Keys for New Leaders


September 14, 2022 Dr. Charles Boyer Episode 27
Keys for New Leaders
Show Notes Transcript

#027 - There are THREE BONES you need to succeed as a leader:  a wishbone, a backbone, and a funnybone.   A good leader needs creative imagination, courage and determination, and a well-honed sense of humor.  Join Dr. Charles Boyer for some helpful hints, insights and encouragement for your leadership journey. 

Hello and welcome to Keys For New Leaders, a podcast Serving Leaders Serving Others.  This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie, and that’s most certainly YOU, my friend.  If you are a new or newer leader, or are joining this podcast for the first time, a special welcome to you.  And, if you are a returning listener, a very warm welcome back!  I’m so glad you’re here for this episode.   If you haven’t already done so, please take a minute to click on the subscribe button on your audio platform, and you’ll receive notices of future episodes as soon as they are published. 

Serving Leaders Serving Others is what we’re all about.  In this series of podcasts, my goal is to serve you, the leader, helping you serve others through sharing ideas, helpful hints, suggestions, inspiration, insights, encouragement and sometimes a laugh or two to lighten the load along the way.  

This is Episode 27 and it’s about the THREE BONES you need to succeed as a leader.  I found a quote attributed to country singer Reba McEntire, who is quoted as saying: “To succeed in life you need three bones:  a wishbone, a backbone, and a funnybone.”  Wow!  She said quite a mouthful there!  You certainly need those three bones in life, and you need them all the more to succeed as a leader.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Reba captured the very essence of good leadership with those THREE BONES:  a wishbone, a backbone, and a funnybone.   Think about it – a good leader needs a wishbone in the form of a vision, an imagination, an ability to see what’s possible and what’s positive.  A good leader needs a backbone, the determination, the courage, the will power to make the tough decisions.  And a good leader needs a well-functioning funnybone, a good sense of humor, to help everyone – including yourself - through those tough times and tough situations that happen to the best of us. 

Let’s take a closer look at the first of those three bones:  a wishbone.  A good leader has the gift of being a good imagineer, who sees what can be and who isn’t limited by what is, and who provides the inspiration and motivation to keep going.

Using your wishbone, call on your creative strengths to imagine the ideal future for your team, your organization – whatever and whoever it is that you serve as leader.  Your job as leader is to look ahead, plan for the future, see the goal clearly, and then inspire those you lead to work toward that goal.  If all you are doing is getting through each day the best you can, you aren’t’ leading, my friend, you’re following.

Here's an example from my experience:  as a professor, I had to plan a course for a whole semester ahead of time, because my students expected a syllabus or outline of the course content and requirements on the first day of class.  So, what I did was plan what we would learn during the semester, and then make sure that we got there.  As a conductor, I had to plan the concert, then prepare the band to learn the music so it was ready for the performance.  Nothing to it, right?  Well, not exactly!  

But those are a couple of examples of using my wishbone.  Using YOUR wishbone, call on your creativity to imagine the ideal future for your team, your organization – whatever and whoever it is that you lead.  Your job as leader is to look ahead, plan the future, see the goal clearly, and then inspire those you lead to work toward reaching that goal.  If all you are doing is getting through each day the best you can, you aren’t leading, you are following.

What I’m doing with each of these three bones is relating them to the “C” values we talked about in Episode #3, Navigating the Seven Cs.  So I thought of the wishbone in terms of Clarity and Creativity – using your wishbone in creating a look to the future, the possibilities, the vision.   You must relate YOUR wishbone to YOUR values.  Coming up with a vision statement for your team, your organization, isn’t the easiest task in the world, but one of the most important.  If you, as leader, don’t know where you are going and can’t convey that with clarity to your team, you’re inviting disaster.  Or as that famous sage, Yogi Berra, once said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

The second of those three bones you need is a backbone.  It takes courage and commitment to serve others as a leader, especially because there are always some tough decisions to make, and your team will rely on you to make them.  Hey, isn’t that why you wanted to be a leader in the first place?  I didn’t think so.  But the tough decisions go with the territory, my friend.  And you need a backbone.

Backbone – that word sure creates a lot of images for me.  It says COURAGE.  It says COMMITMENT.  It says GUMPTION, GRIT, GUTS, WILL POWER.  It doesn’t say stubborn or unwilling.  It doesn’t mean refusing to listen.  And it certainly doesn’t mean ignoring good advice and counsel from others.  Backbones do bend, you know.

A good leader senses when to bend a little, but also knows that others are depending on him or her to make the right decision at the right time, even if that decision is really tough.  Been there, done that, many times.

Somebody must have the courage to say “Ready – Set – GO!” and the commitment to take responsibility for the outcome.  And that somebody is YOU, my friend.  Brené Brown said, “Courage is like … a habit.  You learn to swim by swimming.  You learn courage by couraging.”

The third of those three bones helps complete the picture:  a funnybone.  A good leader needs to have a well-honed sense of humor to keep all things in balance and perspective, and, I would add, to maintain your sanity through the whole process.  General then President Dwight D. Eisenhower said that “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”

We’ve talked about the importance of a good sense of humor in two previous episodes, #13, Laugh Power, and #23, Food for Your Funnybone.  It’s interesting to note that these two episodes are among the most downloaded episodes of this entire podcast.  Having a good sense of humor is vital for any leader – anywhere, anyhow, and anywho.  Humor helps build your Credibility and your Confidence in yourself and in others.  I’ve related Funnybone to the “C” values of Credibility and Confidence.  Which of YOUR values comes into play here?  

There are many articles about the importance of a sense of humor for leaders.  One of the simplest reasons for using humor is that people tend to remember people who make them smile.  And the opposite – people tend to avoid what they’re hit with.  Which would YOU rather have as a leader?

Humor has many benefits.  Among those benefits are that it helps reduce stress, it puts others at ease, helps build trust, boost morale, and can increase productivity.  Now, who wouldn’t want that?  All these are great reasons to build a little humor into your workplace.  As pianist/comedian Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

An article by Lindsay Holmes lists several signs that you have a good sense of humor.  Among those signs are that you practice self-acceptance, you are creative, conscientious, and that you make laughing a priority in your life.  Laughter has been shown to stimulate your internal organs and help reduce pain, so laugh more and live better, my friend.

It really isn’t all that difficult to find a little humor in almost any situation, but using humor effectively does take practice and some good old common sense.  Lighten up and laugh a little – but as I’ve said before, laugh WITH others, never AT them.  And laugh most at yourself – it shows that you are human after all.

I love to collect quotes that make me laugh or chuckle or at least smile.  So here are a few for you.  Hope you enjoy them, too!

·        Mark Twain said, “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”

·        And then, follow that one with: “Never stand between a dog and the hydrant” wrote John Peters.

·        An unknown author wrote: “Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.”

·        Advice columnist Ann Landers said, “If you want your children to listen, try talking softly – to someone else.”

·        If you are chronologically challenged, like me, here’s one from American actress Bille Burke:  “Age doesn’t matter, unless you’re a cheese.”

·        And “Keep smiling – it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to.”

What I like most about these quotes is that they capture the humor in just a few short well-chosen words, and when I read them, I begin to think of how they really hit home.  I hope you enjoy them, and will find your own that make you laugh or chuckle or smile.

So, here we have those three essential bones – your wishbone, your backbone, and your funnybone.  Which one is most important?  I’ve given this question a lot of thought, and my answer would be -  ALL OF THEM!  All three are most important, just like the three sides of a triangle, or the three legs of an old-fashioned milking stool.  Any two of them without the third one and the triangle or the stool collapses, and you’re stuck in the middle of a mess.  Without a wishbone, you don’t have the strengths of creativity and clarity you need.  Without a backbone, you don’t have the courage and commitment you need.  And without a funnybone, you’re just an old sourpuss.

We’ve talked briefly about these three bones, and hope you have enjoyed the conversations.  I try to keep these episodes short, just to introduce the topics and try to stimulate your thinking about them.  Now here are three questions that you can think about and answer just for yourself.  No, it’s not a test, and there are no wrong answers, so jump in.  Here they are:

1.     Which of these three bones – your wishbone, your backbone, or your funnybone – do you consider to be the strongest?

2.     In this podcast, I’ve related these three bones to several “C” values.  How do these three bones relate to your core values?

3.     A 2-parter:  If you could pick one of these three bones to strengthen, which would it be?  What one step will you take to strengthen that bone?

And I guess that Special Key has to be the Key of B – for Bones, those three bones that every good leader must have – a wishbone, a backbone, and a funnybone.  Thank you, Reba McEntire, for your wonderful quote!

By the way, I have forgotten to include this in several past episodes. Here’s my email address if you have any comments, questions or suggestions:  it’s   I’m always glad to hear from you, and I will answer your email as quickly as possible.

Next time, the episode is going to be titled:  Watch Your Words!  Words are powerful; sometimes they explain, sometimes they inspire, and sometimes they hurt.  And sometimes they don’t taste too good when we have to eat them.  

Until we meet again, take care, my friend, and stay safe and well.