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Three Leadership Lessons

I became a leadership coach recently, and found myself struggling with my own ability to lead myself. In my morning meditation today, I realized a few lessons from my own pursuit in being my best self - being a leader for me.

Lesson #1: Make your intentions clear - Ask yourself what you want, not what others want you to do.

My boss asked me to reach out to all my contacts to announce my new position as a leadership coach, and invite them to attend a workshop. I felt really uncomfortable promoting myself to my friends and family. All the alarm bells went off.

On one hand, the voice inside says - I don't want to promote myself. Isn’t this exactly why I didn’t start my own business so I don’t have to promote myself?

On the other hand, the voice insides says – Why aren’t you taking the plunge? What are you afraid of? This is a growth opportunity for you Jennie. You should break out of your own cage, your own limiting beliefs.

Do you have these debates with yourself sometimes? Part of you want to attack someone, part of you want to attack yourself for not being better. It’s easy to get into a vicious cycle of blame and self-doubt.

Fortunately, a wise friend asked me, “What if your boss went on vacation for year tomorrow? What would you do?”

The question - What do I want? - is an obvious, simple question. Yet, I don't ask myself this question enough, especially when I am looking to please an authority figure.

When I see the situation from a different angle, I begin to see a different answer. What I want is to know if I can be a good coach. What I need is to get feedback from about a dozen clients to know if I have the gifts of a good coach.

Now, the focus is no longer whether I should contact my network. The focus is how I am going to get a dozen clients. The intention is much clearer and truer to me. The stories of blame and self-doubts fall away. All of which enable me to see new options that can help me get to my goal. When the intention is clear and true, it’s easier to ask myself what I want to do.

Lesson#2: Don’t make others wrong. Instead, find the shared desired outcome.

Whenever we feel pressured, whenever our boundaries or freedom are tested, our natural reaction is to protect ourselves and make others wrong.

I made my boss the villain for pushing me to do something I don’t want to do. I did the same with a relative yesterday when he asked me if I am applying to full time jobs, and I said “No.” My immediate reaction is that he doesn’t understand me. He doesn’t belief in me. That’s the story. The story makes me sad and as a result, I want to shut down the conversation.

The fact is - he is worried about my financial future, and actually, I am too! We are on the same side! The same learning applies in the situation between my boss and I. Our intentions are aligned. My boss wants me to have a successful practice. I want the same! The only difference between my relative and I, and my boss and I, are the “How’s” to get to the same goal.

In life, more often than not, people in our lives share common goals. But it’s so easy to forget that, and begin blaming others for stepping on our boundaries. When in fact, the conflict is caused by different “How’s”, not different “Why’s”. When we can compassionately communicate our shared intentions to each other, we can more easily break through our differences in perspectives.

Lesson#3: Choose curiosity over fear

My wise friend also asked, “What is so scary about promoting yourself? Can you name one person you are afraid of who will judge you?”

Strangely, when I thought about it, I couldn’t name one person who I care about in this world who would judge me. Maybe other than my parents :).

Even though the fear is irrational, the fear is still real. The fear is telling the world I am going to do something, and then failing at it. The fear is making a stand for being a coach, when I am still not sure I will be good at it. The fear is some unknown person who will laugh at me.

But as so many wise people have advised - go towards your fear and find out what you are made of.

Coaching may or may not be a successful path for me. However, if I don’t give it a shot, I will never know. Even if I fail, I will learn something about myself. Isn’t this what the whole life journey is about?

Choose curiosity over fear.

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