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People have frequently asked me, “Is courage the same as empowerment and bravery?” I don’t think so. Here is how I believe these vitally important concepts are distinctly different. Courage is an internal process. It occurs when you make a conscious decision to tap into and use your inner “reservoir” of heart, which you might not have even realized you have. Courage manifests itself when a person embarks on a journey that is in line with their “heart and spirit.” In fact, heart and spirit is the root of the word courage. Tapping into your courage enables you to stand in your true Self — your solid core. A courageous person’s leadership style exemplifies their ability to “lead self.” This is where you display your understanding of courage consciousness such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. They acted according to their convictions despite opposition or attractive opportunities that would betray their true nature. Simple everyday courage can be a powerful force for positive change, and it’s available to everyone because it’s your birthright. It’s what gives you permission to finally ask for a raise, confess that you hired the wrong person or spot, and act to the first red flags. Empowerment is a feeling, a quiet dignity and belief that every individual has value and a determination to base one’s life actions on that belief. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi demonstrate empowerment, as does contemporary activist Shannon Galpin (Mountain to Mountain) who empowered women in Afghanistan to ride bicycles when it was forbidden. Empowered individuals move societies forward. Empowerment can result when someone else bestows responsibility or faith in us. Empowerment can also be the mental outcome of a brave act. One feels empowered. Bravery is action. It is most often thought of as an impulsive act to protect others at one’s own expense, in the face of an imminent threat or danger. It carries a sense of physical threat and is usually accompanied by adrenaline-activated feats, commonly referred to as “heroism.” Our culture tends to focus on bravery since it hovers around physical courage. Physical courage is one of many facets of courage such as spiritual courage, leadership courage or moral/ethical courage.
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I recently heard a story about a woman who had a dream.  In the dream, her husband gave her a beautiful necklace that she had always wanted.  In the morning, she explained the dream to him and asked what he thought it meant.  He smiled and said, “You’ll find out tonight!”

That evening, the husband came home with an elaborately wrapped gift.  Full of anticipation, she slowly opened the thoughtful present.  Much to her surprise, she discovered a book entitled, A Guide to Understanding Dreams.  (Uchtdorf, Training Broadcast, 2012)

In our work with leaders, we find there are often misunderstandings about what they think great leaders do. Just like the husband felt his response was the right way to help his wife, leaders can think their approach is the right way for their teams.

Yet, if the leader is viewing the situation through incorrect or outdated leadership assumptions, they can miss the mark completely.  They may deliver a decision or provide guidance, like a book to interpret dreams, when their people were expecting and needing something very different.  Despite the best of intentions, sometimes leaders can behave in ways that make sense to them but not to their teams and employees.

The following are three large myths that can be deeply ingrained in the attitudes and behaviors of leaders.  Being aware and debunking these detrimental assumptions can improve leadership performance and create more engaged team members.

Myth #1:  I’ve Already Got the Skills!

One of the biggest myths occurs when a leader thinks he/she already has all the needed skills.  In other words, what determined their past success will be sufficient to create their future success.

Often organizations promote the best technically competent person to become the leader of the group.  While this can make sense from a credibility and short-term performance perspective, it can send a message that business results and the person’s individual ability to achieve them are what is most valued by the organization.  Therefore, the new leader will often strive to work hard, distribute individualized tasks, and have an extra focus on the areas and approaches he/she did in the past.

The challenge with this myth is new leadership responsibilities also usually require new skills and mindsets to be successful.  Rarely do these new skills spontaneously show up.  It involves deep shifts in how one spends their time and works with others.

For example, instead of getting things done on one’s own, it is getting work done through and with others.  Instead of getting information for one’s own use, it is keeping everyone informed and being open to new ideas that come from a variety of sources.  And instead of focusing on one’s own deadlines and consequences, it is making decisions and moving things forward involving multiple needs and often competing priorities.

The best way of addressing this myth is with clear expectations before and after a leadership promotion.  While this is especially true for new leaders, it is also beneficial for leaders as they advance in their career regardless of level. Spelling out that leaders need to achieve bothbusiness and people results, that thinking and planning is important work, and that developing others is a critical role are important to clarify for leaders at every level.

Myth #2:  As your leader, I will solve your problems!

One of the most popular Harvard Business School articles of all time is surprisingly about monkeys.  The article by Bill Oncken entitled Who Got the Monkey?, describes how each task or responsibility we have is like a monkey hanging on our back.

Each leader has lots of monkeys to deal with from one’s boss and other organizational demands.  When an employee comes in and asks the leader to solve their problems, it is like they are adding more monkeys to the leader’s back.  The leader might be tempted to solve the problem and be the hero, but that might not be the best approach.

The challenge is when a leader’s team gets into the habit of taking problems to their leader without first trying to solve things themselves.  Add up all of these problems, and the leader can get bogged down with lots of issues (monkeys). By doing this, the team’s ability to be creative and to show initiative can also be limited.

There is a strong temptation to take on more than one can handle and to believe that a leader is expected to do it all!  A leader needs to be selective about the problems they try and solve. The fact is successful leaders know how to not solve all the issues on their own.  They focus on the biggest things that only they can solve.  They leave the rest to others or let them go unresolved.

Myth #3:  Mistakes mean I’m a bad leader!

Too often, there can be a widespread perception that leaders have all the right answers, and if they don’t, then they are bad leaders.  Apparently, we want to believe omniscience is granted with every leadership promotion!  While of course this is not true, we too often think this should be the case.

This can happen in two ways…

The first way is when a leader is filled with fear of failure.  In this state of insecurity, leaders may not reach out for input or guidance, relying on their own insufficient knowledge and not benefiting from the learnings of others.

The second way is when a leader is suffering from an overgrown ego.  Leaders with this condition have the delusion that they can’t make a mistake because they have been sanctioned with organizational authority.  Either way, leaders limit their own development and their team’s performance when they resist the knowledge that they are fallible.

Interestingly, leaders may admit in private that they often don’t know what to say or do, but they still might set the high bar of perfection for leaders above them. This is a strange double standard—allowing oneself to make a mistake, but rejecting others when they do.

To avoid this myth, leaders need to embrace the value of learning and a healthy level of humility.  

Recognize that vulnerability is an endearing characteristic and essential to producing a productive team.  Although it seems counter intuitive, plan on making mistakes and set up time to review and learn from them.

Treat moments of uncertainty and surprise as opportunities to grow, not evidence of failure. Be honest with yourself about your areas to develop and actively seek ways to stretch yourself.

The road to remarkable leadership can be filled with many misperceptions. Seek to clear away these myths for yourself so you and your teams can reap the benefits of great leadership!

BONUS: We’ve created a complimentary resource for you, to support you in not becoming a victim of the above myths. This Overcoming Leadership Myths Checklist will dramatically support you in your work and role as a leader. 

*Note this article was originally posted on LinkedIn

Website LogoAbout Daniel

Daniel Stewart a Leadership, Talent, and Change Consultant at Stewart Leadership.

He thrives in supporting top performing companies manage and retain exceptional talent, and coach the leaders of tomorrow.

About Stewart Leadership

Stewart Leadership is a talent management and leadership development consulting, coaching, and training company building leaders in start-ups to the Fortune 500. Click here to contact us and discover how we could partner with you.

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I think the majority of people would agree that it's unhealthy to live in the past. After all, we're all familiar with the new age philosophy, "Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That's why it's called the Present".  Living in the past holds us back from being able to embrace the present moment. People hold on to childhood fears, adolescent pain, betrayals, bitterness, anger, etc. Even in terms of fond memories: very often when the present is difficult we are quick to recall "the good old days" when life was theoretically better. In our nostalgia, comparisons to better days gone by conjure up feelings of sadness and loss that easily translate into resentment, unhappiness, bitterness, and hopelessness. In our minds, life will never again reach those standards of excellence.

Recalling mistakes we've made in the past is also considered counterproductive as it can lead to remorse, regret, low self-esteem, and self-loathing. On so many levels, living in the past seems to be a bad idea. Or is it? Are there ever any benefits to revisiting a previous time? Actually, yes. The past has several perks: Learn from our mistakes: We all know that poor choices can be some of life's greatest teachers. Recalling times when we made mistakes can reinforce reasons why we are better off not repeating them. Understanding what we did or didn't do, how it impacted our lives in a negative way, and how we felt during and after the encounter helps us to make smarter and wiser decisions in the future. In this way, the past becomes a point of reference for future decision making. Moving beyond: By revisiting an unfavorable event from our past, we can often view it from a different perspective as time has passed. Being older and presumably wiser, we are now able to re evaluate the experience and gain deeper insights and understandings of what happened and why, and how it has impacted us since. We also have the ability to change how any situation continues to impact us. What once scarred us can now be healed through a new-found awareness and no longer be a negative force in our lives. Motivated by prior successes: There are times when we have all enjoyed success on a variety of levels.  Other times life has been difficult and times have been lean. A quick trip down memory lane to a prior time when we were at our best can help motivate us out of our current slump and put us back on track for success. Use your past successes to propel you on to newer and greater things. Remember: success breeds success. Fond memories of comfort and joy: I love looking at old photos. They bring back vivid memories of some of the most fun and memorable times in my life. Doing so provides a moment to relive a joyful time and evokes feelings of fondness and happiness once again. Recalling what brought us the most pleasure is an incentive to recreate those moments or to embark on new adventures that are exciting, loving, and memorable, those that we can later reference once again trigger memories of comfort and joy. In the case of the loss of a loved one, fond memories of that individual can be a powerful tool for healing from the loss. Pain is replaced by warm recollections of the one we loved and helps to keep that love and memory of them alive. A gauge of progress: Very often it's difficult to see how far we've come in life. We work hard but our progress seems infinitesimal by comparison to others or to what we imagined it should look like. Only when we revisit our starting point are we able to see just how much we've accomplished. This simple act can boost our morale, restore our hope, increase our self-esteem and confidence, and motivate us to continue putting forth effort. So while it's evident that revisiting the past has several perks, there are a few caveats. Just like an amusement park, it's fine to visit but you cannot stay there forever. At some point, the park closes and all visitors are asked to leave. Enjoy the past when necessary but don't reside there indefinitely. Use it as a perk for living in the present and planning for the future. In that way, it will serve you well.      
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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Having been raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky, though not a consumer, I do know a little about the process of making bourbon. Though it must be made of at least 51% corn mash and must be stored in charred oak barrels, the process that leads to the end product can take anywhere from three years to twenty! Depending on the distiller’s desire for taste, the influence of the mash and the charred oak barrels is a process that may take a long time. The first two installments of The Basics of a Leader’s Influence focused on a leader’s presence and power. This final installment seeks to help us understand the leader’s influence on others is a process. In order for you to see the result(s) of your influence as a leader, be prepared to wait. Why? Influencing people is a process. Few things in life come immediately or quickly and a leader’s influence is no exception. It may be weeks, months or even years before you celebrate the fruit of your labor. Thought patterns and lifestyles of people do not change quickly. So, in order to see the result(s) of your influence as a leader, be like a master distiller; be aware of the process; be willing and prepared to wait.
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Question: What is your strategy for developing your leaders? What is your strategy to insure that every employee knows how they contribute? Are they aware that YOU are aware of their contribution?

In this Coaching tip we explore the need for leaders to step up and be aware that one of the greatest roles he or she can play within the organization is that of Vision, Value and Meaning creator within the organization.

I am fond of telling a particular story when speaking to or coaching business managers who aspire to be stronger leaders. The story speaks to a fundamental truth that authentic leaders come to understand. It is the continual reinforcement to the rank and file within their organizations that their work has genuine value to the company, group, and team as a whole. It is a need for people to believe they contribute. That their specific role, be it janitor or the head of IT, plays a crucial role in the success and viability of the organization. We had the pleasure of a long term contract with a local transportation organization. The organization was headed by a visionary Director who requested that every one of his Supervisors/Managers attend Leadership courses. Part of the process of teaching these skills was to have the Supervisor/Manager perform portions of our classroom training. One day Supervisor trainee was in front of the class and it was not going well. There was a great deal of grumbling and complaining... The drivers and mechanics in attendance claimed to be underpaid and unappreciated, lacking of respect and of opportunity. The bottom line was they had not embraced or were led to understand their real value and the true meaning of what they did for the community!

I was about to "rescue" this Supervisor when something extraordinary happened. He held up his hand and said, "Guys wait! Have any of you run the 22 line through town?" Many nods from the group proved that most had. "Well, then you'll remember the kid that used to make his way to the stop every Tuesday who was severely disabled. Body shaped like an S, hand like a bit of a claw on his wheelchair steering knob? Remember him?" More nods and a bit of an attitude of so what, what's your point arose from the restless group. Then this Supervisor said something extraordinary....

"Well I asked this kid one day where he went every Tuesday and he said, ‘the YMCA.' I asked him what he did there and he replied, ‘not much, hang out with other guys like me, watch a little TV, that sort of thing.' I asked him what he did on the other days and he said, ‘mostly I sit at home, I'm not very mobile as you can see.'" Then the Supervisor asked the question, which is the basis for my story, "Do you think that your work as a Mechanic or a Bus Driver has value to that boy?"

The room was dead silent...I was stunned by the power of the question! These drivers, in that moment, understood they didn't merely turn a steering wheel, or pick up passengers, these mechanics didn't just insure the bus was ready to roll out every morning. They gave a kid, not nearly as fortunate as anyone in the room with legs...mobility and a chance to "hang out" like a typical kid.

I can't be sure of the long term affect this realization had on the drivers and mechanics but I do know they spent the rest of the day working hard and wanting to contribute to their company's success. After all, there were people out there who relied on them.

The company went on to win the national award for excellence in its field, which is the transportation equivalent of an Oscar! Coincidence; we'd like to think not.

Suggested strategy:

Get out of your comfort zone. Go shake some hands and find out who is staying positive and focused and specifically thank them for their efforts. Get out of the office and on the soapbox. Write a personal letter to everyone and anyone "leading" their teams in these critical times. Take someone to lunch that gets their hands dirty for the company. This person(s) might be staying later or getting in earlier to get the job done. Look for ‘above and beyond' behavior. Having lunch at your desk or with the same cadre of folks you normally do, doesn't get it done. You have to be visible in your desire to let the people know you are aware of their efforts and sacrifices.

Do it now. Put time in your calendar and stick to it. Better yet, pick someone today and begin!

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In the Olympic Games, sprinters are considered the fastest men and women in the world.  But let’s imagine that an Olympic sprinter competes in a mini-marathon against a long distance runner.  With blazing speed the sprinter will race out to an amazing early lead.  But eventually the sprinter will be passed by the long distance runner. For 440 yards, the quarter horse will beat almost any other breed.  But when the quarter horse competes at a longer distance, like the human sprinter, it will eventually fall behind.  Both the human and equine sprinters have extreme acceleration for a short distance.  But if the race is much longer than a sprint, both will be passed by their competitors. Leadership has sprinters and long distance runners.  Which one do you think has the best chance of success?  When leading change, which type of leader will more than likely produce positive results?  Which type of leader are you?  When you become a long distance runner in the task of fulfilling leadership responsibilities, it is then that you will be like Marathon Oil Company which advertised itself as, “Best in the long run.” I will be happy to assist you and your people with training or coaching.
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A large part of leadership is rooted in building relationships.  A leader can have great knowledge and vision but if he or she has not taken the time and energy to build strong, healthy relationships with those in the organization, not much true-hearted following will take place.  There is no substitute for being personally involved with those you lead.  Personal interaction allows a leader to strengthen his or her role and increase the value of leadership.  The following three suggestions will go far in helping you strengthen your role as a leader. Learn from your people.  Though you are the leader, there is much to be learned from those you lead.  The leader is not always the most intelligent or highly educated person in the organization.  Others have experience and insight that will help you do your job better.  There is no leader who knows all there is to know about any subject, business or activity.  Be willing to let your people help you become a better leader.  Occasionally, it is a good thing to let your people be your teachers. Laugh with your people.  Laughter is like good medicine.  All of your time spent with others need not be serious.  Take the time to have some light-hearted moments.  Learn to be real with your people.  Share humorous times with your people and be willing to laugh at yourself when appropriate.  Bonds are strengthened and productivity increased when people have smiles on their faces and laughter in their voices. Love your people.  Genuinely loving and caring for your people with more than words is a noble part of being a leader.  Loving your people tells them they are of great value.  Caring for them tells them they are more than an employee or volunteer.  Some are harder to love than others; but all need to be loved. When deadlines, finances and government restrictions call your attention away from those you lead, don’t forget that relationship building strengthens your leadership.  Remember these three things: learn from your people, laugh with your people and love your people.    
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The dictionary defines life force as “the spirit or energy that animates living creatures; the soul.” Recently, while attending a business luncheon I looked around my table and was reminded, yet again, of the power of listening and how great communicators know the value it brings to one’s individual life force. There were a total of six people at this table, including myself, but only one other that exhibited what I would call any real life force. I include myself in the count, because I was consciously working at listening, to make sure that I was animated and that my receptive energy was reaching out to the rest of the people. Listening Is an Art unto Itself The Power of Listening is such an important and powerful skill that rarely gets enough attention! As an actor, I learned a long time ago the importance of listening. Not only is the camera filming the person speaking, but (as we have all observed) it’s also covering each person’s reactions to words being spoken to them. Really, listening requires getting out of our heads and making the person speaking more important than our own thoughts and what we want to say in response. How many times have you begun to tell a story about an experience and the person “listening” jumps in and says something like, “Oh I know what you’re talking about. I had the same thing happen to me, it was a terrible experience!” Off they go and you are left with your story still unspoken. Great Communicators Hear from Others This may be my primary “beef” in life…people who are so caught up in themselves, so insecure, that they are constantly pushing their importance forward, rather than just listening with an open heart. Abraham Maslow’s definition of “real” listening is to listen “without pre-supposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all.” Believe me – I am guilty of not listening at times, as well. But I have learned how important it is to catch myself and refocus. When you learn to really listen, you learn to react and, in turn, allow that reaction to reach your face. Listening then becomes a non-verbal feedback to the person speaking. That’s what we see in the movies when they cut from the person speaking to the person being spoken to. The audience is usually waiting for a response, which can sometimes determine the next action that takes place. Keeping Your Audience Engaged Begins With Listening I do a lot of speaking in front of people and it’s one of the most difficult things to do; not the speaking part, but keeping the audience engaged part! Each audience member is naturally going to be thinking of other things when you speak, it’s human nature, so it’s the speaker’s job to keep them actively listening and engaged as much as possible. I do that by expressing myself with energy, animation and passion. Energy, animation and passion are also an integral part of listening. Here’s why:

•   When you listen with energy and animation people will believe that they are being heard.

•   When people feel that you are really listening to them, they will be able to trust you more.

•   When people have more trust toward you, they will be more willing to hear from you.

Remember to Listen with Your Heart AND Your Head

This is precisely the power great communicators have come to know – the power of genuinely listening or, “active” listening, with the heart and not just the head. Practice this type of listening and you’ll be amazed at how well you’ll be able to engage people, giving you even more success as

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Change is hard for many employees, especially if they have gotten used to a certain way of thinking only to find out that they have to think a certain other way. Working with your employees in a way that is both inclusive and transparent can help ease the resistance you are bound to encounter. Need some guidance? The following tips can help as you move your organization through change: 1.  Communicate your vision so that others will be inspired to join. Speak in terms of results and the steps to getting there. Paint the big picture before you hone in on the numerous changes the ideal big picture requires. 2.  Learn to let go. Identify what is in your control to change and know how to let go of things you can’t control. 3.  Identify energy vampires and energy igniters. You’ll need a lot of “oomph” to lead a group through change. Energy is infectious, so surround yourself with energy and tap into its sources. Avoid the vampires and make time for the igniter. 4.  Inform others and communicate the change. Give relevant information at the right time in order to empower people and help them feel secure. In the absence of information, rumors begin. 5.  Listen, listen, listen. Listen with your ears, eyes, mind and heart. Understand other people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. Listen to people’s concerns without judging. 6.  Respond. People react to change differently based on their experiences and who they are. When you here a concern, address it. When you sense a fear, speak to it. Respond in a helpful way to reactions to change by focusing on people’s needs and concerns. 7.  Acknowledge people’s feelings. Make it safe to for your employees to express themselves. 8.  Nurture yourself and others. Change can carry an unconscious stress on your body--don’t forget about it. Find outlets to give your mind and body a break. Find out what other people need to be nurtured. Don’t be afraid to ask about their needs. 9.  Help your employees find the support they need. This could be a once-a-week support group during lunch or seeking help through the employee assistance program. 10. Be patient. Change takes time and can try your patience. Recognize it can take a long time for the dust of change to settle, and be patient with the process and the people who are affected by it. Your demonstrated patience will give security and confidence to those around you.
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(c) 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Every leader influences someone; some for good and some for bad. A noble leader works to make sure his or her influence is positive and helps others grow personally and professionally. Never underestimage the reach of your influence. Your leadership not only influences lives today, it has the potential to reach lives in the next generation. This is the first of three communications concerning your influence. One way leaders influence the lives of others is through presence. Your physical presence among your people is of just as much value as many other aspects of leadership. Your presence among your people allows them to see you as a real human being. When you are regularly among you people, they begin to understand that you have struggles, heartache and conflict in your life. They begin to understand that you have joy and courage. Your presence among your people allows them to bond with you on a deeper level that increases the value of your leadership among them. You need not be formally teaching, instructing or inspiring them. To strengthen the bonds and increase the value of your leadership, do not neglect the personal element of leadership that comes from spending time with your people.
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