Four Simple Ways to Be Extraordinary

By Angela Noel Lawson

June 3,  2019

Steve Jobs, Bill and Melinda Gates, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Amma (the ‘hugging saint’), and Martin Luther King Jr. have impacted millions with their extraordinary-ness in business, social justice, human rights, and the arts. Their efforts are meaningful. Each represents an extension of self to benefit the wider world. But world-changing actions aren’t the only ones that matter. Continue reading “Four Simple Ways to Be Extraordinary”

The Choice to Follow: The Achiever’s Dilemma

As part of my Profiles in Leadership Series, I asked several writers, including Jeff Cann, with different points of view on leadership to pen essays. I began reading Jeff’s blog The Other Stuff in 2017 after his post, “Follow,” was featured by the editors of WordPress Discover. His frank and thoughtful assessment of why he follows writers (or doesn’t) hooked me. Here, coincidentally, he writes of following from a different perspective. In this essay, Jeff considers the rarely discussed, but very real, struggle many of us face–allowing ourselves to be led. 

May 20, 2019

Email from Angela Lawson:

Hi Jeff,
I’m wondering, given our previous conversations about leadership, if you’d like to share your perspective on the topic in a guest post?
Angela

Angela’s been doing her leadership series for a couple of months now. She’s profiled some impressive people and she’s persuaded some accomplished leaders to pen articles here. With Angela’s request, I’m in great company. Since she’s asking, you’re probably thinking my leadership qualities are top notch. Or possibly I’ve excelled in my career and in life because I’ve followed someone truly inspirational.

No and no. I’m writing today because other than with my high school cross country coach, I’ve never felt led. I’ve never been inspired. I think Angela asked for my perspective because after so many great leadership essays, what she needs now is a bad example. Some instruction on what not to do. Continue reading “The Choice to Follow: The Achiever’s Dilemma”

Defining the Default Leader: Overcoming Reluctance and Accepting the Call

As part of my new Profiles in Leadership Series, I asked several writers with different points of view on leadership to pen essays. Here is the second of those essays. Shannon Leader considers the weighty impact of finding herself a leader by default and not always by choice. Shannon is an outdoor lifestyle blogger in the Pacific Northwest and writes over at Must Hike Must Eat. Read and follow her many excellent travel and trail posts. I promise you’ll be inspired.

May 13, 2019

If you noticed my name you might have thought to yourself that I must be the perfect person to write about leadership.  But the cold hard truth is that it is more like proof that the universe is plotting against me.

I have spent most of my life avoiding anything having to do with being a leader or “in charge”.  In fact, the thought of it makes me nauseous. I would love nothing more than to just have the role of a worker bee.  But last year, even my last name turned against me when I married my wonderful husband. Continue reading “Defining the Default Leader: Overcoming Reluctance and Accepting the Call”

Profiles in Leadership | Why Does Leadership Embarrass Me?

As part of my new Profiles in Leadership Series, I asked several writers with different points of view on leadership to pen essays. Here is the first of those essays, written by the excellent Alison Battye, a UK-based therapist living in the Kent countryside. Ali normally writes about gardening and mindfulness on her blog The Mindful Gardener.  Recently, she accepted a leadership position for the first time in her career–a move that surprised even her. Why now? She explains.

April 22, 2019

If I had seen a series on leadership a couple of years ago, I’m not sure I would have read it.

Why? Because I didn’t see myself as a leader.

I have just started in a leadership role, so I must be a leader.

I am saying this quietly, in case anyone hears. I am a leader.

Where does this resistance to leadership come from? I know I have important ideas. I know that I can encourage others to share their ideas, including those who are most reticent. I know that I am good at coaching others. I know that I can inspire, and that what I say can be influential.

So why am I shy about describing myself as a leader? Continue reading “Profiles in Leadership | Why Does Leadership Embarrass Me?”

Profiles in Leadership | Tracy Murphy: Learner and Bridge Builder

An excellent leader tackles tough problems and surrounds herself with smart, committed people

By Angela Noel Lawson

March 19, 2019

When I asked Tracy Murphy to describe her leadership she paused for half a second. “I think about,” she said, “being a learner first.”

Tracy, President of Mount Olivet Rolling Acres (a nonprofit corporation offering care and services to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities) exemplifies and evangelizes a growth mindset. She asks herself: How can I learn? How can I practice what I’m learning? And how can I bring people along with me?” Continue reading “Profiles in Leadership | Tracy Murphy: Learner and Bridge Builder”

Profiles in Leadership–A New Series

By Angela Noel Lawson

March 11, 2019

The recipe to make a molecule of water is clear: one atom of oxygen, two of hydrogen. Bam! Water. The recipe for how to lead however, is not so clear. In fact, there isn’t one. There is no “how to” manual. Or rather, there are many, which just proves the point: If there was a definitive model only one manual would be needed.

Further, some books about leadership are either written by researchers, or by the leaders themselves. They draw upon the stories of successful people and derive a roadmap of sorts from these experiences. “Do what I do, ” they seem to say, “and you too will be be a successful leader.”

But, it doesn’t work that way–there are too many variables. It’s why quarterbacks call an audible. Or why doctors prescribe a drug to treat a condition it wasn’t specifically approved for–like a heart medication prescribed instead to treat migraines. Which isn’t to say the roadmaps (or the playbook or the FDA-approval guidelines) aren’t useful. On the contrary, these roadmaps provide necessary foundational information the experts then use as a tool to achieve their goals. Deviating from the path isn’t just okay, it’s essential. The key is acknowledging another expert is also in the room. Continue reading “Profiles in Leadership–A New Series”

Leadership: Power Problems and Finding Flow

By Angela Noel Lawson

January 14, 2019

Leading people is hard. Anyone that says differently may never done it, or might be terrible at it. Why is leading hard? Because people aren’t spreadsheets. They don’t respond particularly well to commands, and you can’t just save your work and pick up where you left off. People are messy and complicated, weird and wonderful. Add to that the power dynamic of leaders and employees and the soup of difficulty thickens. But, finding out what brings out the best and the worst in ourselves and in the people we lead changes everything. Continue reading “Leadership: Power Problems and Finding Flow”

Self-Deception: The Enemy of Contribution

By Angela Noel Lawson

November 5, 2018

About a year ago I started a new job and penned an essay entitled, What Does it Mean to be a Contribution? In it, I chronicled how ego and selfishness led me down unproductive paths until awareness dawned. I eventually realized two things. First, I had only one chance to live a life of purpose and to make my unique contribution to the world. And second, I had the power to act.

In general, I’m proud to say I’ve heeded every one of the lessons I explained. Specifically, I’ve given my best and honored the best in others. Although I’ve kept these promises I made to myself, I’m not claiming victory. I’m writing now to report on my progress. To say yes, I’ve contributed, but also to share that I’m still fighting an occasional battle with a terrible beast. She’s ugly, mean, and smells like sweaty feet. I’ll call her Sally. Continue reading “Self-Deception: The Enemy of Contribution”

Avoid Catastrophe, Make Fewer Assumptions

By Angela Noel

July 9, 2018

More than once I’ve been dead wrong about the reality of a situation for one simple reason: Instead of asking questions, I made assumptions. Though I detest this in myself, my sphere of influence is relatively small. Thus, I can do little harm. But, the same cannot be said for others in positions of power. Their failures to question assumptions can lead to disasters, as illustrated by Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War.

In the documentary, James Willbanks, an army strategist, said of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, “When McNamara wants to know what Ho Chi Minh is thinking he interviews himself.” I found Willbanks’ words chilling. Continue reading “Avoid Catastrophe, Make Fewer Assumptions”

Women and Leadership: Stop Talking. Start Doing

By Angela Noel

May 13, 2018

I want Amy Jean Kramer Brenengen in the room when tempers flare. She’s the cheerleader I want on my team when I’m afraid I may lose. She’s the leader I want in my ear when the stakes are high. But she’s also the woman I want to have a huge glass of wine with to either celebrate our victories, or strategize on how best to learn from our defeats.

Though passionate about many things including, family, working, running (kind of), and the arts, a constant and persistent interest tells much about this woman’s story and her contribution to the world.

This interest, this love, recently drove her to issue a public challenge.
Continue reading “Women and Leadership: Stop Talking. Start Doing”