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Uncovering Your Unique Leadership Journey: What's Your Story?

The thing that we bring to this world – our gifts and wisdom – can inform all that we do.  I find that when we lead with our gifts, we have greater opportunity to create impact as leaders in a way that adds to the world instead of focusing on lack.  It’s all about perspective and learning to align to the story our gifts tell us about ourselves, and not the story we may have been living with.  I’m going to share a bit more about my story – both the one I lived with and the one I now know, to demonstrate this. 

I started working at 15, but my career began at 20. I was not interested in going to college mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to pay for it. So, I followed in the footsteps of many of the women in my family, and I went to work and began to figure it out (hint – this is a key theme in my story).  I got a job as receptionist for a company that a family member recommended me for, and when I left four years later, I had learned how to manage the daily accounting practice for the firm.  I’d also taken college classes toward my degree. 

In my next role I joined a company supporting dealerships with my accounting expertise.  I quickly became a leader in the organization and was totally unprepared for it.  I gained leadership experience by observing others and what I liked, but most importantly what I didn’t like about how others led.  I gained insight from training and support from people that I felt aligned with, and I began to figure it out. It was at this point of my career that I began to hear a story about my leadership path from others that continued for quite some time.  Fast forward through my career and I became someone who figured out how to successfully lead teams and projects, improve processes, and facilitate outcomes with both individuals and executives.  After learning all of this I gained my degrees and certifications. But the stories stuck.  Here’s some of what I carried with me.

  • You don’t have a college degree, so your experience doesn’t matter. This finally caused me to get the degrees and certifications, but I did it my way (more on that in another blog). 

  • You must dress a certain way to be accepted (this was about the color of my suit and yes, it really happened). I continued to wear the purple suit because I loved it.  (It’s the same color purple as my business logo.)

  • You need more polish – you share perspectives that we don’t really agree with. Yes, and I still do although I’ve learned how to hone my ability to share feedback in a sage way.

  • You don’t have what it takes to be an executive (my conclusion – no one said this to me). Now I’m an entrepreneur that works with executives and their teams.

Interestingly what I heard from people who worked for me, or with me was very different, and something that I hear from clients and those I partner with today.

  • I trust you and so I’m coming to you with this. I know you’ll help me truly see it differently.  

  • You’re one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked for because you hear me, meet me where I am, and help me see things differently.

When I lived in the first story, I felt like the kid in third grade whose single mom sent her to catholic school, where she didn’t fit in because they couldn’t afford the uniform. We were there on “scholarship” and had to figure out how to dress to fit in without the uniforms that everyone else wore. Awkward was an understatement.  Even my teacher treated me as an outsider.

But, when I lived in the second story, I was the scrappy kid from third grade who was able to observe what was going on around her, figure out how to work within what I had and rise to the occasion because I had a different view of things.

I have many other examples like this, and this became my leadership gift and is ultimately what led me to my current path.  Now, I get to engage with people, help them see perspectives they may not have otherwise have, and help them determine how to use those perspectives.  I am telling you this because my question is this….  What about you? 

What do you notice for yourself?  What are the stories that you told yourself or that you believed?  What are the different ways to see those stories?  Listen, we all have them, and if I’m being fully transparent, I still hear them. But I can choose to listen differently today. And I do. 

I’d like to give you some homework.  Think about the leader you want to be – your version of ideal leadership. What are the traits and characteristics?  Who are the leaders you admire and want to emulate? What do they bring that you hope to also bring?

Now think about the stories you have about your leadership and your life.  If they support you, how do you use the gifts in those stories to help you step into that ideal leadership role?  Said differently, what are the ways you can and do use those gifts to lead each day?

If the stories don’t support you, and you’ll know, because when you think about situations it won’t feel good – what are three other ways to look at the story that will support you?  It may be something you want or need to learn, it may be that no one said it to you, but you created some internal judgement, it may be that you just need to let that one go. 

Now that you’ve reframed, how can you use that to help you lead each day?  Need an example?  See how I used mine to make different decisions.  I got the degrees; I wore the suit, and I became the executive partner – and I did it my way.  You will do it your way and for that I applaud you! Go rewrite your story if you need to!

If we can lead from what supports us, vs the idea that we must do it a certain way, we’re more authentic and aligned to our ideal leader.  Your ideal leader is different than mine.  And we all need to lead from our authentic place…. In fact, the world needs it. 

Need help gaining perspective?  Reach out. I’m happy to help you see it differently – in your unique way!

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