How many times have you been discouraged by poor leadership - above you, around you, in your organization or community? On tv?
It affects the culture of the organization (no matter the size), and impacts the motivation of the entire team. When it affects YOU, personally, impacting your ability to do your work well, with joy, a sense of satisfaction or at least not hate it, the issue looms larger than life.
I’ve shared my own story many times, and it’s why I feel so passionate about empowering and developing female leaders in order to change the culture of organizations and teams, or help them build their own.
Today’s topic could be heavy - really heavy - if we let it. Because as much as I’d like to “say it ain’t so,” poor leadership is everywhere. I’m not here to “leader bash,” or call anyone out, but it would be an understatement to say there were plenty of examples out there - and I’m sure you’re ticking them all off in your head! (Listen to Episode 91: Creating the Next Best Leaders Through Resilience podcast episode 18 min.)
The symptoms of this lack of general leadership understanding are showing up in absolutely flabbergasting ways that range from general poor, domineering and unprofessional behavior, to wholesale disregard for the overwhelming data on how productive people can be when actually trusted to do their jobs - even when you can’t see them.
My opinion is that one of the origins of this phenomenon is that we have reached the saturation point for change. Unfortunately, this is the result when as a culture, we’ve spent several hundred years training our children to follow specific instructions on WHAT to think, rather than HOW to think. Add to that, a global pandemic, full of necessitated change, thinking and rethinking, deciding and re-deciding and many are left exhausted and with no reserve.
It's NOT an excuse for poor behavior. Just one of the explanations. The symptoms are everywhere.
Last week’s conversation with Rhonda Delaney highlighted some clear leadership issues that showed up in the acquisition of her company, where those in leadership had traditional education but seemingly no understanding of leadership or managing people.
In this case, there were two clear symptoms of poor leadership.
First - fragile male leaders. I’m amazed at the sheer volume of men who still press on in the mindset that men somehow know better or should be in charge. (I’m just gonna leave that right there.) The man who came in to “run the show” milked Rhonda for all her knowledge of the company, then literally handed her boss a letter to read to her, informing her she was fired. She commented “he had no interest in what they had purchased, they just wanted to do their thing.” She admits that she didn’t make the decision difficult, but the idea that her dedication to both learning how to run the company and to its growth meant nothing because she stood her ground and fought for her people, speaks volumes. Incidentally, my recollection is that the company went from thriving to collapsing.
The other symptom I see here is Ageism. At 58, Rhonda was the easiest to get rid of, as well as the most desirable. She was in a high position in the company, with influence over others. This one was also visible to me in my corporate career, and I’m now hearing plenty of stories from women who are being forced out or “capped off,” after age 50 with excuses like “you’re unable to learn new technology,” or “your ideas and opinions are from 20 years ago.” (You can listen to the full conversation here: Rhonda Delaney)
I’m just going to toss this out there -
I’m 55, and learning new technology every single day because I’m dedicated to making a difference in the lives of women everywhere, not to mention finding fulfillment in my work.
So perhaps we can tap into what’s important to women over 50, and allow them to become passionate about a new or bold initiative in the organization, and tap into their ability to learn and lead with the maturity you won’t find in younger staff members. Just sayin'.
A more distressing symptom of poor leadership comes in the form of fragile female leaders. In light of the other symptoms I just shared, many of the women who ARE in leadership positions, or have made it past that initial glass ceiling, are terrified they’ll be next and they become some of the worst offenders.
These people in leadership positions are threatened by those they lead instead of recognizing the next leader in the organization or team.
The other main symptom I’m seeing - good grief, everywhere - is the “get yourself back to the office or you’ll be working for someone else” scenario. I’ve made it no secret that this is the one that pushed me right out of the nest and off the cliff into full self employment. I truly don’t understand the “if I can’t see you, you’re not working” mentality, but it’s everywhere, from higher education, to state governments to giant global pioneers - all of whom have had successful teleworking conditions and agreements in place for decades.
Suddenly, trust is gone.
The global economy and communication system that got us through most of the pandemic is now the enemy, and any ground gained for the flourishing of individuals (which would CAUSE the flourishing of the organization) is gobbled back up in order to maintain a specific type of control. Control based in fear.
I told you this could get heavy.
The question is, what can you DO about it?
Or more appropriately, what can YOU do about you?
By now, you should expect me to tell you that the first person you lead is yourself, and that growth always begins with awareness.
So what do you need to be aware of, and how can WE lead ourselves and others out and away from this crisis of leadership?
In a word, Resilience.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or toughness. Some might call it grit.
Resilience is courage lived out in our daily activities, which enables us to do and become all that we are created to be. It’s the "work it out" side of courage, and something you must actively cultivate.
When you do, THIS is how YOU make a difference in your team, company or organization. THIS is how we can start to turn the tide, building up new, courageous, equipped leaders, changing the culture of an organization or creating their own where all those involved, are given the opportunity to flourish.
In Intentional Optimism, resilience consists of three aspects:
Now I’ll prove this topic is NOT heavy, because HOPE is right here.
This information I’m going to share with you proves it is a SIMPLE process, with SIMPLE principles that anyone can do, starting right now.
Here’s how, focus on these three things.
I think this word gets a new definition every few generations, but in general, it consists of your mental and moral qualities. Of course, that means there will always be different opinions as to what makes up “good” or “solid” character, but within my philosophy of Intentional Optimism, it means this: “I choose to do what I say I will do,even when it's hard, because the more I practice, the more solid my character becomes.”
Of course, there are always situations where you need to pivot or change either your mind or your actions, but in general, following through with your own stated goals, desires, and promises keeps you honest.
As a leader, your people need to know that when you promise something, you’re going to follow through. This is true in your personal life (your kids, spouse), and your professional life. To be sure, this is more of a challenge for some personality types than others, for instance, in the language of DISC, I’m a very high “I” or Influencer. I love agreeing to fun and amazing projects or collaborations, and I’m usually going to say “YES, cool, let’s do it!” My mom was the same way. We literally “think out loud.”
Between me and her, there were plenty of things “agreed to” that never happened - but that doesn’t work with my husband, my son, or my sister. It most certainly didn’t work in my job. Learning who I am, how I’m wired, and how I could learn the skill of doing what I say I will do took a whole lot of growth. There have been things I’ve had to follow through on that were truly painful. However, that process has taught me volumes about how to be true to myself, and stand up for what I will and will not agree to in my personal life, and my professional life.
Can you hear how building character cultivates resilience?
Which brings me to the second aspect,
I talk about this one often, in just about every context, and here’s what I mean: “I do the small things, daily, that make big things possible. My processes and methods are aligned with my "why."
From habit building to systems creation, consistency provides the needed repetition to produce an automatic process or response that reduces effort and energy expenditure. (repeat)
When you repeat the small thing over, and over, and over, the effect is compounded, and the results are bigger than the sum of the parts. It should go without saying that these small actions need to be the “right” actions, because you can practice something the wrong way and you’ve got a permanent problem.
So assuming you’re developing a productive habit, consistency will allow your efforts to compound. Every social media teacher I follow says “don’t give up, keep posting daily, you need consistency and volume to develop a following.” My health coach, Pam Sherman, reminds me every single time I turn on a video, that even 5 minutes dedicated to my health will pay off. Small, consistent actions.
In order to stay consistent, though, these actions need to be supported by a compelling reason - which I call my “why.” In social media, I want to create visibility, so I can teach and help others grow. My health goal this year is to become strong, so 6 smaller workouts each week is really starting to pay off.
This podcast is an excellent example - when I took a class on how to start a podcast, they shared the statistic that most new podcasts don’t make it past 10 episodes. I saw a new statistic today, that it’s gone down to 7! This is episode 91. Do I have a million downloads? Nope. Do I have 10,000 downloads? Nope. But I do have people telling me how the message I share here has changed their life - and I’m developing some doggone GOOD consistency muscles, putting something out nearly every week.
Consistency makes getting up and doing it all over again, automatic. No matter how hard it is. See how it helps cultivate resilience?
Which brings me to the last piece, which is:
“I keep my eye on the prize. Knowing where I'm going prevents getting distracted by challenges.”
Lordy, y’all… if anyone is prone to stop doing something because it’s HARD, it’s me. The more I learn about my personality, the more that makes sense, but I was THAT kid. As soon as something got hard, I was OUT. Track and Field - out. Basketball - out. Tennis - out. Physics - out. Calculus - out. I only wanted to do things that came naturally and easily to me.
On one hand, that’s not bad at all. I believe wholeheartedly that we need to identify our strengths and play to them. Go become all the wonderfulness that we are, in our own unique way.
However, if I want to be an amazing leader, coach, podcaster, trainer, teacher, author, any of it… there are hard things I need to learn. I had to learn how to build a website. How to write a blog post. How to set up a Stripe account. How to make a Tik Tok video - still working on that one… but you get the point. Those are just technical things. What about how to be an entrepreneur, build an audience, become transparent in my message? All HARD things!
Focusing on the good I can and want to do in the world, no matter how big and nebulous that sounds, gives me that little push to learn how to create a new landing and checkout page for a program. Focusing on how many women can be helped by my group coaching has given me the courage (and yes, resilience), to learn how to build that community on a whole new platform - Mighty Networks.
Focusing on who I AM BECOMING through all of these processes helps clarify my own mission, and how I can better serve those who listen to me. At home, in my community, on social media, through this podcast, and as clients.
That person, that leader, Andrea Johnson, she’s where I start.
Focusing on that cultivates the resilience I need to do the hard things with consistency.
If I can do it… the kid who never wanted to do anything difficult, the one who has a tendency to speak long before thinking and who gets BORED with repetition - YOU can do this, my friend.
You can cultivate resilience, and become the leader who will change the culture of your organization, team or community. You will then inspire and even equip other leaders to follow in your footsteps, truly changing the tide.
So much of the behavior and policies we see out there are based in fear and an inability to think and change.
It’s time to think. It’s time to decide.
Remember, my work and passion is to empower YOU, to do what I have done. To take control of your future, as the leader you are created to be. The choice, though, is forever yours. It begins with you, the woman in the mirror.
These three aspects of resilience (character, consistency, and focus) are things you can start doing right now.
If you need support, help or guidance, I’m here. I'm ready to help. I absolutely love watching women realize their own leadership abilities and qualities, and begin moving in a whole new way.
This is your time. This is our time. Let’s build up resilient leaders to carry us well into the future.
We got this.
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