Led By Principles – Are you?

Principled leaders are in short supply.

Many so called “leaders” today, whether in business or in politics, act from greed and the expense of others, break the law because they believe they are entitled, or accuse those who try to hold them accountable “haters”.

There was a time when 56 men came together, argued, threatened and accused each other but in the end came to agreement on a common cause: the freedom that they believed the Creator – Almighty God – gave to every person.

Declaration Debates

It wasn’t an easy decision, nor a popular one.

July 1, 1776

As the low rumble of thunder rolled across the Delaware river, John Dickinson from Philadelphia urged the delegates of the Continental Congress to delay their decision to adopt a resolution for independence.  Lightning flashed, gusty winds and sheets of rain were lashing at the State House as the plea to postpone grew stronger.

“Declaring our independence at a time like this”, he said “is like burning down our house before we have another; in the middle of winter; with a small family; then asking a neighbor to take us in, and finding that he is unready!”

The plea to wait until an answer came from France on the request to form an alliance had merit.  They could use more munitions to fight the British, yet his pleas seem to fall on mostly deaf ears.

They had been debating and arguing the notion of declaring independence from Britain for several weeks.  The Congress delegates knew the arguments.  If they declared to the world at this time the reasons propelling the to independence, they could win allies in their struggle – they could unify the country.

The people were tired of British oppression and ready to resist.  They were ready to combine their strength and risk their lives in support of the Declaration.

John Adams argued for independence.  The King was sending thousands of troops and mercenaries to subdue the country, to divide the colonies and to keep them from forming a strong resistance.

Adams said, “The people will stand behind the Declaration.  We shall be united; we shall fight for freedom; we shall win the respect of the world…”

The evening of July 1st found Thomas Jefferson in his room, with his writing box propped up in from of him near the dim light of an oil lamp making notes of the day.

Appointed to a committee several days earlier to draw up a draft declaration, Jefferson was chosen for the task by the other committee members.

In order to make their case he listed the charges against King George III.  he knew the words he had written on the document would be seen as treason and could get him arrested, sent overseas, and executed by His Majesty’s government.

Jefferson’s faith in the future was stronger than his fears.  He looked out his window to the west and saw the future: new territories and cities, bountiful fields and a republic of free men yet to be born.

Principles – they are what define you.  When others talk about you what do they say?  Are you a person of your word and live by principles that are encouraging, helpful and that motivate others?

Ask some of your friends to be brutally honest and tell you how you are doing.

Leave a comment about what you found out.  If you would like to have a conversation about principled leadership and living a principled life, just email me and I’d be glad to talk with you.

Barrel of Monkeys: It’s Not That Fun

For years I have been proud to be the fixer.  Bring me your problem, I’ll fix it or find a way to solve it.  Yep, I’m your guy!


You’ve heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a many to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Typically it is used to describe helping so that they can help themselves and not rely on others.

You might not be as familiar with the saying: “Don’t take the monkey”.

What is a “monkey”?  It is a problem that belongs to someone else.

We all take monkey’s that aren’t ours, and we’re happy to do it.  I should know, that’s been my style and I have had a barrel of monkeys and it hasn’t always been a lot of fun.

Now I look for them coming and I use a 4 step plan to deal with them.

1. Identify the problem

You know how this begins.  An employ catches you in the hall or stops in your office and says, “Got a minute?”  This is your first chance to spot the monkey.  They will then begin to explain the problem they have.  You just need to simply ask them, “What is it you want me to do?”

Sometimes they just want you to listen but do nothing.  Other times they are looking for a solution to their problem.  One solution is for you to NOT take the  problem from them, that’s the time you ‘don’t take the monkey’.

Make sure you find out what the problem really is.  Identify the true problem – identify the monkey.

2. Is the problem really a problem?

The next step is to have a conversation with the employee to determine if there really is a problem.  Sometimes what may look like a problem is only a need for clarification or more information to get past a roadblock.

Some problems, when faced with them, may seem like they urgently need a solution.  You need to decide if the problem needs to be addressed or sent packing.  It may be so low on the priority list that you decide it is not a problem and move on.  Don’t feed a monkey you don’t need.

3. Identify the true owner of the monkey.

Make sure you are clear the monkey belongs to the employee and so does the solution.  It might be appropriate for you to offer advice or suggestions, but don’t take the monkey.  Tell them to come back and report their progress and the solutions they came up with to solve the problem.

4. Schedule the feeding and care of monkeys.

Sometimes you are the one who needs to take the monkey.  When you do, make sure it is not just dumped on you.  Schedule time in the future with the employee to address the problem, identify the solution to the problem, and follow up on it’s progress until completed.

Make sure each time you meet to discuss the problem, if it remains unsolved then schedule the steps that need to be taken to move toward the solution.


I’m learning every day to identify the monkeys that come into my office.  My goal is to make sure they leave with the same person they came in on.

How about you?  How big is your barrel of monkeys?  What challenges do you have in managing the monkeys?  Leave your comments below.


4 Actions You Must Take to Improve Your Life

You feel it inside you – some days it consumes you.  You know deep inside there is more you want in life.  But what can you do about it?  The challenge seems too big.


June 14th is flag day.  The most memorable flag is the Star Spangled Banner.  When I visited Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, knowing the story and the song, tears poured from eyes when I thought about the relentless pounding of the British with their bombs and rockets.  For 25 hours the men in the fort endured a hellish barrage from a much bigger and stronger enemy.

Why the tears? Because we won.  The flag is a symbol of struggle and victory.

It is a flag that overcame huge challenges.  The odds were stacked against it, and the few men who held the fort.  But their commitment to a future they couldn’t yet see was bigger than the challenge.

That story and that flag serve as our guide to overcome our challenges.  But it takes commitment.  Here are four actions to take to change your life.  I call them the FLAG strategies.

1. Focus on what’s good

Surviving starts by changing your focus from what’s bad in your life and what’s not working because it will get you down and feeling depressed but will in fact put you in the position to have more bad situations to come into your life.

Why does this happen?  Because we simply get what we focus on.

Ken Davis, a best-selling author, speaker and humorist, tells a story when he went moose hunting with a bow and arrow.  After spending considerable time practicing aiming and hitting a target with precision, he set off into the woods in search of his prize.

When he suddenly came upon a huge elk with massive antlers.  It was very close, an easy shot, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the horns.  He drew his arrow back, aimed, and hit the elk in the antlers!  Exactly where his focus had been.

You see, we always get what we focus on. It doesn’t matter if you have some great things going on or happening in your life.  If you continue to focus on the bad or negative things you will get more.

So you need to change your focus.

First, start with what’s going well or right in your life now.  Ask yourself what makes you happy. Write it down.  Spend some time thinking about these answers.  You’ll find you have a whole lot more going right than you thought.

It’s easy to slip into the old mode of focusing on everything going wrong.  But if you spend even a few minutes a day, preferably first thing in the morning, focusing on what’s good your entire day will begin to change for the better.

You can even take it a step further and find another person who also seems to be struggling and give them some of your focus.  Help them with a problem, do an act of kindness for them or just spend some time helping them see what is good in their life.

When we turn our attention to others, and away from ourselves, our attitudes and outlook immediately brighten.

2. Lead those around you

You set the tome for everyone around you.  Probably you aren’t even aware of it.  Our attitudes affect everyone around us, and vis a versa.

Whenever we hear about leadership, our first impression is on position.  You might ask, “Well, I’m not the boss so how can I lead”?

Yes there is position-based leadership and we see it every day in every business, committee, church and event.  We place someone in charge and they are given the most responsibility.

However, not everyone who is in a position of leadership is a leader.  I’m sure you know of a time when a member of the group actually had more influence than the appointed leader.  We naturally tend to gravitate toward those people because we know they care.  They care about us, the group and the outcome.  The next time you are in a group or on a committee, sit back a little and watch.  You will be able to notice who the ‘real’ leader is.

You too can become a better leader.  It really isn’t about charisma or talent.  It’s more about caring about the people and serving them to achieve the desired outcome.  It is showing a genuine interest in them, helping them and encouraging even the smallest victories.

Whether you are at work or on a committee or helping out in the community, take some time and invest a little of yourself in others.  Maybe just focus (there’s that word again!) on one person and do what you can to help them out.  Others will begin to notice it and will naturally look to you for help also.  Don’t be stingy.  A true leader is a servant to others.

3. Acknowledge your challenges

This one is hard.  Not because we aren’t aware of the challenges or problems we have.  Most of them are tearing us up inside – and out.  This isn’t good for your health or those around you.

Just like you learned how to focus on  what’s good in your life to change your outlook, taking the time to acknowledge the fact you have challenges and problems is the first step to overcoming them.

Learning how to acknowledge them for what they are, you can turn them into an ally.

We get our strength from what challenges us.  When you know what you are faced with and take time to accept it and understand it, you will begin to find solutions that previously had not occurred to you.

This is because now your mind is focused on solving the problem instead of on how it is affecting you.  So where before you were paralyzed or stymied by the challenge it has not become an ally and helped you find a solution or many solutions.

Sometimes we, though, we just need to get through it.  There may be no other options but now you know and accept what you are faced with.

4. Grow for survival

The secret for surviving the day is planning for the next one.  Unless the end of the world comes, there will always be another day.

Your personal growth is a commitment to your future.

I grew up on a farm and was shy and introverted.  I could go to a party, sit off to the side all alone and have a great time!  By the time I went to college I decided I needed to figure out how to change.  I knew that what I achieved in my life would be up to me and the opportunities I accepted.  That’s a big challenge for a shy person.

So I began to read to self-help books, personal success and personal development books.  Books on leadership and business growth followed.  I found in those books many valuable tips, tools and actions to take to improve how I responded to the challenges I faced as an introvert.  I knew the more I continued to read and grow personally, the more opportunities I would find and have presented to me.

I may not have pursed them all, but each one gave me new skills and influence and opened up doors for others.  Without reading to improve myself I never would have had the opportunities to lead that I’ve had.

Harry Truman said “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

I found my books in libraries and book stores.  Today, all you need is a computer, a tablet or smartphone.  There is a world of information and help right there at your fingertips.   The only question you need to answer is:

Will you take the action to pursue knowledge, skills and improve your talents?

You alone are responsible for your future – no one else.  You can make it what you want you just need to prepare yourself.

So I challenge you to use this FLAG strategy to change your life.  As the saying goes, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”

The next time you hear the national anthem sung, remember the FLAG strategy.  If 1,000 soldiers in a small fort can withstand the bombardment of an enemy far superior by keeping their focus, then your challenge should be easy.

Leadership Principles or Principled Leadership – Part 3

10 Traits of a Principled Leader


Too often we see people promoted into a leadership role and fail.

When I was an Administrator in a nursing home several years ago we were always looking for nurses to take on a leadership role either as a charge nurse or as the director of nursing.

And how did we typically pick them?  Well, we looked for the best nurse.  A compassionate, caring, and dedicated nurse who had really good assessment skills.  We’d say something like, “You’re a really good nurse with good skills and I know I can rely on you to make good decisions.  I think you’d make a great charge nurse!”

Then they would be given a shift of nursing assistants and a wing to ‘run’ and make sure the assistants got all the tasks completed in all the plans of care, hygiene, feeding, toileting, etc.

But nearly 8 out of 10 would fail.  Why?  Because we didn’t teach them to be leaders or supervisors.  We just “threw them to the wolves” because they were a good nurse.

Well, in nursing school they teach nursing – not leadership.  Their failure was my failure for not teaching and training them.

In order for me to develop leaders, I myself need to be a principled leader because it is my responsibility to grow those around me so they succeed in life.  A principled leader is more interested and concerned about those around them than they are with themselves.

In the first two parts of 10 Traits of a Principled Leader we looked at the first six traits:

  1. They put the interests of the group/organization above their own.
  2. They understand it is the small acts done when no one is looking that truly defines their character.
  3. They understand respect must be earned over time and can be lost in the blink of an eye.
  4. They call attention to their people, not themselves.
  5. They take responsibility for their own failures and those of the group.
  6. They share the credit for their successes.

As you can see in the first six, a principled leader’s focus is solely on their group or organization and not on them.  If the group doesn’t win, then no one wins.

In this Part 3 we will look at the last four characteristics.


7. They are consistent and predictable in their decision making.

A principled leader doesn’t go around making decisions based on which way the wind blows.  Whether a product launch fails or the outcome of a strategy to move the organization forward backfires, you know what decision the principled leader will make.  If you are in the trenches and fight the small battles and understand the principles of their decision-making then you can predict what the response will be when major challenges hit you.

8. They strive to do what is right instead of what is convenient, in spite of how it affects them.

It’s not too often these days you see someone who chooses to do what is right no matter how difficult it might be or what it might cost them.

When was the last time you stopped and helped someone change a flat tire, knowing you will be late for your appointment, because it was the right thing to do?

When was the last time you spent the afternoon with your grandson at the park knowing you had yard work that needed to be done, because it was the right thing to do?

When was the last time you took the blame for a problem at work knowing it wasn’t your fault and it will leave a mark on your record, because it was the right thing to do?

Be that rare person.

9. They aren’t afraid to make unpopular decisions and make sure those affected understand the rationale for it.

At some time, a leader must make decisions.  Not all decisions are fair or popular.  But a principled leader cares more about those around them and the future of the organization to make sure everyone affected understands the vision and reason for the decisions.  They talk through it and listen to their coworkers to make sure each one knows they are being heard.

Many leaders fail at this point.  They try so hard to be friends with their coworkers or the team they lead, that when a tough decision comes they either don’t make the right decision or they turn into a bully.  Neither is good for the organization and their leadership pretty much ends.

10. They only serve organizations that don’t ask them to compromise their principles.

Principled leadership is ingrained in them.  It has become who they are and to ask them to compromise those principles is asking them to violate who they are.

Don’t take a leadership position just for the glory or prestige.  Yes, you will receive many accolades and awards but it will be very shallow and not rewarding.

Knowing you stayed true to who you are and didn’t compromise will actually give you many rewards in the long term.

As we reach the end of these posts about Principled Leadership, the overriding concept is that you operate from a set of values that earn the trust of those around you.  And that trust will result in people that respect you and will follow you.

When that happens, you and those around will accomplish wonderful things!

Leadership Principles or Principled Leadership – Part 2

10 Traits of a Principled Leader

Leadership seems to have taken on several meanings in today’s world.leadership-slider_4

Typically it is used to describe the head person of a company or a team.  Usually it is position based and more than likely appointed.

But now we see more younger individuals in the workforce looking for opportunities to develop their leadership skills and take on leadership roles.  More young people in their 20’s are switching jobs, looking for positions where they can learn how to lead.

According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey , leadership was rated as the most prized attribute on which businesses placed the most value.  And they feel that businesses don’t do enough to make sure a new generation of business leaders is developed.

Up to 71% are likely to leave their current employment within the next two years because they are unhappy about how their leadership skills are being developed.

So it’s incumbent on us to teach the next generation of leaders.  And it’s not just the principles of leadership but to focus on the person as well and develop a principled leader.

In the last post I discussed the first three characteristics of a principled leader.  Let’s continue with the next three.


4. They call attention to their people, not themselves.

It’s so frustrating to pour your heart and soul into a project and when completed the leader of the team or department takes all the credit.  There is no greater de-motivator.

A principled leader will not only support and promote their team, they will take every opportunity to praise and reward them.  Not just in front of their teammates, but also to the larger community.

Principled leaders know that almost every accomplishment is a team effort.  Recognizing individuals for their contributions and successes is a regular act which in turn fosters much greater commitment and participation.

5. They take responsibility for their own failures and those of the group.

It is rare indeed to find someone who will accept responsibility for their own failures.  It is more rare to find someone to accept responsibility for the failures of their team.

In today’s world, it seems it’s okay to not accept responsibility.  Blame it on your skin color, or where you were born, or the other political party and you are absolved of all responsibility.

Sadly, that is our world today.  But it is not reality in business.

And the leader who steps up and takes the responsibility squarely on their shoulders will be more likely to have a strong, close-knit team that is able to overcome the failure.

6. They share credit for their successes.

A principled leader who accepts responsibility for failures, will also share the credit for the successes of the team with the ones who made it possible.

As individuals contribute value to the project and the environment is one of sharing and working together toward the outcome goal, they should know that they will be recognized for the part they played.

When you share the credit, you gain a friend and a tighter bond with the whole group.  The energy and the creativity will increase…because hey, we all like to be recognized for what we do!

Leadership isn’t easy.  It’s easy to boss people, but you won’t get very far and your team will fall apart.

Learning what it takes to be a principled leader isn’t easy.  It’s changing who you are.  It isn’t a skill to be learned, but more of a way you live your life.

These are life principles.  Learn them, develop them and teach them by doing them.

In the next post we will look at the final four characteristics.  See you then.

Leadership Principles or Principled Leadership

10 Traits of a Principled Leader - Part 1

leadership-slider_4We all have our own idea about what a leader is – or should be.

Maybe you have been asked to take a leadership role but stopped because you weren’t sure you were leader material.

Or maybe you have experienced different leaders, some who were demanding and overbearing, some who never could make up their mind, or others who just didn’t show up.

When faced with these types of leaders the result will often be:

– the fear of speaking up because you’ll be yelled at or belittled;

– never knowing the true direction or responsibility of the group;

– lack of interest and participation drops off

Several years ago I was part of a group at a Chamber of Commerce tasked with developing a plan for the year’s tourism marketing.  The leader of the group was a loud and boisterous man who was very much intent on having his way.  Although he was very involved in the tourism industry, it was pretty much his way or he would wear you down until you agreed.  The result over time was everyone just agreed.

So much for a group effort.  They should have just picked him!

There are many different “styles” of leadership.  Most of them exist because the person has never learned HOW to be a leader.

John Maxwell, one of the most established authorities on leadership writing today, in his book Developing the Leader Within You defines leadership as influence.

Developing the Leader

In addition, a leader not only must learn the principles of leadership as John Maxwell outlines in the book, but they also must be a principled person.  A person of principles is a person of integrity.

So what are the characteristics of a Principled Leader?  There are 10 we will be looking at, but in this post we’ll look at the first three.


  1. They put the interests of the group/organization above their own.

Too often we see individuals seek out leadership positions because they have an agenda that serves their own interest.  This often results in conflict, hurt feelings, a lack of engagement by other members of the group to the result of the leader being the only one doing anything.

When you put the interests of others first, you are sending a message that everyone is equal in the group and all ideas and opinions matter.  These groups work seamlessly and when conflict does come up it is dealt with openly and gently.

2. They understand it is the small acts done when no one is looking that truly defines their character.

When you look in the mirror in the morning who do you see?  The true test of a person is how they act and treat others when they think no one is looking.

Oh sure, you know someone who does great things and is kind when the eyes are on them.  And then the person shows their true colors when they THINK no one is watching.  There certainly is no integrity being displayed there.

Always treat everyone as if others were watching.  It’s a habit well worth learning.

3. They understand respect must be earned over time and can be lost in the blink of an eye.

Most of us are skeptical to a point.  We have been treated badly at times and burned more than once.  So to be asked to trust someone can be a huge step to take.  If you know the person well, it may be easier to trust than if it is someone you just met.

As the saying goes: “Your word is you bond” is only as valuable as your actions.  Treat everyone fairly, kindly and with respect and eventually you will gain the respect of others.  Respect can’t be demanded, it can only be earned.

More To Come

Leadership has many rewards as well as challenges.  If you aspire to a leadership role, take the time to read books like John Maxwell’s.  It will be well worth the time and a few dollars you will spend.

If you don’t invest in yourself, no one else will.

In the next post, we’ll look at the next three characteristics of a principled leader.

Thank you for reading.

Stay tuned!


Leadership Gone Mad

Don't Look To Politicians For Leadership

Politics is a dangerous topic to begin a new blog.  I think it’s important that we address the style of leadership on display today.

With the 24/7 news cycle and constant tweeting and sound bites, we are being bombarded daily with the worst example of leadership.  I beg you to not learn too many lessons from what you see, unless you use it as an example of how not to act.

I’m not mad.

Telling me I’m mad, doesn’t make me mad.

I have been inspired by great leaders.  John Maxwell’s Developing The Leader Within You is a great place to begin you leadership journey.  John has coined the phrase: “Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less”.

Influence is a precious gift, and shouldn’t be wielded like a sword

How you use that influence is key.  History is full of examples of leaders who used their influence for both good and evil.  Influence is precious gift, and shouldn’t be wielded like a sword.

Principled Leadership

Being a principled leader isn’t about bullying.  It’s about having integrity.  Here are three qualities of a principled leader:

  1. They put the interests of the institution they serve above their own self interest.  It is not difficult to spot a leader who is promoting him/her self above those they serve.  We at times fall for their boasting and bravado, but underneath it’s all about them.
  2. They promote their people, not themselves.  If it is all about them and not about the people who helped them get where they are or work in the trenches day in and day out, then they are not a principled leader.
  3. They take responsibility for their personal failures and for the failures of the groups they lead.  Placing blame on others for our failures is poor leadership and will eventually result in leading no one.  Instead of leading, it’s call just taking a walk.

Principled leaders make a huge impact on the organizations they serve.  How can you tell someone is a principled leader? Usually it’s after they have moved on.  The contributions they made and the impact they had on the organization are most palpable when they are gone.

Leaders have a special calling.  It will reveal who you really are on the inside.


Welcome to My Blog

Welcome to my new blog.  My name is Mark Schinnerer and my goal is to help you find and create a path to your own success and personal development and implement your leadership skills.

This is not intended to be a one-sided monologue, but a dialogue to help you answer that nagging feeling your have that there is something more or bigger you are meant to do and as a part of that how become a better leader.  Your feedback is imporant to me, so please give me your feedback in the comments section.  I will read every comment and respond as I can.

If you have a topic you want me to address, please leave a comment below.  I am looking forward to getting to know you and connecting with you!