Tag Archive for: AuthenticLeadership


Everyone communicates but few connect.

–  John Maxwell

Our newly hired hand arrived early. When I saw an old man riding a rusted bicycle up our gravel road in the pouring rain and into the yard of our family farm, I wondered, “Who is this slightly scary, weird-looking guy, whistling and smiling, dressed in worn-out coveralls, a flannel shirt, a torn jacket, and rubber boots?”

I was a teenager and was expected to work with this newly hired hand—whose name was Norris—for the summer. I didn’t want much to do with him at first. I just hung around for a few days and quietly worked alongside him.

He didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t talkative. He simply went on about his business. At the time, I thought it was a little odd that no matter what the weather was like, or if we were fencing or building something or hauling hay, Norris always showed up on time and was happy. Except for a short lunch break, he never stopped working and never complained. Whether we were fencing, hauling hay, cleaning stalls, building a corral or a barn, or working with the horses, from the moment he arrived until the moment he got back on his rusted-out, single-gear bicycle at the end of the day and peddled off, he was always smiling. Always whistling. Always working. Never grumpy. Always the same steady mood.

We ended up working together for three summers, and in those six shorts months, Norris changed my life. While I could never have articulated it then, here’s some of the things I learned from him:

  1. Relationships are mostly about showing up. Being reliable, being able to be counted on, being calm under pressure, being steady in the storms – all go a long way in building unspoken trust.
  2. Norris, through his safe and steady presence, taught me to bond with horses rather than break them. People have a lot in common with horses. A horse doesn’t progress or perform as you want it to because you demand that they do so or because you threaten them. Horses, like people, will enlarge their capacity only when they have the right conditions and are given the proper care. You don’t have a right to the trust of another. You must earn it.
  3. You can have huge influence on others when you’re comfortable with yourself. You make a difference when you don’t have to pretend or impress or try to make yourself big or others small to prove that you are someone that you aren’t.
  4. Listen more than you talk. In all the time we worked together I can’t tell you one thing about Norris except what I saw. As a self-absorbed teenager, I never took the time to listen like he listened to me. I never asked anything about him. I only knew that he had only a grade seven education and was a bachelor who lived in a dirt shack (my father drove me there once) and was very selective about who he worked for. He liked and respected both my parents.
  5. Bring a firm handshake to everyone you meet. One of the only times I saw Norris’s gruffness was the first time I shook his hand. “You shake a hand like a fish,” he told me. “If you are going to go anywhere in life, learn to shake a hand like you mean it.” I found out that shaking a hand firmly is a confidence builder.
  6. Assess your ignorance. Always be a student. Everyone has something to teach you. Be a learner, not a knower. Humility goes a long way to earning trust. Norris was always curious, a consummate scholar of life.
  7. Pound a nail with your arm, not your hand. While building the new round corral one of those summers, Norris shook his head as he watched me pound in a nail. Quietly he took my hand with the hammer in his hand and taught me how to pound a nail with accuracy and the least amount of effort. “You have to drive a nail with your whole arm,” he told me, “Not your wrist. You’ll wear yourself out doing that.”
  8. Attitude makes a big difference. I once asked Norris how he can be so happy all the time. In his defined Scottish drawl, he responded, “Happiness, young man, is not a destination. Happiness is a method of travel.”

Years after I left home, and after my parents sold the farm, I received a note from one of my former neighbors telling me that Norris had died. The old dirt shack he lived in caught fire and burned to the ground. He passed away in the middle of the night, alone.

I’m sure that Norris had no idea of the impact he’d had on my life, and how that impact created ripples in time that will go on to generations yet unborn.  Not just impact in the here and now, but in the here and forever. People who influence us are like that. They come into our lives at important junctures, sometimes intentionally with a request, and sometimes unexpectedly—like a passerby who stops to help us when we’re stranded in our broken-down vehicle. Most never know the difference they make.

Our world seems to be more and more in flux. Things seem more unsettled and unpredictable. I’m not sure that the use of our devices has really helped us get more connected. I think John Maxwell got it right. Everyone communicates, but few connect.

Are you connecting?

Trauma And Its Impact on Leadership

One does not have to be a military veteran or live in a war zone to encounter trauma. Trauma happens to us, our friends, colleagues, families, and neighbours. Research suggests that up to thirty percent of women (and twenty percent of men) in this country have been sexually abused. Twenty-five percent have been beaten by a parent severe enough to leave a mark. Thirty percent of couples engage in physical violence. A quarter of us grew up with alcoholic relatives, and ten percent have witnessed their mother being beaten or hit. Many researchers feel these statistics are conservative, and they don’t even account for the unmeasured and unpredictable rage and verbal abuse many grew up with.

Human beings are a resilient species, but it’s naïve to think that such events in our upbringing don’t impact the way we relate to people in our homes, communities, and workplaces. Trauma leaves traces on our minds and bodies. It impacts the way we think, the way we feel, the way we interact with those around us, and the way we live.

When you move into a position of leadership, you don’t acquire more power. What you get is more accountability. Considering the trauma that many have experienced, here are five accountabilities of a positional leader in relation to trauma, stress, and psychological safety in the workplace:

  1. Learn why creating a psychologically safe work environment is critical to a successful work environment and why being at peace with yourself is the foundation of all good leadership.
  2. Become familiar with your own inner state and aware of how your moods impact others. Learn to know the difference between when you’re stressed and when you are relaxed.
  3. Recognize how any trauma in your life may have impacted your past or current actions and identify a plan for healing and working with this trauma.
  4. Get regular feedback from trusted colleagues and friends on how your actions may be inadvertently creating unnecessary tension in your leadership. We all have blind spots and need to take an inventory of these on a continual basis.
  5. Be open to keep learning about psychological safety and ways to ensure a safe, caring, and accountable workplace under your leadership.


After guiding a senior leadership team to helping them identify their values, I proceeded to take them through a process of defining specifically how they would ensure that they would live these values in their leadership, first as an SLT and then throughout the company.

Like most organizations, the value of “respect” was up near the top.

And that’s when it got sticky.

“What about Bob?” the COO asked.

“What about Bob?” I responded.

“He heads up our main sales division, and it’s well known that he’s one of the most disrespectful people in the company. We can’t fire him. He singly brings in more money to the company than our entire sales team.”

“You don’t necessarily need to fire him,” I said. “But if you don’t do something about this, then I suggest you take the word respect off your values list and replace it with the word profit. Be honest about what you truly value.”

They decided to fire him, and the entire sales team started to flourish. They got the message that the senior leaders were serious about the values they were touting.

In walking organizations through the values journey over the years, I’ve learned five things:

  1. Make it real. It’s been trendy over the past couple of decades to re-brand your values every five years. It’s also been a lucrative business for consultants. While having clearly defined values is important, you make it real by involving the front-lines in developing them and creating meaningful and accountable culture conversations with everyone. If the end result isn’t real and relevant at the field level, you’re wasting your time and breeding cynicism.
  2. You don’t really know what your values are until they’re tested under pressure. If your values haven’t come into conflict lately, if you haven’t had some tough conversations about the contradictions in what you claim to be important, if you haven’t had some uncomfortable value discussions, you probably haven’t taken your values seriously enough. Don’t mistake value statements for real values.
  3. Just as you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do, you can’t build a reputation in your organization on espoused values. For example, if you’re serious about creating a safe workplace, don’t tell people “We’re going to be #1 in safety.” Tell people what you are willing to pay to get there.
  4. Values based leadership is built on the foundation of values based living. When we clarify our own values and develop a process for holding ourselves accountable to live in alignment with those values, we make better leaders in every aspect of our lives.
  5. When it comes to values, most of us really are doing the best we can. Let’s grant each other a bit of grace and support each other to use values to strengthen our organization, bolster our relationships and our fortify our resolve to be better people.

How do we acknowledge – and honour – those that have passed on?

Success guru Napoleon Hill teaches that when two or more people blend the energies of their minds in harmony, a sort of “third brain” or powerful “Master Mind” is formed that can recharge their brains, refine their ideas, and provide support and inspiration. He also believed you can form your own “cabinet of invisible counselors” through a regular practice of meditation or prayer anytime you are in need of guidance, support, or inspiration.

The idea is to have an inner circle of two – ten people who have impacted your life and passed on, circle around you in your mind while you express a challenge you need help with. Then sit quietly and listen to their council.

It takes practice to let go of your thinking and tap into a “sixth sense,” which Hill described as the portion of the subconscious mind called the Creative Imagination through which ideas, plans, and thoughts flash into the mind – sometimes called “hunches” or “inspirations.”

Such meetings have led me to some amazing paths of adventure, rekindled an appreciation for those who have impacted my life, left me with many creative insights, and inspired a deeper connection to the life I am meant to live.

How do we accept that we can’t do it all and prioritize what is truly essential?

I have been supporting a friend through the slow decline of her mother as they withdraw her life support. Dying has a powerful and uncanny way of slowing us down, getting our attention, and awakening us to what truly matters.

There is a lot of expectation and confusion about what is truly important in our lives. There are so many options. So many choices. So many “shiny objects” that call for our attention.

Here’s a few ideas to help live more simply in a complex world:

  1. Stop and get your bearings. It’s an old and ironic habit to run faster when we’ve lost our way. It is always good to shut off the noise, turn off technology, and create a space to be still and listen to the voice inside. Journaling, meditation, prayer, or walks in the woods are all good tools that provide beneficial medicine.
  2. Set your own goal for a good life. I honestly used to spend money I didn’t have, on things I didn’t need, to impress people I didn’t know. Resist the tendency to follow the crowd and decide what your values are and do your best to live your life in alignment with those values. An Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware cared for people in the last three months of their life and recorded their most often discussed regrets. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
  3. Give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all. When you stop saying yes to everyone, you can make your highest contribution toward what truly matters. Be sure you are saying yes to truly matters to you.
  4. Bring a little more kindness into your world. Maybe the Beatles had it right. All you need is love. Striving for more, pushing for continual growth, getting more “stuff” does not make us any happier. Here’s a poem written by my favorite author, Anonymous: “I have wept in the night, at my shortness of sight, that to someone’s need was I blind. But I’ve never once had, a twinge of regret, for being a little too kind.”

Every decision we make brings us closer or further away from the life we want.

Do you agree or disagree?

If you agree, every decision becomes important, so how do we make the right ones?

The central purpose of my work is to help people connect with their true nature and express it consciously in their life and work.

I contend that the life we ultimately want is a life aligned with our true nature. Every decision we make takes us closer or further away from that life. We are born authentic, but the world tells us how we “should” be, so in order to feel safe we abandon our true self. I can’t imagine a sadder way to die than to realize you never showed up as your true self.

Authentic leadership is synonymous with being yourself, then creating environments where people can discover and express themselves. It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult.

Every time you make a choice you come closer or further away from yourself.

In the midst of all the noise, it is hard to tune in to the voice within, but living authentically is living consciously and deliberately. It starts by simply being still.

If you want to explore this concept further, check out my next complimentary webinar: https://lnkd.in/d37Prt4a
or the upcoming Authentic Leadership Academy: https://lnkd.in/gMi2euzp