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People First Leadership
How to Develop World-Class Leaders
and Pass on an Enduring Legacy
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011907801
© 2015 People First International
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We have been researching best business practices for forty years. Most members of our
People First International team hold advanced business degrees. Yet with all our studies on
motivational strategies, would you believe that none of us has ever attended a lecture
proclaiming the dignity and worth of people? To be sure, some people mention “the
greatness of humanity” and drop clichés about “People are our greatest asset” in passing.
But no one on our team ever sat in an MBA class or picked up a leadership book that began
with a definition of what it means to be human as the axiom for human engagement and
The foundation of the People First Strategic Leadership program is establishing a philosophical
foundation—and an essential component of that philosophy is a belief about the exalted
dignity, worth, and potential of all people. We’ve given this subject careful thought and
study, and the result is the People First Human Value Declaration that you’ll see below.
Here is what we believe about you.
THE PEOPLE FIRST HUMAN VALUE DECLARATION
The Impetus for Human Engagement and People-Based Leadership
You can't impart what you don't possess!
10 Human Value Propositions
(1) All men, women, and children of all races and nationalities are created equal.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true
meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are
created equal." — Martin Luther King, 1963
(2) Therefore, no one individual, race, or nationality is inherently superior to another. No
one is "more human" than another.
(3) Consequently, each one of us possesses the same exalted dignity and exalted worth.
(4) Moreover, we possess unique gifts, talents, and strengths.
(5) It follows, then, that our lives have profound meaning and purpose. All of our thoughts,
choices, words, and actions are significant and influential
(6) In addition, our lives are packed with untapped potential, and thus we are responsible
for developing ourselves -- mentally, physically, spiritually, socially, financially, and
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(7) Furthermore, our growth as human beings is unalterably related to how much and how
well we listen to, honor, celebrate, serve, forgive, respect, and value other people and how
well we help others to grow more meaningful, responsible, and virtuous lives. Our
individual growth is also in proportion to how gracious we are towards others when they
(8) Hence, one of the best ways to humbly manifest that we are not living a self- absorbed
life is by esteeming others more highly than ourselves and by seeking the well-being of
others over our own.
(9) By behaving in this disciplined manner, we will demonstrate to others that all men,
women, and children possess the same human value proposition.
(10) This consistent People First practice will encourage us all to maintain a more caring,
sharing, honoring, trusting, respectful, loving, and humble world, in which we all live more
productively, more joyfully, more peacefully, and contribute more effectively to each
other's enduring legacy of truth, wisdom and excellence in all things.
The Human Value Declaration is the rich, human spirit soil in which to grow a vibrant, healthy
culture that profits everyone. You will personally profit from adopting this transformational belief;
your purpose partners (coworkers) will profit both personally and professionally; by necessary
extension, your customers will profit through their interactions with your outrageously engaged
team; and finally, your shareholders will realize a great return on investment!
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Welcome to the People First Strategic Leadership program!
I am delighted that you will be learning about the People First philosophy, and I’m confident
that you will come to regard your time spent engaging with the People First Leadership Strategic
Leadership course as one of your most rewarding personal and professional experiences.
Perhaps you think I’m a little overconfident in making such a statement. Well, after forty
years of presenting the principles contained in this manual, we have collected literally
hundreds of stories from happy clients that we can share with you! Based on the feedback
we’ve gotten from widely diverse occupations and leadership levels, I assure you that if you
will give this program your enthusiastic attention and participation, you will be very happy
that you did!
This program really works. It works for building a world-class internal culture; it works for
streamlining production; it works to improve customer service; and it spurs creative
thinking and design. And it’s a lot of fun! We’ve taught these leadership skills to waste
management employees and to customer service personnel at the Ritz Carlton. We have
worked with accountants and assembly line workers, bankers and builders, printers and
programmers, sales professionals and software engineers. In all these settings, the responses
have been overwhelmingly positive. This program works. I can’t wait to hear your own
I recognize that you’re probably still trying to make up your mind about People First Strategic
Leadership. I understand that and respect it. But let me reassure you that we lost count long
ago of the number of men and women, who have been exposed to the top trainers and most
expensive programs in the country, who told us that People First is the most powerful,
comprehensive leadership program they have ever encountered.
Here is just one of those testimonials; we could supply you with dozens more.
I have taken a lot of different management classes, gone to seminars, and read
a lot of books on management, but this is the first class that has brought so
many of the different areas together in one coherent training program. It was a
great class. You have done an amazing job of building this training program.
Let me quickly give you three reasons why so many people have found this program to be
unique and impactful.
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1. People First Strategic Leadership is a human betterment program. Fred Smith, the
visionary founder of FedEx, wisely revealed the correct roadmap to sustainable organizational
success when he penned the original FedEx credo: People . . . Service . . . Profits. The three-fold order
of his success formula rightly began with people, not profits.
If you are reading this manual, it is because your leaders have chosen to bring People First
Strategic Leadership into your company. This means that they have made a commitment to
you—you, personally! Your leaders understand that you and your purpose partners (which is
what we like to call “coworkers”) are the most important asset in your entire organization—
more important than cash, property, equipment, inventory . . . even more important than the
years of goodwill your organization has accumulated. You and all your purpose partners are
what make your organization exceptional . . . and your organization has chosen to make an
investment in you. You’ll be reading more about that shortly.
2. People First Strategic Leadership presents a systemic approach to leadership.
In the pages that follow, you will discover a unified, self-consistent system of thought. The
program will take you through a logical progression of the attitudes and actions that are
essential for world-class leadership, and the individual aspects of the program (we call them
leadership disciplines) are arranged in a mutually supporting, hierarchical order.
3. Finally, the foundation of People First Strategic Leadership is philosophical,
rather than functional. What does that mean? Virtually all books and seminars that
examine the subject of leadership discuss and debate the component parts of the best
business practices. These programs focus almost exclusively on what the successful leader
does. To our knowledge, People First Leadership is the only program that asks, “Is there anything
more fundamental to successful leadership than the best practices?” The answer to the
question is YES; the best business behaviors are the result of the best business
beliefs. Stated another way, the best leadership performance is motivated by the best
The foundation for People First Strategic Leadership is knowledge. You’ll be reading very shortly
that knowledge is the common currency of all leaders. And so, while you’ll find this
program to be immensely practical, filled with plenty of “how-to” applications, we will
devote time to discussing a philosophy of leadership that unleashes excellence in others. And
we’ll give you opportunities to actually put pen to paper and write out your own personal
philosophy for living and working in excellence. As you stretch and think and expand, you
will grow in your ability to influence and inspire others.
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I am so excited about the impact that People First Strategic Leadership will have on you and your
organization. I hope that I’ll get to meet you personally and shake your hand and hear how
you’ve grown as a result of your participation in this program. But whether you and I meet or
not, please be assured that I’ll be getting feedback from your facilitator about how you and
your purpose partners are applying the program in your personal and professional lives.
So get ready to laugh, get ready to learn, and get ready to see tremendous things happen in
your home and in your workplace. One of our facilitators frequently talks about a man who
was extremely skeptical about our training when the program began. “You’d better make this
worth my time!” the man said bluntly. At the end of the program, this same man came up to
our facilitator and grabbed his hand and shook it. “Thank you,” he said. “My wife thanks you.
And my crew thanks you. You definitely made it worth my time.”
This is going to be worth your time too. I promise!
Your devoted Sifu,
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Setting the Stage
You may very well discover that this People First Strategic
Leadership Program is unlike any other training you have
ever experienced. Think of it as a journey—a journey that will
involve not only your head but your heart. People First
leadership is about becoming a more loving, caring, thoughtful,
respectful, and nurturing human being. That is why People First
leadership begins with YOU. Belief precedes behavior; what you believe and what you value
drive all your thought processes and all your actions.
The intent of our People First Strategic Leadership program is to create a People First culture
within your organization and to encourage each of you to pass on an enduring legacy of
truth, wisdom, and excellence to successive generations of leaders.
What’s In It for You?
People First Strategic Leadership will help you to:
Become a better human being. Learn to be a more caring, inspiring, supportive human
being and leader.
Define your philosophy. What are your beliefs? What do you value most?
Know what you believe and why you believe it, in contrast to what you don’t believe
and why you do not believe it.
Recognize what you believe, what you value most, and why you behave the way you
do. We will provide you with tools to improve your personal and professional life.
Create a more balanced, healthy, happy life.
Understand the importance of making deposits into the human spirit . . . rather than
Learn language that uplifts rather than tears down someone’s spirit. Loving, not
bullying . . . inspiring, not manipulating . . . honoring and celebrating, rather than
judging and damaging.
Utilize practical tools to support your development as a human being and as member
and leader of your organizational family.
Enable you to take more responsibility for the outcomes in your life (both at work and
at home); help you understand that you are the leader of your own life.
Provide you with insight into the core beliefs of what it means to be a People First
Leader. Cascade a clear message of what People First is and is NOT.
The goal of People
Leadership is to
support leaders in
passing on an
of truth, wisdom,
and excellence to
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Develop a common language that will be adopted throughout your organization.
Create solid, trust-based relationships at all levels within your organization.
Bring your organizational values, mission and vision to life and help you understand
your role and contribution to all three.
Create a sustainable People First culture in which all purpose partners are engaged,
enabled, and energized to move toward the same goals.
Applying the People First Philosophy is designed to help you to:
Understand the importance of putting people first and profits second.
Get a PhD in people skills.
Learn a 5-step relationship strategy to bring out the best in people.
Create a culture of high-challenge and high-discovery.
Help you to become an exemplary model of world-class leadership.
Learn the business success strategies to attract and retain the best people.
Create a passionate, purpose-driven, high performing workplace.
Inspire “employees” to become fully engaged and energized “purpose partners.” (We
prefer the phrase purpose partners to terms like “employees” or “staffers.”)
Develop a “Playing to Win” vs. a “Playing Not to Lose” mindset.
Create Champions of Change by giving people permission to succeed and permission
Discover simple methods for creating loyal customers and loyal purpose partners.
Become a company where everyone says, “We all work very hard, but we have a lot of
fun and we are appreciated for who we are and what we do.”
Increase trust and decrease tension between management, purpose partners,
customers, and all stakeholders.
Create a culture that consistently celebrates the human spirit.
Eliminate “blame and shame” and create accountability and responsibility.
Understand that real power is the power that makes other people powerful.
Practice the art of honoring the human spirit and see the immediate impact on
performance in the workplace.
Develop an environment of openness, transparency, and vulnerability so that people
will fully trust leadership.
Learn the empowering language of the human spirit and create a team that willingly
goes the extra mile.
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Develop an environment that sincerely communicates to everyone: “I am proud of
you,” “I believe in you,” “I need you,” “Thank you,” and “Yes!”
Eliminate the ego-, mood-, power-, and crisis-driven leadership models.
Create a business that has happy employees, happy customers, and high profits.
Move people from halfhearted performance to passionate engagement. Learn that to
engage people’s hands, one must first engage their hearts.
And it will help you to focus on four vitally important questions:
How do we know we are doing well?
How do we know we are doing poorly?
How do we know we are doing anything at all?
Why do we do what we do?
The Personal Drives the Professional
Our program begins with a definition of what it means to be human. The human spirit is at
the epicenter of our learning model. We will share our knowledge and stories of our
experiences with individuals who are taking a broader, more holistic view and approach to
leadership. There are scores of positive and heartwarming stories about how leaders are
changing the lives of many and impacting the world. You can too! It is all about choice.
We believe that:
The whole person shows up at work.
The personal drives the professional.
We need each other to get the job done; no man or woman is an island.
Sustainable financial success cannot be achieved without engaging the hearts, minds,
and hands of all purpose partners.
Leaders must follow a moral course with uncompromising intention and integrity.
Leaders must aspire to inspire and enable all stakeholders to collaborate in achieving
Leaders must see purpose partners as an invaluable source of innovation and
Right thinking comes from the right knowledge, which leads to the right practices.
The basis for compelling values is knowledge of what is true, what is wise, and what is
We must not only teach the theory of leadership but also demonstrate what it looks
like in practice.
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The People First Journey
As you consider moving forward on this journey, recognize that
you have a choice. You can choose to jump in with both feet and
trust that we will support and guide you from a place of love and
respect. You may be skeptical; you won’t jump right in, but you
will put your toes in the water to see how it feels. We appreciate
you and celebrate you and promise to meet you where you are.
Perhaps you don’t even care to put your toes in the water. That’s
OK; take your time! We respect and honor how you are feeling.
We will be introducing language, ways of thinking, ways of behaving, theories, and concepts
that you may have never have considered or discussed. This applies to everyone, even those
of you who have had the opportunity of attaining your bachelor’s, your master’s or even your
The People First journey will support you in living a more conscious, purposeful, happy,
healthy, and balanced life!
Characteristics of a People First Leader
The organizational models, corporate cultures, and leadership styles that proved successful
in the past must adapt to meet a younger workforce and a changing culture. It is time for all
leaders to rethink the fundamentals.
We must not only be analytical but also reflective. It is important to start at the core of who
we are and what we believe. We must ask ourselves the tough but powerful questions: Why
do we exist? What do we believe? How do we authentically and consistently engage the
hearts, minds, and hands of all our purpose partners? How do we create passion and a sense
of belonging? How do we want to be remembered? These questions will be addressed
throughout your People First journey.
People First leaders are inspirational leaders; they think, act, and communicate from the
inside out. This starts with one’s core beliefs and core values. We find that many leaders
begin with what and define what they do as an organization; sometimes they talk about the
how, but they rarely talk about the why. Here at People First International, we are
convinced that that the personal drives the professional. What we believe and value
precedes how we will behave and what we will do in any given circumstance.
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Purpose Partners—NOT Employees
We’ve said that creating a common language is a significant aspect to this training. You will
learn the difference between traditional language and People First language, as well as the
difference between empowering and dis-empowering language. Let’s unpack the first of
many People First terms. We invite you to refer to employees, staffers, and associates as
Why Will You Distinguish Yourselves as Purpose Partners and not
Because you are working together to accomplish a specific mission. You need each other to
accomplish your mission and vision! It is important that everyone—both formal leaders and
informal leaders—recognize and celebrate the contributions that everyone makes every day!
People First is all about working together to cocreate a culture that lives and breathes
outrageous engagement. During this leadership program we will talk about how purpose
partners want to be treated. Today’s Millennials, for example, have vastly different
expectations about how they want to be led than do Baby Boomers. One thing is certain:
today’s purpose partners do not want to be over-managed; they want to be inspired and want
the work they perform to be meaningful and recognized and celebrated.
What Is People First?
People First is a culture where everyone realizes their fullest potential—mentally,
physically, spiritually, socially, financially, and
First and foremost, it is an investment in you!
As we mentioned previously, People First focuses
on the personal—the human being; therefore, as we progress through the program there will
be significant focus and emphasis on you. One of the key tenets of People First is that “the
personal drives the professional.”
People First is about honoring human beings, not just human doings. All of us have a
tendency to slip into seeing “human doings,” rather than human beings. We say, “Oh, that’s
Sam from Software” or “She’s Ann from Accounting” without ever stopping to consider the
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human being who is right before our eyes! This belief in the dignity and worth of people
must begin in our homes, with the most important people in our lives: our husbands, wives,
and children. Again, the personal drives the professional.
People First is about looking at people and seeing the letters MMFI—Make Me Feel
Important—stamped on their foreheads. Every human being you meet needs to know that
who they are and what they do has meaning and significance. Everyone you meet has a gift to
give you . . . and you have so many gifts to give them! You are extraordinary! You are a
walking marvel, a masterpiece, and a miracle. And so this People First program is designed
to invest in you and bring out your very best.
Here is a really important point to remember: Whatever you want your external
customers to feel, your internal customers must feel first! If you want your external
customers, vendors, contacts, etc., to believe that you genuinely honor, value, esteem, and
respect them, you must demonstrate that honor, value, esteem, and respect to your internal
customers—your purpose partners!
What People First Is NOT
People First is not a typical training program, and it most certainly is not a “flavor of the
month.” This is a new way of thinking, living, and working. As you progress through this
program, you’ll realize that leadership cannot accomplish this alone. It will take your
inspirational leadership to lead all purpose partners in creating a sustainable People First
It has been said that definition demands distinction; in order to know what something, is, we
must also know what it is not. So it’s important to have a common understanding of what
People First is NOT. People First does not mean that leaders relinquish their obligation to
guide, direct and lead. It is not a plan to create an organizational “free-for-all,” throwing all
functional accountbility out the window. Accountability is a significant aspect of a People
First culture; in fact, it is essential. The key is to ensure that all purpose partners—from the
CEO to the newest entry-level hire—are held accountable to the same standards. Fairness
and consistency must be a way of life.
People First does not mean that leaders ignore the tough decisions. This idea couldn’t be
further from the truth! Creating a People First culture is about honoring, valuing, and
respecting purpose partners, no matter what business decisions must be made. The intent of
People First is to ensure that when the tough decisions are made, everyone is treated with
integrity and respect. It is unrealistic to think that you will never make unpopular decisions.
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The key is to ensure that your decisions are clearly and respectfully communicated,
implemented in an honorable fashion, and that those decisions are seen to be well-reasoned
People First is not the sole responsibility of leadership; creating and sustaining a People First
culture is a shared responsibility. It is essential that you take a leadership role in modeling
the People First principles, no matter where your name appears on the organizational chart.
As we move through this program, you will see that this program is about you and your key
role in creating and sustaining a People First culture in your home, your organization, and
You may be thinking, “I’m not a leader; this definition doesn’t apply to me.” However,
whether you have purpose partners who report to you or not, you most definitely are a
leader. You have the power to influence and inspire people; you have the ability to devise
fabulous new ways of serving your internal and external customers; and your contributions
are vitally important in helping your organization move forward toward achieving its
mission and vision.
The Pyramid of People Power
I Need You!
I Believe in You!
I am Proud of You!
If you’ve read Jack Lannom’s People First book, you’ll remember Sifu Li saying that good
words build great people. Let’s look at some of the words that should be a part of your
common conversation at home and at work. This is the language of People First.
The five most important words in the human language are: I am proud of you. Who would
you say needs to hear these words from you more than anybody else? If you’re a parent, you
know that the correct answer is: Our kids!
Do our children hear “I am proud of you” from their peers at school? it is far more likely that
they’re hearing things like “You’re too fat, you’re too thin, you’re too tall, you’re too short,
your hair is too curly, it’s too straight, you can’t do this, you can’t do that . . .” etc., etc. Our
children need to hear from us that we’re proud of them!
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The four most important words in the English language are I believe in you. Who needs to
hear that phrase? Correct answer: “Everybody!” Make it your mission to let fellow purpose
partners know you believe in them, and make sure that when you say it, you mean it!
The three most important words in the English language are I need you. It’s important to
note that this doesn’t mean “I need you to do this” or “I need you to get that.” We hear that
form of “I need you” more than enough already! These three words mean, “I can’t succeed
What is the first question that most children start to repeat regularly? “Why?” “Why,
Daddy? Why Mommy? Why-why-why-why?!” As we get older, we may not ask the
question as often . . . at least, not out loud . . . but that doesn’t mean we ever stop wondering
“Why?” Please hear this and remember it: Every human being needs to know that who
they are and what they do has meaning and significance. They want to know “Why”
they are being asked/directed to do things!
So I need you means, “What you’re doing is so very important; without you, I won’t
The two most important words in the English language are Thank you! You will never build
a People First culture at home and at work unless you make a deliberate effort to catch people
doing things right and celebrate them! And that celebration begins with the words “Thank
The single most important word in the English language is Yes!
We asked you about a child’s first question—“Why”—but what is the first word that becomes
a fixed part of our children’s consciousness? “No!” If you have children living at home, how
often do they hear “No” from you during the day?
“Daddy [or Mommy], can I eat chocolate for dinner?” No.
“Can I play video games for eight hours straight?” No.
“Can I skip my homework?” No.
“Can I skip my bath?” No.
“Can I stay up until 2 am?” No.
“Can I borrow the car?” NOOOO!
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It can get so bad that as soon as they say, “Can I . . . ?” you don’t even wait to hear the
question, you just say “NO!” And because of that, you probably realize how important it is to
be able to tell our children “YES”—even when we don’t really want to—because of all the
times when we must say no.
Your customers—both internal and external—hear a lot of “No’s” also. When are the times
you can look to say “Yes” to them? When can you work to exceed their expectations by saying
“Yes” —even when you don’t really want to—and then doing whatever it is you’ve promised
But there’s another aspect to “YES.” In the People First culture, the letters Y.E.S. stand for
“You Expect Success.” It is a leader’s job to create, not just a hope for, but an expectancy of
success. How can you use your words to help people in your personal and professional life to
expect success? Again, good words build great people.
Criteria for Reinforcement – SSIP
The four letters SSIP are an easy and effective reminder for all of us who want the words we
use to be meaningful and impactful. Our words of praise and encouragement should be
Sincere, Specific, Immediate and Personal.
Sincere: Recognition and celebration must be genuine. No false flattery! Telling someone
who is struggling that they’re “doing a good job” can do much more harm than good. When
purpose partners hear such false acclaim, they may well think, “If you were paying any attention,
you’d know that I’m not doing a ‘great job.’ In fact, I’ve really been struggling for the last month or so.”
The very words which were meant to be uplifting and motivational end up being
discouraging and demotivating.
Specific: Make a conscious dedicated effort to catch people doing specific things right and
then celebrate them. Which of the two affirmations below do you believe is more effective?
“John, you and your team are really doing a great job!”
“John, you and your team are really doing a great job! All your indicators are moving
in the right direction. You increased production by 10% without increasing overtime
costs. You lowered make-ready time by 7%. And your spoilage is down by 5%! That’s
an outstanding month!”
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The second celebration is very specific about what positive behaviors are being reinforced. It
communicates that the leader is paying attention and looking for opportunities to be specific
about what people are doing well.
Immediate: Delayed reinforcement is a lost opportunity. Too often we allow good work to
pass unrecognized, while we immediately jump on mistakes and bad behavior. It is vitally
important for all of us to be continually on the lookout for opportunities to recognize and
celebrate the contributions of others.
Personal: Deliver feedback personally, as opposed to written kudos. There is absolutely
nothing wrong with writing formal letters of commendation, sending informal notes and
cards that express appreciation for a job well done, or using e-mail to say, “Thank you.” These
are tremendous tools for providing positive reinforcement. However, the personal touch is
E-mail is a wonderful communications tool. It is fast, inexpensive, and many people believe
that they can express themselves more fully by writing rather than speaking. Be very careful,
however, to avoid the overuse of email or instant messaging. Strong, lasting relationships are
built through face-to-face conversation, handshakes, smiles, and laughter; none of these can
be communicated electronically. So by all means, utilize e-mail, but don’t allow it to replace
Definition of People First Leadership
We have stood on the shoulders of great leaders who have gone before us, and we have also
spent a great deal of time with dedicated, hard-working men and women all across America.
We want to share the things we have seen standing atop these giant shoulders, and we want
to pass on the wisdom that we have gained from the organizations we have been privileged
to serve. We are confident that you will see great things, because you will be viewing
leadership from a strategic and systemic viewpoint.
The Definition of Leadership
Leadership is the art and science of influencing and inspiring people to
perform to their personal best—through the wise application of
comprehensive knowledge, understanding, and power—to achieve a desired
goal and to pass on an enduring legacy of truth, wisdom, and excellence.
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Let us begin, then, to examine the ten core competencies of the People First Leader. These are
the attitudes and actions which, when carefully studied and applied, will make a leadership
The LEADERSHIP Acrostic
The People First Strategic Leadership training is systemic; meaning it follows a logical
sequence where one discipline builds on the one before it. Each chapter of this manual will
present one of the ten disciplines of the People First Leader according to the LEADERSHIP
Passing on a Legacy
These ten disciplines represent a logically developed blend of beliefs and behaviors that
equip leaders to turn ordinary people into extraordinary performers. As you examine each of
these ten disciplines in detail, you will see that they are united by one common theme:
knowledge. People First Leaders have a detailed knowledge of both the theory and the
practice of each of these ten disciplines. Knowledge is the common currency of all leaders.
People First Leaders have a thorough knowledge of the product(s) that their organizations
offer, as well as a knowledge of market conditions and industry and/or economic
trends that could inspire (or dictate) a change in those product offerings.
People First Leaders have tremendous knowledge of people. They have a thorough
understanding of themselves—their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for personal
and professional growth. They have knowledge of the individuals with whom they live and
work, and they have made a study of what motivates ordinary people to become
extraordinary performers. People First Leaders are masters of human performance
technology. They also possess a broad knowledge of those who are the lifeblood of their
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People First Leaders understand and utilize the creative thinking skills that can be
applied to their particular field of endeavor. They recognize that the human mind is
marvelously intuitive and creative, and they have studied the established techniques that
harness the power of that brilliant mind and inspire purpose partners to new heights of
innovation and ideation.
The thematic nature of People First Leadership sets it apart from other training material. As you
will see, the entire program never wavers from the theme of knowledge. People look to
People First Leaders for answers because these leaders know their jobs, know their
industries, and know how to bring out the best in the people around them.
The principles contained in this manual are timeless, universal principles that are good not
only for the corporate or governmental arenas; they can and should be applied by anyone
who desires to be a model of leadership in the home, the school, the church, and in every
aspect of life.
Putting the People First Teachings into Practice Through . . .
High Impact Personal Action Plans
The People First Leadership Strategic Leadership program is designed to encourage and facilitate
deep practice. It has been structured in a way that provides you with a systemic process for
focusing on what’s most important within each of the 10 People First Leadership disciplines.
This development process has been designed utilizing the ten disciplines outlined in the
LEADERSHIP Acrostic. We have developed key leadership behaviors that will be the
guideposts for helping you to determine the progress you are making and identify
opportunities for further development.
As we move through this journey, is it essential that we remember where and how the ‘real’
learning occurs. Applying what you have learned is where 75% of learning takes place.
Applying the knowledge and skills presented in this section—both at home and at work—is
what will make the learning stick, creating positive, sustainable results in your personal and
Practice is important to world-class performance. Studies tell us that it takes at least 21 days
to shift behavior and develop a new practice/habit. Therefore, at the end of the 12 weeks we
will provide you with a template that will vividly illustrate all 10 disciplines, their
corresponding key leadership behaviors, and provide you with a roadmap for continuing
your deep practice in becoming a People First leader.
19 People First Strategic Leadership Introductory Pages
Many of us are familiar with the phrase that it is not practice that makes perfect, but perfect
practice makes perfect. We invite you to consider taking your People First leadership
practice to an even deeper level: deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is a systematic and highly structured activity. Deliberate practice also
involves monitoring one’s performance. You are being observant and keenly aware of what
happens, so that you can tell yourself exactly what went wrong. This process requires
honest reflection. Deliberate practice is often slow, it involves repetition, and it requires
Many of us are familiar with what we call unconscious practice; you could call it the
autopilot method: We simply repeat the same thing over and over – automatic repetition.
We utilize the same PowerPoint presentation. We employ the same approach to business
challenges. We are stuck in the “We’ve always done it this way.” We are not thinking about
what can be done better.
Unfortunately, this type of autopilot behavior does not work. It is a waste of time. This
repetitive practice simply strengthens old behaviors and even reinforces undesirable habits.
Practicing in this way often feels like a monotonous chore.
Make Your Time Count
How you spend your practice time is a more important consideration than how much
time you spend practicing. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about mastering the violin,
improving your tennis game, upgrading your sales or engineering skills, or becoming a more
effective leader. Life is short; time is our most valuable commodity. If you’re going to
practice, you might as well do it right.
20 People First Strategic Leadership Introductory Pages
Taking time to reflect plays a significant role in developing new habits and initiating
positive, new behaviors. Prior to reviewing the High Impact Action Plan that follows each
People First Leadership Discipline, we invite you to ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want to achieve?
How important is this goal to me?
What will help me achieve my goal?
Who can help me achieve my goal?
What restraining forces may stop me from achieving this goal?
What is the gap between where I am now in terms of my skills and knowledge and
where I want to be?
When considering your goals, you can think of your situation in terms of a SWOT analysis,
Strengths – What are you good at? In what areas do you make your greatest
contributions? What feedback have you received that gives you an indication of how
others see your strengths? What aspects of your work do you find relatively easy to
Weaknesses – What areas do you feel you need to develop? Have you received any
feedback that may suggest that there are development needs in some areas? What
aspects of your work do you find to be more difficult to complete?
Opportunities – What is your potential for growth? Are their opportunities that may
arise that you could apply for if you had more skills and knowledge in your area?
Threats – Is there a great deal of change occurring in your work area that may lead
to a change in your role? Do you feel you need to develop your skills to ensure that
you will be able to continue to undertake your new responsibilities effectively?