Leaders: 5 Reasons No One Believes You!


I almost killed myself during that rotation trying to preserve a mosque. The Improvised Explosive Device low ordered. I wasn’t given the choice to rotate back because Chief didn’t care about us. His main concern was providing support at any cost. I read the words you and others have shared and I push through knowing that the VA doesn’t care, the military leaders no longer care, and my battles are on me.”                    – A 20 Year Veteran

Go ahead, show me your surprised face. That one you like throw around when conflict arrives at your doorstep and the most comforting thing you can do is try and convince the world you had no idea he or she felt this way. Despite your best effort I can promise you one thing. No one believes you! I’ll tell you why.

  1. Your Actions Speak Louder Than Words:

Just like the quote above, your actions make you transparent. There is one thing I’ve found to be irrevocably true regardless of the industry and it’s that your words mean very little. How many times have you heard, “Perception isReality.”? It’s not just catchy, it’s life. While attending a school on Contemporary Insurgency  some years ago a former Algerian terrorist spoke to our class on the successful recruitment of villagers away from the French cause. How? In his words, “Perceived Grievances”. The people were hurting and starving. He recalled a community who was promised food and medical aid by the government. The insurgents continually hindered supplies to the village simply to build animosity. It didn’t matter how much the government cared, it only mattered that they didn’t deliver. Eventually when the supply route was opened the food that passed through the village was bound for hungry troops on the frontline. Once the convoy of rations had passed the terrorist descended on the village. “See that rice? That was your rice. They don’t care about you but we do. Take this rifle and together, let’s go get YOUR rice back.” In a moment, a rebellion was born. Do your actions reflect your message? Save your words because they will only remember you by your deeds.

2. You’re Not Trustworthy:

  Recently I had the opportunity to eat dinner with a famous sports figure who is now in his later years. I was interested in finding out what made him so successful. As I sat at the table I was nervous but still anxious to pick his brain and learn more about the stories he had authored in his book. Before I ever got a word out a young married woman approached the table to say, hello. His demeanor changed in an instant. I would compare it to pouring water on a Gremlin. His hand went straight to her hip then slowly more inappropriate as he began to talk about himself. What I saw as wise council became a drooling old man who cared more about what was in front of him than the impact on his legacy. I stood up and left. Not because the moment was uncomfortable, even though it was. I left because I didn’t trust him. It somehow reminded me of the leaders I’d been associated with whose message of family and team only ran deep as long as it was advantageous to them. You “leaders” who failed to follow through after the promotion arrived. You who cry for equality, justice and fair play but let your racism and intolerance flow behind closed doors. It’s aboutrelational equity. Your success does not make you trustworthy.

3. You’re the Cowardly Lion: 

  You fold under pressure. Many times I’ve heard and said, “Managers do what’s right but leaders do the right thing.”  In 2011, I was asked to take on an extremely high risk mission with absolutely no tactical or strategic benefit. I said no and was reassigned within the week. Was it the right choice? Absolutely! At the end of the day I would be the one to face the family if anything happened and explain my part in his death. I refused to let my answer be, “Because I was too afraid to speak-up.” In your organization a time has come, or will come, where you will be asked to make an unpopular decision for the sake of your team. How you choose to answer will make or break your status as a Leader. Too often we absolve ourselves of responsibility with the excuse of just following policy or it’s not my decision.  The excuse does not make you less responsible. It’s just a vague statement to make you feel better about being a coward.

4. You Lack Endurance:

  There are men to this day that I still believe are great people and even consider them leaders in most situations. However, my view of them has been tainted because when people counted on them to do what they said, they never endured. It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t count myself among them. I had the opportunity to serve with a great young man who endured more than anyone should. When it came time for him to be recognized for his bravery, it was derailed by the most regrettable circumstances I could imagine. Papers were lost, and leaders were content to wipe their hands of it. A message was sent that day that I’m still trying to rectify 3 years later. His sacrifice was only as great as their convenience and the reality that my credibility could be sucked down by the sinking ship. Your team makes commitments based off the trust they have in you. Like cutting off the head of snake, if you fail to produce everyone beneath you suffers. Deadlines are missed, customers are disappointed, and credibility is lost. The saddest part is that it affects more than just your reputation.

5.  You’re Undefined:

  You would like to say you’ve climbed Mount Everest, right? What if your sherpa had zero desire to take you to the summit and spent most days unhappy and wishing he had chased his dream of music. Still interested? The fact is, no one wants to follow you because you don’t even know where you’re going! Do you have any real direction in your life? Are you at the job you work or the job you love? I’m often asked what led me to this role and why I get so fired up about it. To put it simply, it’s my purpose.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – John Eldridge

There is nothing more frustrating to me than people who settle. No, I’m not talking about the new DirectTV commercial, even though it is hilarious. It’s everyone, like yourself, who has an incredible gift or talent but they’ve allowed themselves to believe that it will never be more than a hobby or a passion. Do you realize how ludicrous that sounds. “I work at Brand X but [insert awesome] is my passion.”  People follow your convictions not your ability. No matter how great you are at what you do, no one wants to follow those who have lost their passion for it. Your Why will always be greater than your What.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”- Mark Twain

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