Do you have a plan for 2020? If not, may I offer a suggestion?

Don’t settle for a plan that only will ensure your 2020 will end the same as your 2019. Instead, shake things up, take action. The truth of the matter is, nothing changes if nothing changes.

It’s far easier to criticize things that aren’t perfect than it is to change them. But change is our responsibility. Regardless of where you’ve been or where you are today, you’re welcome to change your story.

So, rather than having a “New Year-New Me” plan, roll up your sleeves and start writing your next chapter. It doesn’t matter whether you are a corporate CEO or a small business owner, in 2020, you will face setbacks, disappointments and rejection, and you won’t be alone.

Remember, you are a leader and how you choose to respond to adversity not only will define you, it will determine outcomes for your employees, suppliers, customers and family. Yes, leadership is that important. In fact, leadership must be our “word” for 2020. We must hold our leaders accountable.

Sadly, many of our leaders lead by virtue of title only. A title will buy you time, until your character is tested. Too many of our leaders will fail that test.

Everything we are asked to do as leaders requires us to influence behavior. In business, our success or failure as leaders does not come down to whether we are charismatic, visionary or inspirational. The key is whether we can influence our customers, team members, partners and competitors.

Leadership is learned and developed over time. I had held a leadership title for many years, but it was hollow and I was shallow. When put to the test, I failed. I wasn’t ready.

About 10 years ago – 3,665 days to be exact – I became a leader, and my mission has fully come to fruition. Since that day, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to speak on leadership from elementary schoolers to executives. The biggest thing I’ve learned is the hardest person to lead us yourself.

Leaders do not motivate, they inspire. Motivation is internal and will touch everyone in a group differently. Inspiration is external and will touch the entire group. The ability to inspire is an important skill for every leader, and you cannot fake it. To be inspirational, you must have been in the fire – rolled up your sleeves and worked. My friend, Gina Mazza, very eloquently said, “The Muse has to find you working.” That is how inspiration happens.

From my professional experience, I can saw unequivocally that genius isn’t pretty. It’s sweating and being covered in soot. Genius is working hard, being uncomfortable, standing back up, taking one more step, and inspiration is your reward. One of the most humbling truths for leaders to understand is: what matters most in life, and in business, is the difference we make in the lives of others.

We are on the cusp of an economic renaissance. Manufacturing has long been the driver of Pennsylvania’s economic prosperity, and the very building blocks of hundreds of manufactured products – natural gas and natural gas liquids – is abundant and affordable and right here. We need real leaders to step up and prevent downstream businesses that create jobs and revenue from passing us by.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at

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