Uplevel Your Leadership

To hear the podcast version of this post: Episode 95: Uplevel Your Leadership

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my quest to create space in my calendar and my brain.

I thought I was just practicing self care, you know, following my own advice - but it turns out, this process was a reflection of a major shift in my thinking. A shift I KNOW I was looking for, hoping for even, but wasn’t sure how to accomplish.

It’s definitely a reflection of my values and my philosophy, and I’d love to be able to say this was something I’ve always done. Always known HOW to do, and give you brilliant examples. But the reality is, ALL leaders go through this process.

This is a mindset shift that (as I said) you can know about, want, look for, and work towards. But until it happens for you, your leadership will always be a bit of a struggle.

It’s a shift from leadership being about ensuring others follow you,

to leadership being about enabling, equipping and empowering

those you lead, to move the whole party forward.

In entrepreneurial terms, it’s no longer about what I need or want to provide - ‘cause I’ve got all kinds of great ideas. It’s about what the client needs.

With that revelation, I removed some offers, and shut some things down. It felt odd, but the interesting thing is, I made myself, my thoughts, my information - MORE accessible.

Now, my leadership (podcasting, coaching, training) is focused more on you, and less on me.

You see, the mindset shift happened first, then the action - but that’s a whole other conversation.

When I spoke with Elisa Zhang, in last week’s podcast episode (#94), she shared how she set out on her own journey for financial independence, soon realized this was something she could share with others. She calls it Upleveling.  You see, once you discover something that changes your own life and future, it's hard not to want to show others how too. When you give someone else the information they need to do the same, you can create a beautiful cycle of paying it all forward. They are inspired to do the same. If you’ve not heard that conversation, I encourage you to check it out.

It would be easy to chase a rabbit down the hole of economic and political philosophy, especially in light of Elisa's mission of offering financial literacy education to 1 million people. It brings to mind the John F. Kennedy quote:


“No American is ever made better off by pulling a fellow American down,
and every American is made better off whenever any one of us is made better off.
A rising tide raises all boats.”

However, this is a leadership blog, not an economic one, so I’m gonna stay in my own lane, and explain how this concept applies to leadership and personal growth.

So, sticking with my own example…

I have a philosophy and growth plan, Intentional Optimism. This is a tool I offer to help individuals and groups become more self aware, determine where they desire to grow, and discover how to become effective and unique leaders. It took me a good 2 years to come up with it… from scribbled notes to big spreadsheets, to six main categories, and eventually, a sailboat analogy… but it was still all from my perspective.

Like Elisa, I wanted to share it, teach it, help others learn to live it… and so I did.

I started a podcast, opened a facebook group, took on coaching clients, and eventually opened a membership style group coaching program.

However, everything I just listed, all that sharing information, helping women grow… was still from my perspective.

For instance: I want to help as many women as possible, and I want my business to grow, so I sought to offer “all the things!” to “all the people!” When in reality, all the people didn’t need or want all the things. Don’t get me wrong, 430 women joined my facebook group. My podcast is about to hit 100 episodes. I have clients who have stuck with me through every iteration of my group coaching program, and individual clients who have renewed - multiple times!

But what I discovered - and if you’re listening closely, you probably heard it - I was approaching the whole thing from a place of lack. Scarcity. Need. Graspiness.

Ugh! Shocker - the BIG MINDSET SHIFT was that I can’t cajole, entice, badger, boss or beg anyone to follow me.

As a leader, I have to give them what they need in order to enable them to step in line and walk WITH me.

Even though the desire to give them what they need was there… it was all coming from a place of wanting to help.

I hope that THIS lesson, learned BY a LEADERSHIP coach, gives you some solace. If you’ve noticed that same thing in yourself. We all have baggage, sister. But, that’s not the point.

The big change (and the actual point) was in seeing that eliminating things (my Facebook Group, the videos from my emails, and even the fancy membership platform from my group coaching program) actually opened up opportunities to be more accessible.

I know. Crazy talk.

By letting things go, I was letting go of some of that scarcity (fear), and embracing a more open and abundant space.

Of course, this is all over the Intentional Optimism tenets of Present (generosity, open hands, kindness) and Energetic (focusing on others, sharing joy, excitement).

So here I am, standing in the realization that my philosophy is actually teaching and informing MY life and work… and transforming the way I lead.

Yes I'm a leader. I lead myself, my family, in my church, here on the podcast, as I coach, in the consultant work I do, as I mentor, parent, all of it. But there’s a difference between wanting people to follow, and leading - even with the BEST of intentions.

Was I leading, or did I just want people to follow?

Then Elisa Zhang’s comment about wanting to uplevel everyone around her so that everyone could have a better life, spotlighted the changes taking place in my heart and mind.

But how does this apply to you?

You may not be an entrepreneur, but let’s say you’re a team leader, or a small business owner. Maybe you WANT to be a team leader, you’re just not there yet.

Either way, do you find that you have a vision for how things could be different, how to make it happen, but it’s not going exactly as you envision?

Here’s my advice. Ask yourself this one question:

Do you want people to follow you, or are you really leading?

I know, nobody wants to admit they just “want people to follow!” It sounds shallow and self centered. Most of us don’t think we’re doing it.

You want to help. You have an answer. You are in a position of leadership or management, and you have expectations over you. I’ve been THERE, as well. What’s really interesting, is that I went through this SAME metamorphosis in my corporate work, I just didn’t realize it.

Well then, how do you know the difference?

Here are some examples of what it looks like when you just want people to follow you:

  • You protect your own ideas or information - afraid someone will steal them or take credit.
  • There’s usually only one or a “right” way to do things.
  • Unmet expectations in your team or staff (or children) are met with punitive action (or at least thoughts).
  • Lack of delegation - it’s easier to do it myself.
  • Lack of clarity in team roles - I called it “cross-training.”
  • Frustration with the pace of project or team progress.
  • Unwilling to lose team members to their next best role - even if it’s not with you.

In contrast, here are some examples of what it looks like when you want to lead people:

  • Your ideas are shared freely, knowing that others might be able to expand and maximize on what you start.
  • How things are accomplished is much less important than who does them and that they are completed on time.
  • Expectations are clear, and everyone strives to pull the whole team across the finish line. When expectations are unmet, you take responsibility for leadership in that area, and possibly setting unrealistic expectations. Then make changes.
  • Team members are celebrated for their strengths, and given projects or roles that they perform best, allowing you to operate in your zone of genius.
  • Everyone understands their role, their boundaries, and how to best perform.
  • Progress is measurable, and goals are achieved on time and within scope and budget.
  • Team members are celebrated, elevated and encouraged to outgrow their jobs and move on.

Now - those lists, though not exhaustive, sound pretty stark and dramatic. So let me simplify it for you.

If you’re about what YOU get at the end of the day - you’re looking for followers.
If you’re about what YOUR TEAM gets at the end of the day - you’re leading.

This is what Elisa was talking about. Taking financial literacy to a million people could be very rewarding. It could bring a lot of accolades… but if she does it the way she leads in her company, it won’t be about what she can get - it will be about what her team and her clients can get.

She prefers to lead by example, and be willing to DO the work. Her mission - nebulous as it may sound - is to uplevel everyone… or a million people, so that we can all have a better future.

She’s not interested in having people follow her. She’s interested in putting people on their own path. That’s leadership.

When I was in corporate, I used to tell interviewees that the jobs they were applying for were NOT landing pads. They were launching pads. I expected them to be gone in 3-5 years… faster, if they were motivated. I told them (yes, at the interview) that if things go well, I would be a reference for them. Every yearly evaluation included a discussion about where they were headed. Sure, there were some who weren’t interested at all, but for the most part, it fostered an openness in my team and a trust in the relationship.

My mission, NOW, is to equip and empower female leaders to think critically,

create imaginatively and lead effectively

- in any situation, team or organization.

Everything I share is for YOU, my friend.

Are you ready to determine whether you are leading or just want followers?

Ask yourself how you measure up in these two areas of Intentional Optimism.

PRESENT

  1. Does generosity come naturally for you? No judgment here, just know yourself. If not, how can you foster a more generous spirit in your leadership? Looking at your ideas, your thoughts, delegating to a team member to help them grow or allow them to have the credit.
  2. How about openness? If I’m feeling closed off, like I want to protect everything, I will physically open my arms up, then my hands… and take a deep breath. There are plenty of things you need to be wary of, or you need to be on guard about, but in general, we can all be more welcoming and open. Incidentally, this physical posture, of open arms and hands (think the Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro), is kind of a defenseless posture. You’re not ready to fight, you’re ready to welcome. People feel that, trust me.
  3. And how about kindness? Are you cutting everyone some slack (including yourself)? Are you offering the benefit of the doubt? I find most people actually want to do well. Most people want to succeed. A little kindness can go a long way toward building the confidence of a team member so they are more likely to become engaged and motivated to succeed.

For a more detailed look at being more present, I have two other episodes - 6, 75 - check them out.

ENERGETIC

  1. How focused are you on the success of others? Or put another way, on their flourishing? I found this much more of a challenge in my corporate work - there were metrics, goals or deadlines I was required to meet, that quite frankly depended on my team. That puts pressure on you to just push for results. There’s a delicate balance between achieving the objective AND allowing your team to flourish - but it’s not impossible.
  2. How freely do you share joy or excitement? No, it doesn’t need to be all about you. Quite frankly, it can be all about them - but sharing your OWN joy can be contagious! Sharing in another person’s joy is quite a selfless thing - it fosters trust and teamwork.
  3. Are you lifting them up, encouraging them to positive change? I’m the first to admit how easy it is to nag and point out everything that’s wrong in a situation or project. My husband hates to clean the kitchen because I walk in and immediately notice the one spot he missed. Making a conscious effort to focus on being encouraging, can make or break someone in the moment. It can bring a spirit of camaraderie and be a great catalyst to rally the whole team to move in a more productive direction.

Checking in with yourself in these two areas will shine that spotlight on your own mindset, and where you may (or may not) need some work.

Do you need to uplevel your leadership?

Remember, my work and passion is to equip and empower YOU.

No step in leadership growth is truly simple, but sometimes all you need is a perspective shift.

Are you really leading, or do you just want people to follow you?

When you truly desire the best for those you lead, even if you currently fall into the “looking for followers” category, you’ve got a great foundation upon which to build. Don’t despair - you got this.

I’m here, ready to help. I absolutely love watching women realize their own leadership abilities and qualities, and begin moving in a whole new way. So the question is - how can I help you? Check out my website, and see If you’d like to chat more. If so, you can email me or set up a 30 min consultation where we can figure out a good strategy for you.

Until next time.

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