BIG NEWS!!! (No, not that)

First, let me stop you right there.

No, I have NOT given birth. Adelade has NOT arrived yet (just over 5 weeks left!)


But I still have big news! You may be wondering why I dropped off the face of the [blogging] planet for several months without explanation. Well, on top of being pregnant and continuing the normal busyness of life, work, and church, I have been down in the depths of…. writing a book!


Now before you get too excited, let me explain. For the past year and a half I have been working with my boss, Dan Nielsen, on a major book project. This is really Dan’s book, not mine, but together we’ve made his dream become a reality. I’m so excited to announce that the book is done!


Nearly two years of research, writing, editing, and everything in-between have finally come to fruition.


We have published Presidential Leadership: Learning from United States Presidential Libraries & Museums, and it’s now available on Amazon!


While this book may not be born out of my own passion, it has been a long labor of love, and I am so excited and honored to have published a book as a coauthor! Please check it out and show me some love!


For more info about Dan Nielsen and the book, please click here >>

To see the book on Amazon, please click here >>


Presidential Leadership Book

Buy from Amazon

Why Being in Control is Not the Same as Being a Leader

© Emily Sirkel Photography

I very clearly remember my initial gut reaction to being offered my first promotion to a senior leadership position. It was a mixture of emotions, and while pride and excitement were present, I was a little surprised to realize that equally intense was a feeling of fear.



The idea of a sudden jump up the totem pole was flattering, exciting and alluring, but at the same time, it was scary. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I became. I knew the senior position offered some cool perks, like a higher salary and greater authority, but it also came with much greater responsibility and higher expectations. As “the boss,” I would no longer be able to simply pass difficult decisions up the chain of command.


And even more significantly, the buck would stop here.


When things went wrong or if someone on my team made a mistake, I would be the one to accept responsibility and take the blame. If there was more work to be done than employees to go around, I would be the one to pick up the slack. If a task needed to be completed after hours, I would be the first to volunteer. Disgruntled customers would be funneled to me. Broken equipment would be my responsibility to get repaired. I would be the one to resolve employee conflict, address misconduct and determine disciplinary measures.


Just thinking about it all was enough to make my knees quake.


I seriously considered declining the promotion. While I’m not afraid of hard work and I learned from my very solid parents to never shirk my responsibilities, I just didn’t feel like I was ready for the job. But after much prayer and discussion with my husband, (and after considering the rather unpleasant alternatives), I said yes. And guess what. The position was even tougher than I had imagined.


Yes, it was rewarding. Yes, it was good for me. Yes, it was an invaluable learning experience. But boy was it hard.


I have always liked being in control. It’s nice to have people defer to my leadership, and I definitely like getting to have the final say and make the decisions. But I discovered back then when I spent those years as the boss that there is a difference between being in control and being a leader.


Being in control is easy. And it can even be fun. I understand why people become power-hungry, because I understand the allure of being in charge. Being a controller is easy, but being a leader is very difficult:


  • Controllers make decisions because they get to. Leaders make decisions because they need to.
  • Controllers give commands in order to get their own way. Leaders provide direction in order to accomplish the task by the best means possible.
  • Controllers resentfully take responsibility for their employee’s mistakes only because they have to. Leaders humbly accept the blame because they sincerely feel responsible for their team’s actions.
  • Controllers exact punishment because they enjoy putting people in their place. Leaders employ discipline because they want to see people improve.
  • Controllers look forward to firing bad eggs because they’re getting what they deserve. Leaders regret having to fire anyone because that means they were unable to help them.


Question: Can you tell the difference between the controllers and the leaders in your life? What other distinctions do you see between the two? Add to the list in the comments below!



4 Tips for Handling Unpleasant Confrontation

I really didn’t want to.


I’d spent several days worrying about it, and the whole morning preparing for it. I had typed three pages of notes, with more than twenty scripture references. I had prayed and prayed about it. My stomach was still twisted in knots.


But I wasn’t backing out.


© Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography


I had been “the boss” for about a year and a half, but confrontation was something I still avoided whenever I possibly could. Conflict management was a leadership skill that I knew was absolutely critical, but one I had hoped I could somehow get along without ever using.


The time had come.


This was much harder than that one time I had to ask someone to go home and take a shower and put clean clothes on because the smell was making me gag (and believe me, that conversation was painful).


This was completely different than that night when we were running way behind so I made the decision to pull one employee from their task and replace them with another who was much faster and more efficient.


Those moments were hard, but this one was so much harder.


I have always been a people-pleaser and a peacemaker. I hate hurting feelings, stepping on toes, or seeing people argue. For this reason I still can’t watch presidential debates. So when it comes to those moments as a leader when you have to confront a direct report about poor performance, misconduct, or worse – I’ve been guilty of being that leader who is inclined to dismiss things really easily rather than actually deal with the problem.


But this time, I was determined to deal with the problem head on.


I took him aside for a private conversation. I picked a picnic table outside, shaded from the summer sun by a big oak tree. I pulled out my notes, and cut to the chase.


“I know you, I respect you. I’ve seen how you’ve grown and matured in the last year. But recently I have had several of your coworkers ask me why you’re such a jerk.”


Talk about a hard thing to say! But guess what. The conversation went great. At the end of it, eyes were dry, chins were up, truth acknowledged, and a plan and consequences agreed upon.

And then I bought him ice cream. (Okay, I didn’t say I stopped being a people-pleaser…)


So how did a potentially awful confrontation turn into a productive and effective conversation? I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I’m still learning the art of conflict management as a leader. But here are four elements to which I attribute my success that day:

1. Proper preparation: By spending hours thinking, praying, and searching scriptures beforehand, both my heart and my words were ready. When you’re not afforded the luxury of several hours or more of preparation before confrontation, at least take a few moments in prayer to prepare your heart and mind.

2. A neutral setting: By choosing to meet outside in a different but pleasant location, I reduced the inevitable tension that would have been felt had the meeting taken place in my office. While there are situations where it is appropriate to utilize the power-position of your side of the desk, sometimes you need to find common ground to put everyone at ease.

3. Openness and candor: As tempting as it was, I decided not to beat around the bush. I let him know that this was hard for me, but was very clear about why the problem needed to be addressed. I didn’t leave him guessing about why the conversation was happening, what he’d done, or what the consequences were going to be.

4. Affirmation as well as correction: Yes, I was blunt. But I did not berate or humiliate. While I firmly corrected his misconduct, I honestly affirmed the personal and spiritual growth I had observed in the year I had known him. While I pointed out what he was doing wrong, I also praised him for the things he was doing right. I didn’t leave him feeling chastised like a child; I left him with the knowledge that I truly appreciated what he added to my team, and with instruction for improvement.


These steps may not be foolproof, but they have certainly worked for me. What are some tips you’d add for dealing with potentially unpleasant confrontation?