing a committee and we have crafted a vision/mission statement (3 sentences). I’d like to begin every meeting with a review of the statement to remind ourselves of our purpose and focus. My co-chair doesn’t consider that worthy of an agenda item, but at least he’s got it captured in the first slide for our meeting. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I recite the Creed in my daily prayers as well. It is hugely beneficial for the reasons you state.

      • Anonymous

        What a great idea! I love it and plan to follow suit.

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  • Brenda A. Smith

    My Father, the late Fred Smith, Sr., knew your Dad when he was a music student.  I remember growing up and hearing your Dad’s name.  You might enjoy our online archive http://www.breakfastwithfred.com   There are leadership resources and a place to sign up for a Weekly Thought which brings you an email containing words from Dad.  The privilege of wise fathers is a great gift, isn’t it?