The Keys to Strong Leadership

The Keys to Strong Leadership

You can’t just talk the talk.

Talking tough is not leadership. It’s bluff and it usually masks a whole host of insecurities and issues of self-doubt. Being tough: that’s a true foundation of strong leadership. This doesn’t mean being tough in the sense of coming down hard on other people, but an inward strength that helps a leader to navigate whatever waters they’re on.

This internal strength comes from a place of confidence and knowledge. A strong leader has a clear understanding of the world around them and what they are trying to accomplish within it. It’s this understanding that helps them move forward with decisions, big and small.

This inner strength is also what inspires others to action, almost innately. A tough, strong and knowledgeable leader will always be more effective. Are these traits born or can the be learned? Of course they can be learned! It’s a question of practice.

But first, let’s look at a few differences between a strong leader and one who has room to improve.

The Keys to Strong Leadership

A strong leader sees difficulties as opportunities

Instead of viewing every challenge as a major problem, strong leaders will turn that view around and look at the difficulty as an opportunity. For change, for improvement, for growth… whatever. It’s the ultimate version of making lemonade when life hands you lemons!

A strong leader exercises their influence carefully

The strength that inspires people is not about control. It’s not about telling people what to do in order to get things done, making rules or micromanaging staff. It’s about setting the right example so that others are inspired to follow, rather than having people who follow out of fear.

A strong leader is authentic

This is so important: a leader who is more concerned with how things ‘look’ rather than the real impact of actions and decisions is not strong, and people will eventually see through the narcissistic tendencies. Authenticity and true belief in one’s own actions and decisions are vital, regardless of appearances.

A strong leader can admit when they’re wrong

This goes back somewhat to authenticity, but basically, a leader who cannot acknowledge errors or admit a gap in their knowledge isn’t displaying strength. That kind of leader is showing their insecurities instead of dealing with the challenge of growth and change.

Learn how to become a strong(er) leader

It takes commitment to recognize that you might not be as inwardly strong as you think you are. It takes even more commitment to do something about it but once you make that choice, you can move forward and grow as a leader:

  • Give up the bad habits — Giving in to rampant self-doubt and that negative inner voice is vital! Every one of these negative thoughts limits your opportunities to grow. Dump them! Sure, you need to learn from your mistakes to avoid repeating them, but that’s not dwelling: that’s using a negative and turning it into an opportunity for growth.
  • Control your emotions — The leader who is always posturing, blustering or yelling isn’t leading: they’re being controlled by their emotions and they’re projecting that out onto others. You can’t think clearly, let alone lead others effectively, if you’re a mess of angry anxiety or fear.
  • Don’t try and control things that are out of our control — Your emotions? They’re within your control. Other people’s? Not so much. The world economy? Definitely not. Within every problem or challenge, there IS something you can change and control for the better, so find it and work on it! You’re never going to please everyone with every decision, so don’t try.

Like the muscles of your body, your inner strength ‘muscles’ need a regular workout so they can become stronger. Deciding that you want to be a better leader is the first step. After that, it’s all about the effort you put in. Good luck!

Humor Is Good for Teams and Business

LOL: Why Humor Is Good for Teams and Business

There’s no contradicting the fact that a little laughter can lighten any situation.

We’ve all been in one of those situations: a tense disagreement between team members or a stressful day with a deadline looming. How these times get handled is very important to the overall well-being of a team. One way to handle them is to try and inject a little humor, a little levity, into the situation; to bring everyone back to reality.

There are a couple of advantages to using humor to break tension or build up an effective team:

  • It builds trust and group bonding through a shared experience, something they can all look back on later and laugh about again. Just putting people together on a team doesn’t mean that they will bond. The shared experience of humor can go a long way to helping individuals build that feeling of being a part of a meaningful whole.
  • It breaks the tension by taking people out of their usual comfort zones but doing so in a fun way that doesn’t threaten anybody’s position and creates open communication, improves morale and lowers stress.
  • Humor or a humoristic situation puts all team members, including the leader, on an even playing field. If managers or team leaders are viewed as ‘regular people’, the rest of the team will be able to relate to them more effectively.

Why does laughter and humor matter?

Sophie Scott gets into the science of laughter in her TED talk: “Why we Laugh”. Laughter is, she points out, an important social cue: “ And when we laugh with people, we’re hardly ever actually laughing at jokes. You are laughing to show people that you understand them, that you agree with them, that you’re part of the same group as them. You’re laughing to show that you like them. You might even love them. You’re doing all that at the same time as talking to them, and the laughter is doing a lot of that emotional work for you. “

When you’re building or working within a team, humor and laughter can help individual team members to socialize to the group, creating a different level of connection than a ‘strictly business’ attitude would ever attain. Laughter also relaxes people physically, which can be very useful in a tense or stressful work environment.

“Everybody underestimates how often they laugh, and you’re doing something, when you laugh with people, that’s actually letting you access a really ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds, and clearly to regulate emotions, to make ourselves feel better.”

In other words, laughter is good for us, both individually and as a team.

How to engage humor to team build?

I think I’ll start with what not to do: don’t build up contrived, silly games that some of your staff find demeaning and only participate in because they feel they have to. Know your people: if you’ve got classic introverts in your group, forcing them to play a game every week, to get everyone’s laugh muscles working, is not going to be helpful.

Instead, look for the more real opportunities to engage in humor. It can be as simple as stocking up on some clever jokes that you saw online or sharing a meme from Facebook that will speak to the team members, or at least speak to their funny bones!

If you’re a team leader, self-deprecating humor can work wonders to encourage your team to see you as one of them. Make yourself the butt of the joke once in awhile, and you’ll see the other members responding.

While team-building retreats—out of the office and away from the day to day—can be great for getting a new group to understand one another and their individual strengths, it should not be at the expense of allowing a little bit of humor into the every day. Many organizations send their teams on these retreats, where they are expected to ‘let their hair down’ a little, but then it’s business as usual the minute the come back into the office. This defeats the purpose entirely. It’s a retreat, not Vegas: allow some of what happened at the retreat to filter back into the everyday, particularly anything that was humorous.

Do you use humor in team building? What works for you?

5 benefits of executive coaching

5 Benefits of Executive Coaching

Coaching need not end when at high school graduation or when you land that first job. It need not end no matter how many years you’ve worked. Learning is a lifetime exercise. Therefore, a coach is never out of date, and the benefits of executive coaching are numerous. Executive coaching can make all the difference in your career path at your company. Hiring an executive coach is a smart investment.

Bod Nardellis, former CEO of Home Depot said, “I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.” Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt agreed. “The best advice I ever got was to get a coach.”

Coaching is not therapy. Counseling looks at your past. Coaching is all about setting goals for your future and achieving those goals. In business, executive coaching helps your individual performance as well as guides you on your career path.

5 Benefits of Executive Coaching

  1. Productivity. An executive coach can guide you to be more productive at your job. Hard results mean faster promotions and bigger profits.
  2. Patterns. We all establish patterns in our lives, some positive and some negative. A coach can observe your patterns objectively and help you evaluate which patterns benefit you and which do not.
  3. Potential. An executive coach is trained to find your potential and help you develop it to the benefit of you and your company. Your coach can help you with a third-party moderation for 360-reviews, strategic planning and conflict resolution.
  4. Perspective. Sometimes it is advantageous to have a third party show you different perspectives on your work issues and company style. An executive coach will make you aware of your work attitudes and how your process change, challenges, and conflict.
  5. Promoting specific skills. None of us walk into a job completely proficient at all the skills needed to perform. Your coach will help you identify your weaknesses and guide you to improvement in communication, delegation, conflict management, team building or persuasion.

The benefits of executive coaching are not only for you. Your entire team benefits because your satisfaction in your job increases and as a result, you and your workmates become more committed to your duties. Of course, coaching requires a desire to learn and grow. Without this motivation, it is a waste of time and money. The right match of coach with trainee is absolutely key to the success of the coaching experience. Without it, the trust required for optimal executive performance will not develop. It is also important to establish exactly what you want from a coach before you begin meeting. A coach is not a therapist and although they can help with inspiration and guidance in becoming the “best you” possible, it is better not to lean on them for emotional or mental development. You can lean on them for career direction and guidance, though. A great executive coach can change the course of your career.

Hiring an executive coach is an investment worth serious consideration.


How Creating Margin can Foster Effective Leadership photo

How Creating Margin Can Foster Effective Leadership

Effective leadership takes time, intentionality, purpose and strategy. It also means making the choice to create margin in your life. Just like a well-written, typed paper needs margin around the edges to be a source of communication and efficiency, leaders need margin in their lives to perform at peak levels. But leaders are often driven, which can result in schedules crammed with meetings, tasks and busyness.

Have you created margin in your life so that you have the reserve you need to accomplish the goals you have for yourself and your team? How do you create that margin? Here are 10 suggestions:

  1. Get enough sleep.  When leaders don’t get enough sleep, they are more likely to react badly and make poor decisions. Sleep equates to better decisions and a clearer vision for what is important. Without enough sleep, we waste the extra time we might have making up for poor decisions. Sleep is vital.
  2. Pay attention to your energy levels. Each of us have different energy levels throughout our days depending on our personalities, schedules and body composition. Knowing when you are more and less energetic can be a strategic factor in creating margin. If you find that you are more productive in the morning, it is smart to schedule your important tasks and meetings then. If you find your energy wanes every day around 2 pm, make a decision to plan an activity that will boost your energy or give you rest.
  3. Know your productive seasons.  In the same way that each of us have different energy levels during the day, we each have more productive seasons than others. Winter can be more difficult for some. The month of May is often a busy time with kids in school. Knowing your productivity highs and lows throughout the year will allow you to plan margin in your life effectively.
  4. Give yourself 15 extra minutes.  If you are not an early morning person, it is difficult to follow through with the decision to get up earlier each day in order to get more accomplished. But many people who don’t get up early find themselves rushed and stressed. So instead of getting up early, start giving yourself 15 minutes for tasks throughout your day. Arrive fifteen minutes early for meetings so you can give yourself extra mental energy. Plan for an extra fifteen minutes at the end of meetings so you can wrap up your notes and next action steps.
  5. Do some meal planning on the weekends. Meal planning can take time out of your schedule that could be used in other more productive ways. So take time on the weekend and plan out some meals, do some early preparation and freeze some meals. This will create extra time during your week that could be quite valuable to the margin in your life.
  6. Keep a time limit on your social media activities. Being active on social media is important for a leader, especially a business leader. But social media can also prove to be a black hole that eats up valuable time for work and for margin in your life. Set a time limit on your social media activities and begin each session with work priorities. Connect with friends and colleagues next, but when your time limit is over, shut it down. Margin is often consumed with mindless activities that profit us little.
  7. Solitude. We live in a world of noise and people and chatter. Choosing to make solitude a priority in your life centers your mind, body and spirit in a way that will bring a healthy perspective to everything. Margin is often birthed in the freedom that solitude brings.
  8. Nap. There is extensive research that says that a 30-minute power nap in the middle of your day can rejuvenate you. Choosing to rest creates much needed margin.
  9. Learn the difference between a concern and a responsibility. When we find ourselves concerned about a particular thing, we are worried or anxious about it. When we have a responsibility, we have an actual duty and obligation to do something for someone or something. Margin is naturally created when you don’t waste time on concerns. As a leader, you need to fulfill your responsibilities. Concerns can be energy wasters because you often do not have the authority or ability to change it simply by being concerned about it.
  10. Learn to say NO. The best way to create margin is not to overextend yourself.

Start creating margin in your life today so that you can be the most effective and most balanced leader you can be.



micro-managers the good the bad and how not to be the ugly shannon cassidy bridge between photo

Micro-Managers – The Good, The Bad and How Not To Be The Ugly

In 1966, Clint Eastwood starred in a movie titled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” This spaghetti western told the story of three men searching for gold. The last scene is a famous three-way shootout, leaving the Good (Clint Eastwood) alive, the Bad dead and the Ugly barely surviving. In the world of business, we often encounter good, bad and ugly leaders. Many times these leaders are micro-managers. Is being a micro-manager a horrible attribute in a manager or not? Let’s take a look at micro-managers and how this complex characteristic can be good, bad or ugly.

The Good:

Few corporate executives aspire to be micro-managers. The ideal leader is supposed to be a great delegator and motivator, not someone who tries to control every aspect of their employee’s work.

However, a CEO who is a micro-manager has the ability to plow down obstacles and force uncooperative team members to take on challenges that drive the value of the product or service. Steve Jobs was famous for pushing his engineers past the bounds of what most considered reasonable—and getting great results from it. Walt Disney was a well-known micro-manager who obsessed over every detail of every ride design at his theme parks. This did not make him popular with his employees, but the end result was and is stellar.

To be an effective micro-manager, a leader must have a clear vision for success and how to achieve it. That leader must also be courageous and confident. If a plan fails, the buck stops at the micro-manager’s desk. Sam Walton of Wal-Mart and William Rosenberg of Dunkin Donuts were well-known micro-managers who spent a large part of their time visiting stores to make sure their products were of the best quality. The “Good” micro-managers above were all visionaries for their companies. Their passion for their businesses drove their desire for accomplishment. With that same kind of intense commitment, a micro-manager can propel a company to success. “Good” micro-managers can be an asset.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, micro-managers are usually seen as “Bad.” While they can be assets, micro-managers obsessively control and bring tension and frustration to their companies. If you are a leader with this style, you might sometimes feel driven to push everyone around you to succeed, but often it’s at the cost of your colleagues’ confidence.

You might be a “Bad” micro-manager if you:

  • Resist delegating
  • Correct tiny details instead of looking at the big picture
  • Discourage others from making decisions without consulting you
  • Ask for frequent updates on where things stand
  • Prefer to be cc’d on emails
  • Are never satisfied with anyone’s work

If you find that micro-managing is part of your style of leadership but is negatively affecting your company and the people you lead, change is possible.

 How Not To Be the Ugly:

Commit to hiring the right people. Look for employees that are accountable for their work. Screen possible additions to your team to see if they proactively seek information and feedback. Hire team players that are clear on the company’s goals and are able to articulate it back to you. If you create an extensive hiring process, you will be able to more easily trust your employees, and thus cutting the need to micro-manage.

Clearly and frequently communicate expectations. If your team doesn’t know what you expect, they will not give it to you. Communication is important so that you do not have to control what others might or might not be doing. Set consistent times for this type of communication. For instance, on a certain project set a meeting once every month to make sure everyone is on the same page. Be careful not to treat your team like children who need to be told the rules again and again.

Listen. Great leaders are masters at listening to their team members. Micro-managers often fail to listen to their employees, arrogantly believing they know best in all circumstances. The people you work with have important insights and ideas. If you don’t listen, they will feel disengaged and their work will suffer. If you choose to listen, you will create an atmosphere where your employees feel that they are valued contributors.


As a leader, you have the responsibility to root out the bad micro-managing, fix the ugly and encourage the good. Prevent a three-way shoot-out: address the micro-managing in yourself and others directly. By doing so, you will find the gold in your company.