As we ponder what 2020 will bring, an adage comes to mind: the only thing that’s certain is change.
You can plan and prepare all you want, but the best way to be agile in a shifting environment is to stay connected to the undercurrent of emerging events and patterns – and utilize ingenuity to find the best way to rise to the coming challenges and opportunities.
And, whether you realize it or not, we’ve all been conditioned to tune out or disregard this vital source of intelligence.
The reason is, these days the speed of change (and innovation) moves very quickly …
And it becomes far too easy to rely on plans and approaches that were designed in the past, using old ways of thinking.
In the end utilizing information that is no longer relevant comes with heavy opportunity costs.
Albert Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind it’s faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
This seems especially true in corporate America, where systems, processes and standard operating procedures are often revered as a means to minimize risk, variation and chaos and exert control over our environment. People go to great lengths to plan and research best practices, set guidelines in place and create controls that ensure people follow them.
And when it’s time to execute – you put your head down and run from one thing to the next, juggling multiple priorities and putting out fires, only stopping to troubleshoot when things don’t go to plan… There never seems to be enough time to pause long enough to determine whether the path you’re running on or the tactics you’re engaging in will get you to where you want to go.
After many conversations with colleagues and clients, it’s a clear consensus that real leaders are ready for a revolution of sorts. It’s time to capitalize on the opportunity to create positive change at all levels of an organization, from top down, to bottom up, because…
If the route you’re taking isn’t aligned with your desired destination, moving faster won’t do you any favors. And relying on your plan to tell you where to go next won’t either.
When you put more importance on the tactics than you do on the strategy and cling to a plan without continually reevaluating it, you have sacrificed the strategic in the name of the operational.
As an executive coach, this is one of the major challenges I work with executives to overcome. Operational is clean. It has defined edges and finite solutions. You can check the boxes and feel a sense of closure and control with an operational approach.
Strategic on the other hand can be a bit messier. It involves stepping into uncertainty to address challenges and opportunities that are new and unfamiliar. There is usually no one right answer. It often involves taking steps out of your comfort zone. And it requires that you slow down instead of speeding up, something that most of us tend to resist because slowing down flies in the face of what we’ve been conditioned to do.
To avoid this discomfort, many executives prefer being busy to being strategic. It gives them the illusion of being productive and the burst of adrenaline that is a nice (yet ultimately unsatisfying and addictive) placebo for real progress.
But busyness isn’t going to help you hit the target necessary to advance your business. Because until you slow down long enough to assess your environment and allow your intuitive mind to partner with your rational mind, you may not even realize what your true target is, let alone how to get there.
Malcolm Gladwell echoed the wisdom of Albert Einstein his iconic book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He wrote, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”
Knowledge is the product of absorbing information. Understanding is the product of insight. And insight comes from the integration of information with experience, from slowing down long enough to practice reflection and discernment.
And that’s an important key to successfully navigating the changing landscape of “business as usual”.
We live in an age of information. You can find an abundance of resources – articles, books, dissertations, webinars, workshops, best practices, etc. on any given topic. This information tends to be descriptive of what worked in the past to address the challenges faced by people and organizations whose situations are rarely identical to our emerging challenges and opportunities.
Acting on information without discernment is like taking someone else’s prescription given for a diagnosis that you aren’t entirely certain matches your own.
And yet all too often we move full speed ahead with seeming solutions that don’t really address the true underlying problems (and often make the problem worse). Ask yourself how many times have you’ve overlooked, disregarded or suppressed inklings or rumblings that told you something is just not right.
It happens to the best of us, because we get so attached to our plans that we resist (consciously or unconsciously) anything that could potentially interfere or slow us down.
Sometimes the inklings come from within, accompanied by a sense of incongruence. It might feel as if you are wearing someone else’s clothes while trying to convince yourself that they fit just fine, even though they are way too tight. But in the name of efficiency (and because you think slowing down to address it is a luxury you can’t afford), you press on anyway.
Other times the rumbles come from others within the organization, people who aren’t so attached to the predetermined plan, who are a little closer to the real problems and issues and have a sense of what needs to be done to address them. And they are all too often shushed by others (usually a few levels above in the hierarchy) who measure performance based on how well predetermined plans are implemented and adhered to.
So how do you turn this short-sighted, self-defeating old way of thinking dynamic around?
Here are five practical tips to get you moving in a new, more progressive and productive direction:
- Carve out time regularly for yourself to reflect, integrate and think strategically. Block this time on your calendar and hold it sacred in the same way you would a meeting with your boss or your most important customer. It doesn’t have to be a large block of time. The important thing is to slow down long enough to consider how things are going and to determine whether your approach is aligned with your desired goal. Identify what, if any, tweaks to your plan are necessary, and write down your ideas.
- Put just as much weight on the questions as you do the answers. Ask, “What are the problems I am/we are trying to solve? Could they be symptoms of a larger issue that has not yet been addressed? What are we seeing? What are we not seeing? How can we get the information and knowledge necessary to truly understand the problem and what needs to be done to effectively address it?”
- Encourage dialogue. This is a big one. Give people who are closest to the challenges and issues that are being addressed an opportunity to communicate with those who have the bigger, more strategic picture. Take steps to integrate top down and bottom up approaches by creating a forum for discussing emerging patterns, trends, problems and opportunities and dialoguing about what the best approaches and solutions may be.
- Welcome and embrace dissent. This may not be comfortable at first, but the more you can encourage people who have concerns with the current course of action to speak up, and give them opportunities to constructively express those concerns, the more likely you’ll gain the support and momentum you need to move forward. When you value people’s perspectives and contributions by listening with an open mind and a willingness to act, you’ll also have access to information that will dramatically increase your chances of success.
- Use discernment. When looking to best practices or considering recommendations from experts, determine whether they are truly a good fit (and to what degree they should be tweaked or tailored to meet the specific needs of the organization) before they are implemented.
The tendency to act operationally instead of strategically and overlook, disregard or suppress the very insight that will lead you to the best solutions and innovations, is only one of many common practices that are being challenged and improved on within the emerging real leader revolution. The focus of these new conversations and perspectives is helping both executives and the organizations they are a part of to unleash unprecedented performance, make a bigger impact and enjoy a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment in their work and their lives.
This translates into increased profitability, greater market share and stronger relationships with customers who become their biggest advocates.
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, visit www.RealLeaderRevolution.com and download your free copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto.
One day when my kids were younger, they had a play date with some friends. I heard one of them telling the other that Santa Claus wasn’t real. My son, who was eight years old at the time, vehemently defended the jolly old man, with elaborate explanations of why something not easily proven was worth believing in anyway.
It reminded me of my own childhood.
I had to laugh, as I flashed back to one of my own experiences with a little girl in my neighborhood who made fun of me for believing that a fat man in a red coat actually came down my chimney every year. I was so mad that, when she wasn’t looking, I broke all her crayons and put them back in the box (and spent the rest of the holiday season worrying that I had just put myself on the naughty list).
I have since learned that it is okay if everyone doesn’t believe what I do.
And if he hasn’t already, my son will learn that too. But he is the one who taught me something that day. I was buoyed by his unwavering belief and faith in something he’s never really seen and inspired by his example.
I can’t help but believe that those who trust in something magical will experience that magic in ways the skeptics will not. And I think the same is true in life.
There will always be someone around to tell us what cannot be done.
And there will also always be people who, upon being so told, will do it anyway. Their faith, determination, and belief in something they have yet to see will allow them to persevere until their dreams become reality.
One of my favorite authors on personal and spiritual growth, Alan Cohen, once said “You do not need to get others to believe in your truth. You just need to live it.”
Trust, faith, and perseverance go a long way.
In a world where much is uncertain and the old success formulas no longer seem to work, I believe it is more important than ever to trust in what we know to be true in hearts, even if our minds cannot figure it all out. It may go against what we have been conditioned to believe, see, and do – but perhaps this makes it even more important.
To bust out of old paradigms that keep us from realizing our greatness, perhaps we need to stop questioning what is possible and start challenging our limits instead. As we do, we will begin to make manifest that which we previously only dreamed was possible and, through our example, show others the way to rise.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a bright blessed New Year!
If you are interested in moving beyond old success formulas to unlock the greatness within you and those you lead, consider enrolling for the Spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of 2/17/20.
Register before 12/31/19 to lock in the 2019 price before it goes up. Click here for more information and to save your seat today!
“You ready for the holidays?”
It’s a question people often ask each other this time of year. I don’t know if I’m ever ready – from the standpoint of having all the boxes checked, anyway.
I know there are people out there – you may be one of them – who finished their holiday shopping weeks ago, had their houses beautifully decorated on or before Thanksgiving day, and seem to find the time to send handmade cards to everyone they know. I have secretly dreamt of being one of those people, and maybe someday I will be.
I tend to identify more with those still scurrying around at the last minute. You know, the ones dashing to the mall on Christmas eve for that one last present they forgot about and return home to feverishly wrap gifts before people come over – all the while swearing that next year will be different.
What I really long for is to simply enjoy every aspect of the holidays.
It is a season of giving, sharing, and celebrating something bigger than ourselves. It brings us together and transforms our everyday lives into something sacred.
And this opportunity is always available to us.
With every gift we buy or wrap, every card we send, or every decoration we hang, we have the ability to infuse it with presence – our ability to be truly engaged not only with whatever it is we are doing, but with the bigger reason of WHY we are doing it – even if we get a late start.
Perhaps the ideal is not in being able to do more things sooner, but to put more of ourselves into the things we are able to do now despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
When people pour their hearts into whatever they are doing, you can feel it.
The cards that arrive in our mailbox that have been perfunctorily generated don’t seem to move us as much as those people have taken the time to hand write something on – even if it is just our name. Likewise, the gifts that had some element of thought in them often end up meaning more to us than those someone spent a lot of money on. The true spirit of giving is more about the spirit than the gift itself.
And the spirit of giving and celebration doesn’t have to end in December.
We have the ability to enrich every moment of our lives with it. Albert Camus once said, “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” That means forgetting about all our preoccupations and busyness and being right here, right now – truly engaged in the purpose of whatever it is we are doing and deeply connected to whoever we are with.
In business and in life, this practice separates the most truly prosperous and successful people from all the rest. They have a knack for making others feel valued and for infusing meaning into whatever it is they do or invite others to do. They spend their time doing what is most important and pour their hearts and souls into it. As a result, they are living examples of whatever they believe most strongly in.
Perhaps this is the true art of giving, living, and leading – one that transcends holidays and spills over into our everyday lives.
And maybe it’s never too late to start.
If you want to enjoy more meaning and fulfillment along with stellar results all year round (both at work and at home), consider enrolling in the spring 2020 session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
This exclusive 13-week leadership development experience goes beneath the surface of what most programs deliver, to help you learn to unleash genius in yourself and those you lead. The price will be increasing in 2020, but for a limited time you can click the above link to lock in your seat at the 2019 rates.
To ensure the highest level of support and individualized attention for each participant in the group, enrollment will be capped at ten people. Save your seat today!
Wishing you and yours a beautiful and blessed holiday season!
“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
~ Robert H. Schuller
I have come across the above quote often and pondered it reflectively. It inspires me to think big – contemplating all the many things I have dreamed of creating or being a part of. I often feel compelled to make a list – and have done so many times. I encourage my clients to do this as well.
But the most interesting and show stopping part of that quote for me is the idea of “failure”.
It’s easy to think of shooting for the moon when the idea of crashing down to the ground doesn’t enter the picture. We can dream and scheme all we want, but in order to make our dreams real, we must take action. And when we do, this idea of failure seems to have a way of creeping in despite our best attempts to move forward in spite of it.
Failure means different things to different people. But I think the most debilitating thing about the idea of failure is having to experience or endure some kind of pain – pain of rejection, embarrassment, loss, financial ruin – not to mention its actual physical variations.
The interesting thing to me about pain is that – thankfully – it is usually finite. It comes and it goes. And while we don’t always have any control over whether we experience it, we do seem to play a part in how long it lasts and how uncomfortable it gets.
As a kid, getting immunizations was terrifying. I remember how worked up I would get before the needle even came close to my skin. And I’ve watched my kids do the same thing – even screaming or wailing before contact was ever actually made. But a few seconds later, the injections were completed before the kids even realized it.
They got off the exam table and immediately went onto other things – except perhaps when one of them needed a little more sympathy and deliberately focused on the site of the shot and the blood on the bandage – prolonging the unpleasant experience and making it into something far more painful than it really needed to be.
I think we do the same thing when we contemplate the pain that accompanies what we believe would be “failure”. Our minds have a way of making it far more ominous than it ever is in reality. And if we happen to find ourselves experiencing it, we can also fall into the trap of unwittingly making it more uncomfortable than it really needs to be.
But we can also exercise resilience and determination in our ability to bounce back and focus on something that will allow us to move forward in spite of an otherwise unpleasant experience.
Because what it really comes down to is what your experience – regardless of the way it turns out – has given you, rather than cost you. People who have accomplished extraordinary things in the world are the first to tell you that what many refer to as “failure” has plagued them time after time – and many will tell you those experiences were prerequisites for their success.
What differentiates them from those who allowed “failure” to defeat them is that they picked themselves up, figured out what they could learn, and moved forward armed with a new awareness, a new understanding, and a renewed commitment to their greatest dreams and visions.
I think we all need a shot from time to time. A shot of humility, compassion – and humor. A shot that will only serve to make us stronger, more determined, and far more resilient than we were before. What great thing can YOU achieve today, knowing that you simply cannot fail?
If you’re ready to play a bigger game, consider enrolling in the spring 2020 session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. It’s an exclusive thirteen week leadership development program that will help you push through the resistance and sidestep the pitfalls that keep you from unleashing GENIUS in yourself and those you lead — and unlock extraordinary performance in yourself and other while experiencing greater joy and fulfillment both on and off the job.
For a limited time, you can lock in the 2019 prices before they go up in 2020. Give yourself an early holiday gift that’ll help you usher in a bigger, brighter 2020 by claiming one of the ten seats that are now available.
The Thanksgiving season naturally lends itself to recognizing what we have to be grateful for. Health, family, friends, and prosperity are among the most commonly cited blessings. What comes most easily to mind are the warm, fuzzy areas of our lives that naturally lend themselves to feelings of appreciation.
But the power of gratitude reaches far beyond those things that bring immediate smiles to our faces.
And leveraging this power requires that we embrace not only the happy times but also the tougher experiences we’ve had that we would often rather forget about. Because the most challenging times in our lives and our careers are often accompanied by some of the richest blessings.
- That proposal that you worked day and night on but ended up going nowhere.
- The difficult customer/coworker/boss/direct report that continually pushed all your buttons.
- The presentation you made that didn’t have the impact you would have liked.
- The restructuring in your division that took you to the edges of your comfort zone and required you to navigate through uncertainty that was as unfamiliar as it was unsettling.
These things that push us to our edges come bearing gifts.
And we tend to move so quickly that we fail to pause long enough to unpack those blessings and truly integrate them. But when we do, we often realize in hindsight that these less than ideal circumstances allow us to grow, to become stronger, to more resilient, more compassionate, more insightful, more wise.
The circumstances themselves pass, but the gifts remain.
Cultivating this deeper level of gratitude allows us to contemplate the idea that perhaps life isn’t happening to us, but rather for us. These challenges that test our patience, push us to our edges, and appear to be nothing more than irritating obstacles are often the very things we need in order to become the best versions of ourselves.
It’s easier to see the perfect order of things in retrospect.
Can you think of a challenge you faced in the recent (or not so recent) past that stretched your limits? Consider for a moment what you learned as a result of that experience. What did the experience itself require that you activate within yourself to successfully move through it? And how did it make you a better leader? A stronger performer? A wiser and more compassionate person?
The reason these insights come to us in hindsight is that our thinking settles.
When we are not so frazzled and pressured by the need for an immediate response, or plagued by worried and doubt, the static that prevented us from seeing and appreciating the deeper purpose and significance subsides. And there is space for gratitude to emerge.
Gratitude, yes for all the things that are going well in our lives – our health, the precious people in our lives, our prosperity – but also gratitude for the experiences that allow us to see who we really are when our backs are to the wall, to step up and into our true potential, to realize ourselves to be much stronger and more capable than we thought we were.
What if you could leverage the power of hindsight in the present?
What if you could learn to look beyond the tangle of thoughts that may have you in a knot as you approach a current or emerging challenge – with the knowing that this unsettling, less than optimal situation also comes bearing gifts and blessings?
What if instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the situation and the external circumstances you could turn your attention to the knowing that you have what it takes to rise up to this and any other challenge? All you have to do is look to your past for evidence that it is there.
If you take it a step further, you can become grateful for the situations and circumstances you previously wished would go away. Because you know that along with the struggle, they provide you with gateways that invite you to discover and unearth who you really are. This approach allows you to face your challenges with curiosity, playfulness and grace – mindsets that catalyze insight, creativity, and the resilience you need to find your way and emerge victorious.
Now that’s something to be grateful for.
Using the wisdom of hindsight in the present is just one approach I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius to help high achieving executives appreciate and leverage the perfect order of their most challenging experiences to unleash their greatness. Enrollment for Spring 2020 will open soon, and for a limited time you can secure your seat at the 2019 rates before they increase. Stay tuned for more information or join the waiting list to be the first to know when registration opens.
Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/months where it felt like one darn thing after another?
But these ideas enter into us long before they are ready to be brought into the world. They prepare us, transform us, and lead us through a myriad of experiences that allow us to develop what we need in order to manifest them.
These experiences are not always pleasant.
We suffer disappointments, setbacks, frustrations. During times like these it is easy to feel as though life would be just fine as soon as these turbulences subside. But what if these little disturbances are the very things we need in order to breathe life into these visions that lie within us?
How many of the world’s greatest healers once experienced some kind of malady that they needed to overcome on their own before they had what it took to help others through the same challenge? How many people transcended their suffering by finding meaning in it and then went on to help others do the same? How many leaders rose to great heights charged with a mission of improving an organization or a community after having experienced something that needed to be changed?
What does this suggest for you?
If your journey as a leader will require you to exercise courage, you may find yourself in several situations that scare the hell out of you. If it requires you to show compassion, you may find yourself in situations where you must learn to transform your anger into something more constructive.
You will continue to draw to yourself the experiences you need to develop what is required to bring your vision into the world. The blessing and the curse in all of this is that those experiences will continue to present themselves until you finally learn the things you need to learn.
We learn best through action.
Early in my career as an instructor and developer of courses and workshops, I realized that an effective learning experience required a balance of lecture and discussion with some kind of experiential activity that would allow participants to translate into action what they just learned in theory. Life has a beautiful way of doing this for us.
The funny thing is that in the classroom no one ever much seemed to enjoy breaking into pairs and triads and having to practice something they were not very good at yet, and the same thing seems to be true when those experiences present themselves in our daily lives.
But life doesn’t give up on us.
If it doesn’t go so well with one person or situation, we get another to practice on. And it doesn’t even matter so much how well we do with these challenges, as long as we show up and do what’s in front of us. We will continue to be given opportunities to choose different responses, learn from them and adapt our behavior once again.
Think about anything you ever had to learn.
You began at the beginning. You started with the easy stuff. Then when you became stronger and more capable, you went onto a more advanced level, where the challenges were tougher and you had to apply greater skill, muscle and intellect. You emerged from each of these lessons with something you didn’t have before. And you couldn’t have acquired it through any other route than your own experience.
Low and behold – there is order in chaos.
As I began coaching executives several years ago, the emphasis in my work shifted from trying to impart a lesson to helping people learn from their own experiences and see the perfect order in which things are unfolding in their personal and professional lives to help them get where they truly want to go.
The pertinent thing was no longer to give people answers, but rather to help them find their own and to recognize they already possess everything they need to get them through whatever challenge is before them. And this is something each of us can do as leaders to help those around us on their own journeys as well.
What is life trying to teach you or prepare you for right now?
And how can you seize these opportunities in front of you to bring out your very best so that you can help someone else do the same?
“The future enters into us in order to transform us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Wilke
For more on how to embrace life’s toughest lessons and come out on top, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead . You can claim your Kindle copy for just $2.99 through Friday 11/15/19 (and even gift it to colleagues, clients and members of your team at that price).
If you prefer reading the old fashioned way, the paperback version is also available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. To inquire about special pricing on volume purchases of the paperback version, email Support@DianeBolden.com.
I’m thrilled to announce the re-release of my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader with a brand new cover! In addition to a new image, the revised cover sports a new subtitle: “How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead”.
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 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 Genius within them and apply it in service of accomplishing a common goal.
However, before you can bring out 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.
As I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius program, 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.
When Halloween rolls around, it invites the question: if you could be anything for one evening, what would it be?
The tradition invokes a feeling of fantasy. Whether your answer is a super hero or a villain or something in between, the very act of asking the question and imagining a response reminds us that we have the ability, even if for a simple costume party, to explore aspects of ourselves that want to be expressed.
And the invitation to step into a new way of experiencing the world (or projecting what the world experiences of us) doesn’t have to wait for Halloween or stop when it’s over.
Have you ever secretly dreamed of becoming something different than what you are right now? Maybe you’d like to be more of a strategic player, become more visible, make a bigger impact, or lead more people. Perhaps you have visions of learning a new skill, working in a different industry, or serving a different customer base. Or maybe you’d simply like to step into a new way of living and leading – one that allows you to be more confident, calm, and engaging, or less stressed, pressured and anxious.
Regardless of the change you seek, you would not have the desire if you didn’t also have the capability to achieve it. As Napolean Hill once told us, “Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.” Moving from thought to reality requires that we embrace three simple, yet powerful truths:
- You don’t have to be born with an innate talent to do something in order to learn it,
- You don’t have to eliminate anxiety and doubt in order to perform well, and
- You don’t have to sacrifice who you truly are in order to become who you want to be.
Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these.
You don’t have to be born with an innate talent in order to learn it.
On its face, this statement seems fairly obvious. After all, none of us knew how to walk or talk when we were babies. Many of the things you know how to do today were things you had no idea how to approach at some point in your past. While it is true that some of the things you learned over the course of your life came more easily to you than others, with practice and persistence you were able to increase your proficiency and improve your desired results.
You may think you don’t have the aptitude to learn or become certain things. But the problem may be more in what you are believing than anything. In her ground-breaking book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck discusses two different approaches to learning a new skill. Some people operate from a “fixed mindset”, considering talent to be an inborn trait for some (but not others). Others operate with a “growth mindset” which allows for the possibility of learning something that doesn’t come naturally to them. Her research shows that those in the latter group consistently outperform those in the former.
The fundamental difference comes in how those mindsets impact your behavior. With a fixed mindset, you’ll dread failure because you believe it is a reflection of your innate abilities. However, with a growth mindset you’ll be more likely to see things not going well at first as an opportunity to learn and grow in ways that improve your performance. A fixed mindset will lead you to quit before you even start, while a growth mindset will impel you to continue to practice, learn and improve.
The words of Henry Ford come to mind, whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
But that doesn’t mean it will come easily, which leads to the next fundamental truth we must embrace.
You don’t have to eliminate anxiety and doubt in order to perform well.
Chances are that whatever you aspire to become is something that is beyond your current zone of comfort. If it wasn’t, you’d already be doing it. As I wrote in The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, anytime you endeavor to make a change in your life, you will be met with resistance. Whether that resistance takes the form of anxiety or doubt or plain old yellow-bellied fear, no amount of careful learning and preparation will completely alleviate it.
Many of us (myself included) have spent years attempting to hone and refine our skill from a mental level before ever attempting to execute. The irony is the that most impactful and effective way to learn is often to simply do. In doing, we discover what works and what doesn’t and gain an intuitive feel for what we need to adapt to achieve the success we desire. Through trial and error our skill and effectiveness grow.
But the anxiety and the doubt and that little voice in your head that incessantly rattles on in ways that lead you to question your ability and your nerve will continue. If you can see those feelings as signs of progress that you are stepping up your game, you can perform in spite of them – and maybe even begin to appreciate them.
You can also learn to recognize that little nagging voice for what it is: a product of your thoughts and nothing more. As you stop giving it so much of your energy and attention, you may find that you can coexist with it in the same way you tolerate any other irritating but seemingly harmless disturbances, like a rattle in your car or an annoying commercial on the radio.
Sometimes that little voice will ask, “who do you think you are?” which leads us to the third fundamental truth we must embrace to move from desire to reality.
You don’t have to sacrifice who you truly are in order to become who you want to be.
The idea of dressing up implies that we are putting on a mask that eclipses our true identify. But often the things we desire to explore are actually innate parts of ourselves that are ready to emerge. We are drawn to people who exemplify the qualities we want to emulate. Sometimes we are even envious of them.
It is important to honor our own evolution by giving credence to our desire to grow and change and allowing those desires to guide us. They key to being authentic and true to ourselves is to listen to the beat of our own drummer rather than allowing the sheer force of our accumulated patterns, habits and the expectations of others determine our identity. Often the way we have behaved or expressed ourselves over the course of our lives is more a product of what we’ve always done than who we truly are.
So when the idea of trying something new, or exploring a different way of showing up in the world is appealing to you, indulge yourself and see what happens. Finding your own authentic expression is a matter of fine tuning. Try something and see how it feels. You can start by emulating what someone else has done. And then add your own twist. Let go of or tweak what doesn’t work and do more of what feels good to you.
This is what the most impactful of leaders have done throughout the course of history. They start by leading themselves – listening and indulging the desires of their hearts, believing in their ability to grow, evolve and achieve, and finding their own unique expression. And in so doing, they serve as leaders to the rest of us.
So don’t let the fantasy and fun of Halloween stop when October ends. Ask yourself what you’d most like to become and don’t be afraid to see where it takes you. In the words of George Eliot, “It is never too late to be what you could have been.”
If you are interested in more strategies for getting clarity on what you would most like to accomplish, create or become, as well as steps to help you close the gap between desire and reality, click here to download my special report, Why Real Leaders Don’t Set Goals (and what they do instead).
My recent 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 Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius 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, download your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto, my most recent white paper on how to stop doing business as usual and start liberating the power of the human spirit to achieve unprecedented and sustainable success.
One of the most common challenges I help my executive clients work through (and often face myself) is navigating through change, challenge and uncertainty.
It’s true what they say – change really is the only thing that is a constant for most of us.
And it has a way of evoking our worst fears, anxieties and insecurities.
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, as I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius program, 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, I encourage you to download your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto, my most recent white paper on how to stop doing business as usual and start liberating the power of the human spirit to achieve unprecedented and sustainable success.