Articles tagged with: Emotional Intelligence

The Leadership Journey to Authenticity

What happens when you get where you think you want to be, only to realize it is not the right place...or you find yourself compromising your values or passions to succeed in a new more senior position? If you are a leader and have not experienced something similar, hold on to your boots, you probably will. Is the school of hard knocks the only option? Many of us have a graduate degree in learning from failure, which is OK. As John Maxwell says, “success stands on top of a pile of failures”.

Although I have not found a way to eliminate mistakes (and frankly do not think we would ever want to, as it a good teacher) I do believe there is a way to help leaders navigate through moves and decisions that maybe less painful. The “new” title given to this sort of awareness is authentic leadership. Often, leaders, through years of experience develop this but it has not been defined with a  name until  recently.  The book , “True North” by Bill George and summarizes what I had been  personally striving for as a leader. Throughout the last few years, I have engaged in much of what I have  learned through this process as well as coaching others to their own personal authentic leadership style. If you have read the book, you will notice some of George’s passion threaded throughout this article.  We have tried for many years to develop the perfect model for leadership but the truth is, leaders come  in all shapes and sizes. That is because we are all different and bring our own set of experiences,  personalities and passions into our leadership.

Certainly, we can learn from other’s experiences but we cannot  live through and lead through another’s experiences. In the book titled “The Enemy Called Average”  was the quote, “we are all born originals but most die carbon copies”. Others can mentor and influence your authentic leadership style but only you can determine what it is. There is only one you with your  personality inspired by you unique set of life experiences. Although there may be other people like you,  only you have lived your life.

A leader can develop their authentic leadership by focusing on seven areas:  self awareness, personal  values, balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, developing a trustworthy support team, staying  grounded, integrating life and empowering others to lead.

Being self aware is not as easy as it may appear. Self awareness is birthed out of one’s own life story and how their story affects their leadership. Often leaders do not tap into this goldmine of discovery. They may not go through this process for several reasons.  Some of these reasons may include:  not knowing how, lack of understanding in the value of their life story, it is too painful or they are unwilling  to invest the time. This journey is worth the investment however.  A study from Stanford  Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council recommended self awareness as the most important  capability for leader’s to develop. Learning your authentic leadership will require not only honesty but  also courage. The process can begin in through different areas of self discovery such as: writing out  your story and listening to feedback to more formal methods such as: 360 profiles, personality profiles,  strength finder and emotional intelligence.

Reflecting on and learning from your life story is the starting point. One’s personal life story allows a  leader to better understand themselves. It also opens their eyes to their passions, values and principles. Reviewing life experiences that go back as far as can be remembered encourages a leader to discover  what drives their passions and then learn how to channel that passion to their own leadership. The  difficult challenges faced in life often define who a leader is and give direction to what they will become.  A leader’s understanding of their values becomes even more relevant when tested under pressure. Having a strong foundation of values that are tried under fire enables a leader to develop the principles  they will apply in leading others.

A leader’s values help them to gain insight to their motivations both intrinsically and extrinsically. The  common response in measuring a leader’s success is extrinsically. When the measuring stick for success  is the “world’s view” it creates a void that is never satisfied. This view encompasses tangible things such  as:  money, home, cars, titles, etc. The challenge is that these things are not sustainable and more often  than not leave a leader unfulfilled with lack of meaning in life. Intrinsic motivations on the other hand  lead the person to pursue more meaningful success that is congruent with their values thus balancing  the fulfillment of their extrinsic motivations. Discovering both your extrinsic and intrinsic motivation takes self evaluation, honesty and a willingness to explore how to bring balance between the two.

Leaders cannot succeed on their own. It takes support and advice. Authentic leaders build a support team to help them stay focused. This team provides feedback, balanced perspective and has earned the  right to speak into the leader’s life. They will help with focus and correction when the leader needs it. This support group also gives a leader a group of individuals to authentically be themselves with and to  rely on to coach and challenge them. This group may consist of peers, family, colleagues, mentors  and/or friends.

Staying grounded as a leader can be a challenge. Leaders that are able to integrate all areas of their life  find the journey to authenticity become a reality. True authenticity comes when a leader is balanced  and consistent in work, faith, family, community and friends. The challenge is balancing effective  leadership at work and maintaining a strong personal life. Those who achieve authentic leadership are constantly working to maintain balance and stay grounded through holistic lives. This allows for  accountability, spending time with family and close friends, physical exercise, community service and a  commitment to spiritual practices, remembering where you came from, what values drive your values  and passions – all allowing authenticity to be sustainable.

Once a leader has worked through self awareness (which is an on going challenge), they now have  earned the right of passage (so to speak) to empower others to lead. Authentic leaders create a culture  of trust and loyalty. This culture enables the leader’s organization to retain and attract top talent that  aligns team members with shared values and goals. Team members are inspired at all levels to step up  and lead and/or take on greater challenges. Thus, authentic leaders are able to produce sustainable  results for themselves and their organization for a long term period. At MSBCoach, we are dedicated to coaching leaders to become authentic leaders. For more information please contact us at: .

Knowing Yourself: 3 Steps to Leadership Growth

We have all heard the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Effective leaders work tirelessly to understand themselves, practicing to the best of their ability what they preach. In Making a Difference, I shared the importance of preparing yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Now let’s move to part II of getting to know yourself as the absolute best way to begin to make a difference.

I would like to share this quote with you as you think about getting to know yourself, "Success is when you realize obstacles you face are challenges to help you become better - and your response equals the challenge." - Stephen Covey Becoming a leader requires learning from a combination of successes, failures, training as well as mentoring, and finding value in challenging experiences. Effective leaders learn from many situations encountered in life. As a leader, you have a unique story and a “special” lens through which you view the world. Leaders receive the greatest benefit when they appreciate and absorb every experience in their “story”, then they move forward to make the experience (both positive and negative) a part of their leadership fabric.

As a leader your experiences create a journey. Although journeys may be similar, no two experiences are the same. I’d like to share a chapter from my daughter’s leadership journey and how it affected her. She is a 4th year cadet (freshman) at Virginia Military Institute. For the last six months she has been a “Rat” in the “Ratline” going through what many call the hardest military school initiation in the country. During this time the upper classmen developed her into a Cadet for the class of 2017. Many times we would ask her if she was going to make it and she would answer, always with tears in her eyes, that she was fine. She told us that although she sometimes felt like quitting when faced with some of the toughest challenges, what kept her going were her “brother rats”, finding an outlet in her studies, her soccer teammates who give her constant support, her mentor who continues to guide her, and advice from her “grand” mentor. Here is the advice that we as leaders would benefit from as well – 3 steps to leadership growth:

  1. Give it everything you have and don’t look for an easy way out of the demanding responsibilities.
  2. Accept challenges and make them worthwhile.
  3. Know that you will never regret working hard - anything else is a waste of time.

After completing her most challenging time at the Institute thus far, she said, “It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was awesome.”

In your leadership journey, find the value in all your life lessons and be proud of all the challenges you have encountered. I encourage you to recognize that it is “awesome” when you face challenges “head-on” and not only persevere, but succeed!

You learn more about yourself through your experiences, your challenges and the great stories from the people in your life every day. As a student of leadership on my own journey, it would enrich my experience and those of others to hear yours. Please share your story.

Making a Difference

Most of us want to have an impact on something, especially as leaders. We want to matter and make a difference. I have found this to be true in the work place as well as with our loved ones, neighbors and communities. Abraham Maslow, a founder of humanistic psychology and creator of the hierarchy of needs, tells us that self-esteem and the need to contribute, be respected, and needed is an innate human necessity.

Some jump in head first and commit, others sit on the sidelines waiting for the coach to put us in the game. Regardless of your situation or desire, making a difference begins internally. It starts with you. Taking the time and effort to get to know yourself is the absolute best way to begin to make a difference.

Getting to know yourself (mentally, physically and spiritually), will help you prepare to make a difference and prepare for what the world may demand of you. Below are three things I aspire to. I hope these things will encourage you as well:

  1. Exercise - You may have heard this from different people and sources on many occasions. I would like to share it with you yet another time, because it is so important. You may be surprised how much of a difference you can make when you reap the benefits of a sound body. I find that when I run without my headphones, my mind is just as active as my body. I’ve solved some of my world’s greatest problems in just 4 miles!!
  2. Arrive early - This is especially hard for those of us with chauffeur responsibilities. Set your alarm 15-30 minutes earlier to give your body a change to transition from slumber to wakefulness. Try to leave for the office or your appointments 15-30 minutes early as well so that you can give your mind a chance to transition into your work. Reduce what I will call “shock of circumstance” by giving yourself a chance to adapt to, think about, and reflect on your immediate environment.
  3. Slow Down - This is a type of meditation that I have adapted from the book, “Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game” by Dr. Joseph Parent. Regardless of the game or situation, the key word here is mental. Find five minutes during your day, every day, for clearing your mind, relieving stress, and/or preparing for action. Find a quiet spot where you will not be interrupted -- an office, closet, or even the bathroom will do! Turn off the lights and sound and close your eyes and just sit. Let your head and chin rest by removing the stress on your neck. Release your shoulders by letting them drop. Let your arms rest on your legs and place both your feet flat on the floor. Relax your muscles and body and feel yourself breathing. With your mind’s eye count from 1 to 100 or slowly recite the alphabet. Concentrate on every number or letter. Without moving, feel your toes and slowly move from there to every part of your body individually. Once done visualize yourself being perfect, doing everything perfectly, and making a difference.

Now it’s time to focus and go out to do great things. As leaders it is imperative that we know ourselves, our capacities, as well as our limitations. We need to use tools and do exercises that prepare us to make a difference and inspire others. Please share the tricks of the trade that help you.

Help, I’m A Control Freak!

Dear Michelle,
My husband and even my dear friends refer to me as a control freak! I own and operate a catering business, and yes I’ll admit I have a tendency to micro-manage (one time I almost divorced my husband and now ex-chef just because I thought his cilantro pesto was too salty!) How do I break away from my compulsion to control everything while maintaining top notch food service and quality for my clients?
– Control Freak in Harrisonburg, VA.

Dear Control Freak,
You have taken the first big step with any personal challenge and that is, “owning it”. In order to improve a behavioral pattern we have to first be aware of it, the second step is to make a plan of action. Most of our problems do not stem from what we do not know, they manifest from doing nothing. Below are some suggestions that should help:

  1. Open your mind to other people’s opinions and ideas – your way is not the only way.
  2. Wait, breathe, and think before you respond – this gives you a window of opportunity to mitigate a situation without regrets.
  3. Practice self-observation and keep a journal – this helps you to “see” yourself from an outsider’s perspective so you can correct mistakes.
  4. Set one goal at a time for yourself – changing a long-time behavioral pattern takes time, so be patient and try not to get overwhelmed.
  5. Set up accountability partners – confide in 1 to 3 trusted people about your new goals and give them permission to hold you accountable to the behavior changes you have set for yourself.

Changing anything takes time, but staying focused, developing a plan, and surrounding yourself with accountability partners will keep you on track. Following these steps will relieve stress on yourself and your business colleagues, plus give you more fulfillment in your life. Now how do I get a hold of some of the cilantro pesto?

Addicted to Busy

This topic will either make total sense to you… or not.  That is because if you are “bent” to have this addiction you will get it right away, and if not, as with any other addiction you just don’t get it.  I am writing to those who “get it” and/or those who have to live and work with those who “get it”.

Addiction is being compulsively or physiologically dependent on something habit-forming. Busy is habit-forming.   The first step with any addiction is to “own” it.  I first realized I was “addicted to busy” about eight years ago.  Someone said something very simple to me, “you know, you do not have to do all this, you bring it on yourself”.  I found myself pondering that thought.  It was not the first time I heard something like that, but it was the first time it hit home with me.  I realized no matter what I do, whether it is volunteer work, doing something for my family, or job related, I had a tendency to do more than necessary.  In some ways that is a good trait, but as with most strengths it can become a weakness.

I began to do some self-observation activities and discovered much of my self-worth was built upon what I accomplished, thinking busy somehow meant important and how this made me look in the eyes of others.  I also realized when I didn’t want to deal with something; I would get REAL busy in another area i.e. something at home, in my marriage or another work issue.  If I was busy, I should not have to deal with “it” right…?  This is a poor way to measure self.  As with any addiction, it is never satisfied.

I have found that it is helpful when I find myself in this place of “addicted to busy” to do the following:

  1. Reflect on why you need to be so busy
  2. Do some self-observation activities– this is where you observe what you are doing, make notes about it and later reflect on why/s to determine if it is an activity or behavior you want to continue
  3. What is being fulfilled inside of you by being busy?
  4. What is missing that you need to fill it up with “busy”?
  5. Set a goal that reflects valuing and feeling important without being busy – i.e. spend an hour having a conversation that has nothing to do with work or read a book for fun.  I say set a goal because I suggest only setting 1 and mastering it – anymore and you are digressing back to being busy but this time with these goals
  6. Create accountability – tell someone you trust what you are doing, give them your goal and permission to hold you accountable
  7. Once you have “mastered” this one goal, go back through 1-6 and do it all over again

The beautiful thing about life is that we are always growing and learning… we never “arrive”.  Aren’t you glad….?!  It is a journey.  Practice enjoying doing nothing - "Concentration is the ability to think about absolutely nothing when it is absolutely necessary." -- Ray Knight

I would love to hear from you.  If you have found yourself “addicted to busy” or know someone who is write in and share other ways to overcome this addiction.

A colleague of mine shared something with me regarding being "addicted to busy".  This is a quote from her daughter - the most interesting part is that she is 12 years old “A day not laughed is a day wasted, no matter how much work you got done.” Hmmm, "from the mouth of babes...." ?

What the heck is "holistic leadership"?

What do you think of when you hear the word "holistic"? I would dare say you think of something in it's entirety, and that is correct. Something that is whole is complete. A holistic leader understands their entire being. They recognize they are not defined by what they do, but who they are. Holistic leadership can also be organizational; however, we are going to look at it from a personal leadership standpoint.

For an individual to be whole and complete is a challenge because no matter how hard we try to maintain balance, life is always changing. Life brings unexpected complications and opportunities. As a leader we want to become aware of how we best maintain balance and live an integrated life. A holistic leader is self-aware and understands their values and what drives them. A holistic leader knows there is harmony to maintain between both the mind and body as well as relationships, finances, community and spiritual being.

As a leader people are looking to you to maintain symmetry. They do not expect you to be perfect, but they do need their leader to know who they are and live a life that sets an example holistically: body (taking care of your physical body -eating healthy, exercise, and rest), soul (mind, will and emotions) and spirit.

Here are a few things you can do to lead holistically:

  1. Know who you are and were you come from
  2. Know what your values are and how they tie into your life story - this will help you prioritize
  3. Know what motivates you both intrinsically and extrinsically
  4. Know how to take care of yourself emotionally , mentally and physically and the importance of valuing and prioritizing these components
  5. Be aware of relationships and the value they play in who you are
  6. Identify what is important to you spiritually and be true to that
  7. Practice financial awareness and balance this with your extrinsic motivations
  8. Build a support and accountability group to help you practice being holistic and authentic.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! … and How to Deal When You Aren't Getting There

If you are alert and open, you can find connections to the things you are most passionate about just about anywhere.   For me, it happened again a few nights ago as I read  “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss to my kids.  Like many, I was given this book as I graduated high school.   It’s a favorite of ours and we come back to it often.

As I read, I found myself thinking about how good leaders find their way out of confusion and ‘slumps’.  Many of us can relate to that little guy in the book charging out into the world to seize his destiny.  There are many meaningful messages that resonate at several stages in our lives.