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Brian Scheall – Leadership is Like Building a House

“Make it the Best day of your Life” – Brian Scheall

Original: April 11, 2009

Brian Scheall
Cell: (941) 447-6939
Leadership is like building a house; one must lay the foundation first, and then

build their way to the top. Several reasons why sports teams, communities,

organizations, and businesses encompass success are through leadership. Individuals

within these successful groups must step forward and take on leadership roles. These

individuals that decide to embrace the roles of leaders must possess different qualities to

lead over time. These qualities project energy to create a vision, set goals, motivate,

overcome challenges, associate with other leaders, teamwork, serve as a role model for

future leaders and focus on other people’s interests. Leaders know how to separate the

people from the problem and hold themselves accountable for all wrongdoing. Thus, the

term “leadership” is unique in such that any person can define their own translation of the

word, believe in their interpretation and conduct themselves according to a certain level

of standards. The concept of leadership is discussed all over the world and has been

redefined thousands of times and continues to be re-worded everyday. However, there is

only one definition of leadership, which should be made universal to everyone in the

world to live by. Leadership is the ability to attract, obtain and bring out the best in other


Today, many people find themselves in situations they never imagined. They

are trapped in a place they have never seen before and cannot re-trace their steps. Little

did they know they were constructing a house with no plans in sight. No plan was

developed for a location to pour the concrete and no blueprints were constructed.

Obtaining permission to start construction failed because meetings with land contractors

and other team members failed to unite. A VISION of how to build this house and where

to lay its foundation was not identified.

Our world has seen thousands of leaders impact individual’s lives. We have

witnessed individuals such as Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln,

and Pope John Paul II influence the lives of millions around the world. In order for them

to have accomplished this, they possess the number one quality any leader must have, and

that is vision.

A simple definition of vision is a picture or view of the future. Something not

yet real but imagined (Rosenbach & Taylor, 2006). Without having an understanding of

what direction an individual or organization is heading and how they are getting there,

leaders most likely are unable to lead anyone else. Leaders must possess a vision that

involves change, is attractive to others, will embrace challenges, and involves a team

effort. A leader defines a vision by projecting energy to accept nothing less than the best.

If unable to put forth a vision, leaders will get lost and therefore be unable to lead.

Rosenbach and Taylor, in their book, Contemporary Issues in Leadership, say

vision statements should be designed to be vivid, memorable, inspiring, meaningful, and

brief. A “vivid description” is described as a picture or painting of the future entity or

what the organization aspires to become. Cultural values, beliefs and missions must be

identified. A mission should expand the organization, but be possible to achieve given

the organization’s pursuit of that goal (Rosenbach & Taylor, 2006).

According to John C. Maxwell in his book, Developing the Leader Within You,

Stanford research states that 89 percent of what we learn is visual, 10 percent of we learn

is auditory, and 1 percent of what we learn is through other senses. He states, “If you

want to know the temperature of your organization, put a thermometer in the leader’s

mouth. Leader’s can never take their people farther then they have traveled. Therefore,

the focus of vision must be on the leader- like leader, like people. Like coach, like

player. Followers find the leader and then the vision. Leaders find the vision and then

the followers” (Maxwell, 1993).

Four Vision-Levels of People:

1. Some people never see it. (They are Wanderers.)

2. Some people see it, but never pursue it on their own. (They are followers.)

3. Some people see it and pursue it. (They are achievers.)

4. Some people see it and pursue it and help others see it. (They are leaders.)

Visualizing goals is the start to constructing a successfully built house. Unless

one is capable of pouring the foundation, leaders must successfully obtain a vision to start

the construction of their house. Having a vision of what the house looks like and

communicating a vision to others allows leaders to pass onto the next step in our

construction, GOAL SETTING.

When I was a little kid growing up, I loved telling my dad what I am going to

be when I grow up. He always replied, “How are you gonna get there?” He periodically

would follow with a story and there is one I will never forget.

The car is packed and you're ready to go, your first ever cross-country trip. From the city
of Cleveland, Ohio to the rolling hills of San Francisco, you're going to see it all. You put
the car in gear and off you go. First stop, the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. A
little while into the trip you need to check the map because you've reached an intersection
you're not familiar with. You panic for a moment because you realize you've forgotten
your map. But you say the heck with it because you know where you're going. You take a
right, change the radio station and keep on going. Unfortunately, you never reach your
destination. Too many of us treat goal setting the same way. We dream about where we
want to go but we don't have a map to get there. What is a map? In essence, the written
word. What is the difference between a dream and a goal? Once again, the written word.
Goal setting however is more than simply scribbling down some ideas on a piece of
paper. Our goals need to be complete, focused and written, much like a road map.

Leadership is like a map. According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate

Dictionary, a map is a diagrammatical drawing of a route or area made to show the

location of a place or how to get there. Leadership is like a map. Leaders choose a

destination on the map that can be defined as a goal. Just like a leader, the map will show

their followers ways to reach a destination. A leader provides the information needed to

reach the goal and a pathway to achievement. A well-crafted set of goals should meet

four main criteria:

1. To help inspire greater efforts

2. To help measure success and evaluate your efforts

3. To engage your efforts today.

4. To make sure that each day’s work helps accomplish big results you want to

achieve in the future.

The writing and implementation of short-term and long-term goals allows a leader

to create, recognize and communicate to others goals to be attained. Formulating a

statement of purpose in terms of results over three different points in time can have:

1. An inspiring distant goal.

2. A mid-distant set of goals en route that is a worthy goal in itself.

3. Some immediate objectives to start working on at once.

Not every goal will be inspirational. A distant goal provides good reason for an

individual’s actions. Goals may be personal, such as finishing a marathon or saving

enough money to purchase a car. This goal should be clear and near enough to have

some impact on the actions carried out tomorrow (Fisher & Sharp, 1998). Continuing

one’s journey in attaining these goals, a point of reference or benchmark, allows leaders

to gauge how far traveled and how much further they need to go. Depending on the

amount of time one sets for achieving goals, three to six months or possibly a year,

leaders take time to reflect on where they are, what actions they portray and how much

more time needed to achieve these goals. Formulating a set of immediate objectives calls

for instant action. For example, what am I accomplishing today for a better tomorrow?

Am I spending all the energy and encouragement I have to attain these goals? (Fisher &

Sharp, 1998) Eating the right supply of food, receiving an adequate amount of sleep and

checking off the task for today’s workload allow for immediate action towards a distant


After creating a vision and writing down clear well-defined goals putting a plan

into ACTION is the next step. Many leaders are unsuccessful even when they have a

good plan because they fall short in its execution. They do not delegate well or do not

review and develop recovery plans for mishaps (Frigon & Jackson, 1996). At this point,

where a vision is constructed and goals are set, all the energy put forth thus far will be

exhausted unless there is some action involved to pursue these goals. So, how do leaders

achieve these goals through action? In a recent interview with Dr. Luis M. Proenza, who

most recently was named to the list of 50 most influential people in Northeast Ohio, the

topic of leadership was discussed. Serving as President of The University of Akron, Dr.

Proenza noted that the three most important qualities a leader must posses are energy,

encouragement, and enthusiasm. All three introduce the notion of action to create an

environment where success is granted and a leader can instill qualities to bring out the

best in other individuals (Proenza, 2006). Actions speak louder than words. In the book,

11 Lessons in Self-Leadership, a quote from Marty Adcock states, “Leading by example

means expecting no more of someone else than you expect from yourself. Leaders ‘set

the stage’ or ‘show the way’. Individuals need clear direction, and this is accomplished

by setting the example.” (Holman, 1995).

Dr. Proenza mentioned that TIMING is key to a lot of things and leadership is

one area in which people can lead at different times in different settings. When

suggesting a relatively good point, leaders may not be recognized the first time speaking

on the subject. He also states that another individual may provide the same comment as

previously stated only to be recognized at a different time. Do not take it personally.

People can all be leaders in all different settings at different times (Proenza, 2006).

In addition, the power of association is a concept that many great leaders utilize.

Who do you associate with on a daily basis? Every great leader in today’s society has

become a leader by associating themselves with other great leaders. Leaders find a

mentor to look up and most importantly find people to mentor. Acting as a role model

for our younger generation of leaders will establish more credibility and continue a

development of people skills. Developing good people skills, leaders will enhance and

increase the number of relationships they possess. According to Vice President of

External Affairs at The University of Akron, John A. LaGuardia, says, “Developing

relationships is the most important attribute a leader can possess. People like to receive a

feeling of warm sincere appreciation. By doing so, establishing relationships with people

allows leaders to attract and obtain followers” (LaGuardia, 2006). Associating yourself

with friends, family and colleagues will impact you as a person. However, what leaders

read and listen to will also impact a leader’s development and abilities to bring out the

best in others. As a leader, making the best decisions day in and day out to reach a full

potential will allow others to benefit.

Leaders who continue to grow personally and bring growth to their organization

will influence many and develop a successful TEAM around them. The phrase: “There

is no I in team” is a great expression to demonstrate teamwork. Very seldom do

individuals reach high levels of achievements without having other people play a role in

their success. The ability to build cohesive management teams is so crucial that it

distinguishes successful leaders from unsuccessful leaders (Locke, 1991). For example, a

carpenter can be mistaken for building a house by him or herself. Most of the time, they

are the last person to finish the house, answer questions, and provide the finished product.

Right? Wrong, we must realize a set of influential people had surrounded them in order to

produce great results. A carpenter needs a plumber, electrician, painters all the other

team members to complete the house. These teammates provide expert advice and give

direction to the leader allowing the whole team to build the largest house imaginable. In

the book, Good to Great, Jim Collins states, “Those who build great companies

understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company or team is one

thing above all others; the ability to get and keep enough of the right people” (Collins,

2001). Furthermore, Niccolo Machiavelli said, “The first method for estimating the

intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” The better the players,

the better the leader. Few people are successful unless a lot of people want them to be

(Maxwell, 1993).

As Fisher and Ury state in the book, Getting to Yes, a great leader knows to

“face the problem, not the people”. As a leader continues to mature and grow as an

individual, they gain credibility and establish themselves within their profession. During

times of growth, problems will arise and call upon a leader to take a stance on an issue.

Here morals and values can play a role in the decision making process. The way a leader

conducts him or herself during these times will not only be a true test to them,

nevertheless signify a leader’s ability to face adversity and take on a challenge regarding

important business decisions.

Problems and conflicts tend to arise from all different angles. They start with

individuals who view the world in their own unique way. With all kinds of information

available, information the world provides through sights, sounds and feelings is

processed differently. People interpret what they see, hear and feel and then base

conclusions about what is happening. When problems arise they frequently trade our

conclusions back and forth without supplying details how a conclusion can be achieved

in the first place (Stone, Patton, Heen, 1999). Leaders facing difficult problems presents

opportunities to grow and move forward. Leaders need to understand they are

negotiating with other human beings where one possesses feelings, emotions and holds

different views and backgrounds. (Fisher, Ury & Patton, 1991) During these times, a

leader must obtain excellent self-regulation, which can be defined as “the ability to

control or redirect disruptive moods or impulses. The propensity to suspend judgment –

to think before acting.” A leader must execute superior social skills; thus, according to

Daniel Coleman is “proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. The

ability to find common ground and build rapport” (Coleman, 1998).

Working out an agreement may produce a mutually satisfactory outcome. A working

relationship where trust, understanding, respect, and friendship are built up over time can

make a new negotiation smoother and more efficient (Fisher, Ury & Patton, 1991).

Relinquishing energy to build as many floors in a house imaginable attains

leadership. Floors which include the energy to construct a vision, set goals, motivate,

overcome challenges, teamwork, associate with other leaders, serve as a role model for

future leaders and focuses on other people’s interests over time. Leadership is the ability

to attract, obtain and bring out the best in other people. Regardless of the number of

floors in a leader’s house, the person he or she becomes along the way is the determining

factor when distinguishing oneself from other individuals. Leaders start in different

locations, pursuing to build the largest and tallest house possible. They look to furnish

their house with the best furniture, counter-tops, carpeting and appliances imaginable.

When a leader constructs the best house imaginable, a true leader takes responsibility of

where the house sits, when it was completed, and how the finished house appears.


Coleman, Daniel. “Working with Emotional Intelligence”, Bantam Books, 1998

Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great. New York: HarperCollins.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. (2002). New York: Merriam-

Webster, Incorporated

Fisher, R. & Sharp, A. (1998). Getting It Done. New York: HarperCollins.

Fisher, R., Ury, W., Patton, B. (1991). Getting To Yes. New York: Penguin Books.

Frigon, N., & Jackson, H. (1996). The Leader. New York: American Management

Holman, L. (1995). 11 Lessons in Self-Leadership. Lexington: WYNCOM.

LaGuardia, J. (2006). Interview. November 22nd.

Locke, E. (1991). The Essence of Leadership. New York: Lexington Books.

Maxwell, J. (1993). Developing the Leader Within You. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Proenza, L. (2006). Interview. October 31st.

Rosenbach, W., & Taylor, R. (2006). Contemporary Issues In Leadership.

Boulder: Westview Press.

Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heem, S. (1999). Difficult Conversations. New York: Penguin