The 10 Commandments of Leadership



What is it about religion that produces such a profound and lasting effect on followers, and commands a level of loyalty and dedication any leader would  dream of aspiring to? I say there are 10 things, and if leaders internalize them, we will have a strong foundation for moving ourselves, our peers, our team, and our organization forward. Check them out.

The 10 (Leadership) Commandments

1. Religion has a unifying message with broad appeal that people rally around (indeed, the message is so appealing wars are fought over it). What is your personal message (or your organizational message)? What is inspiring about it? What are the priorities you (or your company) stand behind? What is the vision you and your followers should be striving for?

2. Religion advocates a clear reward for effort and conformity. If you live a good life, you go to Heaven. The reward is commensurate to the effort required to achieve it (if you live your whole life in conformance to the rules of the religion, then you get keys to the Pearly Gates and experience infinite joy). If your company believes the reward for work done well is you get to keep your job, you lose. If your organization believes the reward for work done well is more work (that probably belongs to someone else who was not pulling their weight), guess what? You lose. If your organization believes the reward for work done well over two decades is dinner and a nice watch… you lose. If this sounds like your company, I hope your leaders wake up because you are having your ass handed to you by companies who understand the reward for work done well is not more work. It is, instead, more freedom and greater autonomy (after all, what is Heaven all about? The gold streets are nice but not so important; the freedom to live forever in peace is what really counts…).

3. Religion provides simple, clearly stated, immutable rules to govern behavior and actions. These rules, or commandments, are minimal (there are only 10), not convoluted, and not filled with sub-clauses or exceptions. How do your company’s Human Resources policies compare? Do you need to fit them on more than 1 page? Is your dress code more than one sentence (“Dress sensibly.”)? HR representatives may be losing their minds as they read this, but here is the quick and dirty version to treating people like Humans and leveraging them as Resources: if you treat employees like adults, by and large they will act like adults. If you manage to the exceptions instead of the rule, you lose. If you do not believe this, it is simply because you have not tried it. How do I know? Somehow you and every other employee muddle through the rest of your lives outside of the office without needing a 40-page manual of policies, codes, guidelines, and other infantilizing documents. Consider that. 10 commandments are plenty. More than 10 is silly.

4. Religion has simple, clearly stated, repercussions for choosing not to follow the rules. I hear Hell is pretty warm this time of year… Notice the Bible, Qu’Ran, and Tora do not have progressive disciplinary policies. Company rules should be equally simple. If you produce results, you are part of the team. If you spend your time instead trying to derail the company’s mission or kissing up to the boss, you can be part of another company’s team. Face time and presence at a desk or in an office do not equal results. The new rule is this: move the team forward or get out.

5. Religion is filled with charismatic leaders who believe in their mission more than anyone else, and model the rules of behavior perfectly (for example, Jesus, Moses, Jim Bakker…). Does your company preach jargon like empowerment, trust, and innovation… but then reject new ideas, punish employees who buck the status quo, and force management into a role of permission-granting and law enforcement? That is the equivalent of being a Jim Bakker, of holding up a facade that looks like leadership. Looking like you are leading is not the same as leading. Jesus talked a good game, sure, but what set him apart from others is he did not stop at the words.

6. Religious leaders are visionary and approachable. They are also revolutionary. Perhaps in contrast to the number two leadership commandment (clear rewards for effort and conformity), great leaders provide clear rewards for conforming to their vision, but themselves are not seen as conformist. This is an important distinction. If the executives at your company are perceived as mouthpieces for the CEO or ownership, then they are not leading; they are following. Religious leaders believe fully in the message from their leader and they enroll others in their mission, but they are also seen as individual, autonomous thinkers by their own right. They are seen as people who strive to set the status quo where it is misaligned, not as (sometimes frustrated but ultimately powerless) enforcers of the status quo.

7. Religious leaders often heal, but never harm or directly punish their followers and supporters. Jesus was unbelievably forgiving; He even forgave the people committed to killing him, modeling to the end, the proper behavior he wished to see perpetuated. HR departments are sorely dysfunctional at many companies because (among other reasons) HR is intended to be the place employees go to find support and address their concerns, yet it is often also the entity that designs the methods and severity of punishment for wrongdoings. Human Resources, in effect, has become the abusive husband who beats his family, but lets them know it is for their own good and that he would not hit them if he did not love them. Choose NOT to be the leader who walks around carrying a big stick. Choose, instead, to be the proverbial old master—the Mr. Miyagi—who allows students to learn lessons on their own, but instructs them wisely and guides them to their goals.

8. In Religion, empowerment occurs through “free-will”, rather than “command-and-conquer”. Leaders that employ “I lead; you follow” or caste-system ideologies always lose in the Holy script (consider the Pharaohs…). By contrast, leaders that offer great vision and encourage participation, without punishing those who choose to walk away, always win (consider Moses, Jesus, and Saint Thomas Aquinas). The more freedom to be adults you offer employees, the more likely they are to follow you. Some executives have a hard time accepting this, but it is really no more complicated than stated here. Try it. It works.

9. Religious leaders achieve success through positive reinforcement, praise, and by rewarding perseverance. The “Land of Milk and Honey” came only after the hardship of crossing the desert—again, a reward commensurate to the effort. Leaders achieve success by also asking their firmest supporters to spread the vision and message, thus enrolling others (as Jesus enrolled the Disciples and they, in turn, spread His message by enrolling others). Jesus gave regular sermons speaking of Peace and Heaven (positive reinforcement for hardships faced in the present). Jesus gave praise to both his “Leader” (God) and his followers (the Apostles). Jesus healed the sick, thus rewarding perseverance and dedication to His cause. How does your company reward perseverance, success, and longevity? Are the rewards commensurate to the effort?

10. Religious leaders share, and regularly reaffirm the mission, vision, and goals-to-focus-on now. Religious leaders do this regularly—at least every Sunday. In some companies, the leader gives a quarterly status update. I do not know if there is a magic number for the right amount of vocally re-committing to your (or your company’s) goals. Hourly is clearly over the top and I suspect quarterly is not enough. My advice here is this needs to be an ongoing conversation, and it needs to start every time a new employee, team member, or follower, joins the team or movement.

Praying for Your Success

Being placed in a leadership position without proper leadership training is unfair to both the leader and the team he or she is charged with. A leader in that predicament is short-changed because he does not have the requisite skills or understanding of how his decisions affect the lives, attitudes, and livelihoods of the people being led. The team suffers by feeling lost (personally or professionally) and having little or no desire to drive the leader’s goals.

The result is a company in constant struggle, caught in a malaise of indifference toward work. There is ambivalence when results are achieved because goals in a dysfunctional company are won through abuse of power rather than through individual passion and collaboration.To succeed as an organization, you must create your personal “leadership religion” (or your “organizational religion”, or both) and figure out how best to preach it to your “masses”. BUT, all 10 things must be in place to be effective (the “9” commandments would not have worked if, say, “Thou shalt not kill” was left out).

One last thing to note, which should be obvious now, is that no less than 5 of the 10 Commandments to Success center around Leadership. If you are not on board already, it is time to see the Light and repent your former ways.

What do you need to do, to bring a “religion of success” to your organization? For extra credit, review the Leadership Commandments for your personal life, as well.



A Day in the ROWE Life


You may wonder what it is like to work in a Results-Only Work Environment from a

practical standpoint (particularly if you are the skeptical management/HR type who assumes no work gets done, despite evidence to the contrary…). I thought I would share what a typical day looked like for me this week.


I woke up around 9:00 am. I actually “made" my breakfast instead of "had" my breakfast – a nice change from the way my days used to look. I did some exercise and spent about a half hour reading a book.


I set to working at 11:30 am. I worked until about 3:30 pm, and then decided to surprise my wife by bringing lunch to her job (she runs 2 independent retail stores). After lunch with Angela, I came home, went for a walk, and took a nap (taking walks and napping are unprecedented for me). About 6:30 pm, I sat down to work again until 8:30 pm. Angela came home then, and we made dinner which, again, was distinctly more pleasurable and healthy than “getting” or “buying” dinner, our usual custom until now. We watched an episode of “Heroes” while we ate. I enjoyed time with Angie until she went to bed at 11:00 pm.

I worked again from 11:00 pm until 2:00 am, then went to sleep (and did not have to set an alarm!).


All in all, I had a full day of work (9 hours by my count) but here is the thing… I was totally relaxed and enjoyed time with my wife; I ate when I was hungry and slept when I was tired.


What my day used to look like was conflicting schedules, constant snacking, little or no time together, too much fast food, and too little rest. What a difference when I own my time! What a difference!

I can not imagine that I ever lived another way. I wish this kind of freedom for everybody.


If you ask me, ROWE is the only way to go.


3 Business Tools You Use That Your Kids Do Not


Typewriter, by Petr Kratochvil - 050210


I have had a few conversations about technology and the generation gap this week. It got me thinking about some distinctions I see in the way common tech tools are used between Gen X’ers like me and Gen Y and Millenials. Here are three common tools I use regularly that my little brothers and their friends would scoff at:

Old School:  Business Cards.

You are at a social function or  business event and you strike up a conversation about widgets with Bob from Acme, Inc. You and Bob hit it off and realize you may be able to help each other or share valuable advice somewhere down the line. What do you do? Exchange business cards, of course. At least that is what you might do if you are over 30 years old.

New Generation: Social Media.

My little brothers may never have business cards. I stopped carrying them myself more than a year ago. I struck up a conversation with a gentleman at a restaurant a few weeks ago. Turned out we are both vegans and read a lot of the same material. He asked for my business card as he extended his. I asked him to hold his card while I snapped a picture of it with my phone. I explained I no longer use business cards and rather than collect and store them in a folder or wallet I will rarely look at, I instead snap pictures of the cards and upload them to my free Evernote account. When I need to find a card or contact info, I open a browser wherever I am and search for the person’s name (or any text in the picture) and Evernote pulls it up. The gentleman (a little sheepishly) then asked for my card. I smiled and said, “My business card is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,, or you can just do a Google Search for me. Do you have a cell phone? Just put my Google Voice number in your contacts and be sure to spell my name right. Now you can find me anytime, follow me socially, text me, or give me a call whenever you need me. Who needs a business card?”


My new friend Patrick followed a similar route. I met him at a party the other day, and he noticed I had a blackberry device, as did he. He sent his contact info and Blackberry Messenger virtual business card via Bluetooth directly to my phone. He snapped a picture of me with his phone and stored it in his contacts. Now we have pictures of each other, we can instant message, or communicate via Facebook, etc. We could even share our geographic location with each other, at our discretion, via Google Lattitude.

Augmented Reality applications offer even better, sleeker ways to network and interface with new people. Soon your phone will use facial recognition to pull up all the social media information you want about a person (or that they want you to have).


Old School:  Voicemail.

My cousin Abe trained me to stop leaving him voicemail about a year ago. I would call and leave a message and he would call back a few minutes later, asking if I had called. I would say, “Yes. I left a message.” He would patiently remind me that he never checks his messages. One day, just to illustrate his point, he called his voice mail on speaker phone. He had 43 messages. 43! They went back several months. “See?” he said, “Why do people even leave voicemails anyway? That’s what caller ID is for.”


I thought this was just Abe’s way of being eccentric, but my little brothers stopped checking their voicemail too. It is pointless to leave a message on their phone. Some of my younger friends do not even bother to set it up on their phones.


New Generation: IM, SMS, or Google Voice.

A few weeks ago, while chatting with Jody Thompson, she asked if I noticed that teens do not use voicemail. I brought up my little brothers, and thought of Abe. It turns out voicemail is going the way of the Atari 2600 for most young people. A friend noted he is annoyed when people leave voice messages. “Why not just text me instead of making me log into my voicemail every time someone leaves a message, listen to the time/date stamp, and then their boring rant before they just get to the point? Send a text—I know what you want immediately and I can probably respond in 140 characters or less.”


Texting and Instant Messaging is what the tech-savvy do. I’m a little ahead of the curve on this one. I use Google Voice (perhaps my all-time favorite application). One of its many wonderful features is “voice-to-text”. When someone leaves a voicemail, it appears on my phone as a text message. I can play the audio or respond via text.


Old School:  Cell Phone.

Abe joked on my Facebook wall that he downloaded an application for his Blackberry that allowed him to use the device to send and receive telephone calls. I thought that was funny because like many power-users, I rarely use my cell phone as an actual phone.


New Generation: Smart Phone.

The vast majority of time spent using my phone is to take advantage of its multimedia capabilities, to browse the web, or to manage tasks and calendars. I spent less than 200 minutes of time actually “talking on the phone” last month. Cell phones (and many home phones) have been replaced by “Smart Phones”—phones capable of doing much more than make and accept voice calls. None is more popular than the IPhone, of course, but I wonder how long the concept of a phone will be around.


Apple’s mega-popular IPad (which I suspect has forced Microsoft to reconsider its options) has already given a glimpse of a near future where the phone is as archaic as the Model T. With an ultra-thin high-resolution tablet PC and clever use of Bluetooth and applications like Google Voice, the phone as we once knew it, may soon be as irrelevant as… well… this. (That’s nerd humor; for non-techies, you have to click on the word “this” to get the joke).