Image by elycefeliz via Flickr
Recently, I spoke at a conference for women leaders and I summarized some of the lessons I have learned over the past few years from my Sage research. Integrated into my comments were themes from Sally Helgesen's books since she is an leading authority on leadership and particularly women's leadership. My lessons reinforced her themes that in the past would have been considered “feminine leadership qualities” and are now just leadership qualities for everyone.
Ten lessons from my leadership Sages:
1. Know thyself. Self-knowledge is empowering. Emotional intelligence. The fluff is the stuff. The soft stuff is the hard stuff. Leadership is a relationship not a position.
2. Be present. To thrive in a 24.7 world, be mindful not mindless. Take time to listen and hear others and your inner voice. Find ways to slow down and renewal. When the phone rings, use it to remind you to take a breath. Church bells used to do this. Make a conscious effort to be here now.
3. Recognize the dark side. Understanding ego development is important. We need our ego, but don’t lead from the ego. The dark side (shadow) can manifest as greed, envy, fear, manipulation, and jealousy. When these behaviors are displayed, a toxic environment is created.
4. Understand death, loss, and grief. We are living and working at a time when people are losing money, jobs, equity, and companies. Those who survive layoffs also grieve. If you don’t learn how to handle grief, you can’t help others who are grieving.
5. Have an attitude of gratitude. In a concentration camp, Viktor Frankl realized that “life is not primarily a quest for pleasure or power, but a quest for meaning. You can’t control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
6. Vulnerability is strength. Leaders can’t have all of the answers so surround yourself with people who complement your skill set to build strong teams. Admitting mistakes, showing compassion, forgiving, and demonstrating empathy are skills needed in a world with pain.
7. Understand life’s transitions. We are working with four generations in the workplace and this is easier when you understand life’s transitions. Most of life is made of transitions—beginnings and endings—seek to understand the feelings and emotions.
8. Disconnect to connect. Instead of Facebook, we need more face time. While we may have more connections because of technology, the relationships are likely shallow. It is hard to build a community when people don’t know each other very well. The definition of a good neighbor has changed from one where we hang out together on the front porch or borrow a cup of sugar to one where we build “privacy fences” and consider someone who does not bother us as a good neighbor!
9. Model resilience. You build resilience through renewal. Burn-out can result in unhealthy behaviors. Find ways of re-energizing yourself. Have a sacred time and space for reflecting on what’s most important to you.
10. Live and leave a legacy. We leave a legacy every time we leave a meeting, room, conversation—after each decision or encounter. As leaders, people notice how we behave, what we say, and how we say it. Focus on what matters most as we are living our legacy daily.
I am still processing the data and I continue to interview Sage leaders because there is so much to learn from wise people with rich life experiences. Connie Wimer, Chairperson of Business Publications Corporation, added an 11th lesson that she has learned from experience. Wimer said:
"Don't be afraid of to be afraid. Don't fear having fear." She told the audience that some of her courage came at times when she had experienced major challenges. But her fear and being afraid motivated her to make some of the best decisions for her life and work.
Who are the Sages in your life?
How are you learning to make your way?
What are some of your conclusions?