Persuading Your Client to Accept Reality

What does a Freelance consultant do when a client refuses to believe what should be an undeniable fact and instead chooses to believe something that is obviously incorrect? When a client denies or ignores the reality of circumstances in his/her organization—like a strategy that’s not producing the desired outcome or a decision that’s caused a problem to go from bad to worse—can an external consultant (or subordinate employee) tactfully open the boss’ eyes? Maybe.  But before you try, examine the alternate reality in which some of us will occasionally choose to live.

In a four-year study conducted by LeadershipIQ, a company that provides online leadership development seminars, 1,087 board members at 286 organizations that had ousted their CEOs were interviewed.  In 23% of the organizations surveyed, the dismissed CEOs failed to acknowledge, and therefore act upon, adverse business conditions or other obvious threats to the organization and that lapse was the pivotal factor in his/her demise.  In other words, those CEOs chose to deny reality and paid the price.

Business and other leaders, like everyone else, might at times choose to deny or ignore uncomfortable truths, a behavioral trait known as the ostrich effect, where the birds are said to hide their heads in the sand when faced with a threat (untrue, BTW).  There are those people who prefer to see the bright side because they are convinced that positive thinking brings about positive results.  Every once in a while, that is true.

For the resolutely rose-colored glasses crowd, however, you may have noticed that presenting accurate information is often ineffective because their denial is rooted in misplaced emotion.  With this group, facts do not win arguments.

There are a number of paths that might lead to faulty logic that prevents one from seeing and responding to reality.  The phenomenon of confirmation bias demonstrates that we humans have a tendency to seek out and interpret data and other information that is in line with our belief systems.  The sunk cost fallacy essentially means that one has so heavily invested in the truism of a particular decision’s outcome that there will be no backing down now.

In the backfire effect, we elect to dig in our heels when presented with facts that call into question the value of our self-worth, identity, worldview, or group belonging.  In many cases, presenting those facts causes the person to cling even more tightly to his/her incorrect or unsustainable beliefs.

Unfortunately, those who tell the truth to someone who is mired in denial, and most likely engaging in one of the above behavioral patterns, risk triggering an attack by the denier, in the classic shoot the messenger face-saving mechanism.  In this scenario, the realist cannot win because according to behavioral scientists, denial is more about identity than information.

Now to get back to the client we’re trying to persuade to do one thing or another—what can one do when demonstrable facts are not only insufficient, but are also capable of imploding your valuable relationship? Ohio State University behavioral scientist Gleb Tsipursky recommends that we sidestep a potential showdown by asking a few delicately phrased questions that might reveal the emotion behind the denial and idealy, allow the denier to back away from his/her original stance and save face as this occurs.

While it may have already become apparent that you hold another viewpoint on the matter,  your first objective is to portray yourself as trustworthy and not an enemy.  Say what you can to convey to your denier that you share his/her core values and concerns.  Rephrasing what that person has said could be useful, to demonstrate that you understand and (perhaps) agree with what is most meaningful to him/her.

Your second objective is to gently reveal to the denier that his/her position is actually in conflict with his/her core values and/or goals.  This will take a silver tongue, I admit.  You might be able to get the ball rolling by noting that the denier’s position is quite understandable, based on the available information at the time, or as a result of his/her experiences.

If you can follow that up with an example of when and how someone who is known to the denier subsequently changed his/her opinion or practices on a particular matter, so much the better.  You want to make it safe for the denier to make a tectonic shift and show him/her how to do it painlessly.  Revealing that others sometimes do so is validating.

Finally, reconfirm -your denial prone client’s goals and based on what the two of you now agree upon, cobble together a solution that the client can accept.  Since the client will substantively participant in the process, buy-in will be achieved and you will emerge with a signed contract.

Thanks for reading,


Image: The Denial of St. Peter  Gerard Seghers, circa 1623                                                      Courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art





Your Business, Positioned To Succeed

Since you’ve made the commitment to go into business, as a Freelance Solopreneur who offers B2B or B2C services or an Entrepreneur, who employs a leadership team to operate a complex venture you, the founder and leader, will be expected to position your enterprise for profitability and success.

Strategic planning is the process by which business leaders aim to create sustainable success for their organization and it is the essence of business planning.  Strategic plans typically forecast the upcoming 36 months.  Strategic planning is eventually undertaken by all business leaders who fully grasp their responsibilities.

Freelance Solopreneurs might request that their advisory board members participate in the strategic plan development.  Entrepreneurs can count on their team leaders and they may also invite other staff members to contribute to the process.

Step 1: A SWOT Analysis to reveal where the organization is today

Suggest that the planning team use the classic strategy planning tool, the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis matrix.  SWOT asks the planning team to acknowledge and document the current reality of the organization, in preparation for deciding how and when to move forward with plans for growth.

In the SWOT, basic information such as identifying resources that can be considered competitive advantages and factors that are considered minuses, start the process. Note that the Strengths and Weaknesses categories ask the team to acknowledge internal factors, that is, conditions that the organization can influence.  The Opportunities and Threats categories hold external factors that the organization can strive to exploit or avoid as needed, but are unable to control.

Perhaps the most important document for the planning team to examine is the Income (Profit & Loss) Statement.  Over the previous 8 to 12 quarters, have total net sales revenues met the forecast projections? What is the trajectory of (top line) gross sales? The P & L includes categories for each product and service that is sold and reveals the history of sales, gross and net.  That data allows for reasonable projection forecasts to be made for sales revenue performance in the near term and up to three years out.  From the P & L. the team will also acknowledge production or acquisition costs of goods sold for each product and service; all marketing and advertising costs; selling costs; fixed operating expenses; payroll expenses; and taxes, local and federal.

Your accountant will be an excellent resource for financial data analysis (whether or not your team includes a fiscal controller) and will be able to recommend attainable goals that will strengthen the company’s fiscal future, information that is essential to the SWOT process.

Statistics and other Information on market share, current and newly arrived competitors and changes in technology, government regulations, or the priorities and preferences of target markets, which can either help or hurt the plans for long-term growth and success, can be culled from quarterly or annual marketing data and reviewed during the SWOT process.  Quality control, operational processes and customer service protocols should likewise be included in the SWOT Analysis.

Step 2: Use the SWOT results to determine your company’s best growth goals

Once the strategy planning team has a clear picture of the current conditions of the business, the next step is to decide what growth could look like for the organization.  It is strongly recommended that the team research potential growth opportunities for the business, to first understand where expansion can be expected to be sustainable and second, the short and long-term expectations for the proposed expansion.

Plans for operational efficiencies, such as improvements in service delivery, customer service protocols, quality control and inventory management could also be evaluated and strategies for improvements formulated during the SWOT, since these elements can impact business growth and perception of the brand.

Decision-making is a huge part of leadership and the team will demonstrate its prowess here. in Step 2. Your team will have been guided by a comprehensive and candid SWOT Analysis, which allows the team to develop plans and move forward with confidence.

Step 3: Strategies, Action Plans, Monitoring and Review

Once the direction for growth has been determined and the financial and operational upgrades needed to promote that growth have been identified, then a list of growth objectives can be proposed and agreed upon by the planning team.  Once the growth objectives have been officially accepted, then the affiliated strategies and action plans, with time tables and milestones to mark interim demonstrations of success, can be developed, discussed and accepted by the team,

Major planning initiatives benefit from monthly or quarterly review, so that incorrect assumptions and forecasts can be quickly revealed and corrections made.  An internal communications plan designed to keep plan participants and non-participating staff apprised of the strategic plan’s progress supports the motivation to continue to carry out the action plans that drive success on the ground.

Thanks for reading,


LEAD With Conviction

Those who misinterpret the role of leader often feel that exerting power over others is its purpose but that hypothesis has been revealed to be false. The most effective leaders recognize that the quality of leadership is greatly enhanced when they are liked and respected by those in the organization and/or on their team.

Bill George, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and author of Discover Your True North (2007), encourages leaders to empower those whom they lead.  He asserts that the most empowering condition is when organization members align around a goal or mission and team member passions and purposes are complementary and synchronized.

Leadership Development expert Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0  (with Jean Greaves, 2009), says that leadership is about emotional intelligence and that it is a flexible skill that can be improved with effort. Here are the behaviors and attributes that successful leaders develop and cultivate.

Form personal connections

The best leaders know that a successful life is built on good, mutually beneficial relationships. A true leader is not afraid to extend him/herself and get to know the people whom s/he leads, as well as others. Good leaders may be introverts or extroverts,  but they nevertheless enjoy connecting with people. They focus on the person/people with whom they are speaking and have personal conversations. They care and those they lead know this to be true.

Be approachable

Good leaders know how to maintain boundaries and still make it possible for others to reach out and talk with them. They believe that those whom they lead are valuable and worth their time.
Have integrity

Good leaders keep their word, to the very best of their ability. They do not say one thing and then do another. They respect those whom they lead.

Have substance

Leaders understand that expertise is necessary, the foundation of their stepping into the leadership role. They rose to the top because they possess superior knowledge and expertise and they are masters at leveraging it.

Be positive

Leaders encourage those on their team to be the best they can be. They believe in the abilities of those on their team or in the organization. They have faith in the vision and mission of the organization and communicate their enthusiasm for achieving the goals that express and promote them.

Be generous

Leaders share.  A superior leader gives those on the team the tools they need to achieve success. They support and encourage people.   Leaders empower, they do not micromanage.

Recognize and appreciate potential

Leaders are able to spot talent and they are willing to help you to develop and leverage yours.  A leader aspires to recommend you to a position where your strongest talents and competencies can be utilized and rewarded, so that you will operate at your best and derive satisfaction as you do.

Be humble

Arrogance and braggadocio are not signs of leadership and that includes the “humble brag”.  Leaders are usually quite happy to lead, but they are aware that leadership is about accountability and responsibility and not an excuse to boss others around.

Communicate well

Whether standing before a large group or chatting over coffee with one or two team members, leaders both have something to say and listen well. They are well-spoken and fluent writers, as well. They are usually good story tellers. Many leaders have a background in sales.

Good judgment

As the song says, you’ve got to know when to hold and know when to fold. Judgment entails many competencies, including the ability to prioritize.  Leaders are good decision-makers and they are guided by their personal integrity; respect for their team and the organization; expertise in their field; and understanding of human nature and motivations.

Former political adviser and CNN political commentator and currently a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University David Gergen, author of Eyewitness to Power (2000) writes, “At the heart of leadership is the leader’s relationship with followers. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only if they think the other person is a reliable vessel”.

Thanks for reading,


Have Composure, Keep Calm and Carry On

Sooner or later, we all must enter a room filled with our adversaries and it is no picnic. I must do exactly that on the evening that this post will publish. The event is quasi- social business and the attendees will be members of an organization in which I hold the highest leadership post. These colleagues belong to a separate, smaller subgroup of the primary organization and the subgroup has a separate leadership team. The subgroup depends on the primary organization for financial assistance and they are an entitled and self-aggrandizing lot.  My goal has been to limit the hand-outs they receive and oh, boy, are they resentful. So into the lion’s den I go!

I must be friendly and supportive of establishing a cooperative relationship between the two groups, yet let it be known that the primary group does not exist to be in service to the subgroup. I will need a big dose of composure and lucky for me, composure is a skill that can be practiced and mastered. Officers in the Marines are taught a communication style called SMEAC: Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Command, which goes a long way in encouraging the development of composure and control when vital information must be communicated to others. Those who perfect the SMEAC communication format learn to use precise, carefully chosen words to clearly express their message. SMEAC is now taught at the Harvard Business School.

On our own, it is possible to learn a precise and concise speaking style through observation and rehearsal. Get started by identifying those whom you consider to be highly effective communicators. You are listening for well-chosen words that carry impact. Next, select the two or three points that you must make your audience understand and then refine the language you plan to use. Boil down, clarify and simplify your message. Practice your speech out loud and as well, pay attention to your tone of voice and speed of delivery.

SMEAC works best when we have the luxury of preparation time, when we are scheduled to deliver a presentation. If you must make your points from a meeting table rather than from a podium, the agenda will allow you to choose and rehearse the points that you’d like to get across.

How we speak is a combination of presentation style, word choice, tone, speed and cadence. Maintaining composure is essential when we must speak formally to an audience, particularly when the audience is unfamiliar or potentially hostile. SMEAC is an excellent communication technique that is especially suited for crisis communications or other high-pressure, high-stakes public speaking engagements.

Thanks for reading,


The Classic 6 Leadership Styles

The effective leader is flexible.  S/he is possessed of self-awareness and knows that the style of leadership must fit the demands of the circumstances. What methods can a leader use to persuade team members to give their best performance? How can a leader inspire trust and confidence, obtain buy-in on a vision and goals, encourage bonding and build a cohesive team, build skills where necessary, acknowledge and respect skills where present, create loyalty and produce extraordinary results? The leader must assess the staff with whom s/he will work and employ the most effective leadership style.

I.      Directive

No-questions-asked coercive style that demands compliance. “Do as I say” and controlling.  Motivation is “encouraged” via threats and discipline. Are you looking for a way to kill motivation, persuade the staff to lose commitment and enthusiasm and squelch any respect the staff may have had for you? Look no further.

Most effective:       In a crisis when decisive action must be taken ASAP and there is no room for deviation from a tightly prescribed rescue strategy.

Least effective:       With highly skilled team members, who will quickly resent micro-management and the disrespect of an authoritarian culture.

II.    Visionary 

Inspires the team. Employees come to feel that they are a team and understand how and why their work contributes to the realization of the vision. Moves people toward shared goals/outcomes through empathy and clarity.  This leader states the vision clearly and compellingly, gets buy-in and then steps back and allows the team to work, stepping in from time to time to reiterate the vision and reinforce commitment and enthusiasm.

Most effective:     When seeking to help the team create and achieve goals for the long-term.

Least effective:    The leader is not credible and employees do not trust the vision and goals proposed.

III.   Affiliative 

Creates harmony that boosts morale and resolves conflict.  Builds trust between the leader/manager and employees. People first, task second. The focus is on helping the team to bond, but there may be hesitation when it’s time to take charge and get down to business.

Most effective:     When stepping into an environment where conflict has damaged commitment and morale.

Least effective:     When producing results is imperative and where clear direction, strategies and action plans are needed.

IV.   Participative 

Superb listener, team builder, collaborator and influencer.  A primary objective is to build commitment through consensus. Employees know that their input is valued and this generates commitment.  However, constantly seeking consensus can impede progress toward completing projects.

Most effective:     The staff are highly competent and mutually respectful. Turnover is low and the team is cohesive.

Least effective:     Close supervision is required for the inexperienced. There is no time to build commitment and consensus.

V.    Pacesetter  

Leads through example, has great initiative and a strong drive to achieve through his/her own efforts.  This leader has high personals standards and high energy,  but little patience and can become a micro-manager.  The team is a meritocracy and only A + results are acceptable.  Anything less and the under-performing employee will be pulled off the project.  Nevertheless, team members are inspired and remain engaged and motivated by a leader who “walks the talk”.

Most effective:    Managing highly motivated experts.

Least effective:   When skills development,  coordination and coaching are necessary.

VI.  Coaching 

Good listener who helps employees identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Knows how to delegate,  which provides skills training for staff members.  Encourages peak performance by providing opportunities for professional development and building the employee’s long-term capabilities.

Most effective:     When professional development is needed and employees are motivated to achieve.

Least effective:    The leader lacks expertise and/or the ability to teach or coach. Results produced by highly skilled employees are immediately needed.

Thanks for reading,


A Politically Correct Skill Set

Besides the whims of fortune (and luck is an enormous force in the universe),  what differentiates a successful person from an unsuccessful person? What defines a successful leader?  According to Samuel Bacharach,  co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group,  successful leadership is defined by the ability to rally support for an idea and inspire others to collaborate with you and help bring that idea to fruition.  Regardless of the quality of the initiatives that you’d like to advance,   you cannot lead without possessing highly developed political skills.  In the absence of good political skills,  the most brilliant plans will die on the vine.  A good agenda will never be realized and a legacy will be greatly diminished.

Bacharach says that the essence of political competence is the ability to understand what you can and cannot control.  One must identify who will support the initiative,  who will oppose and when the time will be right to go public and move forward.  Those who possess political skills get things done because they take the time to think things through.  The politically skilled will not naively or arrogantly move forward alone,  but will instead win over the right people and build a coalition to take on the project. “Anticipating the obstacles your idea might face when you present it is a political skill that can help you get across the finish line”,  says Bacharach.  Politically skilled leaders will consult with a trusted ally or two to reality test their concept,  create a list of potential allies and detractors,  decide who to recruit for the launch team,  calculate the best time to move forward and create a roll-out strategy.

Political skill means knowing how to map out the battlefield terrain,  convince people to join your team and lead a coalition.   The best ideas do not always win out,  but the best launched ideas always have a good chance of seeing the light of day.  The highly respected movers and shakers in life are yes,  the luckiest,  but also they have political skills.

Some are born with a highly developed political skill gene,  but it is possible to improve your skill level.  As noted above,  taking the time to think through the arc of the initiative’s development and roll-out is a good place to start.  Who is likely to support you?  In whose interest might it be to see the project realized?  What can you do to make potential allies see that it will benefit them to support the project? Which of your allies has enough power to make things happen and bring other high-ranking players to your team?

Now who are likely to be detractors,  active or passive—who will feel threatened by a perceived  (or actual)  loss of power and influence if your plan is adopted?  Who might be able to withhold resources  (funding)  or start a whisper campaign to undermine you?  Can your team overcome these matters? Are there cultural,  historical or other barriers that you might face?

Assembling your winning coalition is the next step.  Work only with those whom you trust and respect and know that the feeling is mutual.  Be certain to compile a list of compelling benefits that will help you sell the merits of your idea to those with the power to make it a reality.

You may want to approach the mapping of the political terrain as strategic planning and conduct a SWOT Analysis (Strengths,  Weaknesses,  Opportunities and Threats),  to help you visualize the resources you hold,  any gaps in your war chest,  obstacles that you will likely face and opportunities that may strengthen your position along the way.  Anticipate the arguments that will be made against you.  Sell the benefits that will overcome those arguments and convince  (powerful)  allies to support your position.  Collaborate with supporters to bring your initiative to life.  Be an effective leader.

Merry Christmas,


Power and Success

Powerful people achieve success.  They are able to create opportunities that lead to success,  or they have opportunities to create success handed to them.  Power can emanate from several sources,  most famously from money and family connections.  Power also emanates from various other sources,  such as athletic ability (football hero);  musical ability (rock star);  intellect (IQ, intelligence quotient) that allows one to earn a degree from a prestigious school;  and relationships (EQ, emotional quotient / EI emotional intelligence) with powerful and influential people.  All of these power sources can be leveraged and used to propel oneself into environments where opportunities to create success are available.

For the majority of us power,  should we seek to pursue it (and most do not),  is an attribute that we develop on our own,  knowingly or unknowingly,  with or without intention and the EQ-based power that emanates from relationships is the power that is most accessible.   This variety of personal power is derived through the way we interact with others in personal and professional relationships.  To acquire this power,  one must be competent and trustworthy.   Additionally,  it is imperative to relate to others in a way that makes those who know you feel valued and good about themselves.  Those who acquire personal power through their relationships must be authentic,  or do an excellent job of convincing others that this is the case.  Powerful people inspire great loyalty and respect.

Personal power is an integral building block of leadership ability.  It can be argued that the wherewithal to develop personal power derives from the capacity to lead oneself.  Improving the ability to develop and sustain relationships by heightening EQ expertise helps one open doors that lead to opportunities that help us achieve success in business and life.  Here are guidelines that can serve as your EQ training regimen.  They were developed by Daniel Goleman,  author of Emotional Intelligence  (1995)  and based on the work of John Mayer,  personality psychologist at the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey,  social psychologist and president of Yale University:

I.      Self-awareness

The ability  (or courage)  to recognize and acknowledge one’s emotions,  motivations,  fears,  strengths and weaknesses and to understand the impact these have on our decision-making and interactions with others.  Accurate self-assessment and self-confidence are    required to master this element.

II.    Self-management

The ability  (or self-discipline)  to regulate,  control,  or redirect one’s disruptive  (read irrational,  inappropriate or destructive)  emotions or behaviors and successfully adapting to changing circumstances are the essential skills here.  This is not to say that one should knuckle under to adversity.  Just don’t throw any chairs.  Learn to fight back in a smart way that reflects well on you.  When necessary be flexible,  gracefully roll with the punches,  or devise Plan B.  Honesty,  integrity,  follow-through,  time management,  initiative and ambition reside in this element.

III.   Relationship management

Building bonds,  teamwork,  collaboration,  conflict management and social skills are the focus.  Those all-important interpersonal skills that allow us to relate to and connect with people are nurtured in this element,  as is leadership ability.  To strengthen these behaviors,  pay attention to feedback from others,   positive and negative.  Have the good judgment and maturity to display more of those behaviors that elicit positive feedback and much less of behaviors that generate unflattering comments.  Realize that there is such a thing as constructive criticism and avoid getting defensive and hostile when someone lets you know that perhaps you could have handled something another way.  Furthermore,  as painful as it might be,  listen also and check yourself when haters pounce,  for there might be a grain of truth in the venom they spew.

IV.   Empathy

EQ does not exist without genuine empathy.  Demonstrate that the feelings of others matter to you by be willing to consider the impact of your actions and decisions on others.  Think of intent vs. impact.  Challenge yourself to imagine how it might feel to be in the other person’s shoes and see the situation from another perspective.   Learn to take steps to hear and address the concerns of others.  Master this element and you’ll become a more successful negotiator.

Thanks for reading,


Eight Leadership Styles. Which One Is Yours?

When assuming a leadership role,   one does what is required in that position at the time.   There is no road-map because leaders must respond to events as they occur,   as they simultaneously champion projects developed by members of their team,   push through selected personal initiatives and follow through with worthy projects that started before their regime.   Most of all a leader must be versatile,   possessed of good judgment and more than a little lucky.

Nevertheless,  we all have our strengths.   Some of us are super strategists,  or change agents.  Others are great with process and operations,  we intuitively know how to get things done efficiently.  Still others are master communicators: deal-makers,  negotiators or coaches.

How does one rise to leadership,  take the reins and succeed when certain key projects call for talents outside of the natural skill set? Good judgment will encourage the leader to recognize what is beyond his/her expertise and delegate such tasks to better qualified team members.   Further,  the leader is advised to acknowledge team members who step up,  because recognition builds loyalty and the productive can-do spirit of a high-functioning team.

Leadership development specialist Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries,   author of “The Hedgehog Effect: The Secrets of Building High Performance Teams” (2011),   has identified eight leadership competency archetypes for us to ponder.   Do you recognize yourself in one?

The BUILDER approaches leadership as an entrepreneurial activity.  This leader longs to create a tangible legacy.

The CHANGE AGENT loves to ride in on a white horse and clean up a mess.   Re-engineering is the preferred activity.

The COACH derives great personal satisfaction from talent development and knows how to recognize the strengths of team members and get the best out them.

The COMMUNICATOR,  like former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan,  loves being on stage and knows how to influence people.

The INNOVATOR is able to sort through difficult problems and devise creative,  yet practical solutions.

The NEGOTIATOR is highly gifted at recognizing,  selling and bringing to the organization lucrative new business opportunities.

The PROCESSOR is an operations expert who will make the organization run like a well-oiled machine.  This leader will institute systems that support the organization’s objectives.

The STRATEGIST has the vision to recognize which goals and strategies the organization would be wise to pursue to ensure its future growth and sustainability.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading,


Authenticity is the Only Personal Brand

The successful Freelance consultant is acknowledged as an expert and leader in his/her chosen field  by clients,  colleagues and competitors.  This Freelancer has superior skills that are accompanied by integrity;  s/he can be trusted to meet or even exceed expectations.  This individual commands respect because s/he is highly competent,  reliable and credible,  that is to say,  authentic.

Authentic is an adjective that’s thrown around a lot these days and perhaps suffers from overuse,  but I agree with leadership development specialists who assert that a truly effective leader is highly skilled,  trustworthy,  respectful,  communicates well and is unafraid to be him/herself.  A leader embraces the genuine self,  strives to develop and present  the best self and does not waste time trying to be someone else.  For those reasons,  leaders are often considered charismatic and they inspire great loyalty.

Les McKeown,  CEO of Predictable Success,   an adviser on organizational growth and author of  “Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There” (2010),  has shared three phrases that will telegraph your authenticity and leadership ability to others.   At some future meeting,  it will make sense for a leader to make at least one of these statements:

I have nothing to add.”  The confident leader is not in love with the sound of his/her own voice and does not feel compelled to weigh in on every matter.  A leader intuits when everything that is relevant has been expressed,  respects the well-reasoned opinions of others and allows others to take center stage and shine every now and again.

I don’t understand what you mean by…..”  Authentic leaders admit knowledge gaps and ask for information that will clarify,  so that they can grasp the subject under discussion and promote good decision-making.  They are not driven by a need to appear  expert in all things.

I recommend that we…..”  A leader recognizes when it is time to make a decision,  whether or not all the facts are in hand.  Usually,  all the facts can never be in hand,  but a leader knows when we must move forward and either take advantage of an opportunity,   head off a crisis,  or cut losses.  An authentic leader takes responsibility to put resources and reputation on the line and make,  or advocate for,  a decision or action.

Role models can be inspiring and show us the way,  but at the end of the day we must be ourselves.  We must be willing to embrace what we believe in,  acknowledge our priorities and articulate our values and vision.  To do so takes confidence,  which is yet another attribute of a leader.   An authentic leader has no desire to present a false  “personal brand”  that may seem trendy at a given moment.  A real leader knows that authenticity is the only worthwhile personal brand and that its value is timeless.

Thanks for reading,


Find the Leader Within

This is the last post in the leadership series and I hope you’ve found it beneficial.   I hope that you were moved to recall key moments in your professional and personal life where you’ve stepped up and revealed yourself as a capable leader and also moments where you could have handled things a little better.   Some are born leaders,  but for most of us,   honing leadership skills is an ongoing process.   According to Katherine Tyler Scott,   Managing Principal of Ki ThoughtBridge leadership development specialists in Indianapolis, IN,   “All things being equal,   the best of the best leaders will have emotional intelligence,   self-awareness,   self-management,   social skills and motivation”.

They Are Change Agents

A Senior Program Officer at the Ford Foundation for 10 years,   Linetta Gilbert has doled out millions of dollars to worthy causes world-wide.   Primarily responsible for grantmaking in Gulf Coast states,   the 62-year-old New Orleans resident helped fund the reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Katrina and spent significant time listening to what grantees thought about change,   at times provoking them to higher ideals.

“Sometimes people are in positions of influence because they hold certain credentials or know the right person,   but they are not necessarily committed to the mission”,   Gilbert notes.  “I try to get inside their heads about their own leadership.   I expose them to opportunities to refine their skills,   recommending books,   conferences and training sessions.   I urge them to think about who they are,   what’s next and who in their organization is being groomed to keep the agenda going”.

As a grantmaker,   Gilbert understands that judgment is a quality of leadership that must be honed.   “You have to learn how to read reality truthfully”,   she says.  “It is not something people are born with.   You have to have opportunities to develop and ask yourself,  Is this real? Or is it only real from my perspective’?

In 2010,   Gilbert was invited to co-lead the newly formed Declaration Initiative at  The Ford Foundation,  which aims to eradicate deep  poverty in the United States within the next 15 years.   “I believe that leaders must have a higher power call upon,   some larger connection outside of work,”.   That source,   Gilbert says,   is her power.

They Begin With the End in Mind

Six months into her job as Executive Director at Safe Shores–The DC Children’s Advocacy Center,  a not-for-profit agency that works with abused children,  Michele Booth Cole was tasked with negotiating with the District of Columbia to acquire a new building for the agency.  “We wanted a space that would serve families and be more child-friendly”,  says the 46-year-old.  “The idea was to own the building”.

But when DC officials told her that owning a building was out of the question,  Cole had to reassess.    As she weighed her options,   she realized that her ultimate goal was to secure a larger space and decided to make a counter-offer.  Her organization would lease the new space from DC,  but Safe Shores would have to play a central role in its design.

Cole’s proposal was the turning point in the negotiations.  “Taking a flexible approach allowed the project to move forward and demonstrated a willingness to cooperate on our part”,   commented Cole.   “We had our eyes on the higher goal of serving children in a facility that was worthy of them”.   In 2011,   Safe Shores moved into a newly renovated 37,000 square foot building.

According to Katherine Tyler Scott,  Cole’s ability to focus on the agency’s mission was a key factor in using her power.   “A leader who is self-aware and knowledgeable of the organization’s core values can successfully guide key decisions and enable that organization to be prudent under pressure”.   Cole adds  “Power is about sharing leadership and cultivating others to get things done with a real sense of excellence”.

Thanks for reading,