By Mark Briggs

is khaki shirt boasted salt rings - a crusted residual from perspiration earlier in the day. The center of his back was brown and soaked. I’m sure it was wet under his arms as well, but from my view walking behind him, all I could see was a big wet circle on his lean and leathery upper torso. That dark circle of moisture at my eye level became my target for the day. My grandfather was a hard worker and was showing me how at the same time.

The goal for the day was to clear an undeveloped piece of land. He had said the night before that he needed my help. Looking back over the mountain of memories we created together, I now know he didn’t need my help at all. It was the other way around. He knew I needed his help – not only now but for the rest of my life. 


Andrew Jackson Briggs was teaching me the basic principles of leadership. Even as an 11-year-old, I wanted to follow him when I saw his passion and persistence aimed at getting a job done. So, when he leaned into his work, so did I. When he would make a swing with his axe, so would I. All day, I followed him, focused on that renewed circle of sweat on his back. Most of the time, he never looked back but seemed to know confidently that he had a follower. He talked while he worked. It was sometimes instructive; at other times, it was words of affirmation about how he couldn’t make it without my help. The loudest lessons were the ones I learned during his silence. The only sound was the chopping of our axes. During these moments, I saw my first picture of authentic leadership and learned that well-placed actions speak much louder than well-practiced words. 


Today, when I struggle with knowing if I’m a good leader or when I start to doubt my ability to get others to follow me, I go back to what I learned on a rugged and wooded property in Louisiana. LEADERSHIP ISN’T THAT COMPLICATED. The basics of leadership worked then, and they’ll work now! They are foundational and fundamental to all leadership.


Be a good example. When lessons can’t be taught, they can be caught!

Share with others your specific intentions. They can’t help you win if they don’t know where the goal is. 

Be brave enough to turn your back. You indeed have to inspect what you expect, but if you’re to lead effectively, you have to trust eventually. 

Communicate. Talk – when you lead intentionally, there is no such thing as “small talk.” Long-term relationships form when we talk. 

Spill your passion. What are you willing to sweat for? People will help you discover the “when” and “how” when they see your WHY. 


Someone is watching you! That sets you up to be a leader. Lead by design and not default. “Not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:4