Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lead Yourself Before Leading Others

Over the course of my career I’ve seen a lot of people in leadership roles.  Interestingly, there haven’t been very many who have lived up to the leadership title.  I’m sure you’ve seen this too. 
Whether in the workforce, politics, or community or professional organizations people assume the reins of leadership but fail miserably in creating, articulating and achieving a vision.  The leadership literature is replete with rationales, but there is a convergence of thinking that before one can successfully lead others, she must be able to lead herself.  Translated:  Know Yourself!
In helping people with career choices, one of my first questions is “what is your passion?” Surprisingly, a very small percentage of people can answer that question. How does someone make a career choice without understanding her passion, values or strengths?  The answer is, “Well, probably not very well!”  
How does a “Leader” lead without knowing her passion, values or strengths?  The answer is, “Well, probably not very well!”  Plato said over two thousand years ago “I must first know myself………. to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self would be ridiculous.”  It is safe to say that we have a large number of leaders who look pretty ridiculous.
 Knowing yourself has been purported to be the most difficult lesson in the world (Cervantes).  But, while difficult, it is a rewarding and fulfilling journey.  The journey begins with a step….so don’t be afraid, take the first step and enjoy the journey!
Tools that you may find helpful for beginning your journey:
VIA Survey of Character Strengths:
TypeFocus Personality Type:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year’s Resolution: Accept The Gift of the Present

A colleague of mine and I met for lunch a couple of weeks before Christmas.  Our conversation turned to focusing on my friend’s continuing anxiety over a business decision that she had made over six months ago.  She was chastising herself about the income she had lost; about how she had not been assertive enough, and rebuked herself for making the same types of mistakes over and over again. 
I know my colleague very well.  She is creative and resourceful and I knew that replaying this business decision over and over again was depriving her of pleasures of the moment, especially during this holiday time. 
When she paused and looked at me for a response, I offered her a  powerful quote by Babatunde Olatunii.  Yesterday is history,” I said.  “Tomorrow is a mystery,” I continued, “and Today is a gift.  That is why we call it the present.”  I asked her to reflect on the quote and then invited her to explain what lessons this business decision had provided.   The conversation from that point shifted dramatically.  From worrying about the past my colleague jumped into identifying choices she could immediately make that would incorporate the lessons from that event six months earlier.
Worrying about the past and fretting over the future, robs the woman leader from the time, energy and enjoyment of concentrating on the choices today that will make a difference for tomorrow.   

This is not to say that the woman leader should not reflect about yesterday, set goals or think futuristically.  Not at all! 

The key, however, is establishing a healthy balance between yesterday, today, and tomorrow.   Yesterday is past , but action in the present provides input (not control) for tomorrow.   Apply yesterday’s lessons to your actions today, and tomorrow will be a breadth of opportunities to learn much more.

Inspirational quotes, like the one I shared with my colleague, energize us.  Such quotes make us feel good and they usually wake us to the moment.   How can we capture the vitality of the moment and be attentive to the lesson each holds?

One strategy I have found particularly useful is to journal my lessons. 

As you live each day in the present, be aware of the lesson each moment is offering.  Think for a split second about the lesson.  Perhaps the lesson is:
·         Listening attentively to my colleague’s opinions helps me see matters with more clarity
·         Anger is decreasing my ability to be productive
·         Worrying is inhibiting me from making an important decision
·         Thinking positively makes me feel good
·         Hurrying caused me to overlook important details
·         Speaking up for my needs gave me confidence

Get a special, notebook and label it “The Gift of Lessons” or “Lessons Learned” or whatever title is meaningful to you.  Each evening, take the gift of the Present, and write down and reflect (journal) on three to five lessons of the day.  The history can’t be changed, but with the gift of the Present you can absorb the meaning of each lesson and celebrate the opportunity it has given you to build a better tomorrow.

To see a video of this Monarch Minute visit:

To learn more about differences between how men and women worry see:

For the benefits of journaling  in leadership development see: