What Leaders Really Do


Nearly 30 years ago, What Leaders Really Do (May need HBR subscription to view fully) was written by John P. Kotter for the Harvard Business Review. This makes it far from the “latest and greatest” information available to us, but that does not diminish the impact it can have.

The article discusses the difference between management and leadership. Management relates to the planning and predictable nature of daily tasks. It means finding the right people for the job and executing effective problem-solving. Leadership is the creation of a vision of what the company ought to be and finding people which align with said vision. It means creating a level of credibility and motivation within each employee to get them to believe in the vision.

Two concepts stood out to me from the article, motivating the employees and decentralized organization. The article talks about leadership including the process of motivating people but it does not go into how to accomplish this. I would offer motivation needs to be a multi-faceted approach. At RAWR, we work with organizations and their approach to motivation based on Achievement Goal Theory, Self-determination Theory, and Attribution Theory. This means creating an environment where people are focused on improving their own abilities and making goals geared towards their improvement. The goals they make should be based on their core values. Finally, daily, there are successes and failures that occur. Attributing the successes as something that can be repeatable and the failures as something that is isolated and changeable can lead to more motivation.

The concept of decentralization stood out as well. A few years ago, I had read two books which were recommended to me, The Starfish and the Spider and One from Many. The first showing various companies with such practices and the effectiveness it enabled. The latter was about the formation of Visa, the credit card company we use but may not know much about. A common premise is that to have fast progress, decentralization should occur.

A decentralized system gives more power to individuals, allowing for faster decisions and actions. Most of us have experienced situations where some level of management or the organization is stifling because things need to go through bureaucratic processes. These processes can be a form of handcuffs, slowing the progress. At first, decentralization may seem worrisome, but it is important to realize that even under such a system, help and guidance can be provided on a continued basis, allowing for growth and sustainability.

Throughout this blog, there have been a few resources discussed and the citations are below. Something to consider when coming across any resource, whether it is new, 30 years old, or much older, is identifying how it connects to other resources. Taking this analytical approach can help you process the information and make sense of it for yourself.

Here are citations for reference:

Brafman, O., & Beckstrom, R. A. (2006). The starfish and the spider: The unstoppable power of leaderless organizations. Penguin.

Duda, J. L., & Nicholls, J. G. (1992). Dimensions of achievement motivation in schoolwork and sport. Journal of educational psychology84(3), 290.

Hock, D. (2009). One from many: Visa and the rise of chaordic organization. ReadHowYouWant. com.

Kotter, J. P. (2001). What leaders really do (pp. 85-96). Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist55(1), 68.

Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological review92(4), 548.


Putting the Big 4 into Practice


Over the last few weeks, I have been conducting performance reviews with my team at work. I had a wonderful opportunity to sit down (about an hour at a time) with each employee to talk about their work performance and to gain valuable feedback about our work environment and how we can improve. This got me thinking about RAWR’s top four areas of expertise: (1) Leadership Development, (2) Self-Satisfaction, (2) Maximizing Performance Capabilities, and (4) Better Training.

These four areas of expertise or what I will use for this blog, the Big 4 can be utilized in your daily lives to improve a handful of categories. In this case, the Big 4 was used to give feedback, receive feedback and collaborate ideas to better the process.

Leadership Development

I do not see myself as a manager. I don’t like this word. To me, this is someone who sits behind the pack barking orders. I like to see myself as a store leader. I may delegate a task that needs to be done but will always be there working side-by-side or leading by example. My “position” doesn’t make me greater than anyone else. My “position” allows me to be a leader and develop leaders within the team. During my performance review, I ask what time of manager (or leader) they would. This gives me insight on their thinking when it comes to guiding individuals and it allows me to understand with motivates and does not motivate this person. During our time I always like to give them challenges to help with their overall development and empower them to be a leader among the team.


This is a great time for me to discover what motivates them as a person. I ask engaging questions to understand more about their lives and their goals. This is a great time to talk about the environment we try to create at work and situations that will make them stop before they react. My goal is not to pursue anyone but to give them enough evidence to believe in the culture that we create at work. Not everyone has the same mindset about things, and may not take certain things as serious as others but it is important that people develop self-worth in the position that they are in. It is important that they understand that they have an opportunity to develop themselves and make an impact on others.

Maximizing Performance Capabilities

At times this can be a really fun and engaging time in the performance reviews or a really difficult situation. No one likes to tell other people that they are lacking in areas. But, if communicated properly it can be a positive experience for both. People need to know that you care about them and their abilities. If someone is not meeting expectations it is important that you discover why. Yes, you have your observation of why these people are lacking certain skills, but communicating and asking questions can be extremely beneficial. Maybe someone was not meeting expectation because they were trained wrong and you had no idea, maybe someone has a lack of motivation because you are not challenging them. Getting to know someone and how they tick can change an average player to an all-star. Get to know the people you work with and find out what motivates them and how to motivate them.

Better Training

This is a time I want to know where they see a lack of training in our program. This is a great view through the eyes of someone who has gone through training and doing the day-to-day grind. There may be elements we are missing in our training and we might not see it. Or there are things missing that you and the other person both see and agree on. I want my team to be involved and implement their ideas and see that we are putting them into effect. I want to know how they felt we trained them and where they felt like they were not given the tools to succeed. This overall feedback helps better our future employees and current. And overall it helps the leadership team become better as a whole.

The Big 4 can be broken down and analyzed separately or can be talked about as a whole. What areas in your development or your organization’s development could be improved? If you say none then you are not taking a deep enough look. There is always room for improvement. If you are interested in having RAWR come to your organization or want to work one-on-one with us contact us at rawrnonprofit@gmail.com to set up a meeting to see how we can help one another.

-Sean C.

Updating Past Teachers


Last night I was out to dinner with two good buds. After a few minutes, we realized the people who were seated next to us were an old coach of ours and his family. Without getting into the details, let us say simply that it’s been over a decade since those days. We were going to say hi initially but decided to let their family set in. As the night carried on, there was no good way to say hello, well at least without feeling like we would be intruding. Finally, as they began to leave, we said hello and took a few moments to chat.

There were some funny topics, some brief mention of memories or common people, and an update on current life. It felt nice for the three of us to say we were doing relatively well. Our high school wasn’t known as the greatest but it was fine. There was a tone of surprise and happiness in both him and his wife. Then after a few minutes, we said good bye.

I thought for a moment afterward and realized it felt nice to connect again. Teachers or coaches have big impacts on our lives. I know who I am is due in large part to those who put time and effort into helping me grow academically, athletically, but also as a person. I think it is nice to reach out when the opportunity arises to tell them we are doing well. They can then reflect on the positive impact they have had. I believe they are teachers or coaches, to help others. Next time I’m in a position to talk with an old teacher or coach I certainly will capitalize on it and hope you do as well.




Book Summaries with Jeremy

Glass alcoholic drink wine antique books in front warm fireplace.

Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehany 


Phil’s basketball journey is addressed throughout the book. It starts with his playing days, covers his start as a coach, and of course the successes he had with the Bulls and the Lakers. The ending of the book is after the Lakers lost their playoff series against the Mavericks. Throughout he relives some game time moments, describing what happened in certain games and in a variety of playoff series. Phil has always been more well known for his philosophy of zen and bringing his players together to play well-rounded basketball. He discusses his various approaches to doing this, sitting quietly, doing yoga, meditation, and different ways he’d communicate with the team. At times he mentioned various zen, or Buddhist teachers and intertwines those lessons with what the team or he as an individual were going through. He gives an inside look at the behind the scenes issues and concerns that would arise and his thoughts along the way.

Influence on me:

The simplicity of the attitude in the book struck me. There are times when there was great success or failure and Phil had a very matter of fact attitude. Instead of dwelling or letting it get carried away each event was treated as just an event. Even with this approach, there was not a lack of emotion. He would say when he was angry or sad and cried. These are just events and they do take place. If we want to let them constantly be a part of us and weigh us down then we will. Also as individuals we all constantly learn and grow, and sometimes we want to learn and grow how to be strong in difficult situations, or how to not let anger or rage overcome us in situations, but unfortunately, the only way to test and see if we have grown is to go through such trying times. To me, it seems that even when things seem taxing and difficult, it really just enables us to have an opportunity to see how we are in that moment, and to learn from it. The other main concept was being in the moment. This idea of chopping wood and carrying water. Those are simple tasks and other emotional things may happen around it, but in the moment it’s not beneficial to be elsewhere, instead, we need to be in the moment and focus on the task at hand.

Check out more books summaries here. Share with us books you have read lately and the impact they have had on you. Email us at rawrnonprofit@gmail.com


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Your Community: Your inner core of true friendship


Yes, I regret my younger years in school and not creating life-long relationships. I was selfish and so focused on a goal that I didn’t let others in. I got good grades, achieved a lot of accomplishments, spent many sleepless nights, and in the end, I don’t have any good memories. This all changed in grad school when I learned how to balance school and my social life. Now being older, I understand the importance of relationships and which are worth holding onto and others that need to be let go. I really enjoy this quote, “I am who I am because of who we all are.” –Ubuntu

These days, I keep my circle of friends small and tight. I only want people in my life that are positive, add value to my life and I am able to add value to their life. I have had to say goodbye to a lot of people that were just toxic in my life. I am much happier now. Within my circle, I have four friends that are the core of my community. These four are: (1) The Entrepreneur, (2) The Challenger, (3) The Believer, and (4) The

The Entrepreneur

This person is the most recent to come in my life but has made a huge impact. This person strives to set out a life that will bring value to others’ lives through past and present experiences. This person has lived life to the fullest, letting themselves explore who they are and what they are meant to do in the world. We are so similar in many ways. We are always helping each other with our current and future endeavors. We are serious, and always seeking new knowledge. But we are also ready to let loose and enjoy the moment. We understand the saying, “work hard, play hard.” We never lose focus of our dreams and ensure we are pushing ourselves to our full potential.

The Challenger

This person is fierce and confident. I look up to this person for many reasons. They are willing to take a risk and discover their next best step in life. When we talk, this person is not afraid to disagree and ask me questions after questions to ensure that I am doing everything that I can to my fullest. I am not threatened by these questions. I know their heart is in the right place and only want the best for me. They push me to discover new potential of myself. This person does not judge and helps me in my weak areas of life to ensure that I grow stronger. This person is very analytical about everything that they do in their lives and in the end it shows because they understand every move that they have made and will make. The challenger will empower me to grow and grow. They will make sure I never am alone and that they have my back.

The Believer

If this person says he will do it, he will do it. This has been proven time and time again. This person will grind and sacrifice but come out victorious in the end. I have not met many people who will accomplish what they say they will do with their lives, and this person never disappoints. The vision they have for their life is a beautiful piece of art that unfolds right in front of my eyes. This person is the brother I never had but will be my brother until I die. This person only has a positive outlook on life and not a negative thought is talked about. The love this person has for friends and family is extremely heartwarming. I strive to have similar values in my life.

The Foundation

This person is why I am here today. This person has stood next to me through hell and back. They have seen me in my darkest hours and all my nastiness but knows who I am truly deep inside. They are forgiving and supportive. They are the person I strive to be because they are the missing things in my life. The missing feelings, compassion, fire, and love. At the end of the day, this person knows my ins and outs and allows me to truly be transparent with my feelings. No judgment will be passed. Each day with this person is a learning experience that will only make me a better person to myself and to others. Our values are similar and we bring something unique to the table that benefits each other as we strive for greatness.

Yes, I have more than four friends. But if I was asked who has made the biggest impact on my life these are the four. Are values are all similar and we bring something unique to the table that only benefits one another to achieve for greatness. Who are these people in your life?

-Sean C.

Tough Mental Mudder


I had the opportunity to complete a Tough Mudder with a great group of people. Our motto was to “Start Together, Finish Stronger!”. The Tough Mudder is a long obstacle course, describe on its website as “10-12 miles of mud and 20+ obstacles designed to drag you out of your comfort zone.” There is truth to this as it offers something for everyone which may not be high on the list of things to do. The long distance, getting muddy, physically challenging tasks, uncomfortable tasks, and working with others. It is these things that made for a good event. Our group wasn’t the fastest, but we worked together and with others.

I knew it was about teamwork, but it was fun to see how complete strangers are willing to helping you. I found myself wanting to help others whenever possible. It didn’t feel like a burden, rather more of an honor to help pull someone over a wall, or out of the mud. It felt nice to receive the gratitude, help others and to be helped as well.

There were two obstacles that aren’t the most physically demanding yet give people a hard time, diving into ice water and moving through some electrical wires at the end. These are more mentally challenging tasks. I felt fortunate for my training in sport psychology in these moments. I heard other people have counterproductive thoughts before and during each event. Meanwhile, I told myself to embrace it, and keep moving forward. On both, I made sure to regulate my breathing. For the dive, I planned and executed an elongated exhale which helped relax my body, keeping me focused. During the wires, I kept a purposeful steady breathing rhythm to keep my nerves and energy levels moderated to smoothly navigate the obstacle. Each obstacle took some mental energy but was navigated with relative ease.

On our team, there were some people who had done it before, and others like myself going for the first time. The experienced people, in general, handled the obstacles better as they had the experience to rely on. A great thing about using mental skills is that it lowers the learning curve, serving as a catalyst for performance. I’ve told this to many people in the past and the Tough Mudder serves as another example in this.

I encourage you to push yourself out of your comfort zone soon, whether with a Tough Mudder event or something else. It is through these experiences we grow. I also would like to encourage you to check out the various resources we put out and reach out to us if there is something we can do to help you on the journey of growth!Jeremy


Book Summaries with Jeremy

The Starfish and the Spider: the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations by, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom


Organizations can be categorized into either a starfish or spider organization. This metaphor relates to the characteristics of the animal. A spider has a central head and body with legs extending out. This is an organization with centralized leadership that dictates what every single leg does, or what every aspect of the organization does. If something were to happen to the head/body then the legs would fail to function. This could occur within organizations that would not function when their leadership is dismantled. A starfish is the opposite, if one leg is chopped off it will re-grow and flourish. The book highlights companies such as craigslist, Wikipedia, eBay, and organizations such as AA, music sharing services and others that operate as a starfish. They allow the people to have the power and when they do so the organization is able to accomplish much more. It also makes it extremely difficult to dismantle it since one leader cannot result in the downfall as other areas will survive and often rally to keep moving forward. This is still a continuum of sorts as some companies such as eBay have a centralized function of leadership but give great power for people to sell to people and rate each other all monitored by the people. This enables greater responsibility, sharing, and less oversight of management.

How it influenced me:

This was an interesting perspective of how an organization should function. As someone looking to grow and improve as a leader, it is unique to hear about putting power out to others. This is applicable in the concept of being a lovecat and sharing koozies. I had developed some koozies to give to lovecats and it became a time where I thought about making it something of an organization to reach out and help others. But I realized while reading this book I can allow them to connect better. It also stands out as another possible avenue of how to run a business in a different way than the status quo. As I progress as a leader moving up the ladder there will be opportunities for growth and providing direction for my section or perhaps the company overall. This is a reminder that just because we have done something a certain way, it doesn’t mean that we will have to continue that. It is important to be aware of changes that occur both through society and especially in regards to the use of technology. I need to make sure I shift my lens of focus to look for a change in trends.

Check out more books summaries here. Share with us books you have read lately and the impact they have had on you. Email us at rawrnonprofit@gmail.com


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