Taking a Loss

Yesterday, a divided nation decided that it would, in part, continue to go down a path that leads toward its demise. But, just because you’re going down the wrong path doesn’t mean you can’t pause, reflect, and commit to bettering yourself.

It’s time for us to demand more of our leaders. As I continue to prepare myself for elevated levels of leadership by taking on more roles and remaining a lifelong learner, I am adding more best practices to my arsenal. Today, as I was reading some of John Maxwell’s work, I was reminded that “(l)eaders lose the right to be selfish.”

We have to start holding our leaders, elected and otherwise, to a higher standard. Sometimes that means turning down campaign dollars from sources that lack integrity. Other times, it means foregoing a raise or rejecting a bonus so your support staff maintains its morale. Paying bills and engaging in self-care are not selfish. Shoot, even getting a bonus when everyone’s doing well is ok. But when, as a leader, you look out for yourself at the expense of those around you, you’re doing damage to the culture and community you’re suppose to be protecting.

Think of it like this: As a leader, if you do something selfish and stupid that jeopardizes your community’s reputation, you’re not only risking your job but also the jobs of everyone that supports you. Let’s look at all the companies that have gone down the drain because of poor leadership. The leaders were not the only ones affected. Their employees weren’t only affected. The employees’ families were affected. The generations that follow that employee are affected. Our decisions, as leaders, will have everlasting impacts on the world.

Yesterday’s election results, though some positive change took place, disappointed me on a large scale. The battle may be a wash but the war is far from over. Over the next two years (and long after that), let us, as follower-leaders, pledge to change the culture across political, economic, and social arenas. We have to get to a point where we can disagree without being mean-spirited and that starts with requiring our leaders to model that. We influence them by demanding more of them so that they can influence us. It’s a simple cycle.

 

Make selfless leadership a requirement.

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Every Level Isn’t For Everyone

“She has risen to the level of incompetence.” — Anon

I’m going to give you a tough pill to swallow: everyone isn’t meant to lead. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a calling/purpose and that doesn’t mean greatness doesn’t reside within you. But I do believe that everyone has a lane. That’s not saying everyone cannot lead someone else to greatness by way of mentoring. But everyone simply isn’t intended to take on the task of leading masses. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Shoot, as someone who often enters rooms and is asked to lead, I don’t always want the responsibility and am now at a stage in life where I will quite myself in certain settings in order to blend in (I learned the hard way not to stretch myself too thin and to helpfully say no instead of giving a harmful yes).

Know your strengths and pick a lane, ideally one that you can succeed in but one that will challenge you as you grow in it. And, if leading is something you want to do but something that doesn’t come naturally*, learn to do it.

 

Make knowing how you can best serve those around you a priority.

 

*I don’t believe in “natural” leaders. I believe some people may be more inclined to lead but everyone needs to learn to follow and everyone can improve on his/her leadership.

Question Your Complacency

This has been an interesting last couple weeks. A lot of change. A lot of introspection. A lot of emotion. Entrepreneurially, I’ve been forced to question what and who motivates me. Professionally, I’ve had to take a look at my career and where I would like to be in ten years. Physically, I am evaluating my health and if I’m taking the best care of my body that I can. Personally, I’ve looked at where America is now and had to ask myself, “Is this a nation I would like to raise a family in or should I look at opportunities in other places in the world with the same/more freedoms and fewer instances of violence?” And, spiritually, I’ve questioned whether I am living in the purpose I was given or living in security.

Prior to moving back to Durham, my entire life had been a series of ebbs and flows. I find success in the fear of failure. Faith and hard work are all that I credit any of my accomplishments to. Staying true to that, I will continue questioning my complacency. Challenge any feeling in your gut that says you’re not where you know you could be. It’s not about where anyone else is. It’s about what you know to be true for yourself.

 

Make questioning your complacency a priority.

You Can’t Lead Everywhere

“Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.” — Simon Sinek

Yesterday, I posted about getting better at saying “No.” Today, I’m going a bit deeper.

No one is meant to lead everywhere. For the longest time, I was a leader in every setting I stepped into. Classroom, field, court, board room, etc., I was voted to lead or be groomed to be the next leader. But now I don’t want that in every room and so I comfortably say “No, thank you.” Being a great leader (which I am working on now) is about selecting what you invest your time and energy in. That goes for everything from jobs to community service organizations to rec athletic teams.

I’m a solid leader. What I never asked myself is, “Do you want to lead?” Sometimes, the answer is yes. Other times, I’ve been guilted into it. But every project doesn’t deserve my guidance right now, just like they don’t all deserve yours. The world needs leaders but, in order to lead the world, you have to choose not to be mayor over the village.

 

Make professional development a priority.

 

In It For the Credit

“Flattery is from the teeth out. Sincere appreciation is from the heart out.” — Dale Carnegie

Some folks are just in it for the recognition. I can recall talking with someone who went above and beyond, bragged on it to her supervisor, and then told me she was upset when her supervisor all but said “Do you want a cookie?” It’s not that the supervisor wasn’t impressed but it was obvious that the employee was just looking for a pat on the back.

Do work that is worthy of recognition but work that expects none. While we all deserve credit for good work, if you do it regularly enough, don’t expect a pat on the back each time. Just find joy in knowing that you’re doing something exceptional.

On the other hand, if you are doing great work consistently and are never shown appreciation, it’s time to start looking elsewhere. A manager that doesn’t work to motivate those on his/her team is a terrible leader and doesn’t deserve a team following his/her guidance.

 

Make doing it for the right reasons a priority.

#TrendingThursday 2.0 – Num. 12

Here are the ages you peak at everything throughout life by Chris Weller and Skye Gould
Now, as with everything, take this with a grain of salt. Some of the best people in certain fields have been late bloomers. But, at the same time, it adds a bit of perspective when you’re thinking about where you want to be in your life, personally and professionally.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Being a Good Bar Regular by Tracy Moore
I like a good drink, every now and then. And I, while I like having them at home because it’s cheaper, there are times when I just want to hang out at a bar. While I knew many of these basic rules, like leave a $1 tip for a beer and $2 for a cocktail, it’s always nice to hear a bartender’s perspective on how to be a good (and respectful) regular at your neighborhood bar. Oh, and though written for gentlemen, ladies you may want to read this, either for your own knowledge and to share with the men in your life.

3 Suit Rules That Seem Stupid But Matter
I don’t wear suits all the time anymore. Very few of my friends do. But it’s still important to know how to wear one when the time comes. Check out this article and figure out how you (or someone you know) can benefit from it.

To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well by Jesse Sostrin
I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the best at delegating (but I’m getting better, now that I’m in my second position with a dedicated person playing a support role). I like to do everything I can myself. That’s why this article was so important to me. I hope it can help you along the process of becoming stronger at delegating tasks.

Make professional development a priority.

9 Things Successful Women Never Do

While I don’t believe in the words “always” or “never” in the year 2017, I do believe that LaRae Quy makes some great points in this article. And, fellas, there is a ton we can take from this piece as well. All around good reading but, ladies, this one’s for you.

Often I was the only female FBI agent on my squad. I learned how to be successful amidst a variety of situations and circumstances. Most importantly, I learned what not to do if I wanted to compete in a male dominated environment.

I learned that my success was inexorably linked to the choices I made regarding attitude and subsequent actions. More often than not, it was the choice I made to kick myself into high gear rather than relying on someone else to do the kicking.

While every woman has her own definition of success, here are 9 things that successful women never do:

1. Successful Women Never Ignore Their Fears
If you want to move up, and ahead, you need to confront your fears head-on. Never waste valuable energy trying to avoid them; instead, use mental toughness to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success in business and life.

Suppressing a negative feeling only gives it more power, fueling our fears and slowing us down. In fact, trying to control what we fear will increase the likelihood it will happen.

2. Successful Women Never Run From Conflict
As a female FBI agent, I got burned by conflict, criticism, and unfairness—just like everyone else. The difference is that I did not cower into accommodating others to avoid enduring those negative feelings again.

People who shy away from conflict assume that conflict always looks aggressive, overbearing, and disrespectful. This is not true because conflict can camouflage itself in many forms. We need to be alert for any behavior from others that is attempting to manipulate our emotions or thoughts. Once we recognize conflict for what it is, we make a choice on how we respond to it, rather than react out of fear or ignorance.

3. Successful Women Never Listen To Their Inner Critic
I needed to nip that inner critic in the bud and eliminate inner voices of doubt and anxiety. I did this by choosing to focus my attention on positive feedback and constructive criticism—limited as it might be at times.

Mental toughness is being able to control how your mind thinks, rather than letting your mind control you. The key is learning how to manage your emotions with self-talk and using the right (and positive) words when controlling your thoughts.

4. Successful Women Never Expect Perfect Circumstances
Forget about finding the perfect job or waiting for perfect conditions before making a leap. Learn to differentiate between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering.

It’s easy to say that conditions are poor, nothing is going your way, and that you’ve been dealt an unfair hand. These are all excuses as you move further down the road of surrender.

Use what is at your disposal to keep moving forward in life—take a tip from MacGyver and learn to make the best of your situation. Mental toughness is approaching your circumstances with the right perspective and not expecting a break.

5. Successful Women Never Look At Their Past As A Mistake
I made a lot of mistakes as a new agent. At times it was embarrassing, but I vowed to learn from each one of them.

Some mistakes from our past can be painful or bad, but instead of wallowing in misery, look at them as opportunities to learn something that you didn’t know before it happened. Walk beside friends and colleagues who have made mistakes—you can learn from them, too.

The past does not define us, it simply prepares us for our journey toward success and wisdom.

6. Successful Women Never Miss Opportunities To Shine
I knew that many times the best way to be successful was to do what others were unwilling to do.

Identify those things that others hesitate to take on. It can be small and simple—it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, do it well and you will instantly differentiate yourself from the pack.

Then keep going because you never know where it will lead; often, we don’t know what opportunity looks like until we’re closer to it.

7. Successful Women Never Fail To Keep Their Cool
No matter my situation, I knew I was in total control of my life.

One of my favorite quotes is from St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.”

Many people make excuses for themselves by saying luck determines whether they are successful or not. Mentally strong leaders are in control of their own luck because they see success or failure as something over which they are in control. Luck may have had some role in their present circumstances, but they don’t waste mental energy by worrying about what might happen.

Control your own luck by seizing opportunities to improve your life and situation. The result will either be a lucky break or the regret of a road not taken.

8. Successful Women Never Fail To Do Their Research
When I interviewed a suspect, I made sure I knew what I was talking about.

When you are meeting with potential investors, clients or customers, make sure you know what you are talking about—know where the landmines are before you open your mouth.

Do your homework; be polished, poised, and prepared.

9. Successful Women Never Say Quit
No matter how hard the investigation or how difficult the assignment, “quit” was the only four letter word I never heard in my 24 years in the FBI.

When you say “quit” or “can’t,” you are sacrificing ownership and control over your attitude and behavior. It shows you have created your own boundaries. When you say quit, you are sending a message about your fear of failure and a lack of grit in testing your limits.

 

LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. LaRae is the author of “Secrets Of A Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” See her site and follow her on Twitter @LaRaeQuy.

 

Make professional development a priority.