Top 5 Posts from Leading Leaders for 2015

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Thanks to you, my readers, for making this past year the best yet! Not every post was popular, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when a post “catches on” when I didn’t expect it. Below are the top 5 posts, by hits, from the dozens I produced this year, the ones that resonated. Is your favorite here? If not, what subjects would you like me to cover in 2016?

The Top 5:


Dad’s “Sage” Advice for Freshman Success at College – 2015 Edition

My annual advice for new college students! With my youngest heading off to college last fall, this post was particularly meaningful to me.


mcgillicuddyAloha ‘Oe Major General McGillicuddy

I said aloha ‘oe (farewell) to several colleagues this past year as they transitioned from their military careers to civilian life. Maj Gen Paul McGillicuddy has become a friend and a mentor–glad to remain connected!


Waimanalo ValleyMalama i Ka Pono

As a writer who loves words, the nuance in Hawaiian words and phrases inspires me. One of the words I really like is malama (“to take care”). The title of this post is malama i ka pono which roughly translates as “to take care of each other righteously,” or as Bill and Ted might have said, “Be excellent to each other.”




wingman3Be A Good Wingman

Good followership is as essential as good leadership in the success of the team. If the leader is the only one thinking, the team will be mired in mediocrity. Good followership is an important part of the Leaders Lead principle.


castle-conondrumLeading Through Tragedy – Part 1

Tragedy is a part of the human experience: we can’t escape it and as leaders we get one chance to get that right. Whether that tragedy is the loss of a co-worker to an untimely death, a teammate with a life threatening disease, or the loss of an employee’s family member, leaders have to be ready to step up and guide their teams through the trauma of those events.

What was your favorite post this year?

Be Free – Part I

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, The Five Be's

9215883633_0b13a03051_o“Freedom” is a word often misused in our current vocabulary. We view our “freedoms” in such a broad manner that the word sometimes loses its meaning. Particularly in the case of young people, “freedom” is synonymous with “doing whatever I like”, but that’s not authentic freedom. Authentic freedom is being able to choose what’s good for you, and yet remaining unencumbered by things that prevent you from being healthy. In fact, unbounded freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want is not freedom; it is license.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

– Nelson Mandela

It’s really not a radical concept, the idea that freedom is bound by responsibilities and limits; in fact it’s preserved in our system of laws and our notion of justice. We regulate speech and assembly both for the common good and for the individual’s good. People are not permitted to gather for the purpose of fomenting violence, and we don’t allow a person to run into a theater and shout “fire” without just cause. Ideally, our laws are constructed to both protect the common good, and safeguard individual liberty. However, the freedom we enjoy as Americans is not unfettered liberty. We are free but we do not have license to do whatever we want.

Authentic freedom is an individual’s ability to choose what is good without being impeded or bound, be it an internal or external restriction. If an individual’s appetites or another person’s demands prevent the individual from making good choices, then we can objectively say that the individual is not free.

Of Surfing, Leading, and Be’s

Posted Leave a commentPosted in How To Change, Podcast, Practical Leadership, The Five Be's


Aloha everyone! I am privileged to appear on The Civil Engineering podcast with leader, career coach, and former Air Force engineer Christian Knudson.  Episode 19: Riding The Wave of Change As a Civil Engineer Leader – goes live today Wednesday Nov. 25 on iTunes at 6am EST.

This weeks Civil Engineer podcast features Mickey Addison, career military officer, civil engineer, author and senior leader about developing effective leadership in your civil engineering career.  Listen in to his three steps for civil engineering leaders navigating and implementing organizational change.  Plus learn about his new book, “The 5 Be’s”, available now!

Get Your Copy of The 5 Be’s Today!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Announcements, Books, The Five Be's

I’m excited to announce my latest title now available in pocketbook from Lead The Way Media!

Logo Cover - FrontIn a world full of “no” and “don’t”, The 5 Be’s For Starting Out is a positive vision of who to “Be.” Based on a lifetime of mentoring young adults, The 5 Be’s is a roadmap to living a healthy, fulfilling, and successful life!

  • Be Proud Of Who You Are: Everyone has something to contribute — and so do you!
  • Be Free: Authentic freedom means having the ability to choose what’s good for you!
  • Be Virtuous: The virtues are the “guardrails” for success in life!
  • Be Balanced:  Keep your Mind, Body, and Spirit nourished to  keep your balance!
  • Be Courageous: Courage comes in many forms: physical and moral courage — find yours!

The 5 Be’s For Starting Out was a huge hit at a recent industry conference, and I’m proud to offer it as a pocketbook. It will also be available as an ebook soon! The 5 Be’s  makes a great stocking stuffer for the young adult in your life–or anyone looking to make a fresh start.

Click the button below to get your copy now!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Excerpt: “The Five Be’s” – My Newest Book Coming in October ’15!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Books, The Five Be's

Five Be's - Facebook banner-001I’m happy to offer you an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Five Be’s, now going through post-production editing enroute to an October publishing date!

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Really, it was not just the Air Force Military Training Instructors who’d told them “don’t”; they’d been hearing that word a great deal throughout their lives.           I stood in front of a group of young Airmen at the First Term Airmen’s Center (FTAC) as they sleepily waited to hear what the old colonel had to say to them. With few exceptions, they were about 19 years old and living away from home for the first time in their lives. They had all volunteered to serve their country in a time of war, most of them in Kindergarten or Elementary School during the 9/11 attacks. Before they appeared in new Air Force blue uniforms in that FTAC classroom, they had been through 12 weeks of Basic Military Trainingfor indoctrination into the Air Force, and Air Force Technical Training to learn the skills each would employ in their Air Force Specialty. For their first six months in the Air Force, they had heard their leaders give them a lot of “don’ts.”

As we raise young people into adulthood, we spend a lot of time setting boundaries.  In fact, most of what young people hear as they grow is a list of “don’t’s.”  When we’re very young, we hear “don’t throw food on the floor”, “don’t speak disrespectfully to your elders”, “don’t take toys away from your friends.”  As we grow, the “don’ts” begin to pile up: don’t play in the street, don’t forget your manners, don’t use bad language, etc. Even in adulthood, we are inundated with “don’ts” regarding our behavior: don’t say those words, don’t wear those clothes,don’t eat this, don’t touch that.

All these “don’ts” form the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and within reason, boundaries are a necessary part of establishing appropriate behavior. Manners, after all, are intended to make everyone comfortable so each person’s dignity and feelings are safeguarded. All human groupings develop norms for behavior each group member is expected to adhere to. They vary in complexity and formality, but norms…boundaries or “don’ts”…are common. Of course, we can overdo boundary setting, and when there are too many boundaries, we call that tyranny.  In general, however, boundaries and standards of behavior (“manners”) are necessary to the function of any human society.

What we generally left unsaid when establishing our group norms is a target to aim at.  It’s not sufficient to merely describe the outside bounds of the target, you also have to show people what the bulls eye looks like.  That’s what this book is all about.

People can function in a world of “do’s and don’ts,” but knowing what to do and what not to do really only describes external behavior. What people, particularly young people, really need is a vision of who we want them to be.  With that vision, people are then empowered to reach for something rather thanavoiding something.

To illustrate that point, imagine the following:

You’re in a pitch black room with the task of finding a door somewhere in the room. What would you do? Most people would find the walls first, feeling their way slowly around the walls until they find the door, then opening the door to exit. But what if the door were a trap door in the floor? Or a staircase in the center of the room? What if there’s no walls or the walls give way when you push on them? Simply being told there’s a door in the room isn’t enough information to find the door. You have even less chance if the walls are missing or not firm enough to help guide you. Giving a person a vision of who we want them to be is like turning on an exit light in the room. The light illuminates the exit and gives you a direction to walk. It could even be bright enough to illuminate the entire room.

What this little thought experiment illustrates is the need for both boundaries and a target: standards of behavior and a positive vision of who we want to be.

That’s what I wanted to give those bright young Airmen at FTAC: a positive vision of who I want them to be. A vision of a person who is healthy and integrated, balanced and free. the kind of person who can be as proud of themselves and who they are as we are of them. I wanted to give them a vision to aim at, so they could grow into the kind of people others would follow.

And now I offer that same vision of who I wanted them to be to you. It’s the kind of person I want to be as well.


Follow my author page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @mickeyaddison

Watch for my newest title, The Five Be’s, in October 2015!!

My book, Leading Leaders, is available at the Lulu StoreAmazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble.

5 Things Your Boss Wants You To Know

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Advice Column, Leading Leaders

This time of year I always feel compelled to write advice for young people. Maybe it’s just the season, or maybe it’s I was always a little slow on the uptake as a young person. I made a few avoidable mistakes that if I’d just gotten a little help at the beginning perhaps wouldn’t have happened.

If you’re a high school or college-age person and just entering the workforce, then I have some words just for you today. It’s stuff I wish I’d known–that everyone else seemed to know intuitively.

1. Have Values and Stick to Them

The most important thing you can do is have a moral core and stick to it. This is not always an easy thing to do; it requires courage and fortitude. A contract to work in an organization is not a requirement to compromise your values. While every decision is not a moral crisis, there might arise a decision to participate in something that would tempt you to compromise on your beliefs and values. Don’t give in to that temptation. No job, no matter how much you’re paid or how lovely your co-workers, is worth compromising your integrity. Be an adult about it and go to your boss politely and forthrightly and tell them you can’t do such-and-such because it would cause you a moral dilemma. It might be a simple misunderstanding, or your boss might have not understood the implications of what he/she asked you to do–but your conscience should demand you defend your values. It might mean parting ways with the company. If that’s true, then you can do that secure in the knowledge you kept your integrity. That’s no small thing.

2. Don’t Follow the Crowd–Unless the Crowd is Right

At commencement speeches across the planet, speakers exhort graduates are to “make your own way” and “don’t follow the crowd.” That’s generally good advice; but like all advice, you have to take it both in the context of your own experience and the place you’re implementing it. Sometimes, the “crowd” is “right!  Never compromise your morals or your integrity, BUT “make your own way” is not license to violate the company dress code or evangelize your co-workers to your own brand of politics. Social norms and company policy, like protocol and tradition, exist to make people feel comfortable and help people get along. You don’t have to be a “Stepford Employee,” nor do you have to conform to your employer’s or your colleagues’ political or religious beliefs–but you do have to be polite and do your best to fit in.

3. Take Chances

Did I just contradict myself? No, I did not–growing in your profession and personal life means taking chances. Take on work that stretches you, offer your friendship to the workplace loaner, get involved in the professional society or group supporting your industry–these are the sorts of things employers and leaders notice, and the sorts of things that help you grow as a person. “Taking Chances” doesn’t mean making potentially personally destructive choices, but taking chances professionally and personally can help you grow into the person you want to be.

4. “Don’t Be Stupid”

When I first began CrossFit, I read the rules on the message board, and came across this gem: “Don’t Be Stupid.” I found this to be excellent advice. Any new thing will have activities for the beginner and for the advanced practitioner–know where you fall on that continuum. If you’re a beginner, start there then as you prove your ability to yourself you can move up. It’s always better to be adding weight to the bar than being out of action for weeks because you injured yourself on your first set.

5. Believe Your Eyes

Fight hard for what you believe in personally and professionally, but when you lose the argument and someone above you makes a decision, then move out and get it done. The corollary to this rule is when you see a bad outcome to a project or decision, then believe it to be true. I’ve worked with too many people who either disagreed with a decision made by higher ups or simply didn’t have the vision to see what was plain to others. They’d make some impassioned plea as to “Why Things Were Not What They Seemed” which is another way of saying, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” That attitude is the opposite of helpful, and it both delays the inevitable and destroys the effectiveness of the organization.  Live in this world.

BONUS: 6. Be On Time, Give A Full Day’s Work

I know…this is “six” when I only said “five,” but for your new boss this last piece of advice is very important and frankly should be a given. The fact that it’s not a baseline of common behavior means old guys like me have to write it: be on time. On time means you’re ready to work when the office/shop opens, and you’re not walking in at 7:59 for an 8 o’clock start.  In the military, we have a saying: “If you’re not early, you’re late.” If your workday starts at 8 a.m., then you should be at your place of business at 7:45 a.m. Believe me, you’ll feel much better if you’re not racing to be “on time” and your boss will notice who’s committed to the work and who’s not. Your boss hired you because she/he wants your skills and your effort–don’t change their opinion of you because you are dashing in the door at the last minute. Then, by all means give your employer a full days’ work.

Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of eight books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating TeamsMickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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Guest Post: A Valedictorian’s View

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Guest Post

20150529_173904Administration, faculty, staff, parents, family, and friends, I think I speak for everyone here when I say thank you for all your support these past four years. Your individual attention, long hours, and encouragement made it possible for us be here today. Mom and Dad, you have especially shown me unwavering support—they’d kick me off the stage before I could even begin to express my gratitude, so I’ll leave it as a simple thank you.

Okay Class of 2015, I know its graduation night, but I have a pop quiz for you: What is unbreakable, up for a good adventure, comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, never breaks a sweat, and has a lifetime guarantee? If you haven’t figured it out yet—it’s the HydroFlask. One report says that 9 out of 10 people carry one regularly, and we’ve all noticed these colorful steel water jugs under desks, on lab tables, and hanging from backpacks. With so many of us cradling our precious HydroFlasks, I figured there must be more to these things than just a container for water. Come on Expos Writing kids, let’s dive into the symbolism of our Hydros.

Hug your Hydro like a baby, although many of us probably already do, because it’s a reminder to embrace our individual achievements. No two are alike—will your life be a bright pink, wide mouth, 32 ounce kind of life? Maybe the subdued green, flip-top 18 ounce is more what you’re after. Our HydroFlasks are kind of like our successes—each one unique to us. You can’t compare one Hydro to another, just like you can’t compare one life’s work to the next. Some wins are pretty obvious—like making it to this field here tonight. Others, however, aren’t so universal. Success is not one-size fits all—there’s no one “right” way to be successful in life. Each one of us, class of 2015, are successful when we find a purpose—doing what we were created to do, and doing it well. Hug your Hydro because it reminds us to be comfortable with our own individual gifts, achievements, and successes, knowing that our lives are as individualized as our HydroFlasks.

As we take what we’ve learned here at Moanalua out into the world, we start a fresh chapter of our lives, and this time, we have the pen. We have the opportunity to take control and make deliberate choices—don’t let someone else write your life for you. The idea of not having our lives controlled by the mystical and random bell schedules here at Moanalua is a little scary—especially when it seemed like just yesterday when we were all going crazy for Silly Bands. I could give the formal definition of fear from Webster’s dictionary, but for me, true fear is that moment we’ve all experienced and dread—the sound of a Hydro crashing to the ground.

We’ve all been there—you’re in class, and you hear the sudden, sharp clang of metal meeting concrete. Fear washes over you, and maybe you frantically feel for your own Hydro just to make sure it’s still okay. The class goes quiet and then lets out a collective groan of agony over the fallen HydroFlask. For me, the worst part is having to pick it up and assess the damage. You turn it over, and there it is—a big ol’ dent.

Yet still, hug your Hydro, even when it has dents. Like our HydroFlasks, we’re all going to fall. You haven’t met the mark, you missed that deadline, you tried your best but still came up short. We’re all scared of failure, sure, but we have a responsibility to use the education we’ve been given to the best of our abilities. It’s silly to have a HydroFlask and not use it because we’re afraid of dents, and it isn’t different with our education. We must go forth with the tools and knowledge that our teachers have gifted us and reach for our goals, aspire to dream, pursue our purpose. Yes, they’ll be dents and dings along the way, but that shouldn’t keep us from exploring this great adventure called life. As Ms. Frizzle said, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

Graduating class of 2015, congratulations. We made it through all the ups and downs and left turns of high school, and are ready to find our own success in the next stage of life. You remember that quiz at the beginning of this speech? I told you the answer was a HydroFlask, but if you think about it, it could also be the class of 2015. Although we definitely sweated these past couple days while our Hydros stayed cool, we are also unbreakable. We are individualized. We are up for a good adventure. And we, class of 2015, can make our own lifetime guarantee to live gratefully for all Moanalua has given us.

So the next time you see your HydroFlask, remember, and hug it proudly.

Thank You.


Haley Addison is the daughter of Mickey and Betsy Addison. She was the Valedictorian speaker at the Commencement ceremony for the Moanalua High School Class of 2015. This speech is published with her permission.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! (And Giveaway) -UPDATED Winner!

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in Giveaways, Holidays


Marc is our winner, congrats! Look for an email from me with instructions on how to claim your prize!

Happy New Year from Hawaii!

I’ll resume weekly blogging next week, but in the mean time I thought I’d ask you to comment with your 2015 goals. A few of my goals for 2015 are to ride in the Haleiwa Metric Century and Honolulu Century Ride, and to publish at least one book and one article in a mainstream business mag.

Goal setting is different from resolution making in two important ways. First, good goals are usually more concrete and achievable. Second and perhaps most importantly, people actually intend to reach goals while resolutions usually die out by March. (Just compare the gym on Jan 2nd and March 2nd for some validation of that last statement!) Leaders should take the time to set personal goals, and keep them in mind as the year progresses. Don’t forget to reach a little when goal setting! A well-balanced leader can harmonize personal and professional/organizational goals; a practice that inspires his teammates to be well-balanced people too. Healthy employees make for a productive team!

Now for the giveaway!

I’m giving away a signed copy of Leading Leaders to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is comment below with at least one (1) of your 2015 goals! Winner will be selected at random on Jan 3, and the names posted on Jan 4th!

With warm aloha from Hawaii and best wishes from my family to you and yours!