quintessential leader foundations matterFoundations matter. Because no matter what kind of foundation we have as the basis for what we build the rest of our lives on, it will be assaulted, sometimes violently, from the day we take our first breaths to the day we take our last ones.

How well we weather the continuous assaults will be determined by the kind of foundation we’re building on.

For the purpose of this discussion, we will not address people who have no foundation they build on, because the outcomes they face are pretty cut and dry.

Instead, we want to look at the types of foundations that people generally build their lives upon. We then will look at how each foundation affects the building process, as well as how much protection each offers from the assaults that come from breathing for a living.

And we’ll see, in the process, which foundation quintessential leaders build their lives on and why that matters.

The three kinds of foundations that people build their lives on are:

  1. Shifting
  2. Unstable
  3. Solid

quintessential-leader-shifting-foundationA shifting foundation is a constantly moving foundation. It literally shifts based on which way the wind blows.

People who build their lives on a shifting foundation are in constant motion as to what they believe, what – and who – they like, what they do, what they think, and how they are.

These people are chameleons. They tend to make all their decisions based on how they feel in the present tense, disregarding or uninterested in facts, reason, and logic.

They are exuberantly and quickly enthusiastic about every “next best thing” that comes their way, jumping headlong into whatever it is, but that completely disappears as soon as a new “next best thing” arrives at their doorstep.

They are constantly jumping from one thing to another physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

People who build their lives on shifting foundations are particularly vulnerable to gimmicks, cons, misinformation (any shade of dishonesty, including spinning, angling, omission, and outright lying), and emotional manipulation.

Because their foundations shift, these people have no core mindset against which to weigh everything that comes at them (discernment) and no filters to block anything out. They tend to be gullible, innately believing everything they hear, often being convinced that something is true when it is not.

These people are the target audience for advertisers and marketers because they react and respond emotionally. Advertisers and marketers use emotional words like “love,” “embrace,” and “care,” as well as pinnacle words like “all,” “best,” and “great.”

Advertisers and marketers also use appealing personal phrases like “you deserve,” “you owe it to yourself,” and “you’ll be happy if…” If you don’t believe me, pay close attention to a few commercials on TV or read a few product descriptions for things being sold online.

And people whose lives are built on shifting foundations fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Every time.

People who are building their lives on a shifting foundation are disastrous when they end up in leadership positions. It is impossible to get straight answers from them and it is impossible to get consistent answers from them.

Because they immediately and enthusiastically jump into every “next best thing,” and jump out just as quickly when the “next best thing” appears, people in leadership positions who have shifting foundations constantly change projects and goals for their teams, often on a dime, leaving their teams in chaos with morale in the toilet.

quintessential leader unstable foundation sinkholeAn unstable foundation is one that looks solid on the surface, but just underneath are major issues, weaknesses, flaws, and problems that make the foundation unstable.

While a shifting foundation is visible to the naked eye, an unstable foundation is not. Only the passing of time and continual pressure will make an unstable foundation evident.

People who are building their lives on unstable foundations are typically very superficial. They are also dishonest with everyone, including themselves. People who are building their lives on unstable foundations are consummate actors and are able to imitate anything flawlessly, often to the point of believing they are the role they are playing.

They seem to, on the surface, embody the ideal in every area of their lives and they seem to be “perfect.” They also tend to attract a lot of followers and admirers because they put on such a good show of being it all and having it all. F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s Jay Gatsby is a literary example of a person whose life was built on an unstable foundation.

People who have built their lives on unstable foundations also tend to need a lot of devotees around them all the time to attest to their skills as first-rate actors. These groupies must be “yes” people, though, and they must never question anything.

Two more hand-in-hand aspects of people who’ve built their lives on unstable foundations are the need to control everything and everybody as well as being expert history revisionists.

People who are building their lives on unstable foundations crack completely – and often suddenly and without warning – under pressure and over time and when they crack, the massiveness of the flaws, the issues, the problems and the weaknesses in their foundation is exposed.

But people who have built their lives on unstable foundations also leave a lot of collateral damage – their followers – when their foundations fail. Nobody comes out unscathed and damages range from total to minor, depending on the proximity of the followers to the people who’ve built on unstable foundations.

When people who are building their lives on unstable foundations are in leadership positions, catastrophic loss is the ultimate outcome. Bernie Madoff, Ivan Boesky, and Richard Whitney are well-known examples of people in leadership positions who built their lives on unstable foundations.

quintessential leader solid foundationSolid foundations are strong, deep, and can withstand the intensity of time, pressure, and scrutiny.

With solid foundations, what you see is what you get. Solid foundations are reliable and they are trustworthy. You can depend on a solid foundation holding up, staying in place, and being consistent, no matter what else happens.

People who are building their lives on solid foundations are people who, first and foremost, have a core mindset and code of absolute integrity and truth against which everything they encounter is measured. Anything that does not meet that standard is rejected.

People who are building their lives on a solid foundation always strive to be objective, knowledgeable, and discerning. They tend to be thinking people who will take the time they need to be fully informed so that they understand the depth and complexities of everything that comes their way.

Because people who’ve built their lives on a solid foundation habitually do this all their lives, they develop the skill of doing this quickly in most situations – and when they need more time, they will tell you and will not be pushed or bullied into a snap decision – because the reality is that while circumstances and characters change over time, the core issues that we humans face in life do not.  

People who are building their lives on a solid foundation are not led by their emotions and feelings, nor do they make decisions based on emotions and feelings. It is not that these people don’t have emotions and feelings, but they don’t rely on them as a standard or a guide for living life.

People who’ve built their lives on a solid foundation have an uncompromising moral code that they apply to everything in their lives. When they see dishonesty, misinformation, spinning, angling, omission from others, they will correct it because they know that other people may be making decisions based on that and lies and erroneous information will lead them to a wrong or bad decision.

This trait doesn’t always make people who are building their lives on a solid foundation the most popular people on the block, especially when they correct these forms of dishonesty with popular people and authority figures.

They become even more unpopular, even with undeniable proof of facts and truth, when they debunk things that people hold near and dear in their beliefs and in their lives and refuse to let go of.

I always wondered why that was the case. It occurred to me recently that we call these kinds of things “sacred cows.” It dawned on me one day not long ago where the reference comes from: the cow that Aaron made for the Israelites when Moses went up the first time to get the 10 Commandments from God.

And then I realized why. Forty-plus years later, after having God literally with the Israelites day (cloud) and night (pillar of fire), Joshua had to tell the 2nd generation out of Egypt to get rid of their foreign gods (among which were some little cow statues, I’m sure) before going into the Promised Land

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

When people who are building their lives on a solid foundation are in leadership positions, you have quintessential leaders.

Unlike the disastrousness and catastrophic loss that people who’ve built their lives on shifting and unstable foundations leave in their wake, quintessential leaders leave a legacy: a team of quintessential leaders who can, in turn, build their own teams of quintessential leaders.

That matters because any entity from you or me to organizations to nations reflects the kind of foundation it has been built on.

Since quintessential leaders develop quintessential leaders, they ensure that everywhere they touch and are in life has the opportunity to build on a solid foundation. Not everyone will take the opportunity. Some are too comfortable with or too afraid to change their shifting and unstable foundations to switch to building on a solid foundation, but those that do will be the next iteration of quintessential leaders.

Foundations matter. What kind of foundation are your life and your beliefs built on? Is it shifting? Is it unstable? Or is it solid?

The answer matters too.





  1. […] post doesn’t explore the depths of the differences between unquintessential leaders and quintessential leaders, this list is a very good […]


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