Start With The Low Fences

I work on the same principle as people who train horses. You start with low fences, easily achievable goals, and work up. – Ian McGregor

Developing your skill sets as a leader is not an overnight process. It’s something that takes time and commitment. It’s a process.

I liken the process to one of my favorite hobbies – photography. Back in the day of first learning my photography skills things were much different from today. It was all manual. Various photography classes back then taught me the fine art of things like shutter speeds, f/stops, dark rooms, lighting, composition and more.  You had to learn the skill in order to be good.

Nowadays with a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a fully automatic camera that takes all the guesswork out of it. Ask the owner to switch to manual mode – not to mention the rule of thirds, negative space in composition, etc.  and take a picture, most would be at a loss on where to begin.

Here’s the problem. With that expensive fully automatic camera in your hands, it can make you look better than you are. You can have the fancy equipment, but without the training on how to use it, you are creating a false impression.

One of the dangers in leadership is bypassing the learning process and securing the foundational principles needed for growth and maturity. This is why many an aspiring leader never reach their full potential. They rush the process. But with an open mind coupled with the attitude of a student, your leadership skills can be developed and you can rise to the next level.

It’s when you start with the low fences that you earn your leadership stripes. Here are a few low fence concepts worth considering as you think about your future and growth as a leader.

The low fence of humility

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Aspiring leaders can blur the lines when they think their degree conveys wisdom. Your formal education is your right of passage to your real education. A strong dose of humility is in order starting out and is well worth remembering when you are older. There’s always something new to learn.

The low fence of dependability

There are no shortcuts on the path to proven leadership. It takes men and women who are willing to roll up their sleeves and earn their stripes. If you can’t be counted on in the low fence things of your leadership how can people raise their expectations of you for greater things? It’s the daily grind that you show yourself dependable.

The low fence of flexibility

Sometimes in leadership, you have to throw out the script. Your growth and sanity as a leader will be tested with this low fence skill in more ways than you can imagine. If you can learn this low fence skill early it will save you a lot of grief later.

The low fence of loyalty

Loyalty is one of the pillars of leadership. All the creative powers in your arsenal of skills will not amount to much if loyalty is an afterthought. Faithfully striving to represent the values, mission, and vision of your organization should be the focal point of all that you do.

The low fence of service

The heartbeat of leadership is service. It’s about adding value. It’s about lifting others up, not tearing down. It’s servant leadership. The beauty of this skill set is that you never outgrow it. But with your growth and development as a leader comes the opportunity to have a greater impact. Develop this skill early while the fence is low. But never forsake it. The more you give and the more you serve, the greater the influence you can have.

Just as low fences are the starting points for training horses, it’s where you begin as a leader. But you are not designed nor destined to stay at that level. You have a higher destiny that you need to walk in. Low fences are where you start, but they are not where you should stay. You must raise the bar.

Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences.
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Larry Tyler
Larry Tyler

I love this Doug. We start with a vision and create and grow it in steps.

Chris Pehura
Chris Pehura

Sometimes telling someone they can’t do something is a strong motivator. My grandmother had this white terrier — just barely a pup. It was still being toilet trained to go on a newspaper in her kitchen. To keep her very energetic pup in the kitchen, she put up one of those “baby gates’ to wall the dog off from the living room. When I came to visit I saw the new puppy staring at that gate. It wanted into that living room. Each time my grandmother was away from the kitchen, that little dog tried to jump over the gate. Once my grandmother was back the dog would stop trying to get over the gate and wait — wait until my grandmother would leave again. And that dog kept trying. Some many attempts. Again and again. Later in the day, the pup was able to get over that gate. Once she did, she quickly jumped back over to the kitchen. My grandmother was unaware of this accomplishment. That night the dog would covertly jump over the gate to the fenced off living room and run three laps around the room — then jump back to the kitchen. My grandmother wasn’t the wiser. That next morning, my grandmother while making breakfast saw that pup sitting in the living room, staring at her through the “baby gate”. The dog then jumped over the gate to greet her for breakfast.



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