Four principles that guided the toughest and best work of my life – leadership.
I had my first leadership role early on in my path. Year by year, I took on more team members, more challenging assignments and got to the executive table at a young age. The more senior my role, the more responsibility for people, strategy, innovation and of course results, were piled on. Hungry for discomfort and learning, I chose all of it.
Sometimes I questioned myself: “Can I do what I signed up for? Will I pull it off?”. Yet I kept navigating situations with positive outcomes and several doses of humility along the way. Successes were harvested and hinged on openness to learning, pushing my ego to the side and stepping into vulnerability, regardless of my title.
I thought I had what I needed in my back pocket to be an effective leader. I had inspiration growing up that guided me to be people-centric, insightful and high integrity. I have always loved learning, held high standards and been a ridiculously hard worker. Plus, I was in marketing for much of my career which is rooted in driving behavior change. So, what was missing? The people side of leadership needed more of me. To go from good to stellar, I had to call on my inner superhero. I had more work to do, but not the kind that’s on a task list.
What it takes to truly engage teams rests greatly on capacities to nurture empowerment, growth, psychological safety, experimentation, sense of belonging and mutual trust. If you’re picking up on some Maslow, engaged system modelling and facets of trust in leadership, you get gold stars. To lean into these spaces means stepping into increased self-awareness, reflection, presence, accountability and intentional commitment to developing one’s whole self to flourish. Just like a garden needs water, leadership and team development do too. I watered my leadership garden with all my might and that’s when I celebrated with one of my beloved teams from the past, for we achieved 100% Engagement together.
Looking back, there are four principles that guided my leadership effectiveness.
As a leadership coach and consultant today, I am obsessed with healthy systems, teams and leaders, built with authenticity. I’m thankful to these bright spots in my path that challenged what I thought I knew all along.
1 – Tune into constructive intervention with humility. A high-performing director on a former team of mine offered me feedback, almost like an intervention.
One: “We’d love to see you be more vulnerable, to share more about who you are – it would bring us closer to you”.
Two: “I took the internal-led leadership mastery program and think you’d like it. It helps explain the difference between coaching and mentoring and I think you’d enjoy the coaching part a lot with the team in mind.”
Feedback is two-way with team members when we’re open to it. Let’s just say this conversation led to a game-changing future. To this day, I say “thank you”. You know who you are.
2 – Systematic and analytical intelligence will only take you so far. Thanks to Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, I was enlightened by the four tenets of leadership intelligence. Added to systematic and analytical forms are spiritual and emotional intelligence.
These quadrants tipped my scales in favour of working on my emotional intelligence. I wanted to increase awareness around how my emotions show up in my interactions and decision-making. Work in this area has been and continues to be pivotal. As an EQ-i 2.0 and EQ 360 psychometric assessment practitioner today, I firsthand see how EQ can grow within us.
3 – Make learning part of your leadership lifestyle. In a world where so many subject matter experts climb the ranks, we need more human-centric leadership. In my early days, I was one of those well-intended ladder climbers. It didn’t take long before I discovered true leadership is far greater than the mastery of my subject domain.
Later, I had the privilege of working with a couple of organizations that prioritized and invested very seriously in leadership development. I was coached and mentored. I soon committed to reading new insights and perspectives about healthy leadership regularly. I also participated in leadership learning both formal and informal. The pay-off? Beyond measure.
4 – Develop your presence. A president I reported into encouraged me to work on my presence. I resisted assuming my assertive nature and hard work had me covered, until I started looking up what executive presence was all about. He was trying to help me advance how I showed up such as the confidence I earned in others. Months later, I started to see the difference between those with and without presence. You bet I dug into advancing my presence, and still do.
Perhaps one or more of these sparks some resonance, new thinking or an additional thought. Whatever is percolating for you, I’d love to hear about it.
Yours with fervor,