Being a leader is not about your job title. It's about how you view the world.
I can't count the number of times I sat in an office in my 20's and asked the one question that absolutely killed my boss's patience: "But...how will this task I'm doing impact that task over there?"
That's the question a leader asks. Leaders want to know the 360-degree and it's not because they are ego-starved for power; it's because they understand that no one thing in business lives in a vacuum. Everything impacts everything else!
Leaders - real leaders - understand that their job is to serve those below them, to help them do their best work, to invite them to grow in ways that will benefit them personally as well as benefit the company.
This kind of leader is too rare. But it might be you. And if you are that kind of leader, it's time to approach that understanding within yourself.
You know you're a leader if...
1. You can't help but speak up when opinions are asked for, because you know that the input you have to offer will add a viewpoint that has been ignored up to now...and you can't stand to see things done badly, particularly due to oversights or active neglect. Quality and thoroughness are some of your drivers.
2. You are constantly asking questions. This is another thing that drives your bosses crazy, because they really want you just to shut up and perform, and that's not how you roll. At all.
3. You are as concerned with the people as you are with the task. Your understanding that people are not widgets is something that makes you take extra time with people when you're working with them, or teaching them. That extra time may look to others like goofing off, but you know that you are building relationships, and trust, and that is not task-based, it is attitude-based.
If you are a leader, but either not yet a leader in your role or not the kind of leader that takes the time to work with the 360-degree-and-people-first philosophy, congratulations! You are standing on the brink of your own greatness. Start by claiming that leadership as your identity. Change always starts as an inside job - whether we're aware of it or not - so start by knowing who you are.
And then, go out and break the rules and be your kind of leader.
"Environment is stronger than will." The first time I heard that, I didn't know what it meant.
Then I moved to California from the Midwest, spent 13 years giving all of my money to the Bay Area cost of living, and returned home to find myself waiting there, thrilled to be more myself, back in my home environment, and now very much aware of the meaning of that saying.
Its meaning is no different in being applied to traditional business; environment is stronger than will, stronger than creativity, stronger than personal drive. Change the environment, and you court the possibility of infusing your business with the oxygen of vision, inspiration and true cooperation.
Being in control of your business sounds good, right? In some respects, that may be the very thing holding you back from the successes you are working so hard to attain.
It all depends on what kind of control you are committed to. If you are committed to the "lone cowboy" approach, you are courting the kind of disaster that ego is expert at creating.
If, instead, you are committed to being in service to a mission and vision that may require your humility instead of your Rambo-like decision-making powers, you may just see the holy grails of business: where the core troubles lie, and where the most unexpected and regenerative answers are hiding.
You already know about the Iceberg of Ignorance. We all do. But we have made an enormous error in leaving the people solutions to Human Resources, surveys, surface reward structures and comments about "open doors".
Do you want to know what your unseen problems are?
Trust me, your employees know the problems. They not only know what the problems are, but all of the areas of your business that are negatively impacted by them. That is invaluable information! What they need in order to share that information is, first, some honest-to-God assurance that they will not suffer for sharing those problems, because they know if you have a delicate ego, and they know what bosses with delicate egos can do to their livelihood. Second, they need a stake in what you will do with that shared information; will you keep them in the loop or, so much better, give them a part in the procedural fix you have in mind.
Do you want solutions?
Try these two words on for size if you want new ideas and directions you have never thought of: Group Mind.
I'm not talking about calling another ubiquitous company meeting and inviting people to speak up. That is a famously unsuccessful method as people get stage fright when speaking up in front of one person, not to mention an entire company.
But bring a topic to a room of people and invite them to let their hair down, and you're 50% to your next idea. first invite them to discuss something completely unrelated to business; something that will create laughter and the heightening of humanness in the room. Next, invite each person to write a shorthand version of their idea on a sticky note and put it up on the wall with everyone else's.
When you finish all of the steps of that "project" and then move your people on to brainstorming about your business need, you are going to be tapping a group mind that is relaxed, more connected, and buying in to what is now a group idea, and potentially a dynamic group goal.
Remember the movie? "Soylent Green is people!"
Well, we're not cooking up people here, but your answers are definitely hiding in these amazing humans you work with day in and day out.
The key to that lock, as a leader, is you.
My friend Theresa was just introduced to Brené Brown for the first time, and she was captivated. The part she repeated to me had to do with vulnerability and courage - courage not being necessary at all unless you are actually being vulnerable. Brené reportedly said that if you are going to be vulnerable, you are in fact going to be hurt.
Well at first blush that doesn't sound particularly desirable, does it.
It is, in fact, good news. It means you are going to step out from the rank-and-file behaviors that keep you safe from the new.
You are going to be alive now. Much more alive.
It's a new day y'all!
First of all, because this happened last of all so it's top of my mind, Facebook has shown me a phrase (thanks Facebook) that is so totally me, I can hardly stop jumping up and down. You know how that is, when you come across something that makes you go, "OHMYGOD THAT'S MEEEEE!!!!!"???
I saw this ad for women speakers who are futurists. Futurist. Women. Speakers. And I went...all together now!..."OHMYGOD, THAT'S MEEEEE!!!" But what does that have to do with not being a good girl and what does it have to do with identity and Big Shifts, which is what I facilitate and work towards in my work with all of my client-friends?
Identity begets action.
The Surprisingly Forgivable, Spiritual, and Changeable Reason the Last Person On Your List Seems to Be You
You don't have to choose between yourself and another; taking a seat at your own sumptuous table feeds everyone.
There is an old story that comes out of the East:
Just before the launch of Humanity 1.0 (so to speak) the Gods sat around in Heaven discussing the issue of where to hide each human's soul. They didn't want to make the greatest gift too easy to find.
One said, "Why don't we hide it in an animal, like a deer? It is beautiful, and fleet - hard to catch."
But the others said, "No, that won't work at all, because they will eventually kill the deer to eat their meat, and the soul will be released and they will find it too easily."
Another one of the Gods spoke up. "Why don't we hide it in trees. They are sturdy and will last for eons and protect the soul well."
But the others said, "No, no, that won't work either. They will cut down the trees to make fire and to build shelter, and that also will be too easy an access."
The Gods pondered and pondered, bringing up suggestion after suggestion. For a short time - which for a God is still, of course, an eternity - they felt stumped.
The Invisible Fight to Own the Respect and Power of Emotion: Emotional Intelligence With, or Without, Women?
i was eleven years old when my father took me to the hospital to see my mother who had gone in for “some tests for bursitis”. He warned me that she might be hooked up to some tubes and that it shouldn’t upset me. An emotionally buoyant little girl, I was not cowed by that warning and I bounced into the room and up onto her bed to hug her.
Which is when she told me that she was actually in hospital for a biopsy. And that she had breast cancer.
I started to cry. And she – alarmed because she didn’t want to turn into a river of tears herself – said urgently, “No, no! Don’t cry!” And I stopped. Immediately. My emotional reaction was too much for my mother to bear, and I would have done anything for her. So I held it all back.
Years later when I entered the business arena, I encountered a different type of fear of emotion, one that all women come to understand in this Western culture of ours: emotion is both the butt of too many jokes about us and an accusation leveled against us when we seem too powerful. I was a little surprised, some years even further on, when I began to hear emotion referred to more positively, more as “a consummation devoutly to be wished” (to quote Mr. Shakespeare) when someone (generally a man) needed to laud his intuition.
But it is clear to every woman that emotion is judged differently for women than it is for men. To highlight this situation, allow me to usie a very recent and notable example.
At first, it felt like standing naked in public, with nowhere to run! Terrifying, shocking, and almost comical.The first time I stepped onto a professional stage to audition for a play, my knees literally knocked — I could actually hear them! — and the paper in my hand was audible too: shaking beyond my control to stop it. God knows how I read the lines on that paper when it was shaking so hard, but somehow I managed.
I have to tell you also that the feeling of being naked and unprotected also felt magnificent! It was a feeling of aliveness so focused, so intense, I realized that I had never before been so alive, and that I wanted to live in that peak experience most of the time from then on! But how? I was in business!!!
Well I did become a professional actor. On the side. I was absolutely addicted to the feeling of immediacy, truthfulness, openness and that quicksilver skittering of aliveness across the nerve ends that accompanies opening up in public. I still worked in corporate America, but I dreamed of becoming a full-time actor.
I was eighteen years old and working my very first office job. It was a temporary position through Kelly Services - known then by the infantilizing name of "Kelly Girls". Being as I was then, a good little girl and more than eager to please, I brought all of my desire to please to this position. I was ready to scale tall buildings in a single bound, walk through fire, dedicate myself to whatever was asked of me!
In I walked, ready to take on the most onerous tasks. I was nervous, I was scared, but I was strong and ready.
The boss sat me down and gave me a large stack of forms, four pages to a form, and told me to separate them by color.
Pink sheets here, yellow there, blue over here, and green over here. That was it: the whole job.
I thought I had died. I knew I hadn't gone to heaven.
Two hours in, I got a call from Kelly Girls. I had been fired. I couldn't understand it! I had been dutifully separating the forms - no mixing of greens and blues - and suddenly I was fired? What had happened?
Being eighteen, and a good girl, I didn't question a thing. I just...went home. Being a really good girl, I blamed myself. I hadn't yet learned to be a threat to insecure authority figures by speaking up and asking questions, or walking out of bad situations before being asked to.
Now, fast forward to adulthood.
I've never been much of a Soaps watcher. The entire daytime phenomenon would have completely passed me by if I hadn't been terribly lonely and surrounded entirely by gay men instead of equally yummy straight men when the whole Luke and Laura thing almost passed me by.
I don't recall what initially drew me in, but once I understood that there was this woman who wanted to return to the love of her life, and she and he were yearning for one another, and he thought she was dead, and there were these tantalizing and endless scenes of her aliveness almost but not quite being revealed...well, I was hooked.
If you have been a Genie Francis fan - the woman in this emotional melodrama - you will know that in her field she is considered a leader. And in less than 2 minutes in this video, she describes something that holds a lot of us back: obedience. Take a minute and watch this video about her unconscious obedience to "stand on uour mark", which is what actors do when they are filming a scene.
We women are rewarded for obedience when we're young, while boys are rewarded for boldness. And those lessons are sticky. Gluey. They stick with us as mental/emotional set points that we don't even notice.
So today I invite you as a leader to get off your mark and move around your world in new and untried ways. No matter how small the change, the results will melt that glue off obedience, and reward you for being seriously bold.
Performance-Based Self-Expression Coach for Women Leaders
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