5 Leadership Best Practices

Dr. Dionne Rosser-Mims taught 5 key practices for leaders at the Troy University Leadership Conference 2018, citing authors Kouzes and Posner:

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart


  1. Choose the best practices you want to use into your Leadership Philosophy and Plan (your philosophy and best practices use for implementation).
  2. Write your leadership philosophy, outline your best practices for implementation, and list your goals for action (what you seek to do).
  3. State intent with others for how you intend to think, make decisions, and act (this helps them understand what and why you are are doing certain things–this models the way, inspires shared vision, challenges the process for those who do not plan or state intent, enables others better, and encourages others because you provide an example and possibly inspire them to also take action).
  4. Explain and show how writing and sharing your philosophy, practices, and plan is part of you modeling the way and inspiring a shared vision for how leaders can serve and develop people.
  5. Encourage others to plan and state intent so they will focus on the vision of the organization aligned with callings in their heart plus help you understand better and faster how to enable them to act.


Thanks to Dr. Rosser-Mims for sharing her insights in the leadership conference and helping me to share highlights with you. She is a past honoree as Outstanding Professor of the Year for Troy University. She serves as Associate Dean of the College of Education.

What is my vision for life?


Have you answered the question,

“What is my vision for life?”

“What kind of person am I called to be?” “What legacy of service am I called to give?”

If you have, you are more likely to fulfill resolutions.

You can increase clarity on your vision as well as improve internalization of important goals and desired habits if you write a description of your desired results–and read the priorities daily.

You can do better if you visualize thinking and doing what is required as you read the vision statement.

You will do even better if you write “why ” this goal is important and “what” you could do to succeed, and then “decide” if the time and energy required to succeed at new results is worth your “resolution” to change priorities and habits, which usually requires spending less time on less important things so you can invest time and energy on higher callings.

You decide what works for you: start small or start big. At least, you can tackle something small to improve your life and move you toward better habits and results.

One of the Top 5 Resolutions is for the Physical Area of Life, often “get in shape” or “lose weight” or “stop smoking.”  Whether your action is taking stairs instead of elevators or walking around the block after dinner or doing a rigorous 7-minute fitness routine, or something more or different, have the courage and commitment of Helen Keller. Some can decide and get it done. Others need accountability partners. Both work. You decide on what you need and get this one done.

Write your vision, at least a page of what’s important and inspiring to you. Read your list or description daily as a habit and when you feel off track. Post it on a mirror or another special place. You can put photos of those affected if you succeed–or if you don’t–to inspire positive action or hold you accountable.

The point is to have a written vision. Do it for yourself. Do it to set an example for others around you.

This requires thinking and writing instead of periodic “wish list thinking.” You can do it in minutes per day–1% of your time resolved for planning your vision is about 10-15 minutes. The results will likely include more inspiration, getting more done in less time, and realization that planning priorities helps you live the life you are called to lead at a higher level, closer to your best-self.

May you Plan and Lead your Life, David

I will do what I can

I cannot do everything;

I will…do the something I can do.

-Helen Keller-

The first of my seven best practices to PLAN and LEAD in LIFE is:

Lead Your Life.

Mindset matters. Discouragement when challenges come is a key reason why some of us quit or fall short on resolutions. That is, if you let discouragement disable you. Yet, we have the option when discouragement comes to show our determination to do our best to follow through, to make the best of the situation, to not quit–unless a better use of your time and energy has emerged to merit you changing priorities.

Part of Lead Your Life means honesty with yourself for what your callings are and consideration of if you are responding to your callings. In short, what do you want or need to do? Are you thinking and acting with commitment and confidence?

If a blind woman demonstrated better optimism and perseverance than you have, then count your blessing for having sight and consider if you are using your blessings fully. Do your resolutions get sidetracked at the first sign of disappointment or discomfort?

It may be time to “Cowboy Up.” Do less complaining and more improving–if you want different results.

Developing an instinctive reaction to disappointment that you do your best in spite of not being able to do everything or as well as you wish can serve you well to keep you moving to do what you can. Those who stop trying when results fall short of expectations usually hurt their chances of success by persisting through the early stages.

You will do better if you write a sentence or more on how you will apply the example of Helen Keller in your life. A vision statement or even a vision sentence can help you internalize your commitment and inspire action. Write it. Read it daily. Choose an action daily to implement. Internalize the vision and habits.

An example of a vision sentence you can use, remember, put in your vision statements or constitution: I do my best for that is all anyone can do. When faced with challenge or disappointing results, I remember why I resolved to complete this goal and press on, optimistic my perseverance will prevail. As I face challenges, I remember, my response can expand my capacities.

My research shows, if you have a written plan including your purposes or callings, you are more likely to develop and demonstrate commitment, courage, and confidence. Most people who assess themselves a “C” or worse on “Commitment” almost always assess themselves a “C” or worse on “Callings and Choices” identified and internalized in a plan. Positively, one key way to boost commitment and confidence is by writing a description of callings, vision, resolutions, desired results, or whatever you wish to call them.

May you Plan and Lead your Life, David

More on Maslow’s Hierarchy and Motivation

Motivation – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Dyson Hierarchy of 7 Motivating Values
Dyson Motivating Values Gold.
If you studied psychology, management, or leadership, you probably studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs published first in 1943. You may find the article by Nichol Bradford interesting. I like her video message as well.
Maslow’s work is a staple in teaching motivation. I had this content at undergraduate, masters, and doctoral level courses. When I taught Principles of Management at Birmingham-Southern College, the text and additional research helped me dig deeper.
I love his model, which has five levels, though found ways to expand (seven levels) and improve on it, which is what inspired development of the Dyson Hierarchy of 7 Motivating Values. I stand on his shoulders though expand and provide a way for people to choose desired levels and plan for them. You can see the 7 Levels in the model provided.
In the workshop I teach, we dig deeper into the ascending values within each of the 7 Core Values so you can choose that motivates you–and those you want to motivate you. Then, you can list them in your plan and write a vision statement plus goal and action. This approach helps you implement the principles of motivation instead of just hear them. We can adapt this model for use with students as well so they learn and write to improve internalization instead of just hear.

Ask the Mom of a Prisoner

A mother called me this Sunday morning. She had received from her daughter a few workbooks I developed she thought might help her son prepare better to get out of prison.

If you wonder if adding Plans for School & Life to school lessons and writing assignments could be valuable to the development and decisions made by people, especially young people, ask the mother of a prisoner is she wishes we would add that preparation to education and what it means to be prepared for citizenship.

This mother is also thinking of how life may be different for her son if he had thought more, wrote more, and prepared more for the plan he desired for the person he wanted to become and the life he wanted to lead.

Do you think a student with even a bit more hope and direction will be more likely to succeed as well as avoid trouble? Of course, you do.

Have your read or heard of the power of goals or other components in plans? Of course, you have.

We can take action now and improve the lives of many. Perhaps you or someone you teach or know needs a better plan for life. Or,  perhaps you would benefit from not having to pay so much in taxes to support those former students who are in prison.

What if the prisoner, that’s mom’s son, and a former student had been more inspired and informed of positive possibilities, would he have been more likely to focus his time and energy toward callings instead of be tempted to do drugs–and the things he did while impaired by drugs, which sent him to prison?

If he had outlined what he could do to achieve possibilities and to solve problems instead of repeatedly think of his problems, would he have had more hope and reason to do good things leading to a better life?

All of us can identify what we do need to do to become our best-selves. Most of us already agree, if you do those things more people will spend their time positively and less people will end up in prison, homeless, or worse.

If we added Best-Self Leadership and Plan for School & Life to K-college and/or career plus help those already in communities, how much better could we do and how much could we save in human capital and in costs for law enforcement and incarceration of too many lost souls.

A country song of the past comes to mind with a line in the lyrics,

“You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

If you want people to improve how well they stand for something good, we can invite and reward them to write their callings and choices.

We can reward students for the effort with grades in school and steps to graduation.

We can include this positive action to earning a way out of prison. “Marking time” can help a man learn the value of freedom or it can kill his spirit and numb his conscience to inspired possibilities. Time without freedom is not the only answer. Some people plan and prepare better in a year than some who exist in the system for a decade. Some veterans making comebacks I have taught and coached made more progress in a month or two than some who stayed in the system for years–with little purpose, planning, or action.

If you value this thinking, you could write an inspired idea in your plan. And, you could support Life Leaders as we seek to help educators prepare our students with plans for school and the seven areas of life. You are invited to follow this blog. David

True Fan: Follow the Process


Do you plan to be an Entertainment Fan or a True Fan?



Will you choose to be a “True Fan” who stands for the principles and practices that define the process to make the team great, in addition to following the season and cheering for team success, or will you only focus on Entertainment?

Entertainment Fans love to watch the games and follow the teams. I do, too.

True Fans also “walk the talk” of the team. True fans not only listen but also put into action lessons of favorite coaches, such as:

  • define the process to improve development that leads to success
  • write mission, vision, goals and plans
  • leadership sets standards and sets examples
  • develop capacity to stay strong and persevere to finish
  • __________ (you probably have another favorite you have heard or even cited).

In my home state of Alabama, we have many good schools, football teams, and athletes. The most famous are Alabama and Auburn because they have been national champions.

Our coaches are paid millions of dollars to be great planners, recruiters, teachers, leaders, motivators, and communicators. The investment is made because their leadership and processes make a difference and provide extra opportunity for great teams, even championships, instead of just good showings. Increased revenues to the universities pay high salaries and produce return on investment (ROI). The University of Alabama president told “60 Minutes” the multi-million dollar compensation to Coach Saban was one of the best investments the university ever made.

Their lessons often highlighted in media interviews, articles, videos, and books apply in football and most other endeavors. Their teachings make a big difference in player development and team successes. As true fans of the team, we can listen, take action, and benefit, too.

If you don’t focus on a target, you will likely “bat at the wind.”

Lou Vickery, former pro baseball player

Two Ways Many Fans Fail and How We Can Succeed Better

Here are just two key ways true fans can learn and succeed better applying what we hear:

1. Process–championship coaches preach having goals and plans, plus breaking down the actions needed to develop and implement. Even Entertainment Fans expect their teams to have such goals or they will call for a new coach to lead their teams.

Apply that principle to preparing young people to be prepared, such as in school, college, and career, and you will eventually conclude we should help our students write Plans for School and Life so they will have more focus and sense of purpose as well as invest time and energy as well as possible. It’s a best practice and is required if we educators and family members want to help students do their best. Everyone seems “to know this idea” though it appears 95% still don’t do it. We could improve get from 5% or less to near 100% by adding a school standard that students write plans. By doing so, especially if parents and teachers wrote their own, the students would have a useful tool and a process they can use for life when making decisions, seeking inspiration, and stating intent with others.

2. Recruiting–if you know anyone who has applied for a job, you know many institutions seem to still follow outdated Human Resource (HR) practices to require “jumping through hoops” (send letter, resume, transcripts from institutions attended, three letters from references, and more as part of an online application to re-state your resume and answer questions (all important for the final three though likely not so for the 100 who apply without being a top candidate). The mindset is “post positions available” then “screen applicants” and “fill positions.”

I asked an HR director what percentage of professionals his college hired came from recruiting versus screening applicants. He looked a bit uncomfortable and said, “We don’t recruit because we always have an applicant to fill the position.”

Coach Malzahn and Coach Saban would not want their recruiters to think this way–all we need to do is fill the position. The coach of this HR director, the president of the college, likely did not know he had a problem so fundamental that when they continue to get less than stellar results he will not even know why.

I encouraged this HR director to take the lead as recruiting the “human capital” the institution needs. And, I offered, this could change his professional title from director to vice president by operating at a higher level bringing senior leadership to the table needed by the president. Unfortunately, he seemed to feel little motivation for doing more than post positions and fill them. The key reason, when the president hired the HR director, he did not state his need for this process. So, the president didn’t even realize he had a problem and the gap continued. This happens when well-intentioned managers do what everyone else is doing without making processes better. If that college president becomes aware of what true fan means and buys in, the HR director will be educated and he will continue to do his job–though at a higher level–he does not know his beliefs are holding his institution back.

If our college coaches operated like this college administrator and stopped recruiting talent and attitude, relying only on reviewing applications and resumes, how long do you think it would take to lose the title of national champion? You probably agree, one to four years.

In employee and student-athlete development, the goal is not to “fill” the position but rather to attract and recruit the best persons we possibly can with a sense of purpose and ability to share and advance our mission. Recruitment is an act of leadership when a professional believes in the mission enough to call someone with potential to invite him to learn of the mission and explore joining it. Like with a star athlete, envision and communicate how he can contribute and how you can help her develop for success with your team.

Do you want the coach of your favorite team to recruit talent or wait for applications?

If you lead a school, college, corporation, or another organization that seeks to excel, learn the HR process your institution uses to hire talent and ask the team to outline the best process they recommend for helping you attract those with callings and character that match the mission. You likely will see gaps to improve.

This could lead to helping your team go to the next level and operate more like a champion. Some of the people you need may not apply for a position though may receive a call. We need a paradigm shift in this area of HR and once done, the staff will like it better and be proud of their results, in addition to alumni and other fans.

Opportunities for You as a True Fan

If a parent/grandparent, the next time you hear your coach speak of the importance of processes and goals, you can discuss applications with the child or friend watching with you. Offer an example of what you plan to do and ask what they can do to implement coach’s advice.

If a leader in an organization or mentor to young professionals or emerging leaders, connect the advice you hear with what you will do. Employees sometimes spend time “talking sports” at work though this way they will more likely discuss how we can implement the processes taught by their favorite coach that can boost plans and performance.

Your loved one likely has opportunities and challenges not yet spoken to you. If you inspire him or her to outline mission and vision, goals and actions, with options to problems, you will help your child or associate have a better chance at purpose, success, and joy.

If you are a leader in a school or college, community, or church who wants to discuss implementation of concepts introduced here, I welcome your contact because it is part of my calling to help you help students and true professionals get more of what they need sooner in life. David@LifeLeadersInstitute.org or 205-422-6484. If you like reading writings like this, I invite you to subscribe to this journal on WordPress and follow Dr. David Dyson on Facebook.



Best-Self Strategy

Parents, teachers, mentors–this can be a resource for your influence on students/loved ones
Consider these two sets of best practices for your best-self strategy, which summarizes how you do your best and can be used to coach others who ask about how to do their best
(“Mom/Dad/Teacher, you keep telling me to do my best; how do I do that?”).
Hint: there is more to a good answer than “work hard with a positive attitude.”
Dr. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
(taught at the Life Leaders seminar, from the book of that name)
  1. Be proactive.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.
  3. First things first.
  4. Think win-win.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  6. Synergize.
  7. Sharpen the saw.
Dr. Dyson’s 7 Best Practices to Plan and Lead your Life
(developed beginning 1987 and a model for Life Leaders)
  1. Lead your Life.
  2. Plan for Life.
  3. Have an Impact.
  4. Balance your Life.
  5. Live Your Priorities.
  6. Assess and Adjust.
  7. Renew and improve.
Dyson Life Leadership Model 1987 Gold
For more info or action
  • attend Life Leaders public seminar Thursday, February 4, near Birmingham (if you cannot attend, you can receive handouts, slides, and a coaching call–David@LifeLeadersInstitute.org
  • sponsor events for those you serve (training, coaching, program dev)
  • sponsor programs for students-teachers-parents planning for school and life
  • sponsor classroom resources on why students are “Free to Flourish”
  • sponsor seminars and coaching for people Mastering Goliaths, making comebacks, earning empowerment, sustaining better beyond homelessness, recovering from war or other stresses, others motivated to be and do their best
  • invite Dr. Dyson or another speaker to present at your civic club or city hall
  • download or donate for books and workbooks at the web site

This photo is of Dr. Covey teaching in Birmingham at a Life Leaders event in 1993:

Covey1993BSC.jpgDr. Stephen Covey (1932-2012), author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, lectured at the National Leadership Seminar presented by Life Leaders hosted at Birmingham-Southern College in January 1993. Dr. Neal R. Berte hosted. Dr. David Dyson moderated and opened the seminar. Dr. Covey taught on the “Seven Habits” in the morning session and “Principle-Centered Leadership” in the afternoon. Sponsors of 35-70+ tickets each were BellSouth, Protective Life, Alabama Power Company,  Southern Company Services, and Parisian. The College sponsored facilities, parking, and personnel. Life Leaders Institute and Life Leaders Association (then called the Personal Leadership Association) organized the event to advance personal leadership in Alabama and America.