“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” ~ Rosa Parks
When you look at a powerful, inspiring leader, you’re seeing the results of her years of growing into her leadership skills. Behind her polished appearance are tears, disappointments, frustrations, and hard-learned lessons. She has experienced hiccups in her plans, inadequacies in her preparation, and unseen circumstances that sidelined her attempts. But she kept striving to improve until she achieved excellence. You can do the same by applying the principles of thoughtful leadership.
How the principles of thoughtful leadership can make a good leader into an excellent leader…
Practice. Every skill is learned through practice; the same is true of leadership. Even if you don’t think you have a natural ability to lead, you can practice, practice, practice, until it becomes a part of you.
A major area to work on is your ability to make decisions quickly and wisely. You may be good at quick decisions, but are they always good ones? If not, don’t give up. Lean into decision-making. View each decision as a practice run and pay attention to the consequences. Ask yourself why it turned out well or why it didn’t. That’s how you learn, if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
There’s a lot of wisdom in the advice to “fail early and fail often,” even though I don’t think of anything as failure. Life is a journey full of lessons, because often you’re making decisions on incomplete or contradictory information. It’s what you learn that matters. Along the way, it’s also important to practice self-forgiveness, gratitude, and other somatic practices.
Lead from Different Directions. If you think a leader can only be the person out in front, like a controlling CEO or president, then it’s time to rethink your definition of leadership.
Thoughtful leaders don’t need to control everything. They recognize the talent of the team, and they encourage the most qualified person to run with a project or initiative. They step out of the way and guide from the background, when needed.
I love how the National Outdoor Leadership School describes the four approaches to leadership. As a designated leader, you take responsibility for the group and keep it on track. But you often ask your active followers to participate in group decisions, as their input gives you a clearer picture. Everyone on the team helps each other as peer leaders. And everyone carries their own weight because they exercise self-leadership and remain organized and motivated.
Be a Team Player. It’s more important to build solid relationships within your organization than “getting the job done,” if that means trampling on your team cohesion. It’s not always easy to effectively resolve conflict among a diverse group of people, but if you show you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside them, or you’re willing to fill in for them when necessary, that goes a long way to building a “collaborative, family feeling.” This approach fosters a spirit of understanding, communication, motivation, and even a sense of humor.
Stay Calm. Maintaining flexibility under adversity is another vital leadership skill. Embodied leaders don’t become leaders despite those adversities. They’ve become leaders because they used those adversities to their advantage.
There may be times you may want to throw in the towel, but a wiser course is to weigh your options. Ask yourself, “if I do that, what good will it do? …what harm will it do?”
Trying to control everything leads to burnout faster than anything. Learn to let go of things you can’t control, and become comfortable with changes. Maintain your composure and calm, as you switch on your problem-solving skills.
Develop the presence of mind to look past the immediate disaster/challenge/distraction and focus on the most important task at hand. You can’t afford to panic or become paralyzed with fear. It’s only by embracing discomfort that you can purposefully expand your comfort zone.
Disconnect to Reconnect. Technology is sapping our ability to analyze, strategize and dream big. We must remain connected to nature. You’ll find that regularly immersing yourself in nature removes distractions so you can make decisions for the right reasons.
Are you ready to claim the leader within you? My colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within, and identify ways to live differently, love fully, and be, wholly, who we are meant to be. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. (We’ll be arriving on September 5th and leaving September 11th.) It’s going to be a wonderful, life-changing experience.
“The world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.” ~ Margaret Wheatley
It’s exciting to see millions of women embrace their place in the business world today. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, as of 2017, “11.6 million firms are owned by women.” Yet, it is disappointing to see that many leadership positions are still closed to them.
Why do women find leadership positions so elusive? Because leadership has long been “a man’s world,” women feel like they have to act like men to succeed. They think they have to be just as tough and competitive as a man. But when they’re confronted with office politics, they falter, because men and women fundamentally differ in their views on power and influence. And that’s not a bad thing.
It’s important to recognize the strengths that you, as a woman, bring to the table. You don’t have to act like a man. You have a powerful asset that they don’t – the power of collaboration. We, as women, use our influence as collaborators all the time in our families and communities. Now it’s time to learn to authentically use your influence as a collaborator in business, as well.
The book, “The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders,” by Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, Mary Davis Holt, Diana Faison shares some wonderful suggestions…
Think bigger. I love the visualization exercise they recommend: image yourself achieving everything you want professionally under these two conditions – you can’t remain in your current position, and you can’t fail. Try it and see how it expands your thinking.
Be prepared for self-limiting beliefs to creep in. They’ll try to keep you small, but you can mindfully shift them to positive ones. If they’re really stubborn, find a friend, colleague, or mentor who can be your “truth teller.”
Manage relationships and collaborate. Even when you “don’t feel like it,” work to build genuine relationships and strategic connections. Take advantage of casual office settings and social networking events. Greet people warmly every morning. Be well prepared for your meetings and actively participate with a view to performing well. Even organize group events that your business associates will enjoy.
It’s important to pay attention to the following people within your business sphere:
- colleagues who will support you,
- key decision makers or influencers who can sponsor and promote you, and
- opponents who can make political maneuvering less complex.
Anticipate the long-term impact and cumulative results. Engage your curiosity as you visualize the outcome you desire. Consider all the options and think two or three moves ahead. This will help you identify what you need to do next to obtain your ideal results.
Acquire an executive presence. Take ownership of your career. You determine your vision, goals and path. No one can do it for you. Don’t let people underestimate you, because of the way you present yourself. NLP techniques will help you earn respect and inspire trust, so people want to work with you, recommend you and promote you.
Turn challenges into advantages. For example, women aren’t getting important feedback from male executives. That’s a challenge! You don’t know how to improve, because no one is talking. Take the initiative and ask for specific feedback. Now you have the advantage of knowing exactly what’s expected of you.
Companies that encourage and develop women in leadership positions benefit in a number of ways. Women tend to bring fresh perspectives because of their life experience and talents. Their collaborative influence increases employee engagement and higher productivity, which translates into more revenue. These advantages alone give companies a global competitive edge.
Are you ready to uncover the leader within you? My colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within, and identify ways to live differently, love fully, and be, wholly, who we are meant to be. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. (Also note the dates have changed slightly, since our first announcement. We’ll be arriving on September 5th and leaving September 11th.) I sincerely hope you take advantage of this life-changing opportunity.
“The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” ~ Sheryl Sandberg
There’s a direct correlation between the amount of books you read and the quality of your leadership. Warren Buffet said he reads 600 or more pages a day. He spends 80% of his day reading. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read an average of four to five books a month. Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year, that’s one per week. Author and self-made millionaire Steve Siebold interviewed more than 1,200 of the world’s wealthiest people over the past 30 years and noted that they all read for self-education. We read because it changes our lives. I appreciate what President Harry S. Truman said:
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
The reality is that most professionals tend to reach a plateau when it comes to learning. And we’re all busy, learning new things can easily be relegated to the backburner when it comes to priorities. However, it’s worth the effort because leaders who have a continuous learning mindset develop stronger leadership skills than their peers. It only makes sense. To learn is to grow, to evolve, to master. If you’re not continually growing and using it, you will lose it. Yes, your experience does matters, but in the long run, it’s your curiosity, your thirst for knowledge and understanding that will make you an outstanding leader. This applies to all avenues of life…leading in your family, your community, your job.
When you never stop learning you develop, deepen, and strengthen your ability to focus. You’re constantly looking for the whys and hows of a broad range of topics, not just your specific field. You’ll find yourself looking for opportunities to apply what you learn in a practical way. You’ll also experiment with alternative strategies, realizing that there’s always more than one way to do a thing. And those who have the learning mindset ask continually for feedback from others so they can reflect on what works best.
Innovation is key to successful leadership today. It’s how you put your unique spin or mark on a practice that has been done a million times before by someone else. You may start out in one place, but because you’re constantly learning and feeding your brain and spirit, you’ll explore and discover new directions so that your business and services evolve into something that really makes a difference.
If you want to lead people, aim to be a strong leader. And if you want to be a strong leader, prioritize learning. Continuously learning is now more important than ever before. Leaders who never stop learning use what they acquire to:
Are you committed to making the motto: “Never Stop Learning” your own? Good for you! The rewards will be endless. The more you learn, the more you grow, and the more you grow, the better you can serve others, your communities and the world. A great way to rapidly expand your learning is by attending our Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP in Ashland, Oregon. Not only will you learn how to coach yourself and others; you’ll also learn how to learn. It will give you a foundation you can really build on!
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” ~ John F. Kennedy
You’ve seen them…the ones who seem to be natural born leaders. They instinctively know how to keep their heads when things go wrong, and they can draw exceptional performance out of everyone on the team. If that’s not you, don’t despair. Leadership can be learned, because leadership is a process of applying specific skills and qualities and any process can be learned.
How can leadership be learned? Let’s examine 10 leadership qualities and skills and find ways you can enhance these in your life.
- Leaders are decisive. Constantly ask, “Do I know what I need to know about this topic/situation?” If so, weigh your options and make your call. Don’t agonize, overanalyze or second-guess yourself. You can always make adjustments as needed.
- Leaders are innovative and creative. Increase your self-awareness so you recognize limiting thoughts when they arise and then consciously change them. Fine-tune your flexibility, curiosity and adaptability, and then you’ll be in a position to act when you see opportunities.
- Leaders inspire confidence. When things start to unravel and fall apart, people need to know everything will be all right. Learn to model a can-do attitude so you stop negativity, procrastination and hopelessness before they get a foothold. Act like you know what you’re doing, because deep down you do know what needs to be done. It’s a matter of identifying and owning the scary parts. Be courageous and bold and people will follow you.
- Leaders are empathetic. Leaders are in the people business. You have to understand how they are feeling, not how you would feel in that circumstance. This takes communication, deep listening and vulnerability. When you are able to see things as they do, you’re much likelier to come up with a solution that they can get behind.
- Leaders have emotional control. Yes, leaders get frustrated and angry, but they buy time to cool down and respond rationally. So, write that scathing letter or email, but don’t send it. Blow off steam and then look for your emotional triggers and how you can suspend judgment as you mindfully manage those emotions.
- Leaders are persuasive. When you can express the reasons why something is important, you’ll have a persuasive argument that convinces others. Yes, there may be many ways to accomplish something, but trust that your way is worthy and valid. Being a people pleaser can really get in the way of aggressively selling your vision. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
- Leaders seek advice. No one has all the answers, so it’s essential to seek counsel. Yet many people have their own agenda. That’s why it’s wise to collect a group of people who have earned your trust to advise you. Then they can point out any blind spot in your thinking.
- Leaders invest in continuous learning. Read a wide range of books that stimulate your curiosity and creativity. Warren Buffett credits much of his success to reading – spending 80% of each day doing it.
- Leaders embrace authenticity. You’ll wear yourself out if you pretend to be something you’re not. You win respect when you showcase your unique gifts and talents, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, methodical or spontaneous. People can spot a phony from a mile away, so be true to yourself.
- Leaders remain humble. When you’re in an executive position, it’s easy to get puffed up and forget about your humble beginnings. This is inflamed by flattery from others. Keep your eyes on the good of each individual in your organization and bring out their best, promoting their growth and achievements.
Can leadership be learned? Definitely YES! That you ask this question shows you have curiosity, which is one essential leadership quality. Are you ready to unlock the leader within you? I’d love to invite you to our upcoming Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP. It will be held in Ashland, Oregon, so make plans now to attend this life-changing, 3-day event. Nando and I will help you hone YOUR gifts, talents and skills so you can make a real difference in the lives of others.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~ Walt Disney
“Why?” If you’ve been around a little child any length of time, you’ve been plagued with that question. Many parents get tired of it and start saying “because I said so,” just to get them to quit.
As the child enters school, she’s taught to look up answers not find them for herself by thinking things through. She memorizes then forgets, as each test comes and goes. Before too long the child learns to repress her curiosity as she merely mimics what others say. Her joy of learning has been squelched.
We should never lose the ability to ask questions, for it reveals the greatest secrets of life. Great inventors, scientists, researchers, and leaders all wonder why something works while something else doesn’t. It’s how they discover wondrous, new things. They nurture their intellectual curiosity.
Intellectual curiosity inspires us to solve problems and think creatively. It takes us on a joyous journey of discovery. As Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Cameron said, “Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.” We should do everything in our power to keep it alive.
You’ll be amazed at what you can learn by looking at things that people don’t usually pay attention to. Use the following suggestions to rediscover your intellectual curiosity. This process can be used in closely examining every aspect of life, from relationships, to systems, to tangible objects.
1. Observe people with mindfulness. You can learn a lot, without becoming intrusive, as you notice what people do and say, wonder why they do it, and how it makes the participants feel. You’ll begin to notice behaviors, emotions, and patterns that give you insight into what makes people tick.
2. Ask questions that promote observation. Look at a situation with fresh eyes and consider:
- Where does this work? Where wouldn’t this work?
- Why does this work? Why doesn’t it work?
- When does this work? When doesn’t this work?
- Who will this work for? Who doesn’t this work for?
- What elements work? What elements don’t?
3. Ask the question that promotes change – “what if?” People daily encounter frustrations that need solutions. You could be the catalyst for change by simply identifying an innovative solution. How can you do this?
- Train yourself to make notes about every frustration you see, anything from communication breakdowns to products that don’t work. Just create the habit of note taking what you observe.
- Identify the underlying problem that creates this frustration.
- List possible solutions. What if it was bigger, smaller, faster, slower, kinder, or more forceful? Let your imagination run wild with possibilities.
- Mentally or physically take it apart to see if it’s a feasible solution. By dissecting every aspect of your solution you’ll identify places that need more work.
Remember, this process of mindful intellectual curiosity works not only for tangible objects but also for examining your life experiences and processing what’s happening with your emotions, too. It allows you see all sides and make adjustments as needed.
It takes practice to keep your intellectual curiosity alive. Why not choose an idea, product or service that is an unexpected success and apply the above suggestions. That will get you started. If you’d like to delve deeper into how you can become a great leader, please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).