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August 2010

Learning From Our Stories

All of our life experiences, professional and personal, shape the way we lead and affect our potential.  The more we reflect on our stories and learn from them, the more authentic we become and the more effective we will be.  
In last week's post you were challenged to draw the path of your life and divide it into chapters.  Today, I encourage you to look at your story from satellite height, surveying the whole story of your life and leadership.  As you reflect on it, the origins of your purpose and motivations as a leader will emerge. 
Start by looking back at the chapters you identified from last week's exercise and take note of the people, events, and experiences that had the greatest impact on your life.  Then, look at the chapters individually and answer the following about each:

  • What did the experiences in this chapter make me believe?
  • The experiences in this chapter made me more or less ______________.
  • If I could go back, I would have more of _________ in this chapter.
  • How am I affected on a daily basis today by the events in this chapter?

When you finish these questions, examine your story as a whole.  Where do you first see your inspiration and passion for leadership appear? How have each developed over time?  What person and experience impacted you the most?  Where do you find the greatest fulfillment in leading? 
Questions. Questions. Questions.  I was told once to love the questions because it is in the search for answers that transformation occurs. Transformation leads to inspired leadership.  Only you have your answers.  Happy searching!  

What will you do with what you find?
Next in the series: Learning from our crucibles... 

Note: Exercise taken from Finding Your True North: A Personal Guide, by Bill George.

Humility and Greatness: Thoughtful Thursday

What comes to mind when asked to picture the perfect Level 5 leader? Charisma? Power? Intelligence? Honesty? Does humility come to your mind? It should, because according to one of the most notable business minds of our time, Jim, Collins, Level 5 leaders possess humility which sets them apart from the rest.

To dig further into this concept, today's Thoughtful Thursday quote comes from Jim Collins' Good to Great, p. 22.

Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless.


  • How might these dual traits can coexist in one person? What would that look like?
  • Why do you think it is so hard to be both great and humble?
  • How pure is your ambition? Is it first and foremost for your organization or for yourself?
  • What one thing might you do differently this week to become a Level 5 leader?

The Journey to Authentic Leadership: Examine Your Story

The difference with authentic leaders lies in the way they frame their stories.  Their life stories provide the context for their lives, and through them they find their passion and inspiration to to make an impact on the world. (Bill George, True North, p. 15)

Have you ever stopped to consider how your unique story has shaped and equipped you to impact those around you? No one has a story exactly the same as yours.  Our individual journeys, with their peaks and valleys, shape the way we live and lead. Both our personal and professional experiences develop our leadership gifts over time.

Each life experience teaches us about our passion to lead.

Today I'm going to share with you an exercise called the "Path of Life", that gave me tremendous insights into my own leadership style. Drawing the path of our lives enables us to examine the impact of our past upon our present and future. Are you ready to learn?

Take a piece of paper and start in the bottom left corner, labeling the starting point of the line "Birth".  Then draw the path of your life from there to the upper right corner.  Put some twists and turns on the page.  Be creative as you let your life story unfold before you.  Label the milestones - places you have lived, significant achievements, relationships, family, life-changing lessons learned... anything that is important to you.  Draw some pictures to represent the events on the timeline of your life.
When you are finished, look at your path and divide it into four or five chapters marked by significant events in your life.  Give each chapter a descriptive title and label the chapters on your path.  Your life story has made you into the person you are today. 

My life story has taught me to lead with more compassion and less judgment. What about yours? How can you better use it to impact your world tomorrow? Share with us in a comment by clicking the comment link below. 

How Self Aware Are You? -->Thoughtful Thursday

Leaders are at their best when they lead authentically and self-knowledge plays a significant role in leadership effectiveness. My favorite moments as an executive coach are those "Aha" moments when my clients realize that others see their behavior different than they do!

Today's Thoughtful Thursday quote to ponder comes from one of my favorite books on coaching leaders, "Coaching Leaders" by Daniel White, p. 109. Consider the following:

"Leaders with low self-awareness are limited to their instinctual reactions and to habitual, often unconscious, and possible ineffective patterns."


  • How aware are you of the way others view the world...and you? How do you know how aware you are?
  • Who is in your life who can give you objective feedback as to how you come across to the world?
  • When was the last time someone shared an unbiased perspective about you to you?
  • What ineffective pattern or instinctual reaction can you stop today?

Coaching increases self awareness and correction of those ineffective patterns.  Contact me today for a free consultation to discuss how assessments and coaching might increase your effectiveness!

Handbook for 2010: Thoughtful Thursday

To quote a friend and one of my favorite networking gurus, "common sense is not always common practice".  We have good intentions to live our lives to the fullest, yet somehow in the day to day "fire fighting" we lose sight of our longer term goals.

Today's thoughtful Thursday comes to you in an excerpt of common sense ideas from a "Handbook for 2010", inspired from a blog post I received today from Andrea Nierenberg. Like Andrea, I aspire to live by a similar version of this "handbook", of which I'm sharing the section regarding personality today. I believe doing each of these well will increase our leadership capabilities tremendously. Take a look.  

11.    Don't compare your life to others... You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12.    Don't have negative thoughts or things you cannot control.. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
13.    Don't over do.. Keep your limits.
14.    Don't take yourself so seriously.. No one else does.
15.    Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
16.    Dream more while you are awake
17.    Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need..
18.    Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner with His/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
19.    Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.
20.    Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
21.    No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22.    Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn.  Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
23.    Smile and laugh more.
24.    You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree...

NOTE: If you want to see the full list, click here.

Now, think about the following:

  • Which of the above do you need to focus on today?
  • What will you do today to devote more attention to it?
  • What support do you need in achieving your goal?

What would you add to this list? As always, we'd love to hear from you.  Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

Competitiveness: The Leadership Edge

Competitiveness is defined as tenacity, boldness, assertiveness and a willingness to win in all situations.  Naturally competitive people have a leadership edge in the professional world because the world is a competitive place. Those who aren't so inclined often feel left behind their more tenacious counterparts.

So are less competitive people destined to be second class leaders? Absolutely not. For the less driven at heart, competitiveness can be learned. And as with all strengths, being competitive has its drawbacks too.

We all have our issues.

I know all too well that being competitive can be both a virtue and a vice. My parents can tell you stories of my temper tantrums as a little girl when losing at miniature golf, bowling, and board games on family game night. My competitive nature has caused many a frustration in me and those around me, but it has also been the source of my greatest successes in life and in leadership.

When harnessed properly, competitiveness can result in sustained progress toward a goal. Competitive people are:

  • able to clearly see and define goals
  • instinctively appreciative of competition and the associated reward for winning
  • able to see critical path elements toward reaching goals
  • willing to learn new skills and adapt attitudes.

How competitive are you? Do you make everything a win-lose type of game or do you rarely "keep score" because it just doesn't matter? If you don't know, ask your friends about yourself.  They WILL know. Or, contact me for help with an assessment tool to help you develop that leadership edge. I love to help people win.

Tips for Developing Competitiveness

  • Define three main goals in both your personal and professional life. Plan three action steps for each goal and follow them through to completion.
  • Learn to lose. How can you acknowledge that your time to "win" is further down the road? How might this change your attitude about a current "loss"?
  • Thoughtfully answer the following: Why do I deserve success? What can I do to be more deserving of success?

Now its your turn.  Do you have anything to add to this post?  Share with us by clicking the comment link below!