(This post is written for alumni of LEAD365, although all are welcome to read it.)

The purpose of today’s blog is to give you a brief overview of the BE portion of the DoKnowBe Tree—our framework for helping leaders grow. Hopefully, most of it you will already know because of your great memory!

The BE section of the tree represents a leader’s character. Not just her moral character, but all of the internal characteristics that make her who she is—who she “be.” This portion of the tree is huge. After all, we are human BEings, NOT human DOings.

A person’s character is similar to the roots of a tree.

  • Character is a complicated mess AND a thing of beauty—just like roots.
  • Character is not visible without doing some digging—just like roots.
  • Character is critical for the health and strength of a leader—just like roots.
  • Character gives a leader a strong structural foundation—just like roots.
  • I am sure you recall that there are five categories we called out form a person’s character or root system.


We define a leader’s beliefs as those things that he knows are true but can’t prove. This ranges from minor things like if it is okay to go five miles per hour over the speed limit (“I believe it is safe and I won’t get stopped for speeding.”) to his beliefs about the meaning of life (“He with the most toys wins” or “I am here to selflessly serve others”).

Our contention is that a leader’s beliefs are the most important part of the five roots. Our beliefs define how we experience the world and ultimately define reality for us. You may recall the Andy Stanley clip we used because he does an excellent job of clarifying the importance of beliefs. In case you want to watch that again it can be found at http://northpoint.org/messages/starting-point-series/don-t-stop/ (Choose the seventh topic called “Don’t Stop” and start at 5:33 and watch/listen through 18:58).


We define a leader’s values as those things that are most important to her as she lives, works, and plays. It turns out that there is a long list of things that everyone values. Do you remember the list we gave you to choose from? Remember how hard it was to choose your top six values? Values are a matter of priority. Who is against creativity? Timelines? Good manners? Kindness? I don’t think any of you would be against any of these, and yet no two of you would likely prioritize them in the same order.

Ken Blanchard (a well-known leadership guru) claims that our values, or an organization’s values,  need to be prioritized because at some point they will come into conflict with each other. If a leader values timeliness and a clean desk, what does she do when she’s running late for a meeting and her desk is a mess? This requires making a values-driven choice.

Good leaders do the hard work of getting clear about their own values and doing the even harder work to be true to them. They also do this work for their organization, whether it is an entire company or just a department.


We define a leader’s passions as those things that have captured his heart. You may recall me saying that I’ve come to believe (yes, a belief because I can’t prove it) that many of my passions chose me—that I had no choice in the matter.

Regardless of how my passions came to be, it is important to admit I have them. They are an important factor that makes up a part my unique design, and if I am going to lead by design I need to know where I have natural passions.

One of the books that got me really thinking about this is First Break All the Rules by Coffman and Buckingham. The authors described world-class hotel maids and how they had a passion for cleaning rooms and delighting customers through their work. It’s unfair for someone who doesn’t have this passion to compete against someone who does.

That is no different than competing in business, in football, or anything else where there is a competitive aspect. Pursuing something where you have passion gives you an unfair advantage. Pursuing something where you don’t have passion gives you an unfair disadvantage.

Those of us at Leading by DESIGN love to learn about leadership, and we love to share the important things we learn. We love to see people grow. This passion makes our work seem like a mission instead of a job. Understanding your passions is important as you work to discover your mission based on your unique design.

4—Gifts and Voids

We define gifts as those areas were a leader is naturally great, and we define voids as areas where she is naturally not-so-great. Many people have no idea what their gifts are. This is sad to us. Many leaders have no idea of what their voids are. This is also frustratingly sad for us.

Each of us has gifts that give us yet another unfair advantage over others and voids that set us up for an unfair disadvantage. A very interesting aspect of our gift set is that it’s not obvious to us where we are gifted and where we are voided. People around us usually see our gifts and voids with ease. The problem is that they assume we see our gifts and voids as clearly as they do.

I am surprised at how people see themselves. When I share a perceived gift with a client, there person will often say, “Well, I know I can spot math errors easily, but everyone can do that if they really wanted to, right?” When I ask that client to think about it, he comes to realize that others probably can’t do it as well or as easily as he can. The light bulb goes off. “Maybe I do have a gift in this area.”

Gifts are often hard wired in our DNA. They can also be formed in us by a unique experience that heightens our understanding of things that others don’t have. Think about blindness and a gifted ear. Think about a person of color who regularly experiences prejudice and how that makes her more sensitive to how people are treated and sometimes mistreated.


We define wiring as the way a leader naturally wants to engage the world. The classic example of wiring is whether a leader is an extrovert, an introvert, or an ambivert (a balance of both). But wiring is much broader than just this one aspect of our natural way to engage the world. At one time I counted a dozen assessment tools I had used or seen for helping someone understand their wiring, all of which had somewhat different characteristics they assess. I have found the most popular of these tools in West Michigan are the DISC Behavioral Profile, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and the Kolbe Index.

These can be a wonderful way to open someone’s eyes to their nature and to see things they were unaware of before taking the assessment. Of course none of these tools are 100 percent correct, but they are often very helpful in getting someone to see themselves more objectively. They also tend to create a desire in a leader to understand herself better, which is a very important characteristic of being a person worth following.

One concern I have for the use of these tools is that I believe wiring is the fifth most important of the five roots to understand (but still very important!). These easy-to-use tools can make this characteristic the most focused on, and therefore wiring might seem like the most important of the roots. Focus on your beliefs, your values, your passions, and your gifts and/or voids hold an even higher priority in understanding yourself.

That’s enough for this week. Next week I’ll refresh your memory about the DO and KNOW portion of the Tree and also remind you of how to develop DO, KNOW and BE. Again, much of it will be review, hopefully helpful.

We hope you have a great week with some moments of real growth! Weekly moments of growth turn into significant growth over many months and giant growth over years!

Best regards till then,