Go to content


Black Belt Leadership
John L. Terry, III - The Black Belt Leader

A few months back, I had a young man pick me up for lunch. He wanted to talk about what was going on in his life and ask for some advice. I climbed into his rather expensive sports car, a gift from his dad. As we drove to the restaurant, I noticed the car seemed to be vibrating slightly...what my grandpa used to refer to as a shimmy.

I had my suspicions but wanted until we got to our destination before I dug a little deeper.

When we stopped in the parking lot. I exited the vehicle and walked to the front of his car. The outside edge of the passenger-side tire was worn smooth, and the steel belting inside the tire was starting to become visible. I pointed this out to the young man, who was surprised to realize he was driving an unsafe vehicle. He asked how this happened.

As I explained the vehicle was out of alignment, he asked what that meant. I shared with him that when the tires are mounted on a vehicle at the factory, the tires, suspension, and steering are aligned so the car will drive straight and true. If the tires and suspension are out of alignment, the car will tend to pull or drift to the left or the right, requiring the driver to be making constant adjustments with the steering wheel to keep the car going straight.

The young man said he remembered hitting a "monster pothole" a few months back and thought he had blown a tire. After stopping to check his tires, and finding them still inflated, he kept driving. He noticed the car began pulling and he was having to constantly make corrections with his steering wheel...but didn't know what caused it. Afraid to tell his dad, he just kept driving. The end result was replacing two expensive tires and having the front-end of his vehicle realigned.

Just as a tire shows the wear and tear of being out of alignment, so a leader's actions show wear and tear when they are misaligned. In John Maxwell's recent "Leading Through Crisis" webcast, he talked about the importance of good leadership in times of difficulty. One of the keys, John noted, was for the leaders thinking and actions to be aligned with his or her core value...and the importance for those values to be others-centered.

Roy Disney said, "When you know your values, it's easy to make decisions." Values-based leadership is essential, but there is sadly a leadership deficit in the world today. Leaders are called on to give the right perspective in times of crisis, but if their values are misaligned, their perspective is misaligned as well. A leader can't define reality if his or her perspective is skewed or inaccurate.

In these trying times, successful leadership requires that we put out people first. That requires that see seek to do what's best for them and put their needs before our own. It demands that we seek not to manipulate others for our own end but to motivate and inspire them to discover the opportunity hidden within the difficulty they are facing.

Values-based leadership is aligning your saying and your doing around the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Do for others what you would want them to do for you. Add value to them as you would want them to add value to you.

So what are your core values? What are the unshakable in your life? The beliefs, values, and convictions you have that you're willing to die for? That can't be compromised? What are the absolutes in your life?

Sadly there is a leadership deficit in our nation, and the world, at this time. The values of honesty, integrity, self-discipline, self-control, compassion, patience, goodness, and generosity are not being lived out in the marketplace. People are choosing to live for themselves and not for the benefit of serving others. This prevents teams from working for the common good, as competition for personal advancement has replaced collaboration.

We need a return to these others-centered values if we want to see this deficit vacuum in our nation, and around the world, abated.
Remember, what you value most speaks to the type of person you are, and the type of leader you will ultimately become. And it's in times of crisis that who we are on the inside is revealed to those we are leading. I've heard my Mom use the analogy of an orange being squeezed, What's on the inside of you comes out when pressure is applied.

So as the pressure is applied in this time of crisis, are you showing signs of wear? Is the tread on your leadership worn down, exposing the jagged steel belts of your broken character, for those you are leading to see?

Is your leadership in alignment with your values, or is your leadership drifting?

Align your values with your actions - and lead well!


2X martial arts Hall of Fame inductee, John Terry (The Black Belt Leader) is passionate about helping others become Black Belt Leaders in Life. He is a motivational speaker, leadership, sales & communication coach and trainer.   

Jessie Terry, John's daughter, is a Certified Speaker, Coach, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team and is actively involved in the JMT Global Youth Initiative. She is also a Real-Life Management trained coach and a certified Women-Safe Self-Defense Instructor.

For more information, schedule John (or Jessie) to speak to your organization or to book a personal, group or corporate coaching session, visit our website at  

If you are a faith-based organization, learn more about John and Jessie's outreach to churches, para-church organizations or faith-based volunteer groups by visiting

John is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team and is passionate about helping others pursue excellence as they become "Leaders in Life". He is also a Master Coach & Trainer with Real Life Management, a human behavioral training organization helping people learn how to live "Real Life" and make better choices when it comes to relationships, money, health, and wellness. John is also a certified DISC Human Behavior Consultant.

Back to content