The Biology of Leadership cover text

When we understand the biology of leadership, we are more easily able to overcome common challenges and create an enriching team dynamic.

Leadership, much like the basic structure of life, has seven components.

Open plain with Zebras

All living things have these seven characteristics in common:

  1. Movement
  2. Sensitivity
  3. Nutrition
  4. Excretion
  5. Respiration
  6. Growth
  7. Reproduction

You take away any one of these and death is imminent (either for the individual or the species).

The same is true in our leadership.

A Quick Biology Lesson

Movement – transitioning through space and environment. Walking, running, jumping, swimming, flapping. We move to find water, eat food, and escape danger.

Sensitivity – Think ‘using your senses.’ Smelling, tasting, hearing, touching. This aids in survival, the acquisition of necessary resources, and life satisfaction.

Nutrition – Food is fuel. It is the energy system by which our body is governed. Good clean fuel in means good clean energy out. 


Excretion -Removing waste products. Once your body has processed everything of value, everything it can use, it gets rid of the rest. Good in, bad out.

Respiration – Think breathing, However, biologically, it is so much more. It’s where energy conversion happens in the cells. It’s about work. Once a body has nutrition, it converts that food to sugar for your cells to you.

Growth – Perhaps the most recognized sign of life. From infancy to adulthood, we see growth and change every day. Plants grow. Trees blossom. Fruit ripens. Babies mature.

Reproduction – Passing on genetic code from one generation to the next. The act of continuing the life cycle in a given species.

Leadership Biology

Just how biology has set functions for growth, so too does leadership. Here are the seven components of the biology of leadership.

Movement – In leadership, movement is a progression of goals, desire, and intent. We as leaders must be clear on personal goals, team goals, and business goals. Where do you want to end up? Creating and intentionally designing our movement forward, the progression of our goals is of first critical importance for leaders.

“Everyone ends up somewhere. A few people end up somewhere on purpose.” – Andy Stanley

Sensitivity – Emotional Intelligence. Knowing, understanding, and utilizing your emotional state, responses, and triggers, and of those around you.

Nutrition – What is the food you give your leadership body every day? Are you reading scripture? Personal development books? Podcasts? Your personal growth should have a plan just like your physical activity and physical nutrition. As leaders, show me the books not just that you’re reading now but that you’ll read when you finish those books.

The Biology of Leadership cover text

Excretion – Removing bad, unproductive, and destructive habits, thoughts, and modes of behavior. Think family systems, relationships to money, sex, power, and status. Anything that limits or prohibits you from reaching your full potential.

Respiration – Engaging in the work you do. The energy transfer from your body into the world. Don’t just put good stuff in and expel the bad, use it to make a difference for others.

Growth – Your personal development plan. How do you see yourself growing from a new (infant) leader to a fully mature one?

Reproduction – Passing on genetic code and leadership habits. Are you reproducing poorly trained, stunted, and immature leaders or are you producing healthy, vibrant, fully-alive leaders?

Lion Hunting in background with "The Lion and The Mouse" text overlay

In a telling story of our priorities, James Carville and Paul Begala share the story about the lion and the mouse.

As the story goes, the lion is more than capable of hunting the mouse. He possesses the required strength, agility, and intelligence. In fact, it requires very little effort on the part of the lion. The problem is that the energy received back from eating the mouse is not worth the lion’s effort.

This is why the lion hunts the zebra, antelope, and gazelle. Though it requires significantly more strength, agility, and cunning intelligence to do so, the energy the lion receives back is well worth the investment. Lion Hunting in background with "The Lion and The Mouse" text overlay

The story of the lion and the mouse reminds us to stay focused on chasing big goals.

The BIG Goals

One of the questions I ask myself every day is, “What can I do today that makes the biggest difference?”

  • When I’m feeling overwhelmed, that focuses my attention on the single biggest task that needs to be done.
  • Whenever I’m tired, this question reminds me that the best thing I can do might just be to take a nap or practice some extraself-care.
  • In those moments where I’m conflicted about how to invest my time, asking about difference-making forces me to look at my calendar. Typically what I find is that I’ve been too work-focused and not enough family focus.
  • When my anxiety creeps up, I can remind myself that doing one thing today to make progress on a goal of significance and meaning helps to lower it.

Then, I invest my energy into the needed area. That frees me up to then say, “What’s next.”

The story of the lion and the mouse reminds me to invest my energy in things that really make a difference. My focus and attention go to things that only I can do for myself and my business.

Business and Life in Balance

What about you? Have you asked those questions in your life?

As a business owner, do you work intently on areas that only you can invest in?

With your spouse and your kids, do you focus on being fully present and turning off your “work brain” or do you only give them the nutritional equivalent of a mouse?

As a leader or community member, do you invest in your projects with the same intensity and vigor you do in your sales and marketing?

One of the first things we do in coaching is to give your calendar a time analysis. We make sure that you spend your time hunting antelopes, not mice.

Far too often, what I see with leaders is that they spend time on the unimportant. The temptation is to become distracted by the urgent instead of the significant.

To counteract this, we work through a priority matrix to make sure you get the most return on your time, your energy, and your passion.

Right now, make sure you’re invested in the right areas. Ask yourself the above questions and spend time on the right priorities. Invest in areas that give you the greatest return on your investment. Ask questions. Quit bad habits. Keep growing. Seek help.

If you need anything, I’m here for you.


General Rosecrans portrait with overlay text "The Rosecrans Principle

One of the greatest contributing factors to unmet goals and failure is what I call, “The Rosecrans Principle.”

William S. Rosecrans

William S. Rosecrans was a major general during the American Civil War. A highly decorated strategist, he often failed to translate an idea into action.

He’s the one that gave me the idea for The Rosecrans Principle.

His superior, Ulysses S. Grant, when writing in his personal memoirs after the war, summed up one meeting this way:

We held a brief interview, in which he described very clearly the situation at Chattanooga, and made some excellent suggestions as to what should be done. My only wonder was that he had not carried them out. (emphasis mine)

What was Rosecrans’ problem? He had a lot of great ideas but failed to take the appropriate action. General Rosecrans portrait with overlay text "The Rosecrans Principle

As an entrepreneur, business owner, high-achiever, parent, spouse, child, community member, or any other title you carry …. can you relate?

We know we should get out that marketing email, but it’s getting late, we’re a little tired, and it’s easy to push it to another day.

Another scenario: It’s time for some sales calls…except the kids kept you up, you’re hungry, and don’t feel like being rejected should someone say ‘no.’ What do you do? Will you push through anyway, or suffer from The Rosecrans Principle?

Throughout our day, we are confronted with a variety of scenarios, and our outlook determines our destination.

Do we see obstacles or opportunities?

Avoiding the Pitfall

Avoiding the pitfall of The Rosecrans Principle is obvious: take action.


But you knew that, didn’t you?

The problem is not that we don’t know to take action, it’s that we’re scared to.

General Rosecrans himself knew this.

We know this. 

So, how do we do it?

In order to push through fear, take massive action, and avoid The Rosecrans Principle, only one thing is required.

Answer “why” not just “how.”

Often, our problem lies with only trying to answer the ‘how’ based questions.

How will we get it all done? What’s next? How will we proceed? 

The problem, is that we never answer the ‘why’ based questions?

Why is this important? What’s at stake if I don’t succeed? 

As high-achievers, we care a lot about the ‘how.’ We want to know what’s next, and how we can squeeze more productivity out of our time.

But with time, that breeds fear. We fail behind, fail to meet a key metric, become fearful, and everything snowballs out of control.

We have great ideas and can spend a lot of time, like General Rosecrans, coming up with the brilliant plan of attack that will help us.

But then, like Rosecrans himself, see the list of to-do items and feel overwhelmed. Fearful. Burdened.

To counter this, take massive action now just on the how but the why.

That’s where Rosecrans failed. He came up with plans, but without knowing why they were important, he never had the courage to act.

As a result, he fell out of favor with Grant and the Union and slowly faded to obscurity.

Don’t be like Rosecrans.

Focus on the how and the why.

Make lofty plans.

Set enormous goals.

Take massive action.




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Blog Post Cover - Gazelle-like focus imprint over actual gazelle

In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey advocates “gazelle-like focus” when it comes to eliminating debt. In short, his explanation is that when being chased by a lion, a gazelle has only focus: getting away to survive. At that moment, he isn’t worried about his next meal, how thirsty he is, or where the rest of the herd is. All of that can wait.

His only focus is survival. Escape the jaws of the lion.

Ramsey argues that this is the only way you will escape debt. The lion (debt) is looking to consume you. Through gazelle-like focus (and his easy-to-follow-not-easy-to-do steps) you can be free from the snare of debt.

The same truth applies to any area of life. Want to grow your business? Practice gazelle-like focus. Want to be a better spouse or parent? Sharpen your attention on those moments when they are presented to you. Need to lose weight? Don’t make it a side attraction in your life, give it center stage.

Here are three tips to help you with that intense level focus.

Eliminating Distraction

One of the main things I help my clients with is the elimination of distractions. There’s a reason my tagline is, “Helping Leaders Get The Right Things Done.”


Because it’s easy to have vision creep.

A shrinking bottom line (hello pandemic business owners) can cause us to focus on that, instead of completing our mission, serving our customers, and building our employees.

When given the choice between focusing on your shrinking profit margins or your customer service, always choose your customer service.

Focus On The Next Thing

In his book, No Hero, author Mark Owen talks about his time as a Navy SEAL. One of the tactics he used to survive the brutal training was to focus on the next task in front of him.

Marcus Luttrell (another Navy SEAL) echoes this idea in his book Lone Survivor.

The premise is simple: if you focus on something in the distant future, you’ll never make it through SEAL training. You can’t focus on the graduation of the program, your first deployment, and in many cases, even the end of the current day. Blog Post Cover - Gazelle-like focus imprint over actual gazelle

What you focus on is the next pushup. You focus on making it to the next meal.  You control, as Owen talks about later, on controlling your three-foot circle. If you can’t touch it right here, right now, it’s not worthy of your attention.

Focusing on anything else leads to despair, frustration, fear, anxiety, and a sense of dread. None of those things serve a gazelle well when inches from a lion. 

Eliminate all of those things and focus on the next step.

Only then can you make any substantial progress on your goals, whatever they are.

Not “One Day” but “Day One”

This one is for all of those that made New Year’s Resolutions, then realized it was Friday and told themselves, “I’ll start on Monday.”

Do you want to reach your wildest goals? Don’t wait to start ‘one day.’

Instead, start today, with ‘day one.’

If the gazelle thinks, “Boy, that lion sure is getting close. Eh. I’ll start running in a few seconds.” It’s too late. Instead, as soon as the gazelle notices the danger, it springs up and takes action.

If you wait to start pursuing your goals “one day” you will end up miserable. You will never reach your full potential. Instead, all you’ll discover is a life of regret and failure.

Take Action

With the first Monday of the new year, many of us are returning to a life of normalcy. Work reopens. Kids are in school. Old routines are back again as the alarm clock reminds us to get up and invest our energy into productivity.

I hope you had a fantastic holiday season and experienced rest, joy, and peace in the midst of the pandemic and all that it has changed.

Now, it’s time to chase your dreams with every ounce of energy you have today. Don’t start one day, but today, with day one.

Next, keep your focus on the next task and do it with excellence.

Finally, eliminate distraction and mission creep.

That’s a gazelle-like focus. And that’s where success lies.



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Podcast Cover Art: Episode 28 - Andy Ayers AKA "The Southern Dad"

Today’s interview is with Andy Ayers, AKA “The Southern Dad.”

Welcome to season three of the LeaderQuest Podcast! This season we are focusing on small business leaders who have had to pivot or transition during the 2020 Covid Economy.

Each interview was structured around three main questions:

  • How did your business pivot during 2020? Podcast Cover Art: Episode 28 - Andy Ayers AKA "The Southern Dad"
  • What does the future (2021) look like for your business?
  • What is a current problem or question that your facing?

During each interview, you’ll hear real stories from real business owners. They will share their highs and lows, along with important lessons learned along the way. You’ll be able to take their knowledge and turn it into wisdom.

Today is Andy Ayers, known online as “The Southern Dad.”

About Andy

I met Andy virtually a couple of years ago. We interacted a number of times of Instagram (his primary platform) and have had a couple of brief exchanges over the years. I was excited to have our first extended conversation and interview about his changing business.


One thing you’ve noticed if you follow Andy (and he talks about in the interview) is finding his stride as a business owner. He shares his strengths and weaknesses, as well as some of the crucial pivots he’s making this year.

Connect with Andy Ayers “The Southern Dad”


YouTube: The Southern Dad Show

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