Author: Todd Stocker

062: 5 Leadership Lessons Learned From A King [Podcast]

062: 5 Leadership Lessons Learned From A King [Podcast]

5-leadership-lessons-from-a-king-001The famous story of Daniel in the lion’s den yields many life lessons. But there is another key player in the story through which we can learn good and faithful leadership.


King Darius. 

Leadership one…  His kingdom was too big for him to rule alone so he divided up his land and gave the oversight to 120 high officers.  Daniel 6:1

  • Disperse your leadership.

Leadership two… “The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests.” Daniel 6:2 

  • Allow others to lead.

Leadership three… Darius was watching for up and coming leaders to whom he could give greater responsibility.    “Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.” Daniel 6:3 

  • Look for up and coming leaders and make a plan to challenge them into leadership.

Leadership four… Even though it was painful, Darius stuck to his decision. Daniel 6:7

  • Be consistent in your leadership.

Leadership five… He executed swift consequences for those who were not team players and threatened the team.  “Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.” Daniel 6:24 

  • Don’t hesitate to do the right thing.

The only fault… Darius didn’t trust but verify…“We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions.”  Daniel 6:7 


058: One Problem For Leaders [Podcast]

058: One Problem For Leaders [Podcast]

credit: Kelly Robertson
credit: Kelly Robertson

Listening is one of the most important skills we can have and yet most of us, especially leaders, aren’t very good at doing so. How can you be a better listener to take your leadership to the next level?


When starting a conversation, a good beginning is to ask, “What is the end goal of our conversation?”  “What do you want to see happen?” and then to listen.

Problem:  Leaders tend to think we have all the answers.  When that happens we talk too much and we don’t listen enough.  

If you play that out, your team becomes completely dependant on you being able to solve their problems. 

Realistically, there are situations in which you have to be directive as a leader.  Depending on the industry, the project, but what would it look like to take a coach approach.  

What is a coach approach?  

Instead of talking 80% and listening 20%, what if we switched it around. 

What if we listened 80% and talked 20%.  

What does that look like?

A coach approach is simply helping uncover answers that they most likely already know but are afraid to move on.  

Questions to avoid:

‘Why’ Questions:  It can create feelings of failure and regret.  Then the solution side of your brain shuts down.  

Questions to ask:

Begin every question with ‘What’ or ‘How’.

What do you think?

How would that impact the client, market or product?




055: How Leaders Set The Tone [Podcast} – Todd

055: How Leaders Set The Tone [Podcast} – Todd

how leaders set the tone podcast.001As a Leader, you set a tone.  Is it a positive, life-giving one or does it make those who follow deflate?  How do leaders set a positive tone?


I answer a question from Tina regarding social media boundaries

Setting the tone.  First let me tell you what that means, then share a story about my wife from whom I got this idea

Setting the tone means creating the environment around you that sets a particular mood.  This is a bit morbid, but when you walk in a funeral home, what is the mood that is usually there?  Somber.  

Counter that with the tone of an amusement park like Disneyland.  Bright colors, happy music, the characters walking the streets and there’s that song… “it’s a small world!”  Again it sets a tone. 

So let me tell you about what my wife does and how it dovetails with setting the tone.

My wife is a flight attendant and sometimes is lead.  She loves it!  Not because she’s the boss.  Not because she gets to hang out in first class.   But because she sets the tone for the flight even before they leave the crew room.   

She’s professional,  fun, and makes everyone feel confident and safe.

So how does she do it and how can we learn from her? 

  • Portrays confidence physically…  Stands tall
  • She has a positive attitude.  
  • Just verbally in the tone of her voice.
  • She’s encouraging to others…  
  • She believes that others have value and can do the job.

Basically, as lead, the other attendants and by extension the passengers trust Kellie because she believes in them.  

So in your leadership situation… At home, work, church, community….  What tone are you setting?   When you walk in the room, are people uplifted or a they brought down?  Do they trust you?

You want to set a positive, life giving tone no matter what your interactions. And it starts with you.  Make sure you stay healthy physically, emotionally spiritually.  Make sure you find time to reflect and recharge.  Make sure you are learning and growing in all areas of life and this will help set a tone that is positive, energetic and leads to success.  


041: CLOUT – A Success Necessity [Podcast]

041: CLOUT – A Success Necessity [Podcast]

influence-igniteflip-horizontalClout isn’t a word we use much anymore.  But understanding its meaning is critical in your leadership and personal success.  On this episode, I use the letters in ‘CLOUT’ as a checklist to develop influence in people around you.


Quote for today: “Imperfect action is way better than perfect procrastination!”

There are many words in the English language that were common just a generation ago that we really don’t use anymore.

  • – Loathe – a feeling of intense dislike or even hatred toward someone or something.
  • – Groovy – this is more slang.
  • – Clout – influence or power that one has especially in politics or business.

I began thinking, “what does a person need to have clout, to exercise influence in business?

Clout is a good acronym to answer the question, “What personal traits can I develop in order to have influence?”

  • Character – beliefs and convictions that are central to personal and corporate success.  Character is both descriptive (characteristics of something) but also a quality of excellence.
  • Leadership – personal leadership and professionally leadership.
  • Optimism – the unwavering ability to confirm reality and declare successful outcomes.
  • Uniqueness – in this case, not unique for the purpose of selling something.  It is a personal style.  There is a confidence in that person.
  • Tenacity – another word we don’t use all that much but it is the quality of being persistent.  focused.

Do you have clout meaning, influence?  If not, use these as a checklist.


040: Leadership Begins Below Your Waterline [Podcast]

040: Leadership Begins Below Your Waterline [Podcast]

ledership waterline.001If I were to ask you to describe someone you know that you thought was a great leader, what would you say? Most likely, you would describe that persons skills, style, personality, drive and a plethora of other characteristics. But leadership is more that what we see a person do. Leadership is who a person is.


There are two realities of leadership. The first has to do with the skills, strategy, and methods of leading or managing. It is what people see us do. Making decisions, casting vision, leading problem solving are all part of doing leadership.  The second has to do with the heart or character of a leader. They must first watch their own life. They must have control over their emotions, have a servant mindset and take time for solitude.

There have been times when I realize that this is what I was missing and what is the most important part of your leadership. In your mind, picture a sailboat. It is floating on the peaceful ocean a few feet from shore with seagulls hovering above it’s white, flowing mast. The shiny wood deck glistens from the soft morning mist and it’s riggings are ready to go. That was the scene me and 15 other men experienced the second morning of a leadership   workshop in Corpus Christi, TX. Part of the workshop was to have an “out of the box” experience, something that we’d normally not do. Our captain had been sailing since he was a kid and gave us basic instructions. Simply put, he said, “listen and do what I say… that’s it.” We headed out across the bay. Suddenly, the boat lurched to a stop cause most of us to instinctively grab hold of whatever or whomever was nearby. We had hit a submerged sandbar a few hundred yards of the coastline. Immediately, our captain began barking orders lest we tip and sink. He had us go to one side of the boat then the other, shifting the weight to pry us free from the underwater sand. He also had us jump on the count of three to force the weight down then up. It worked and we were off into the water.

Later, I spoke to the captain about the experience and he said that often times, sailors get caught up in looking at the sails but forget about the most important part of the ship. That “most-important” part is what they sometimes call the “guts.” That experience illustrates what good leadership is about. Long term effective leadership begins with what is not seen in public. It is what is beneath the waterline. It is the guts. It is what is inside. It can make or break you as a leader. The “guts” of your leadership needs to be weightier than what is on the outside. My captain said that without a good balance under the water, the ship is easily pushed over. In leadership you can take this truth to the bank. History has thousands of illustrations of fallen leaders. Fallen not because of being externally out-pace, but internally weak. Often healthy leadership is hard to see. The boat metaphor makes me think that that is why we call it Leader-ship.

I was reading an article about a great leader named Dee Hock. He is the man who first conceived of a global system for the electronic exchange of value, becoming the founder and CEO of VISA International. In the article, Dee talks about the fatal move of first thinking about those whom you are leading. From many years of successful leadership he states, “The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self: one’s own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words and acts.” He goes on to suggest that good leaders use a certain percentage of their time in leading oneself. “Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 25% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct.

Did you catch that? 25% managing his or herself so that they bring a full heart into their leadership responsibilities. Frank Vandersloot, Founder and CEO of The Melaleuca Wellness Company said, “You need to be a leader on all levels of your life.” Start with what’s beneath your waterline.

How do you do that?

  1. Practice Solitude.
  2. Discover your wiring.
  3. Continually seek to do first the wise thing.





You Need A Challenge And Here’s Why

You Need A Challenge And Here’s Why

okpit3.001Raise your mental hand if you have ever said ‘yes’ to something that sounded fun, realized that you were in over your head but then completely enjoyed the experience?

If you’re an ‘I’ on the DiSC personality assessment, most likely you’ll be the first to show your armpits.  We ‘i’s’ love anything that sounds fun, no matter how hard it may be.  Jump out of an airplane? I’m in.  Free-dive to an ocean depth of 150 feet? Show me my snorkel.  Play the banjo in a pit orchestra supporting a stellar high school cast performing Roger and Hammerstein’s musical, ‘Oklahoma’, when you have strummed the hummer in many moons?  I pick that! 

Yes, that has been my extra-work world for the past few weeks.  I was hoodwinked by my dear friend Jyl who needed my dusty talent to round out the sound and as an ‘i’, I took it.  I had no idea what I was doing and hadn’t played really since a kid in Shakey’s pizza parlor, but I lassoed the hard opportunity because I knew it would push me.

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That’s what hard opportunities do.  They push you — push you to grow, push you to discover, push you to be better.  Too many of us live in a comfort zone that God intended only for recovery, not for dwelling.  He designed your skills and capabilities not to be used to create a nest in which you hunker down and live ‘comfortably’.  Your unique wiring can light up the world and flood you with that illusive sense of purpose, meaning and contentment.  

When was the last time you did something that you knew was within you abilities but outside your comfort zone?  When was the last time you served in a role that matched your passion and challenged your fear?  When was the last time you said ‘yes’ to a hard opportunity because you had no idea what you were doing? 

Performance weekend is this weekend.  Our whole crew has jitters but we don’t care.  We are loving what we’re doing because we are all challenge and we are doing it together.    


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033: The One Thing All Leaders Should Never Stop Doing [Podcast]

033: The One Thing All Leaders Should Never Stop Doing [Podcast]

old-man-readingAfter attending a conference, I realized one thing that great leaders do that keeps them fresh and energized for leadership.  I talk about it on today’s podcast.


Last week, I went to the Best Practices for Ministry conference in Phoenix.  2000 church workers and leaders were crammed on the spacious campus of a church/school,

There are many unspoken purposes of this conference but one that I noticed and appreciated came in a session hosted by my friend.  In the session, I took notice of a group of guys who were frantically writing notes and asking questions.   These leaders were well into their grey-haired years. 

The point?  They were still learning. 

So one thing all leaders should never stop doing is learning

4 ways to keep fresh and take your life to the next level:

  1. Read or listen to books in your industry. Again go to 
  2. Go to Conferences.  I suggest at least one per year. 
  3. Youtube subscriptions.  Don’t overload just find 3 leaders in your industry or your interest area.
  4. Take action on one thing you learn. 

No matter what industry you play in, you’re not done learning.  There are always new things to try.  There are always different approaches to apply unchanging truth.  Wisdom and success favors the hungry.


How Your Life Is Like The Super Bowl

How Your Life Is Like The Super Bowl

supwerbowl-50Super Bowl Sunday.  It’s a national holiday, of sorts.  Two teams, having battled for months to conquer other foes, now stand at the last epic battle that for many will be marked with pain, adrenaline, defeat and victory. 

I’m always impressed at the teams that make it to the big game.  This year, one seems to outweigh the other — not in pounds but in talent.  Yet one seems to have a deeper desire for the win and one appears more ready than the other.  Each team trains all year just for this moment.  One will win.  The other will be defeated (I leave you to sort out which team is which). 

I liken the Super Bowl to battles everyone face.  Battles of forging happiness.  Battles of seeking life-clarity and battles of just getting through another day.  It is in these battles that strength is built.  It is in these battles that character is chiseled.  It is in these battles that — while mostly unseen — God shows up and leads people to victory.

You need to prepare for these battles, though.  In my book ‘Refined‘, I wrote about a message I heard in which the pastor said when you’re in the battle, its too late to prepare for it.  That’s why God shows up — to lead you in the daily training which can ultimately lead you from defeat to victory.

I’ve seen seemingly hopeless marriages redirect and end up stronger than before.  I’ve seen poor health bring people to the edge of eternity, only to have a complete healing at the last minute.  I’ve seen people with little abilities become successful in all they do.  God shows up and does extra ordinary things.

This weekend might be one of those.  The underdog might vanquish the top barker.  Or an unknown player might become this years shining star.  Who knows?  I’m just happy to watch excellence play out on the field of my favorite sport. 


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5 Feelings Your Pastor Feels Every Week

5 Feelings Your Pastor Feels Every Week

feelingpastor.001I’ve been a pastor for many years.  I’ve been able to serve wonderful congregations and ministries and have had the privilege of being part of a team to plant a fantastic church in a Phoenix suburb.

Every year of my shepherding journey, this awkward month rolls around called ‘October’ which has been deemed “Pastor Appreciation Month.”  Mostly, I shuffle my ego during this month as it reminds me of how incapable I am in this role.  I know I’m not alone as most of us clergy-folk would rather put our proverbial noses to the ministry grindstone and do what it takes to reach people for Jesus than to receive accolades for that which we feel woefully incapable of doing. 

As I reflect on this calling, I thought it helpful to rehearse 5 feelings with which your pastor may juggle in any given week of serving this beautifully messy thing called, ‘The Church’.  Please know that I don’t pretend to be the voice of the pastorate, but hopefully you’ll find this non-exhaustive list helpful.  

  • JOY/HAPPINESS. I know that’s two and there’s a difference but I’m sewing them together for this.  When we hear that in some small way, God used our words, our presence or our smile to make someone love Jesus more, it joyfully reaffirms and reawakens our reason for doing what we do.  That makes us happy. 
  • FEAR.  Having God whisper a new or augmented vision for the church we serve, most of us try to write it off as the effects of last nights tainted shellfish that wasn’t fully cooked.  Yet, when God doesn’t let us off the hook and the new idea is confirmed by a few others in the church, fear begins his assault.
  • FRUSTRATION. Dive deep into the heart of your Pastor and most of you will find a heart that loves Jesus and wants others to know Him as well.  Sometimes we want to push our timelines and not His. Sometimes we don’t understand why you don’t see what’s in our heads.  Sometimes we expect you in the pew to change based on one sermon or letter blast that 3% of you read.  We get frustrated.  We sometimes get numb and sometimes we may do things out of this feeling that we wish we could take back.
  • INSECURITY.  We are trained in theology, church history and Law-Gospel preaching.  Some of us have specific and enduring training in counseling, care ministry or outreach.  Rarely are we trained in how lead an organization with budgets, staff and programs.  We shoot from the hip and hope we don’t blowup anything important.  Many times a week, we feel more like imposters than pastors.  God help us.
  • OVERWHELMED.  The job is never done and yes, we do work more than 2 hours on Sunday.  Because most of us love what we do, we make ourselves available sometimes to the detriment of our families, other times to the detriment of other work.  It piles up and sometimes it ‘hits the fan’ and retreat is our only perceived option.

Okay, I’ll add one more:

  • HONORED.  The role of pastor is a serving role.  It is a role that helps steward the mysteries of God’s spiritual realm called the ‘Kingdom’.  In the quiet of our souls, we know what a huge risk God took when he called us into church-work.  We know our sin and pray you don’t.  We feel immersed in the knowledge of our incapability as it applies to the perceived pastor-role.  ‘Honored’ seems to be a white-washed word when it describes being able to serve the God of the universe by serving you.

We love you, Church, and most of us do our best.  While the above list seems to be negatively weighted, the joy we find in the small moments of our day far outshines the duties of the office.  I hope I speak for all of us when I say that it is a privilege to serve along side of you to help create environments through which the Holy Spirit can change lives. 


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[Pastors:  Here’s a free little resource that may help.  “5 Ways To Balance Your Life.”]

“For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” Hebrews 6:10

011: One Secret Of Good Leadership

011: One Secret Of Good Leadership

Leadership is a precious gift to business, home and community. While there are different types of leaders, there is one secret that all good leaders have in common. That’s the topic today on The Take Back Your Life Podcast


I’ve been a leadership junkie for years.  Some of my favorite  Rory Vaden’s ‘Take the Stairs, Malcom Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ and my friend, John Nemo’s ‘Fired Up’.  (See below for links to these books).

Jim collins wrote ‘Good to Great’ and in it, he talks about 5 levels of leadership.  Here is a graphic to describe these levels:
Level 5 leadership — consists of the duality, some would consider to be paradoxical, of 2 key attributes:
  • Professional will —
  1. Creates superb results, a clear catalyst in the transition from good to great.
  2. Demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult.
  3. Sets the standard of building an enduring great company; will settle for nothing less.
  4. Looks in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck.
  • Personal humility —
  1. Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.
  2. Acts with quiet, calm determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
  3. Channels ambition into the company, not the self; sets up successors for even greater success in the next generation.
  4. Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company-to other people, external factors, and good luck.

This one — Personal Humility — I call selflessness.

Selfless doesn’t mean, being a milk toast, non decisive or strong leader.  Selfless means someone who is confident in their abilities, is a competent decision maker, but makes decisions based on what is best for the organization – OR for their family not themselves.

For example, Nelson Mandela, Warren Buffett and the greatest selfless leader of all time,  Jesus Christ.  Even if you’re not a religious person and I know many of you listening aren’t, If you read about what he taught and how he lived and ultimately what he sacrificed for the world…  selfless.  He would put himself in situations where he knew he was going to be ridiculed or his reputation would be scared, but he did it for the cause.  He did it for his mission and that was to find people who were broken and offer hope.  Ultimately, the offered his life so that people could be back in a relationship with God.

Think about your leadership…  I believe everyone is a leader.  And the first person you lead is yourself. Are you adding value to them or are you giving yourself praise?  When you go to work, are you only thinking of how it will benefit you are how you can used your gifts and talents to benefit the mission of your company and organization.

Remember that being a selfless leader is the highest goal of good leadership.  2 ways to begin to become a selfless leader.

  1. Honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses – confirming and admitting both. This will help give you the confidence and humility that selfless leaders exhibit.
  2. Always take the blame and give away the credit.

Remember that this takes time to develop.