Is there something vital that you’ve been meaning to get to that seems just out of reach? A juicy project, initiative or undertaking that you’re passionate about – that could potentially make a big impact on your career, in your organization, or simply on another human being?
If you’re like most people, the answer is yes. We all tend to have something relatively important we’ve been putting off – for lack of time, energy, focus (or a combination of all three). Sometimes it keeps slipping because other people’s projects and requests tend to take priority.
But more often than not, these critical tasks and projects are in a perpetual state of incompletion because we simply have not gotten serious about carving out time (and energy) to do them. They tend to have a few things in common:
- They require you to think creatively – to bring into form something that did not previously exist or to solve a problem that doesn’t have easy answers.
- It seems the time it will take to do them is greater than the time you have available.
- The thought of jumping in makes you mildly uncomfortable, leading you to be all too inclined to put other things ahead of them.
I know, because the article you are now reading fell into that category for me. So, in effect I am writing this as much for my own benefit as yours.
Below are three simple tips to help you get off the dime and get those essential projects rolling.
(1) Make the decision to stop talking/thinking/planning and start DOING.
The word decision derives from the Latin “decidere”, which literally means “to cut off,” from de- “off” + ceadere “to cut”. Making a decision means cutting yourself off from other options. In the words of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, “There is no try, only do.”
Sometimes you can kick start yourself by using this logic in reverse. What if the option you cut yourself off from was the completion of this important task/project/initiative? What would be the impact on your life if you did not do it? How would you feel? And what would the effect be on others?
If you were to flash forward another week/month/year/decade, and you still hadn’t done this thing that has likely been gently (or not so gently) nudging you forward, would you be okay with that?
Conversely, what is there to gain by going all in? How would you benefit? How will the work you are on the verge of doing enrich the lives of others or make a difference in a way that matters? Flash forward and imagine that you have completed it. How would you feel? And what kind of impact would it have on the world around you?
William James once said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” Sometimes the very incompletion of a task that has meaning and significance for us is more exhausting than the energy required to actually do it. So, make the decision today to cut yourself off from other options and move into action.
This leads us to the next tip.
(2) Block time and hold it sacred.
Now that you’ve made the decision to get that precious piece of work done, you must dedicate time to do it. Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t necessarily need to have large, uninterrupted chunks of time to make progress. Even the smallest of actions you can take will begin creating momentum that will move you closer to your finish line.
Break bigger projects into smaller milestones and get into the practice of using whatever time you have to take action toward your goals. Challenge your assumptions on how long things will take to get done. Interrupt that chatter in your head that has you believing you don’t have time to make a dent in something by simply moving into action in spite of it. Just get started.
Reserve larger chunks of time by scheduling meetings with yourself. Consider sending yourself a meeting notice, complete with a subject line and an agenda that spells out your objectives in the body of the message. This will serve to direct your attention and focus to what you have the power to accomplish in the time you have reserved.
Regard these meetings you schedule with yourself the same way you would a meeting with a client or your boss. If despite your best efforts, something else must be scheduled in its place, don’t just delete it from your calendar. Find an alternative date and time in the same way you would another appointment that you are committed to.
If upon looking at your calendar it seems there is simply no time available, challenge yourself to use the discernment necessary to create it. What can you delegate, defer or dump? How can you simplify the things that may not require as much time as you thought they would? What things are you involved in that in the scheme of things really aren’t true priorities?
Now that you have allocated time to work on those precious projects, let’s talk about how you can create the kind of space you’ll need to make good progress on them.
(3) Maximize your FOCUS and PRODUCTIVITY.
During the time you have set aside to do that important work that has previously eluded you, it is likely there will be a multitude of things competing for your attention. We are conditioned to believe that taking time for ourselves is indulgent. But in many cases, it is the most generous thing you can do because it allows you to engage in the kind of work that is of greatest service to others.
Despite that fact, many of us are all too quick to defer those projects that bring us the greatest joy to meet the urgent requests of someone or something that is demanding our attention.
Sometimes that is an actual person standing in front of us, but often it is the little ding that tells us an email has landed in our inbox, or the ring of the phone that we are conditioned to answer without even thinking, or the lure of social media or internet surfing that sucks up immeasurable amounts of time that we’ll never get back.
So, it is essential to consciously and intentionally eliminate distractions and create the kind of setting that is most conducive to enhancing your focus and productivity. Close your Outlook or Gmail and your browsers as well. Make the decision not to answer the phone.
Shut your door (if you have one) and/or communicate with others to manage their expectations about when you will become available. If you have the option, you may even consider going to a remote location like a coffee shop or restaurant where you are less likely to be disturbed.
Notice what environment leads you to find your zone of productivity. Some prefer a completely quiet space, while others enjoy ambient sounds around them. Some like music in the background or the sound of water.
Set a timer and designate anywhere from thirty to fifty minutes to do a “sprint” of work followed by a five to ten minute break that allows you to relax, take some deep breaths, move your body, get a drink of water and/or rest your eyes. Research shows this practice will dramatically increase your productivity (and I have validated that through my own experience as well.)
One of my favorite apps is Focus at Will, which offers a variety of background music and sounds that are designed to keep your brain at the right focus level by increasing beta and theta brainwave activity. The program allows you to set a timer, at which point the background sound will stop signaling time for a break.
A few words on why your most important work shouldn’t wait another minute…
Throughout corporate America, executives are prone to move so fast from one thing to another checking boxes that they sacrifice the strategic in favor of the operational. Those juicy projects and creative visions that beckon to us in our quiet moments are vital not only to our sanity and sense of meaning and purpose, but also to the very future of our organizations and the lives of the people they serve.
The Real Leader Revolution already underway is bringing this to a head for us. Real Leaders (at all levels of both small and large organizations) who heed these calls to break out of business as usual by tending to work that has real significance are already experiencing the rich rewards of fulfilling work that makes a bigger, more sustainable impact in the world.
If you would like to learn more about how you can join them, sign up below to receive a copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it becomes available.
My last article, “How to Meet Change, Challenge and Uncertainty with Courage and Grace” discussed the importance of shifting from a reactive mode that is (often unthinkingly) triggered by fear and conditioning to the conscious, thoughtful, and intentionally constructive response that is characteristic of Real Leadership.
Today, I’d like to give you a concrete tool for helping you do just that – one that I often share in my presentations and workshops and also work with participants in The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow program to apply. It’s called Using the Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present.
Are you in the midst of some kind of change or challenge right now? What is occupying your thoughts and energy these days? Think about it until you can come up with a concrete example of something you may be struggling with – or simply in the process of working through.
See if you can tune into the way this challenge is leading you to feel. Frustration? Uneasiness? Doubt? Worry? Can you put your finger on what is most unnerving about the situation at hand?
Now, think back to another time that you have felt this same way. A time when you had to work through an earlier challenge. One that was perhaps equally difficult and/or anxiety provoking – or even worse than the issue you are currently facing.
Can you recall what you were thinking at the time? What were you telling yourself? What questions were you asking yourself? What worries were plaguing you? What doubts were eroding your confidence?
Imagine that you can go visit that younger version of yourself and share some advice. What would you tell yourself? What do you wish you would have known back then that you know now? What encouragement would you provide? What would you tell yourself to stop, start or continue?
You may want to pause for a moment and write that advice down.
Chances are the advice you would give to your younger self is pretty darn good guidance for you now. Rainer Maria Wilke once wrote, “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.”
What if the very experiences you have had over the course of your life happened in perfect order to prepare you for what you would experience in your future?
What if those challenges that that left you stumped or feeling uneasy or pushed you to your edge served the purpose of helping you to discover in yourself a strength you didn’t know you had – and develop a muscle that would allow you to lift heavier weight and move bigger mountains?
Much of my work as a coach is helping people connect the dots of their own experiences in ways that help them see they have exactly what it takes to successfully address and rise above their current issues and obstacles. It is not uncommon for people to realize that what they thought was unchartered territory at its core is in fact something they are not all that unfamiliar with.
Even something you may have written off as “failure” may reveal rich insights and answers if you take the time to identify what you learned in your past that you can potentially apply to your present.
Most of us don’t pause long enough to realize the ways life has prepared us for what we face. We are all too quick to want to forget about the frustrations and anxieties of the past rather than leverage them in ways that allow us to learn and grow. And when presented with what feels like an insurmountable challenge, we tend to think we need to speed up rather than slow down.
So, you have to make a deliberate, concerted effort to turn that pattern around.
When you do that using The Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present process, you’ll begin to recognize that the biggest source of anxiety and frustration is largely based on conjecture and hypothetical situations.
You’ll also realize as you examine your past, that you likely have concrete data – evidence-based proof that you have what it takes to successfully navigate through uncertainty, to think on your feet, and to find solutions where it appeared none existed.
In so doing, you’ll shift from doubt to confidence – from what you don’t know to what you do know. And you’ll focus on what is in your control to influence rather than all the things that are beyond it.
From that mindset, you are infinitely more likely to access the courage, confidence, ingenuity, determination and resilience necessary to be successful in any situation. You’ll be more likely to see solutions to the problems that once confounded you – and to lead and inspire others to do the same.
This is the essence of Real Leadership.
If you are interested in learning more about Real Leadership and how you can unearth it in yourself and your organization, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it becomes available.
A few weeks ago, I traveled to one of my client’s global quarterly leader meetings to deliver a presentation on navigating change and uncertainty. It’s something many executives are working through right now – in organizations both large and small.
In fact, ironically, change is the one thing that is certain to be a constant challenge for all of us.
The very nature of change thrusts us into circumstances that lead us to feel out of control, beyond our comfort zones, and potentially at risk in one way or another. And when your future is uncertain and all the things that used to work are no longer effective (or relevant), your self-protective mechanisms get triggered.
Left unchecked, your instinct for self-preservation can lead you to engage in behavior that is not particularly productive or constructive. It would have you reacting out of fear, putting your own needs above those of others, mired in doubt and negativity and fixated on obstacles and limitations. From that mindset, you’ll (often unconsciously) act in ways that exacerbate the problems you are already facing.
But there is a wiser, stronger part of you that you can access during times that test you – one that will allow you to rise above the fray and meet change and uncertainty head on with courage and grace.
This wiser part of yourself (which I call your Genius) meets fear with resilience and puts service and self-realization over self-interest. It replaces doubt and negativity with optimism and possibility. And it sees beyond limitations to recognize possibilities. It utilizes challenge as opportunity to become stronger, to rise up and discover that you have within you all that you need to prevail.
This part of you is the essence of Real Leadership – which brings out the very best in everyone and everything and channels it into something that serves a greater good. Real leadership is what is required in times of great change, challenge and uncertainty. And it is something that can be exercised by anyone, at any level of an organization at any time.
What most people don’t realize is that the true cause of stress, frustration (and the knee jerk reactions it often triggers) is not their circumstances themselves, but rather the thoughts they are believing (and the stories they are telling themselves) about their situations. Cognitive science tells us that confirmation bias leads us to take in information that aligns with our current beliefs and screen anything that contradicts them out.
So let’s say you believe the problems you face are insurmountable, the people who surround you cannot be trusted, and that you (or others) lack the resources, skill or resolve to overcome your current challenges. Confirmation bias would lead you to take in information that confirms those beliefs and overlook (or disregard) information that contradicts them – even though that information is the very thing that could potentially turn everything around.
And from that mindset, you’ll behave in ways that make things worse. You could very well act in a manner that makes your worst stories (which are likely based on conjecture) become true.
The biggest problem is that you likely won’t even realize you are falling into this trap. You’ll attribute the cause of your frustration, anxiety and stress to your situation rather than your mindset.
As long as you see the problem as “out there”, you’ll feel more like a victim than a victor.
But even in the most daunting of circumstances, you can find something within yourself that has the potential to change the way you are seeing things. And when you change the way you are seeing things, you’ll notice opportunities, resources, strengths and possibilities that would have otherwise been completely off your radar.
The key to liberating yourself from a self-defeating phenomenon is to recognize frustration, anxiety and stress as a key indicator that your thoughts are not aligned with your Genius, so that you don’t take them quite so seriously.
Rather than getting set on what you think you know, ask yourself what you don’t know. What are you not seeing? What are you believing about what is happening? And how much of that are you certain is actually true?
If you are willing to see things differently, your whole world could change in an instant.
The thing about change is that nothing is certain. And when nothing is certain, anything is possible.
If it is possible that we tend to act in ways that make our stories true – and bring about more of what we are focusing on, then the most powerful thing we can do is allow our stories and our focus to shift to something more empowering.
- Rather than putting your attention on what you don’t want, you can create a compelling vision for yourself and others of what you do Resolve to move toward what you desire rather than away from what you fear.
- When you notice you are fixated on obstacles, see if you can look beyond them to discern opportunities.
- When feeling threatened about all there is to lose, consider what there is to gain.
- Instead of thinking of what you need to get, ask yourself what you have to give.
- Rather than getting lost in your head, reliving the past or worrying about a future that has you living the worst case scenario, challenge yourself to be intensely present to what is unfolding in the moment and the best way to respond to and leverage it.
- When plagued by doubt, think back to previous challenges you successfully overcame and recognize your strengths can get you through this one too.
- When you begin to worry about all the things that are beyond your control, ask yourself what you have the ability to influence and start to make positive change there. Do what you can where you are with what you have.
These practices of Real Leaders will come more naturally when you keep yourself from falling into the trap of identifying with your doubts and limiting beliefs.
It is essential to recognize that you do not need to banish your doubts and limiting beliefs. Doing so is an exercise in futility, since as a human being you will continue to be barraged by these thoughts whether you want them or not.
All you need to do is recognize that there is more to the picture than your current mindset is allowing you see. Don’t let those random thoughts blind you to the solutions that are right in front of you or obstruct your vision of what is possible.
The simple recognition that your thoughts are not serving you in the current moment is enough to allow your mindset to get unstuck. Without a whole lot of effort on your part it will begin to expand, allowing you to get a broader, better view – and connecting you naturally to the mindset of a real leader.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway, liberating the power of the human spirit in the workplace again even the most insurmountable odds. We are all so much stronger than we think we are, and each one of us is capable of so much more than we realize.
In the face of inevitable change, we can rise up as adventurers and warriors and summon strength that often lies dormant within us until given an opportunity to emerge.
If you are interested in learning more about the qualities of Real Leadership and how to unleash it in yourself and others in your organization, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Stay tuned for my next article, where I’ll walk you through a concrete process you can use in the midst of challenge that will help you access your best answers and unearth your strength and resilience.
Today’s article is the fifth in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #5: Real leadership brings life to our greatest dreams and visions.
Leadership is about taking people to a higher place. But before you can go there, you must envision it and create it. You must pay attention to the ideas, thoughts and inspirations that land gently on you and beckon to be given a vehicle to enter the world.
To do that, you need to take steps in your own life to nurture them. These ideas will come when you are relaxed, thoughtful, and open. It won’t happen when you are rushing around putting out fires.
You must create the time in your daily life to honor and develop your dreams, and to take care of yourself in such a way that those dreams continue to come to you. You must pay at least as much attention to the possibilities for change and improvement that exist all around you as you do trying to keep things running the way you think they should.
Many of the things you’ve devoted your time to trying to control and improve have likely served their purpose and need to be replaced by something else. Real leaders are those who ask the tough questions about whether what we are doing and have been doing is still in everyone’s best interests.
When times change greatly, Real Leaders know we all must change with them.
Pay attention to the small still voice within you that dares us to be greater. Quiet yourself enough to truly hear what it has to say. Then have the courage to act in spite of your fears. Be willing to move out of your comfort zone and act boldly. As you do these things, you’ll model the way for others to do the same.
Together, we can create true and lasting transformation throughout Corporate America. The Real Leader Revolution is enabling people at all levels of businesses and organizations to make a bigger, more meaningful impact being who they truly are, access and sustain unprecedented levels of performance and live more fulfilling lives – both on and off the job.
To learn more, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is available.
Today’s article is the fourth in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #4: Real leadership unites. It does not divide.
Conflict is an inevitable part of life and relationships. It exists because we are different. We need to look at it in a way that allows us to come together and learn more about who we are and what we can do together.
In every conflict, each party truly believes they are right, and most of the time they have good reason (at least in their own minds) to think that way. But often our conclusions are based more in conjecture than fact.
We all tell ourselves stories of why people do the things they do. And if you believe a story that convinces you someone else has ill intent, chances are your reaction to that person will create problems that could have otherwise been prevented.
To rise above this pitfall, get in the habit of asking yourself questions such as “What am I believing about this situation (or person)? What do I really know? What am I not seeing?” When you ask questions like these, your brain expands its orientation to allow new information to come in.
Real leaders treat their stories more as hypothesis or possible explanations and are willing to entertain that there may be alternate explanations and view. Simply said, things are not always what they seem.
It is essential to be open to the views of others and go a step further to actively seek those alternative viewpoints out. Encourage people to challenge the way you are seeing things with the knowledge that you could be wrong.
When you are able to relax your filters in this way, true learning and innovation can take place. Solutions to problems that were right in front of you suddenly become visible. You’ll go beyond your limited views to see what is really possible – in yourself and others, your relationships, projects, positions, and organizations.
The trust and respect you’ll create in your working relationships will give rise to solid partnership and collaboration. The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for this kind of collaboration, and the need to handle conflict in ways that bring transformation and new vision into our organizations, businesses and lives.
To find out more about how you can be a forerunner in this new way of doing business and achieve higher profitability, greater market share and sustained levels of exceptional performance, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Today’s article is the third in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #3: Real Leadership is not a one man or woman show.
We are all familiar with the idea of a mighty hero, who is infallible, fearless, and all powerful. When you believe those should also be the characteristics of leaders, you’ll likely act in ways that can become more disempowering than anything. Leaders who believe they have all the answers seldom listen much to others, except to know how to better defend their own positions.
If leadership is truly about bringing out the best in people, leaders need to learn how to better listen to and connect with others, with a mind that is open and has room for ideas and thoughts that may oppose their own. Only then will we find the solutions that truly benefit a greater good.
No one person has all the answers themselves. As a leader, you are there to help others unearth and do something with their ideas so that they can become a part of a collective solution. To do this, you must place just as much importance on what others have to say as you do on their own thoughts and ideas.
When you can honestly admit you don’t have all the answers, you build trust and strengthen relationships while cultivating the ability of your people to find those answers together. In acknowledging your need for partnership with others and encouraging them to share their own vital pieces of the puzzle, you will create a strong, self-sustaining culture that works together to produce excellence.
You do not need to be the hero. In fact, some of the most effective leaders are those who are more concerned about elevating the status of others than raising their own. Lao Tzu, one of the greatest mystics of all time said “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves.”
The Real Leader Revolution is allowing executives to free up significant levels of energy by letting go of thinking they must have all the answers – and in so doing inspire and empower their people to get better results, make a bigger impact and contributions.
To find out more about how you can exercise Real Leadership to create the kind of vibrant, inspired workplace that unleashes unprecedented levels of performance and attracts key talent and loyal customers, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Today’s article is the second in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #2: Real Leadership is more than position, title, status or power – it starts within.
Leadership is not the private reserve of people who hold fancy titles, have others reporting to them, or are even in organizations at all. Real Leadership is about bringing out the best in everyone and helping them focus their unique talent, passion, energy and style into something that benefits a greater good.
But you have to start with yourself. You can’t wait for someone to come in and make everything right or rely on people in high positions to do that for you (whether than be in organizations, communities or governments).
The more we look “out there” for our solutions, the further we get away from the solutions each one of us holds within. We are all pieces of an intricate puzzle, and every single one of them is essential.
It is essential to take responsibility for what you have control over in your life and make whatever impact is yours to make, even if that is only in your thoughts – in what you are paying attention to, in what you say and do, and in the example you set for others.
To do this, you must become vigilantly aware of assumptions you may me making that lead you to believe there is nothing you can do – and ask yourself if they are really true. Sometimes, though you may not have the authority to bring about wide scale change, you can exercise the influence to begin a conversation that – approached constructively and respectfully – can get things moving in a better direction.
We are collectively creating a reality that mirrors our thoughts. We must do what we can to keep that positive and constructive, so that our actions are that way as well. Real leaders help others move from feeling like they are at the mercy of their circumstances to recognizing what is, in fact within their ability to influence and impact.
And they start by modeling that behavior themselves.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway, providing ample opportunities for leaders at all levels to have a more significant impact on their organizations while accessing higher levels of performance, bringing more of who they really are to their work, and living more meaningful lives both on and off the job.
If you would like to read more about how you can exercise and nurture Real Leadership in yourself and others, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Leaders are people who shine a light on their surroundings and everyone around them. The light they shine comes from within them, a product of the unique combination of their talent, energy and passion.
The very best, what I call “Real Leaders”, are those who help others ignite their own sparks so that they too may serve as a beacon of hope, inspiration and courage. Illuminated by this light, our paths become brighter and we can clearly see any obstacles that lie before us so that we may swiftly and effectively overcome them and grow stronger in the process.
This light also allows us to recognize and bring out the strengths in ourselves and others that enables us to persevere and emerge victorious in the face of our greatest challenges and setbacks.
Exercising Real Leadership does not require that you have a degree from Harvard, or anywhere for that matter. As you endeavor to practice leadership in every aspect of your life, no matter what your vocation or role, shining your light brightly requires that you remember a few key points.
This is the first in a five-part series highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #1: Real Leadership focuses on possibility and potential.
In times of widespread change, there is great fear. It is easy to become immersed and overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, frustration, anger, and sadness. These feelings can lead you and others to become engaged in defensive routines that seek to place blame, or to resign yourselves to victim status, waiting for rescue.
It is essential to reframe what you are seeing and make sure the lens is clear. Shakespeare once said, “It is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”
You can look at what is happening around you and instead of focusing on frustration and potential loss, pay attention to what you (and others) have within that allows you to rise to the challenge. We are stronger than we think we are. We are resourceful. Together we can create far more than we can individually.
Often our greatest attributes, talents and strengths lie dormant inside of us until something happens that requires we summon them up. Real Leaders effectively galvanize these forces and channel them in constructive ways.
As you shift your attention from obstacles to opportunities and put your energy on what is possible, you’ll see solutions that previously evaded you and recognize that you are capable of far more than you initially realized. And when you act from this frame of reference, you’ll inspire others to do the same.
When you focus on the positive attributes in others, you help them recognize they have greatness within as well and catalyze their potential. In this way, you can exercise leadership regardless of what your job or role is. This is what is needed most in times of change, challenge and uncertainty.
The rapid pace of change in business today brings with it a high level of challenge and uncertainty. The Real Leader Revolution is a movement that empowers people at all levels of businesses and organizations to rise to the occasion and navigate unchartered territory with courage and grace.
To find out more about how you can maximize your leadership to make a bigger impact, sign up below to receive a copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Often when I tell people that I wrote a leadership book called The Pinocchio Principle, they assume it must have something to do with ethics. It’s understandable, since the first thing most of us think of when we hear “Pinocchio” is a puppet whose nose grew when he lied. Pinocchio could easily be used as a metaphor for people who lie through their teeth while their proverbial noses grow…
And… it’s also easy to see why some might think it is a commentary on the importance of honesty in leadership.
While being truthful to oneself and others is a vital part of being a “real” leader, the reason I chose Pinocchio as a metaphor goes much deeper than his nose.
You see, the underlying narrative is, Pinocchio is a puppet who longs to become REAL.
Like Pinocchio, at our core we too have a burning desire to become real, (authentic, resourceful, truer to ourselves, in better service to others, etc.) to bring into creation the greatness that resides somewhere within us.
After all, you were born with these impulses — to give form to your distinctive blends of talent, energy, passion and style.
We all come into the world equipped with far more than we are immediately able to utilize or even comprehend. And though these rich parts of ourselves are always there, they have a way of becoming latent over time.
Throughout your career, you’ve no doubt come across people who have a special way of tapping into that well of available greatness.
They seem to effortlessly draw forth bits of the magic, access energy reserves, continually improve skills and pursue their passions. These are the people we love to watch and be around — they do what they do so well that it is an art.
As they tap their inner reserves and unleash their own greatness, they inspire each of us to do the same… and that’s what sets them apart and elevates them to the level of “real leadership”.
In Walt Disney’s rendition of Pinocchio, the puppet encounters a blue fairy. She tells him, “When you prove yourself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish, Pinocchio, then you will become a real boy.” You can imagine what Pinocchio might have been thinking upon hearing these words. What are these things this fairy speaks of? How do I get them? What must I do? How long will it take? Where do I start?
With the promise of a dream fulfilled, he endeavors to do whatever is necessary. And the odyssey begins. The twists and turns it takes are trials we can all relate to, and challenges that are a part of our human experience.
The qualities that the blue fairy encourages Pinocchio to demonstrate are not things he must acquire. They are attributes he already possesses. But to activate them, he must endure a series of events that allow him to realize these qualities are there and to exercise them accordingly.
In order to return to himself—his true self—Pinocchio must endure a journey of trials and tribulations that first lure him away from himself. And the same kind of drama seems to unfold in one way or another for each of us.
You have—within you—an animating genius.
This genius yearns to take different forms depending on the circumstances. Real leaders could be defined as those whose animating genius longs to create something for the greatest good, which is ultimately accomplished for, with and through others.
It has a keen ability to look around, see possibilities and utilize resources in a way that brings something into existence that benefits others, whether that is a family, a community, a non-profit organization, a corporation, or the world at large.
To accomplish this, leaders have the distinct charge of working with others in a way that brings out their best — that allows those we can impact to find the animating genius within them and apply it in service of accomplishing a common goal.
However, before you can bring out animating genius in others, you must start with yourself.
Many times the primary meaning of “to lead” is associated with directing something on a given course, or being in charge, and this can be one of the functions of leadership. But the essence of leadership is much more than that. The Merriam Webster Dictionary has the following entry as the first definition listed for the word “lead”: “a: to guide on a way especially by going in advance.”
If one of the essential functions of a leader is to bring out the best in others, this definition would suggest doing so requires that leaders first bring out the best in themselves. This, in and of itself, is the very same odyssey our friend Pinocchio finds himself on: To discover and liberate within himself what is real—divinely inspired genius—and to courageously apply it in a way that is truthful and unselfish.
I wrote The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader to serve as a roadmap for bringing out the best in yourself and others. My desire is to help you bring to fruition your greatest dreams and visions and better navigate through the perils and possibilities along the way. The book was written to help you:
- Better differentiate what is true within yourself from the conditioning that would have you acting in ways that are inauthentic and self-defeating
- Gain clarity on your unique call to leadership and leverage your experiences to prepare for something bigger
- Explore navigational tools that will help you determine the extent to which you are on or off course and the direction you need to take next on your journey to becoming a real leader
- Recognize and prevent assumptions and beliefs (your strings) that keep you from your best work so that you can utilize ego in service to something greater
- Recognize and steer clear of the elusive promises (Pleasure Island) that divert you from your truest fulfillment
- Face your greatest fears (the belly of the whale) in a transformational way that will reunite you with your own determination, courage and heroism
- Rediscover the power that lies within (the fairy’s wand) to create and live your dreams
- Find ways to return to the quiet places within yourself that nurture and inform your greatest visions
The ultimate odyssey is always that of self-discovery. Every challenge, every opportunity gives you a chance to learn more about who you really are and to utilize your inherent gifts in service to something greater than yourself.
It’s only when you give yourself completely to the journey and find meaning in each step along the way, that you will truly live.
It’s your example and the unique contributions you make in the world that defines you as a real leader.
Now, more than ever, real leaders are differentiating themselves from people who simply hold fancy titles or have multitudes of people reporting to them. They exist at all levels of an organization, and they have the ability to transform it in ways that will allow it to achieve unprecedented levels of success.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway. We live in a world that is hungry for true, inspired leadership that brings out the very best in each of us and allows us to harness it in ways that serve a greater good.
If you are interested in learning more about how to unearth real leadership in yourself and your organization, I encourage you to get on the waiting list to receive my brand new free special report The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto. Sign up below to join the pre-notification list. More information on that coming very soon…
I have always been amazed by the number of people who think of work as a necessary evil — simply what must be done to earn a paycheck. For so many who toil through their workday, the primary goal is to make it to the weekend so they can really live.
Going through the motions, working side by side with others whose hearts and minds they seldom truly connect with, they withhold the very parts of themselves that make them come alive.
For some it wasn’t always this way. Many began their careers ignited with passion and optimism, only to find that their flames began to flicker as they encountered obstacle after obstacle that kept them from achieving what they believed would be success.
Succumbing to the unwritten rules of the organizations and other environments they found themselves in, which suggested they needed to act or think in a certain way to get ahead, they may have slowly sold out on their dreams and relegated themselves to quiet complacency.
Many of us were not brought up to expect that work would be fun or gratifying in any way – nor should it be. That’s why they call it work, you may have been told. As a result, you may have never really expected much from your career or professional life. And as the saying goes, life has a way of living up to your expectations.
Most of us have learned how to turn ourselves on and off at will, in an effort to spare ourselves the pain of disappointment or frustration — or to maintain what we have come to believe is a professional demeanor. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they are very different at work than they are at home.
Those golden parts of yourself that you think you are protecting suffer when you don’t let them breathe and interact in the very realms that allow you to learn who you are and what you are here to do in the world.
You miss the chance to become a part of something greater than yourself. And the organizations and communities you are a part of miss out on the unique contribution you have the potential to make.
You can no longer afford to fragment yourself in this way, denying the fulfillment of your secret dreams and talents and downplaying the insights you have about what you can do to make life better — for yourself, and everyone around you.
As more and more of us feel the pain that accompanies the denial of our spirits, we have begun to realize that the time has come for us to bring the totality of who we are to what we do, no matter our vocation, title or role.
There are people among us who have the ability to snap us out of our trances — our states of quiet desperation — and help us bring more of who we truly are to everything that we do.
They can do this for others because they have done it for themselves. They are called “real leaders”. And they exist at all levels of organizations, regardless of their titles or roles.
Real Leaders inspire others to perform at their very best,
because they themselves are inspired.
When was the last time you felt inspired in your work? When was the last time you had passion for your career? What is it that allows you to feel a sense of wonder and contribution to something bigger?
If you have lost touch with that, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and take some time to reconnect with it. You have something deep inside that you are uniquely qualified and put on this earth to create or do.
When you were young, the energy of your dreams likely propelled you along your path — sometimes blindly, but it gets you off your duff and into action.
You’ve likely experienced hardships along the way and it may have felt at times as though you were failing again and again. Life throws you curve balls and you can find yourself feeling beaten down and doing what you can to just get by, running from one crisis to another and sometimes going in circles.
At some point, you will be tempted to check out and take an easier path – one that allows you to go numb and somewhat unconscious. It may work for a while, but over time you’ll begin to feel the misery that comes along with abandoning your dreams and letting your passion take the back seat.
What would it take for you to get excited about what you are doing right now? What is the bigger why of the work you do every day? Who does it serve, and how?
If you can’t answer that question, do some digging. When you can connect those dots to a bigger picture, you may find that what you thought was insignificant is quite meaningful – and a vital piece of a larger puzzle you are meant to help assemble.
As you recognize your part and the value you provide, perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring a little more of who you are to what you do by playing more fully, being more present, and connecting more deeply with those who rely on you.
Your passion is like a hidden well with unlimited reserves – in the act of tapping it, you will replenish it in such a way that it multiplies. And as you unleash it in your work, you will draw out something extraordinary in every human being that comes into contact with it. That is the essence of real leadership.
We are beginning to awaken to our unique calls to service, creativity and innovation. As you find ways to unleash your distinctive talents and passions at work, you will significantly increase the quality of your own life, as well as the lives of everyone around you.
It seems that we are at a kind of crossroads where the tension is mounting. The deviations and quick fixes that used to work are no longer as satisfying. The pain that comes from denying our greatest dreams and visions is beginning to intensify and more and more people are asking how they can create lives of meaning and significance.
Corporations that are taking steps to create environments that allow people to thrive will be met with rich rewards as ingenuity pours forth in ways that lead to increased profit and market share, as well as the creation of self-sustaining cultures that inspire people to sustain success by doing what they do best.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway. People at all levels of organizations will continue to lead that charge both individually and collectively. Do you feel the call? It starts within your own mind – with having the courage to ask yourself what you really want from your work. By starting with ourselves, we can create what we most want to be a part of.
If you are interested in learning more about how to liberate yourself and your organization from unproductive, self-defeating and potentially damaging ways of doing business as usual, I encourage you to get on the waiting list for the release of my brand new free special report The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto. Sign up below to join the pre-notification list. More information on that coming soon…