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”

Assembling the Pieces of Me: My Grandmother’s Legacy

By Angela Noel Lawson

May 7, 2019

When Jackie Cochran called for female pilots to join the World War II effort, my grandmother, along with 25,000 other women, answered. Twenty-five-year-old Dolores Meurer began her training as a Women’s Air Service Pilot (WASP) on August 9, 1943, at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. The rigors of training ensured only the best would earn their wings; only 1,074 applicants graduated. Her experiences as a WASP spanned less than two years of her life, yet those heady days populated her thoughts for the almost seven decades to follow.

However, unlike my grandmother at 25, I lacked purpose. I’d quit my job at a startup magazine in San Francisco. The novel I’d planned to write when I graduated college was 75% complete and 90% terrible. And, I’d broken up with my first serious boyfriend. Adult life was just so much harder than I thought it’d be. Continue reading “Assembling the Pieces of Me: My Grandmother’s Legacy”

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”

I’m Breaking up with Perfection

by Angela Noel

February 8, 2018

Two words drive me crazy. The first is perfection. I don’t believe perfection exists. I happen to like plenty of things that don’t exist, fairies for example. Or Santa, he’s a pretty jolly (not real) man. But the myth of achieving perfection causes real problems at work and at home. And that makes me mad. Santa never made me mad. Fairies are equally blameless.  So, perfection is bad. Continue reading “I’m Breaking up with Perfection”