Leading Leaders Book Excerpt: Leaders Lead

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As I alluded to in the stories from my time in the Aggie Corps, I’ve learned that leadership is not merely a matter of barking orders or acting “in charge.” The leader has to take charge and make decisions. Even in the military, we rarely bark orders. In an emergency or in combat, certainly, but in our routine day to day it’s best to ensure your teams understand what they’re doing and why. Furthermore, a leader can only “bark” so many times before their team simply tunes out the raised voices. I’ve seen it plenty of times in sports. Teams that are accustomed to hearing their coach yell and make demonstrations simply stop listening to the coach’s histrionics; they’re mentally somewhere else when he is speaking. So yelling and demonstrations simply don’t work very often and neither does rule by fear.  A leader who relies on fear to motivate their employees has a very shallow toolbox.  Put another way, if a leader’s only motivational method is fear or arm-waving, he won’t last very long and probably won’t get much accomplished.

In the military, the overarching mission is usually summarized in a statement of “commander’s intent”: an explicitly defined end state or goal of a particular mission. While one might not use the same words in business or sports, the same principle of clearly stating the objective applies. The effective leader ensures people understand what’s required of them, and then she follows up to see the task through to completion. They give their teams a sense of purpose.

Most organizations have more than a single leader. They have “layers of leaders,” and the principle of “Leaders Lead” requires that all leaders exercise their authority. Leaders at all levels should show initiative and work together. If a team leader is waiting for direction, then he is essentially waiting for their boss to make a decision for them. That’s not leading.

Furthermore, a “reluctant” leader will only inspire the informal leaders in the group to begin to vie for power. A vacuum must always be filled; if the leader at any level creates a void through inaction, then someone will usually fill that void. It’s a sure bet that the leader won’t have his job for very long. Someone will replace him, the company will fail, or the team will disintegrate.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I’m not advocating leaders exceed their authority, but I am suggesting that leaders should exercise the authority that their boss has vested in them. If they work in an environment where integrity is expected, within a culture of respect, then even a hierarchical organization can be very effective. No matter what the organization looks like on paper, ultimately it’s the relationships that matter.


Like what you’re reading? Buy the book at the link on the right.

Proud to Announce Patio Wisdom!

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My brother and I just finished a collaboration project that was heaps of fun to do. I think you’ll like it!

Come and see what the fuss is all about! Patio Wisdom is a jaunt through the wisdom of an uncommon man! Inside are the musings of a life lived at full speed, where wisdom comes from the School of Hard Knocks. It’s wisdom born of adventure and hardship, joy and pain, victory and defeat…and everything in between. Illustrated with the author’s own photos, and narrated with quips and memories, Patio Wisdom will leaving you in tears and stitches!

Want to know what is holding it all together when it looks like it’s nothing?  How to escape from a 30 foot ledge? What your first words should be after having a heart attack?

Patio Wisdom is the first release from Lead The Way Media, available at the Lulu Store!

Secret Project Revealed!

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Finally, my “secret project” can be revealed: my next book Patio Wisdom: Wise, Inspiring, and Humorous Quips From a Life Lived at Full Speed.


The book is a collaboration with my brother,  Tony aka “Patio King,” and is a collection of his philosophical quips about life, our photos, and a few of my stories about growing up together in the 1970s and on.

Take a look inside:


Here’s what the jacket says about the the book:

Welcome to the world of The Patio King! Inside are the musings of a life lived at full speed, where wisdom comes from the School of Hard Knocks. It’s wisdom borne of adventure and hardship, joy and pain, victory and defeat…and everything in between. Illustrated with the author’s own photos, and narrated with quips and memories, Patio Wisdom will leaving you in tears and stitches!

We’ve still got a way to go yet, release for the few photos that aren’t his and professional editing, but we’re very close to publishing. Patio Wisdom will be the first book I publish under my new publisher’s masthead!

We’ll certainly keep you posted as we near the final publication date!

“Local Kine” Leadership

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, From the Blogs, Practical Leadership

The natural beauty of the ‘aina (the land) and ke kai (the sea) in the Hawaiian Islands is legendary, but it’s the e komo mai (welcome) the good kama’aina (islanders) show to malahini (newcomers like me), that make these Islands of Aloha a wonderful place to live.  In fact, if you’ve noticed a slow down in the number of posts since I arrived last July, just take a look at the photo below and ask yourself, “Would I be at the computer or would I be outside?”  All kidding aside and the beauty of the Islands notwithstanding, the Spirit of Aloha is the primary reason we love Hawaii.  It’s been my experience that good relationships can make any place a great place to live.  In other words, leadership is like life: it’s all about the people.

Makapu'u Lookout, O'ahu
Makapu’u Lookout, O’ahu

One of our local authors, Rosa Say, has written a book and maintains a site dedicated to the Hawaiian approach to leading people called Managing With Aloha.  It’s a Hawaiian spin on the classic leadership approach of meeting people where they are and respecting them as part of the team.  Rosa Say does a great job of explaining the Hawaiian approach to life and then translating that into business principles anyone can use.  In her 19 Values of Aloha, she uses the traditional Hawaiian values and words from the Hawaiian language to express how a workplace can operate with Aloha.

Managing With Aloha 0001L4-791x1024  I think the values Ms Say describes connect nicely with my own Leading Leaders philosophy of Integrity, Respect, Teamwork, Leaders Lead, and Little Things Matter.  These values resonate, and also connect across cultural lines, because fundamentally leadership is about relationships, and helping others find value in their work and each other.  I like her blog, and I’m looking forward to reading Rosa Say’s book.

In my own book, I touch on similar ideas. Even though I’ve developed my leadership principles primarily in military and sports environments, Leading Leaders principles are universal and can be applied to industry, non-profit, and government. Why? Because good leadership is fundamentally about human interaction, inspiring people to get a job done or overcome obstacles: from combat to craft fairs. Leadership is not a formula or process. There is no product to buy, shirt to wear, or pill to take that can substitute for good leadership, and good leadership requires strength of character from the leader.  This is something I have in common with Ms Say: the belief in the power of ohana and relationships to move people toward goals.

A big mahalo (thank you) to Rosa Say for her contribution to helping leaders live pono, spread aloha and ohana, and add to the conversation about alaka’i in the business community!


Leading Leaders: The Workbook Now Available in the Lulu Store!

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Leading Leaders ThumbnailI’m very proud to announce that after many proof copies Leading Leaders: The Workbook is now available in the Lulu Store!

Leading Leaders: The Workbook is a companion to my leadership book by the same title, but can be used as a stand-alone guide for discussion groups, seminars, and individual study. Thoughtful questions and chapter self-assessments will assist leaders and teams to improve their leadership skills through candid review of both leadership and followership skills.

This workbook is even more valuable when used side by side with the book Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams. Drawn from a lifetime of leading in the military, in sports, and in volunteer organizations, Leading Leaders is both an engrossing and interesting way to learn to lead better. I take leadership lessons from my own career, as well as from historical and contemporary leaders, and creates an engaging, down-to-earth dialogue with the reader.

The workbook can be used in seminars, small groups, and as a self-study tool.

 Download a FREE preview here!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.



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Leading Leaders Excerpt: Recognizing and Promoting Excellence

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Leaders should deliberately recognize and reward excellence of members as a means of encouraging excellence for both the team as a whole and by individuals. This usually takes the shape of a formal recognition program, but it should also include informal recognition as well. The real trick for the skilled leader is to know how to balance those two forms of recognition.

Formal recognition programs are certainly the most prevalent and can be very effective at promoting excellence if managed carefully. Virtually every organization of any size has an “Employee of the Month” or similar program. These are important; however, I believe the leader must deliberately manage these programs to avoid having them become meaningless. Because they are ubiquitous, there can be a tendency among employees to discount or even make fun of the program. It’s really up to the leader to be sure that doesn’t become the case by ensuring the process for selecting winners is fair, objective, and non-repetitive. It’s very easy for a busy leader to select winners for these sorts of programs randomly or casually. Leaders must resist the temptation to do so. So long as there is a defined process and objective criteria that everyone knows, and the leader follows the process, then the team will respond positively to “of the month” programs. However, if the employees see the same people winning time after time, or believe (even erroneously) that winners are selected based on their ability to “butter up” management, then no amount of sincere praise will make the winners feel special and recognized.
I had a personal experience where this derision of the recognition program surprised me greatly. We had a “do it yourself” shop at an Air Force base where I was stationed as the Operations Chief in a public works department. The DIY shop was staffed by a small group of fairly senior people, and they consistently did heroic work to enable the Airmen at various units around the base to fix things themselves instead of waiting for facility maintenance personnel to come do it for them. We saved hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in labor, and the program encouraged pride in the facilities by the Airmen. On top of that, our DIY program was consistently regarded as one of the best of the dozen or so in Air Combat Command. The surprise came, however, when I attempted to recognize the civilian manager who led the DIY shop. He came to my office and emotionally demanded that I remove his name from contention as “Civilian Manager of the Quarter.”
While he never gave me a specific reason, I believe he’d lost faith in the process. I think he had come to believe that the selection of winners for the quarterly awards was based only on “favorites” and wanted no part of it. Reluctantly, I agreed not to recognize him, but it gave me impetus to make some significant changes in how we selected our award winners in the future. I made sure the mini-boards for selecting our winners were composed of more people and that the process was more formalized. I also made sure we were keeping notes as to who had won and from which shop, to be sure that we spread the awards around and looked for people who were performing in the “shadows” rather than just “out front.” It took a while, but I believe that by the time I’d left, we’d restored a measure of trust in the system.

Shh…Working on a Secret Project

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I know I haven’t been updating this blog much, but I’ve been working on a Secret Project in my Inner Sanctum.  When I’ve completed the project I will finally rule the Tri-State Area!

Well…not exactly.  But I have been working hard on my next book, Code Name: Talk Story Lanai.  I’ll roll it out in May, if not a little sooner.  Just have to finish final editing and present it to the decision-maker for publishing!

Be A Good Follower

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Following is just as important as leading. To be a good follower means more than merely doing what your boss tells you but trying to see the bigger picture and understand where the boss is going. I maintain that you’ve got to learn how to follow before you can learn how to lead. So how do you become a good follower?


To begin with, a good follower always works the boss’ agenda first and foremost. Even in small teams, it’s usually not possible for the team to fully understand the environment where the leader is operating. People go to different meetings, are privy to different levels of information, and have a relationship with their own bosses (everybody has a boss). No matter how effective or ineffective a leader is in doing his job, the team must continue to do what they’ve been hired to do to the best of their ability. There are both altruistic and selfish reasons for taking this stand.

Basic self-respect and integrity require an employee to do what he is being paid to do. Admittedly it is no small task to continue to perform if one is working for someone who’s either incompetent or abusive, but “slacking” or not performing degrades a person’s self-worth and in the end does more harm to the employee than an abusive boss could ever do. I worked for a very abusive boss once, and the experience was probably the worst year of my career. One of the only things that helped me get through that year was the knowledge that I was giving my best effort and that I had done right by the organization. Even though my boss didn’t treat me with respect, I had maintained my self-respect because I didn’t let my teammates down. It was that continued performance that got me hired away to another job, a promotion of sorts, that accelerated my career. Had I given up and allowed my performance to suffer, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

The personal reasons are probably more obvious. Everyone has a boss, and if you’re performing, eventually your boss’s boss will notice. Even if no one in your organization notices, your performance won’t go unnoticed by your customers (or even competitors). Always doing your best and demonstrating loyalty to your organization and your boss as a good follower are qualities employers look for when hiring. By working hard for your old boss, you could work yourself into a better position or a promotion.

As a leader, you can build good followers by modeling the behavior yourself. For example, when given direction from your boss, pass it on with the same enthusiasm as if it were your own idea. That might take a little acting at times, but if you hold your boss up to ridicule, you’ll be opening the door to your subordinates to ridicule you. Loyalty is contagious; demonstrate loyalty and you’ll engender loyalty in return.

Another way to model good followership is to work your own job as if you were sitting in your boss’s seat. By trying to understand your boss’s stressors and stakeholders, you can better deliver what your boss expects of you. No one likes to do “re-work,” least of all a busy executive. A follower will be much closer to “final” if she constructs the response to a task or builds a product with her boss in mind. Most leaders are busy, and while most try to communicate clearly, no one is a perfect communicator. Actively listening for context when your boss assigns a task, then anticipating the questions your boss will be asked by their boss, gets the product much closer to final.

Figuratively putting yourself in your boss’s seat also has the benefit of training you for the next level of responsibility. Eventually your boss will want to send someone to a meeting in his place, and the person he or she knows understands the environment the best is likely to get the nod. That sort of confidence and exposure can lead to better performance and even personal advancement. Clearly, it’s bad form to compete with your boss for his job, and that’s not what I’m suggesting. But there are always opportunities for career advancement, and if a leader is committed to developing their subordinates, they won’t pass up the chance to recognize and reward talent. Even if that’s not the case, being a good follower usually makes the team a better place to work in general. When your boss knows he can count on you, you’re much less likely to get micro-managed and much more likely to be successful. Everyone benefits when the leader and team work together smoothly.

3 Military Books Every Leader Should Read

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Actually, I think there’s way more than three, but since everyone is busy, I’ve narrowed it down to a few.

1.  War As I Knew It, Gen George S. Patton, Jr.

The famous WWII general’s memoirs has loads of lessons in leadership, showing initiative, and strategic thinking. Very interesting reading that dispels a lot of myths about one of America’s most celebrated and successful 5-star generals, and delivers some nuggets about leading.

2.  This Kind Of War, T.R. Ferhenbach

A history of the Korean War written in narrative/story style that teaches about followership and first line leadership, with a heathy dose of valor for inspiration. It’s a gripping account of a war America was unprepared to fight told from a variety of perspectives from the individual soldier to the commanding general. Lessons in personal courage and strategy.

3. The Defense Of Hill 781, James R. McDonough

An allegory of modern combat that I made required reading when I was a squadron commander. Leadership lessons about leading a complex organization, taking over as a new leader, and overcoming obstacles to forge a team…with a helping of black humor as well.

“Leading Leaders” Now Available on Amazon!

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Get your copy today over at Amazon.com!


“Leading Leaders” is straightforward advice for leaders at all levels on how to be successful. Developed over a 26 year military career and a lifetime of leading, Colonel Mickey Addison lays out the foundation for character-based leadership. Illustrated through personal stories and anecdotes, Leading Leaders is a must read for anyone who wants to improve their productivity and their character.

Leading Leaders Review: Christian Knutson of The Engineer Leader

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Paperback Cover - Front“To build something that lasts, you must start with a solid foundation.”  This well-known adage forms a foundation itself for Leading Leaders.  Drawing on his experiences leading people and organizations over a twenty-plus year career as an Air Force officer, Mickey weaves in stories that lend depth and context to the five bricks that comprise his leadership foundation.  This foundation works.  Sharing a similar background as Mickey, and some of the same senior leaders, I’ve seen these leadership fundamentals in action around the globe.  And I’ve seen what happens when they’re absent.  Both aspiring and well-seasoned leaders will put this book down better prepared, or re-grounded, in what it takes to lead successfully.

– Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP, Lt Colonel, USAF, author of “The Engineer Leader” weblogKnutson3-300x225


Olympic Sized Endorsement for Leading Leaders!

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Paperback Cover - FrontOur nation is crying out for leaders. In this gem of a book, Colonel Mickey Addison shares the timeless lessons of leadership he learned in sports, in the Boy Scouts, and in a successful career in the US Air Force. Filled with unforgettable stories illustrating the principles of leadership, “Leading Leaders,” is a must read for anyone who desires success at the highest level, whether in sports, in business, or personally. Whether you are just beginning your career, or a seasoned executive, you’ll want to keep a copy of “Leading Leaders” on your desk as a handy reference. Buy it, read it, and apply its principles.

– Ruben Gonzalez – Four-time Olympian, Author of “The Courage to Succeed” OlympicMotivation.com

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First Review of “Leading Leaders”!

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Paperback Cover - FrontI was very privileged that USAFA Endowment President, author, and USAF General (retired) Steve Lorenz reviewed my book Leading Leaders!  His review is below, and I’ll post more as the publication date gets closer.  You can buy his book on Amazon at the link below.

Thank you Sir!

 Colonel Mickey Addison is a leaders’ leader.  I have personally watched him lead and he practices what he writes about in his excellent book, “Leading Leaders”.  His book is easy to read and contains leadership pearls of wisdom that the reader can use to become a truly effective leader. The way the book is written and organized makes his principles easy to follow and will enable the reader who aspires to become a great leader, achieve that goal!

 -General Stephen R. Lorenz (USAF, Ret.) author of Lorenz on Leadership