7 Leadership Lessons from the 2017 NCAA National Championship

I hope you had the chance to watch at least part of the great football game last night between Alabama and Clemson. It turned out to be one of the best college footballs I’ve seen, and exactly what a National Championship game should look like.

As I watched the game, I was struck by the amount of leadership lessons we can learn from one simple game of football. Below I share seven pieces of advice I gleaned as I watched the game. I hope they can be an encouragement and challenge to you today.

1. The little things make all the difference. 

In football, inches matter. The smallest amount of distance make some of the biggest differences in the game. Whether it’s getting a first down, a touchdown, a player dodging slightly to the side and getting extra yards, inches matter.

The same thing is true in life. Little things make a big difference. Daily faithfulness, daily discipline, is what will lead to big differences in the future. Do today what will take you to where you want to be tomorrow.

2. Discipline (or lack of) is revealed under pressure.

This game is the biggest stage in college football. Alabama and Clemson made it through the entire regular season, the playoff games, and reached the National Championship two years in a row.

What was obvious in the game is that each team was well-coached. A disciplined team will defeat an undisciplined team every time. This is because the undisciplined team will beat itself. When under the pressure of this kind of game, the disciple or lack of discipline, becomes obvious. Both teams had incredible discipline.

What daily discipline do you need to start this year in 2017? Your daily disciplines can be the difference between success and failure.

3. Adjustments are essential to success.

When you come into a football game, the team that makes the best adjustments will be the team who comes out on top. This year, that team was Clemson. They executed plays with great discipline, kept calm, and made the right adjustments on defense and offense to come out on top.

Adjustments are a necessary part of life. When things don’t work, we can’t give up, but we push on, making adjustments and growing in understanding. Making the right adjustments at the right time is key.

4. It’s not over until it’s over.

It looked like Alabama had this won. From the beginning they dominated the game. Until the fourth quarter. Clemson started to come back and the momentum shifted. BUT, just as it looked like Clemson was going to win, Alabama scored with very little time on the clock to go ahead in the game. Clemson determined the game was not over because they scored. They kept pushing, kept playing, and eventually made the right plays to get in the endzone and finish the game in regulation as the winners of the 2017 National Championship.

Whatever situation you’re in (life, business, relationships), it’s not over until it’s over. Broken relationships can be healed. Healthy relationships can be cultivated. New opportunities can be leveraged. Old habits can be forgotten and new habits begun. It’s not over until it’s over.

5. Sometimes you need a break

There are players from the bench, who didn’t start the game, that made huge differences in the outcome. As starters got tired or injured, their replacement from the bench came in and had a job to do.

We must keep in mind that we are not the Energizer bunny. We need a break. We need to allow someone else to take ownership at times so we can have a day off. Healthy leaders realize it is necessary to take a break now and then. It keeps you fresh and focused.

6. Winners take risks

The final drive of the game, as Deshaun Watson is slinging passes, Clemson is taking a risk. They could have played it safe and gone after a field goal to tie the game instead of a touchdown to win it. But they kept passing! There was a risk of interception, a risk of time running out, but they kept pushing and taking the risk. It definitely paid off!

Risks don’t always work out, which is what makes them risky. But winners know that it is hard to win long term without taking risks. Some risks are not worth taking, while others must be taken to move forward. Risk is a part of life and we must embrace it.

7. Leaders are resilient

Both teams were resilient until the very end. Clemson kept in the fight even after fumbling the ball multiple times. Alabama lost the lead, gave up the ball, but didn’t give up. They scored to get the lead back and never lost sight that the game is 60 minutes, not a second more or less.

No matter what set backs we face, what obstacles loom large in front, we must be resilient if we want to succeed. Push forward. Don’t let discouragement gain control. Push forward. Be resilient.


2 Life Lessons from a Teenager

This past Sunday afternoon we had a student leadership team meeting in our youth group. This team is working through the book “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do,” which I referenced two weeks ago in a post about servant leadership. We are reading through and discussing the leadership implications in the book, and this week one particular image came up in the book. Mark Miller describes leadership like an iceberg, with skills being the part that people see (above the water), and who someone is at their core being the part that people can’t see (below the water).

As we talked about this imagery of the iceberg, a couple of our students brought up implications of what it means in our lives. This is something that impacts how we live on a day-to-day basis, not just someone in a position of leadership. The following two points were just too powerful not to share. And it’s even more impactful that they were pulled out by some of our teenagers.

1. There is much more beneath the surface than above

This was the first point. Who we are as individuals, at the core of our being, is more important than what we do. Yes, people may notice the things that we are good at, and people can be successful through skill and maybe even be a decent leader because of a particular skill. But, no one can become a truly great leader unless he or she is a person of character and integrity.

Wherever you are at today, make it a point to be genuine and full of integrity. Let what you say come from who you are. Don’t fall into the trap of the world, saying you are one thing when you are really another. We can find freedom in taking the mask off and living out of who we are, not who someone thinks we should be. Cultivate your character.


2. Icebergs are made up of fresh water, but they float around in salt water (i.e. they are different from their surroundings).

Wow, this one caught me off guard! Icebergs are fresh water floating in salt water… They are literally in something that they are not of. As a follower of Christ, we live in the world, but we are not of the world. This means that we go into the world that is dark and lost, and we bring the light of Jesus Christ with us. We look and talk and act different than the rest of the world that we are living in.

This is a tall task for us today, isn’t it? Our world is increasingly becoming less kind toward Christ-followers. There is a double-standard of acceptance and tolerance and judgmentalism. But the second thing we can do today is to live different than the world around us. We cannot stay separate from the world because we live in it, eat in it, work in it, go to school in it, etc. But imagine if we were to talk differently (with encouraging, kind, loving, truthful words), think differently (like how can we use certain situations to make much of Christ), understand and see things differently (like not seeing annoying or obnoxious people, but seeing people who need a Savior and loving them where they are). That is how I want to impact this world.


There is a two-fold challenge today for your Tuesday Encouragement:

  1. Cultivate your character and integrity (let who you are be more important than what you do or how well you do it)
  2. Act differently than the rest of the world, with actual kindness and generosity and love (act like Christ did when He walked on this earth).

These two things will go a long way to living out the Gospel so others can clearly see the way we live and give glory to God the Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).

The most impactful thing we can do today

Recently I started re-reading a book called The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Mark Miller. It is an excellent book, and a very easy read. I would encourage anyone to read it, whether you think you’re a leader or not! It is definitely worth your time.

Mark Miller writes in the book and shares a secret he has discovered about a great leader. The secret is really the most impactful thing you and I can do today: serve. Great leaders serve. That is the secret (*spoiler alert*).

But what does this mean? What does it look like? Really, when I think of serving, I can’t help but think of humility. It takes humility to serve other people. It takes humility to take the focus off of myself and see that people around me actually might need help and might need someone to serve them. It could be seeing someone that has their hands full and opening the door for them. It could be helping someone reach something on a top shelf in the grocery store. It could be picking up trash off the side of the street. It could be cleaning up some kind of mess even if it wasn’t you that made the mess. It could mean letting your brother or sister use something first. It could just mean taking the time to be quiet and listen to someone else talk for a little bit.

serveHowever it works out in your life today, the most impactful thing you can do is look at how you can be a servant to those around you. Whether you are a CEO or unemployed, you can live out this leadership principle and make someone else’s life just a little sweeter. People respond to kindness. You and I taking the time to serve people with humility may be the exact bridge God is trying to build so we can impact this world with the Gospel.

Go and serve. I will too. Share a story of what happens!

Influence and Response

Every single one of us is a leader. In some way, we each lead where we are. We can be a leader with our friends, leader with our family, leader of our siblings, leader in a youth group or church ministry, leader by job description or title. Really, leadership, as John Maxwell describes it, is influence. We each influence others every day. Whether by our action or inaction, we are influencing the people in our lives every day.

This morning for our Tuesday Morning Encouragement I want to share a small, simple leadership principle. It is one that is often a struggle to live out, and yet if we live it out it can bring great blessing.

I really enjoy football. Whether watching an actual game, listening to it on the radio, watching highlights, or even watching or listening to people talk about football, I am a huge fan of the sport. It excites me. It is currently the postseason for the NFL, and recently I’ve seen a few postgame press conferences where players are blaming other people for their loss. Now, there may be some truth to what the players are saying, but blaming other people never solved anything. It never brings resolution and it really doesn’t help you to become any better of a player or person.


The leadership principle I want to share today is this: “As you influence others, you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your response.”

Blaming and complaining becomes easy when something unfortunate, unplanned, or negative happens to us. But the leadership principle is to control your response to whatever happens to you. It may be something you hate, something you don’t agree with, something that doesn’t make any sense. It could be someone else’s fault. The world may say that you are right to be angry and want retribution or retaliation. But the thing is, being a follower of Christ and someone who influences others every day, you are challenged to live different.

Today, when something happens to you, remember that you have the power to influence the people around you. When you control your response to whatever uncontrollable thing happens to you, people take notice. Your children take notice. Your friends take notice. Your boss or co-workers take notice. And you just became a great leader and a great example of a Christ-follower because you were self-controlled in the way that you responded.

My prayer for you from this morning on is that you would be able to control your responses and reactions from the first moment that something happens to you, and that this response would shine a light on the Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Louis Upkins Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

Louis Upkins took the stage as the author of Treat Me Like a Customer. He has worked with many well-known stars, from Whitney Houston to Oprah.

Leadership Principles from Louis Upkins:

  1. It takes courage to lead differently. It takes courage to sit down and listen.
  2. COURAGE is something EVERYONE needs.
  3. How is the family?
    • This is an important question about what really matters, but isn’t asked enough and is usually answered with surface level activities.
  4. How can you add value to your family?
    • We can set up mission statements for our family


Question asked in a video from Centier Bank:

  1. What do you appreciate most about leaders? The responses:
    • Example
    • Passion
    • Character
    • Coaching
    • Lift people up
    • Clarity
    • Give opportunity
    • Learn
    • Let others leader
    • Authenticity
    • Courage
    • Honesty
    • Focus
    • Encourage
    • Communication
    • Failure is an option
    • Open
    • Personal
    • Caring
    • Present
    • Invested
    • Humble
    • Safety
    • Real
    • Challenging

Invest in your people and get out of the way. Give people the opportunity to lead, fail, get back up and lead.

Tommy Newberry Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

Tommy Newberry is a leader and author of multiple books. He wrote books such as The 4:8 PrincipleI Call Shotgun, and Success is Not An Accident.


Leadership Principles from Tommy Newberry:

  1. We all want things, but we have to get up and go get it. Only the magnificent minority get up and go get what they want.
  2. Our best decisions and our worst decisions all started with a thought…all future decisions will too.
  3. Think 4:8
    • What are you thinking? Look ahead at your thought life.
      • We often think more about what we don’t want than about what we do want.
      • The average person thinks 50,000 thoughts per day (the vast majority are repeats from yesterday)
      • We want to change, but we want to stay the same. We want to change but we aren’t willing to change the way we think.
      • We have to line up our thinking with our hopes and goals and dreams. Every thought is a seed. Random negative thoughts won’t yield much, but consistently bad, negative thinking is of great concern.
    • Every moment is a new beginning for us to begin thinking in a new way.
    • Our emotions allow us to feel what we’ve been thinking about, giving us the opportunity to reevaluate what we’ve been thinking and dwelling on.
    • We feel what we dwell upon (if you feel rotten, what have you been thinking about?)
    • We soak up our surroundings
      • It’s so hard to pull someone up to your level
      • It’s so easy to be pulled down by the negative people around you
        • The one who is negative and cynical always has the leverage on you
  4. Think Huge
    • Think beyond where you are, who you are, what you’re doing, etc.
    • Where do you want to go?
      • Using today we can shape tomorrow
      • What are you shooting for?
        • There should be an urgency here
        • Be concerned with your future because you will live all of your life there
    • In life there are a bunch of options, like in the grocery story. At the end of your life you will have a cart full of stuff. If you don’t have goals (a shopping list) you will end up with things you didn’t want in your cart.
    • Like with a GPS if you don’t get moving, you won’t get any instructions (a.k.a. You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving)
      • If in doubt, take action!
    • SDIMJWT — develop goals on this
      • Some Day I Just Might Want To
        • (develop this with a team or in a marriage and make it Some Day We…)
    • Be intentional
  5. Tomorrow Changes Today
    • If you want tomorrow to be different, today must be different.
    • Your decisions determine your direction which determines your destination.
    • Ask yourself: What’s been working, what has not been working, and what am I going to change?

John Maxwell Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

I had the opportunity this weekend to attend the Lead Michiana conference in South Bend, IN. This event was put on by Justin Maust in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the City of South Bend. The following will be some of my notes from the John Maxwell segment of the conference.

Leadership Principles from John Maxwell:

  1. “If you will spend one hour a day on the same subjective for five years, you will be an expert on that subject” – Earl Nightingale
  2. The better the leaders are in your organization, the better your organization’s chance for growth
    • Leaders develop daily, not in a single day. As leaders in an organization, we need to spend our resources (time, money, etc.) on improving our leaders.
    • The people in our organizations are the most appreciable resource we have, but we have to train and equip them.
    • There is no room to “microwave” leaders; we must “crockpot” them.
  3. 5 Levels of Leadership:
    1. Position — as a level one leader, people follow you because they have to
      • 80% of leaders stay in this level
      • Being a level one leader does not make you a leader. A person may have a position, but the position doesn’t make you a leader.
    2. Permission — as a level two leader, people follow you because they want to
      • Followers of level two leaders give a significant amount more of energy to the organization because they have a relationship with the leader and want to be there.
      • In order to be a great leader you have to connect with people.
      • If you are going to lead, you have to listen (listen, then learn, then lead).
      • Most leaders lead by assumption, assuming they know where their people are, what they are passionate about, where they are going, etc. Leaders need to walk slowly “through the crowd” in order to know their people.
      • Level two leaders are servants.
      • True leaders don’t need to be introduced.
      • There are three questions followers ask their leaders (leaders should ask themselves these same three questions):
        1. Do you care for me? (Do I care about others?)
        2. Can you help me? (Can I help them?)
        3. Can I trust you? (Am I trustworthy?)
    3. Production — as a level three leader, people follow you because of what you have done for the organization
      • This level is where you really get the credibility to lead. People want to follow successful people.
      • Leaders cannot send people where they have not gone. As leaders we have to be tour guides instead of travel agents.
      • You reproduce what you are, not what you want.
      • Level three leaders lead by example.
      • You attract who you are, not who you want. The better producer you are, the better people you attract (on a scale of 1 to 10, if you are a 5, you will not attract levels 6-10).
    4. People Development — as a level four leader, people follow you because of what you have done for them personally
      • Level four leaders are good recruiters.
      • You can only raise a person’s skill level one or two levels, so recruitment is essential. If someone comes in with a skill level of three, then you will most likely only be able to raise their skill level to a four, or at most a five.
        • Recruit with care. Don’t hire the wrong person for the job.
      • After recruiting, you must train and equip your leaders
      • Five steps to equip people well:
        1. I do it.
        2. I do it and you are with me.
        3. You do it and I am with you.
        4. You do it (and I hope you are better than I am!)
        5. You do it and somebody is with you (you’ve never equipped someone until they equip others).
    5. Pinnacle — as a level five leader, people follow you because of who you are and what you represent
      • When you do levels two, three, and four well, for a long time, level five happens naturally as a result

I hope these notes help you grow as a leader! I know there are some challenging concepts in here. Work your way through them, take the time to do them well, and strive to always improve as a leader.

You should be playing chess, not checkers

Recently I read Mark Miller’s book, Chess Not Checkers. Being fairly new to the leadership game/leadership world, this was a reading for me that was full of incredible insight. Mark does an incredible job of taking leadership principles and implanting them very clearly into a story. The book is a quick read because it reads as a story, and yet it is a book that leaders should return to over and over to glean all of the incredible principles to elevate our leadership game.22647288

When we first look at the title, it seems a little odd – Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game, but when we really begin to consider the implications of the game of chess and the game of checkers, the strategy is much different. As Mark Miller describes it, checkers is primarily reacting to situations or focusing on the problem instead of the cause of that problem. For example, in the book Miller uses the situation of a customer unhappy that they hadn’t received their order as they had been promised. The leader’s reaction was to expedite their order and ship it overnight so they would have it as promised. That is playing checkers. Chess looks into the background to figure out why they didn’t receive the order, who should have known about it, who should have really taken care of it before it reached the senior leader, why it wasn’t taken care of, etc.

Leaders can so often get into the habit of playing checkers because there are so many problems to deal with, so many fires to put out, and so many tasks to get completed. However, we have to take a hard look at our jobs and make the executive decision about what is within our realm of responsibility, what we must take action on personally, and what should be delegated and owned by a different member of the team. It is hard to relinquish control as a leader, and yet it is one of the most effective things we can do.

This book gets us thinking about not just how we lead, but who we are leading. Are we building into the leaders we have now, our starters? Are we building into and preparing the leaders who are up and coming, our bench? Are we unified as a team of leaders in this organization? Are we winning the hearts of those we lead and those who engage with our business/organization? Are we executing our game plan well?

These are all valid questions, and are dealt with in more detail in the book. I would encourage anyone who is either a current leader, a new leader, an old leader, or about to become a leader to read this book. It will really help you think clearly, see with a broader perspective, and elevate your leadership game.

A great thanks to Mark Miller and his team for allowing me to get an advance copy of the book to read, and my apologies it took so long to write a review for! It is my pleasure to be able to read and review this book, and really I have been blessed through reading this book and look forward to wrestling with how to implement the strategy of how to play chess instead of playing checkers!

You can check out more books by Mark Miller by clicking here.


Guest Post: Mark Miller

Today’s post was originally published on Friday, June 6, 2014 at http://www.greatleadersserve. org


Have you ever considered the cost of turnover in your organization? To recruit, select, orient and train new staff can be extremely expensive. Not to mention the opportunity cost associated with having staff in place with no organizational memory. How do you reduce turnover?

I’ve been asked this question more than any other over the years. The reason may be our retention rate – we have historically hovered around 94 – 95%.

My answer to the question is simple – but it is not easy. I believe our outstanding retention rate is driven by the rigor of our selection process. If you get the right people, in the right role, you greatly increase the chance of the person staying with you.

Here are a few principles to help you think about your selection process.

  • The more clarity you have about the role, the better your selections.Do you know what the role requires for success – specifically? If you do, don’t select anyone who doesn’t have what you need. If you don’t know, stop the interviews until you do.
  • Selection decisions are too important to be made by a single person. Involve multiple interviewers whenever possible. Listen to all concerns. For years, we wouldn’t select anyone without complete agreement. We’ve lowered our standards a bit in this regard, but we still listen to everyone who interacts with a candidate.
  • If you select for the long tenure, your decisions will improve. If you believe you’ll have to work with someone for years, or decades, your standards will rise and so will your retention. We know people may not work with us forever, but if we act like they will, we make better decisions.
  • We’d rather lose a candidate than an employee.For decades, one of our practices has been to try and talk people out of accepting a job on our staff. If we can talk them out of it before they start, we believe they weren’t the right person to start with.
  • If you don’t invest time in selection, you’ll waste time on turnover.To do selection well requires more time than some organizations are willing to invest. However, it’s a classic case of “Pay me now or pay me later.” You’ll pay less if you get it right in the beginning.

When Peter Drucker was asked, “What’s the most important decision an executive (leader) makes?” His response: “Who does what.” We believe Dr. Drucker.

A word of caution… Don’t fall in love with retention. It’s a critical health indicator and the merits of high retention are obvious. However, if you become obsessed with retention, it may cloud your judgment when you do make a bad selection, and you will. When you realize you’ve made a mistake. Do the right thing for the person and the organization and make the hard call.


UntitledMark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

The 10th anniversary edition of The Secret will be released September 2, 2014.



“The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do” Part 1


Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.

In honor of his belief and the book he co-wrote with Ken Blanchard, they are re-releasing a 10th anniversary edition of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. This book will be released everywhere on September 2, and it is a solid book that everyone should read! Later on I will be publishing a guest post from Mark Miller, and some resources he has for the 10th anniversary edition of this wonderful book! I will also be sharing a book review and some picture quotes from the book!

No matter whether you are leading your family, your friends, or an organization, this book can be a powerful tool to help you lead well! Pick up a copy on September 2!




This picture is great because it’s easy to believe great leaders just one day showed up and became that way…but really it is perseverance in the mundane of day-to-day living that makes great leaders what they are!