Letter from the President

February 2014

Following the Leader

Following, Leading and Moving Forward

I would like to share with you my aspirations moving forward as individuals, co-workers, family members, and leaders in 2014.

My friend, Ford Taylor says, "If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together." Given that my fastest days are behind me, I remain committed to going far. It is important that FSE moves forward together. Let me challenge us in 2014 to consider two things that will empower us to move forward together. The first is that we are all following something or someone. The second is that we are all leading something or someone. Who, what and how we follow will have a profound effect on who, what and how we lead and, ultimately, determine where we go.

There are some important issues when deciding who or what to follow. There are many ideas and individuals with powerful messages today. Unfortunately, not all of them are leading in good directions. In the information age, the trappings of money, fame, and success do not necessarily equate to achievement without regret. It is more important than ever to take the time to determine if who or what we follow is leading us to a good place. With that in mind, I think it's important to understand:

Are we following the truth and are those we follow telling us the truth. If we journey with them, will we end up on solid footing, or will we find we reside in a house of cards? Good leaders deal in the currency of truth. They will tell the truth, regardless of the cost. They will tell us the truth, even if it hurts. When we understand things that are true, we can act and react with confidence. We can know where we stand.

Choose to follow someone who has been where you want to go. Experience is a great asset that, when shared, can spare others the price of time and resources to change course, or rework or repair. The efficiencies of experience and expertise are vast resources for an individual or an organization willing to learn. Pay attention to those who have traveled the road you are on and they will show you the pitfalls, dead ends, detours, and pot holes, and how you can avoid them.

Follow someone who loves hard work. Even the most exciting and exhilarating paths require accomplishment of tasks that are anything but exciting or exhilarating. Effective leaders will roll up their sleeves, pushing and pulling more than their share of the weight when required. Leaders who love hard work will not require more than they are willing to invest. The best leaders have been long in the fight for good causes and have emerged bloodied but victorious. Are those you have chosen to follow working with you or just watching you work?

My second point is that we must realize that we all can lead someone or something. John Maxwell says that anyone who has influence on someone is, by definition, a leader. Who are you influencing and in what manner are you influencing them? Parents are leaders, spouses are leaders, and neighbors are leaders. Can you, by upping your game, accelerate the success of someone who looks to you for answers or direction? Can you use your experience and yes, even your failures, to spare someone the time and pain of starting over? Can you be a positive influence on the job, in your home, in your community? Think about this:

Pass on a positive attitude. Good leaders accentuate the value of a worthwhile mission and lend energy to every task they undertake. They assign value to those who work with them to accomplish a common cause. They celebrate achievement and fight through adversity. They value "the right way" over "their way."

Share the credit. Good leaders focus on the mission and not themselves. They leave skin in the game and they rejoice in the success of their team. They don't grow weary of learning or improving and they share their expertise.

Value the truth. Good leaders place great value on truth. They spend much time and much energy searching for and knowing what is true. Not their version of the truth, but the correct version of the truth. Then they make sure they share truth with those they have influence over. It may be, "I have to improve" or "You have to improve" or "We have to improve," but the truth gets passed on constructively and respectfully.

Care about people. The core of service is value to other people. Good leaders serve people; not products, not systems, not procedures. The client is not an agency or an organization; it's people. The company is not a corporation, or a building; it's people. If we set out to serve people, we will remain adaptable regardless of their needs.

I look forward to 2014 with anticipation of success. I do so because we have many good people worthy to be followed among us. I suspect that as we go forward, we will find that there will be others among us who will step up and take the opportunity to influence us for good: the good of our company, our families, our communities, our country and the world.

Here is my challenge for all of us. Can we find one more positive influence to provide direction for our work and our homes in 2014? Can we improve one relationship at work or in our family in the coming year? Can we intentionally lead someone in a way that will improve their life in the months ahead? This is what service is all about.

Have a happy and prosperous 2014. You have my highest regard and my best wishes.

Ken Dickerson