Leadership means cleaning up.

Do you take out your own garbage? My neighbor doesn't.

Every week, he brings the bags down from his apartment and plops them on the street which means the landlord gets fined or, even better, puts them in MY garbage barrel. I get to haul his trash out each week and then roll the barrel back around the house.

Image  source .

Image source.

A part of me wants to say something to him. Another part of me feels bad for him. I feel sad that his integrity and personal responsibility is so lacking that he can't manage to take out his own trash, regardless of how it impacts other people. He also had his power turned off three times in less than a year and had a boot put on his car wheel for unpaid parking tickets.

Man, do I remember when my life was like this. I had a hard time seeing my part and cleaning up the messes I made. It's still a muscle I'm building but life feels much better now. Dodging things only makes them pile up, you know? And that pile can stink after a while.

Cleaning up after ourselves is part of what it means to be an adult. But people can age chronologically and never actually mature. You might know a few people in your life like this. It might be you. It's definitely me from time to time. We can go through the motions of "playing house" but may still struggle with being responsible for cleaning up the messes we make in our lives, both the literal and metaphorical ones. 

This doesn't mean we have to be perfect. It means we have to show up for when we make mistakes or errors or maybe look more closely at the areas of our lives we've been avoiding. 

Last week, a client of mine messed up. She was late to our session and she was already over the limit for late appearances with her supervisor (I'm coaching a team of people). She was in a bit of a tailspin when we met and she was honest enough to tell me that her being late again might mean some dire consequences. I could have let it go, but would I have been really serving her in her position as a leader? Nope. Facing the music of our humanness only builds our character, even if there's a difficult or unsavory consequence.

Instead, I coached her to show up for herself and clean up her mess. She battled it a little but I reassured her of my support and helped her release any attachment to the outcome. She was checking in about being late because her supervisor requested that. I reminded her of this and she felt better.

And what happened? Her supervisor thanked her and let it go. There was no negative consequence. What mattered to the supervisor was this person's integrity and courage to be responsible for her actions. The supervisor needs honest people in leadership positions--not perfect people. Since that exchange, my client pulled out of the tailspin she'd been in for a few weeks and she's feeling GREAT. 

When we avoid being responsible and cleaning up, we perpetuate whatever caused the "mess", be it lateness or some other issue. When we stop and look at what isn't working, for ourselves or other people, we communicate what matters to us, namely our personal integrity. Being responsible requires courage and self-confidence. It means forgiving ourselves for being human and helps us mess up less in the future. 

You're human. I am too. We will mess us. What matters is how we clean it up.


Three Traits of True Leaders

Don't worry. These aren't the only three traits of good leaders, but they are what I would consider the most important.

Because leaders can make or break a culture, community or company. Or an experience. 

Why does my opinion matter? Well, I've spent the past 20 years working under some of the best and worst leadership and/or observing it from a distance (sometimes not far enough).  I've read about it and written about it for my advanced degree specializing in leadership, wellness and cultural change. 

In my previous career, I organized national conferences and often supervised 100+ volunteer leaders to host 10-day events. I've taught under several different middle school principals. I've worked for many managers in small companies and large corporations and basically, no matter where you go, people are. And where there are people, there are egos. And dysfunction. 

So what does it take to be a good leader? Is sincere interest enough?

According to "the research", the answer is no. Wanting to be in charge isn't a good indication. In fact, it's better to not possess the right traits of leadership than to have the wrong ones. It's harder to teach an old dog new tricks than it is to infuse a humble person with impeccability.

Some people are natural-born leaders in that they seek out opportunity, they are exceedingly well-organized and they want to be seen in some way. They have good ideas and they want to make a difference. 

But the flip-side of that can show up micromanaging, fixed-viewpoint and overworking. Burnout, confusion, complaining and triangulating. Inconsistency, reactivity and problem-saturated narratives.

Raise your hand if you've had a boss like this or have been this boss. 

So what's an alternative?


remember when we used real chalk?

remember when we used real chalk?

Here are three traits of true leaders, people who not only want to create a better "thing" but do it starting from the inside-out:

1) they have impeccable integrity. People confuse integrity with "doing everything". Integrity means intentionality with commitments and goals. Integrity means following through and being responsible for what fell short. Integrity means balancing a full but not overflowing plate. It means being forthright, honest and clear with communication. Personal integrity requires a keen level of self-awareness; acting from mindful and not conditioned or fearful behavior. Leaders with integrity are powerful works in progress, holding themselves accountable to their own flaws and limitations as well as their strengths.

2) they are fearless. Most people fear change. Leaders embrace it. They seek it out. You don't hear true leaders say, "that's how I've/we've always done it" or "that's how it's always been done". They understand their way is ONE way and not THE way. They welcome critique and criticism. They try things out anticipating failure instead of perfection. They make messes. They throw paint, or spaghetti, at the wall and watch what sticks. Fearless leaders feel the fear and do it, anyway. And they inspire others to do it, too.

3) they lead from love. It might feel weird to read the word love and leadership in the same sentence. Sit with the weirdness because, increasingly, more evidence shows that leaders who lead from their hearts--wanting themselves and everyone around them to thrive--excel both personally and professionally. People are smart, they see through ego-based facades and tricks to get them to fall in line. People rarely resist love over the long-term, because love doesn't bring expectation or ultimatum. People lean toward love, especially in the workplace where they spend 30-60 hours of their lives each week. Leaders who lead from love share openly, set clear boundaries, model open-minded thinking and perspective-taking. They create the beloved community because they know if they make it, people will come.

Leaders are often born but they can also be made, with the right tools and support. Contact me to see how I can help your leaders thrive to boost performance and wellness in your company culture. 

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Inauthenticity costs you this.

A lot of people are talking about being authentic. Less people are talking about what it costs you to hide.

click image for source 

click image for source 

Oh my goodness. The call-to-action of "being yourself" is anywhere and everywhere. It's all over Instagram and Facebook. It's on marketing blogs and videos and Twitter. 

Every day, we are bombarded with memes of text overlay on pictures of landscapes and people jumping over things. BE YOURSELF.

And it doesn't seem to be penetrating. People are still hiding out. People are still acting like they are the only ones who are imperfect. People still think their shit's a mess and no one can know because, #failure.

And buying into this mass dichotomy and being inauthentic about your current state of life is costing you, big time. It's costing you time, energy and money. You're spending countless dollars and minutes seeking the new and latest version of "what" will help you feel better about who you are. You're suffering in silence because your humanness showed up today and something happened. You're eating all the things because that restless discomfort of brokenness feels like a gnawing in your belly that resembles hunger, but nothing you eat makes it go away. You're working out all the time because a perfect body will certainly bring you hours of endless relief and it will stay that way, permanently. You're consuming television shows and movies hoping the escapism will last long enough to keep away the loneliness.

You're getting high because suspended reality beats the harshness of this moment. You're clicking online for clothes or bags and shoes you don't need or really even want but the idea of looking "just right" is seductive, and you pretend that just right is a real thing, even though everyone has such different opinions.

You're staying up late busying yourself with distractions, thinking if you can do, eat, watch, make, read, write one more thing, life will feel less uncomfortable.

And the avoidance of the discomfort coupled with the illusion that you're the only one feeling like this is costing you the time you have here on the planet. It's costing you real connection with people who feel just like you. It's costing you money you're spending on frivolous things that don't make you feel better. It's costing you sleep. It's costing you energy that you're putting into building your persona instead of your real self. It's costing you the sublime surrender of being an imperfect human being who shares imperfection in common with every other person walking around. It's costing you freedom of expression. It's costing you the possible impact you could have on another person's life. It's costing you credibility because people aren't stupid. They might be respectful but you aren't fooling anyone, really.

Inauthenticity may cost you some of none of these things. Most likely, it is costing you freedom, ease, connection and joy--the very things you're seeking each time you avoid or don't share what's really going on. Inauthenticity is costing you comfort and assurance that you're not the only one.

Authenticity may cost you some temporary losses, sure. When I expressed my honest feelings about how things were going down at a job I once had, it cost me that job. When I was honest with my family and some friends about my transgender identity, it cost me their presence and support. When I'm authentic about my needs in intimate relationships, romantic and platonic, it costs me numerous acquaintanceships but sorts out the keepers. Authenticity sometimes comes at a cost compared the relative safety of being invisible, silent or status quo. But inauthenticity is costing much, much more over the long term. 

So, you can ask yourself, which is the cost I'm most willing to accept?