Blessing in Disguise: “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone”

Imagine a writer without a laptop, a pen or paper. Imagine a motivational speaker without an audience. Imagine a bodybuilder without a gym. I would be willing to guess that all of us in some way shape or form have/have had things in our lives that we are/were passionate about. If the past year has taught us anything it is that anything and everything can be taken away from us at any moment. That includes our life’s passions.

Passions are what keep most people motivated and eager to wake up in the morning. Passions are what make life worth living. However, what if I told you that before it was taken away, my greatest passion was holding me back from reaching my ultimate potential? You see the problem with our passions is that they become our comfort. And comfort is the ultimate block of growth. One of my favorite quotes by Neale Donald Walsh states, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” In my opinion, this couldn’t be more true.

The bottom line is that passion is a necessity in life. However, we cannot let one single passion limit or define us. For example, I am extremely passionate about fitness. It even got to a point where I would go to the gym 2 times a day for 7 days a week for 2 hours at a time. Doing the math that was 28 hours a week just spent in the gym! While my physical growth was at its peak, my mental growth was severely lacking therefore, my potential was being held back by my over-riding comfort.

Then came the 2020 Lockdown and all of a sudden my passion and comfort of going to the gym was taken away from me. I may be one of the only ones to say this but, “Thank God for Lockdown.” This created an uncomfortable situation for me. All of a sudden my passion was taken away and I was forced to react. This was my blessing in disguise. Despite the initial struggles and disappointment, I realized that this time away from the gym was my chance to step out of my comfort zone and improve my mental and creative abilities. I now realize that my potential goes well beyond fitness. And while fitness will always remain an important passion of mine, it no longer defines me as a person and the comfort of it no longer hinders me from reaching my potential.

So next time your comfort is swept from under your feet, just remember that it is your opportunity to grow. And don’t forget, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Thank God For…

What if I told your that 2020 was the best year of my life? Referencing President Eisenhower’s comments after the Pearl Harbor attacks, “A year (not day) that will live in infamy.” 2020 started with a shock with the tragic and heartbreaking death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and those 7 other precious individuals. God rest their souls. Such an icon and someone who had the ora of a superhero who would live forever suddenly gone from this earth. Truly a wake up call.

Then came Covid-19 and that was all she wrote in regards to most people’s plans and resolutions. However, if you were someone like me at the start of the year, you had nowhere to go but up. 2020 has taught me to not let Situation define Self. I can honestly say that 2020 has been the most productive and transformational year of my life. Not because, I achieved a lot or made a lot of money, but because I used pain and struggle to achieve success. I guess the question at the end of the day come down to a 9 word question:

What will you do when you hit rock bottom?

In a lot of ways, it feels like we have as a society. However, despite all that we have been through in 2020, 2021 will not gracefully offer its sympathy like a vast majority of people are suggesting. I can’t count how many times throughout this year where I have heard people say things to the tune: “2021 can’t get here soon enough”. Well, it is finally here. However, I can assure you the tomorrow on January 1, 2021, the pandemic and financial crisis will still be here, unemployment will still be on the rise, mental illness will still be making its imprint on society and people will still display hate towards people who are different from them. That being said, we can’t let the situation define ourselves. We all have the power and the ability to enact positive change in our lives. 2020 has woken me up to my former reality. I have had time to sit at home and ponder who I was. I had time to align my habits with my goals. I have had time to read amazing books about people who struggled just like me and used their pain to achieve their ultimate destiny. I have had time to write 2 books of my own which I had always thought about but never actually acted upon in years prior. I have had time to talk to my loved ones and realize how precious those moments are and how much I had taken them for granted in years past. I have had time to thank God for the life he gave me. I have had time to sit in silence and be with myself and understand that I was in control, not the situation.

I guess I was one of the lucky ones. I guess I didn’t need 2020 to hit rock bottom. I had already been there for some time. 2020 woke me up from a deep sleep. 2020 showed me how valuable, beautiful and fragile life in the flesh is. 2020 made me a better leader of myself. Excuse my selfishness, but 2020 has been a Godsend for me. I am not blind to people’s pain, I am not oblivious to the struggle that people have gone through this past year (physically and mentally). I pray for those people and I pray God helps them to find themselves despite the situation. 2021 offers no sympathy or guarantees of improvement. The situation will remain the same. 2021 will be defined how true to Self we choose to stay. Thank God for 2020. Sad to see you go but forever grateful for the quiet blessings you left behind.

Unleashing Potential: Better Leadership is Needed

The common questions surrounding the concept of leadership development are often:
1) What is leadership?
2) How are leaders developed?

While these are certainly the basis of understanding what it means to become an effective leader, there are 2 other questions which I believe are just as important but often take a back seat to the questions above. They are:

1)Why does better leadership make a difference?
2)How does better leadership achieve those differences?

These are the questions I want to focus on in this article. Effective leadership is a highly unique form of human behavior that requires the integration of a strong personal foundation, knowledge, soft skills and actions aligning with words. Despite the fact that many people in leadership roles have a wide-ranging influence, very few of them actually reach their full potential in regards to maximizing the abilities of themselves and their followers. So what can one do do if they step up and unleash their leadership potential? Create a legacy that can continue on for generations to come.

One’s journey to unleashing their leadership potential begins with a great understanding of self. Discover and develop the personality traits and understand how they relate to effective leadership. When one becomes aware of what effective leadership truly entails, he/she can maximize their positive traits, and become aware of the weaker areas. This is a key step to one to achieving their leadership potential. Once one understands themselves along with their strengths and weaknesses, the next step is to hone their communication skills. These are not limited to public speaking skills either. This includes writing style, body language and most importantly, methods of communication depending on the individual personalities within their following. Taking a personal approach to leadership and understanding what makes each individual tick can lead to the most important aspect effective leaders need to possess. RESPECT. When one earns respect, they are well on the way to reaching their full potential in said leadership role. One’s ability to communicate effectively with varying personalities enhances the ability to improve interpersonal relationships therefore leading to a genuine respect for one another. Another important skill is to learn how to learn. One would be wise to examine different teaching methods and learning styles in order to identify how the people in one’s following learn best. Effective leaders must first and foremost humble themselves and check their ego at the door. This is a major step in reaching one’s potential that is often not easy to do. Effective leaders have to be willing to admit that they know that they don’t know it all.

In conclusion, remember that being a leader is not simply a title or something one is born into. Effective Leadership is a never ending process of development and humbling oneself.
Dr. Ken Blanchard, in his book “The Heart of A Leader”said; “If you want to know why your people are not performing well, step up to the mirror and take a peek.” Effective leaders have to take-on and own the responsibility. This is what makes a difference and this is what society needs more of.

Leader’s Honor: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Who would forget the ever-famous line of Peter Parker’s grandfather, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Spiderman never let us down. With the power he possessed, he made sure to be responsible in using it for the good of the people around him. Leadership is not at all different from being superheroes in this sense. Yes, we may not have super powers like Spiderman, but we have the same authority and the responsibility of protecting our followers and leading them towards success. Effective leaders must embrace responsibility and make it their mission – not just before one accepts to take it, but also after the task at hand has been accomplished or considered a failure. As much as one is responsible for his/her team’s success, they should also be willingly responsible for any and all failures. This is truly the ultimate responsibility of those who hold leadership roles. One must be ready and willing to take the blame when things go wrong. Making excuses and blaming something or someone else for failed jobs is simply a quality that effective leaders cannot possess. As effective leaders, we must ensure that the team members learn and most importantly, IMPROVE from mistakes. Despite the fact that we cannot control our follower’s actions, we do have the full control of our own reactions. All one can do is try to put their followers in the best place to achieve moral success. This is the power and responsibility that we possess. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Leadership Exposed: 4 Realities of Leadership that Shouldn’t be Overlooked

Much has been written about leadership: rules, pointers, styles, and biographies of inspiring leaders throughout world history. But there are certain leadership ideas that we ourselves fail to recognize and realize in the course of reading books. Here is a short list of things you thought you knew about leadership.

  1. Leaders come in different flavors.

There are surly different types of leaders and you will probably encounter more than one type in your lifetime. Formal leaders are those we elect into positions or offices such as the senators, congressmen, and presidents. Informal leaders are those we look up to by virtue of their wisdom and experience such as in the case of our elders; or by virtue of their expertise and contribution on a given field such as Albert Einstein in the field of Theoretical Physics and Leonardo da Vinci in the field of the Arts. Both formal and informal leaders practice a combination of leadership styles. Take for example the following varying leadership strategies presented by three different experts:

1. Lewin’s three basic leadership styles: authoritative, participative, and delegative

   2. Likert’s four leadership styles: exploitive authoritative, benevolent authoritative, consultative, and participative

    3. Goleman’s six emotional leadership styles – visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting, and commanding.   

  1. Leadership is a process of becoming.

There is a common phase that a lot of leadership developers use: “Leaders are made not born.” While I tend to agree with this statement, the term “made” refers to a finished product. However, the process of becoming an effective leader is a process that is never-ending. That being said, leaders are never truly “made” because development and growth should never be a finished product. Keeping this idea in mind, without the right environment and exposure, leaders may fail to develop their full potential. One does not become a leader in one day and just stop, the moment one is “made” is the moment they begin to wither away. Life-long learning is important in becoming a good leader for each day brings new experiences that put your knowledge, skills, and attitude to the test.

  1. Leadership starts with you.

The best way to develop leadership qualities is to apply it to your own life. When one is incapable of leading themselves, how can they expect to lead others in an effective manner? Leaders are always in the limelight. Keep in mind that your credibility as a leader depends much on your actions: your interaction with your family, friends, and co-workers; your way of managing your personal and organizational responsibilities; and essentially your daily handling/treatment of others. Repeated actions become habits. Habits in turn form a person’s character.

  1. Leadership styles depend on the situation.

How come dictatorship is accepted in countries like North Korea but not in the United States of America? Aside from culture, beliefs, value system, and form of government, the current situation of a nation also affects the leadership styles used by its formal leaders. There is no rule that only one style can be used. Effective leaders have the ability to recognize various situations and then employ a combination of leadership styles depending on said situation. In emergency situations such as periods of war and calamity, decision-making is a matter of life and death. Thus, a nation’s leader cannot afford to consult with all departments to arrive at crucial decisions. The case is of course different in times of peace and order where different branches of government can freely interact and collaborate. Another case in point is in leading organizations. When the staffs are highly motivated and competent, a combination of high delegative and moderate participative styles of leadership is most appropriate. But if the staffs have low competence and low commitment, a combination of high coaching, high supporting, and high directing behavior from organizational leaders is required.

As aspiring leaders who have had past success, it is easy to get into the mindset that we are experts and that our beliefs and actions are always the most effective. However, it is crucial to keep these 4 realities in mind. Also, never forget that we are never truly “made”. We are in reality in a constant process of becoming.

Unlock Your Potential: Better Leadership Makes a Difference

Our world is run by leadership. Everywhere you look there is surely to be traces of it. Whether you look at the manager of a grocery store, a wolf in the wilderness, a CEO at the office, or the president of a nation, leaders are at the head of it all. Since our world is based on leadership, shouldn’t it be our focus to become the best, most effective leaders we possibly can? Wouldn’t that lead to a better, overall functioning planet? That being said, I want us all to ponder two main questions today:

1) Why does better leadership make a difference?

2) How does better leadership achieve those differences?

Leadership lacks a specific definition however, I feel one of the better ones is the following:

“a highly unique form of human behavior that requires the integration of character, knowledge, experience and people skills.”

One’s journey to unleashing their leadership potential begins with a great understanding of his/her self. Take the time to discover your own personality traits and how they relate to effective leadership. When we know ourselves, we can maximize our positive traits, and become aware of our weaker ones that we need to improve upon, which in turn helps us to achieve our leadership potential. In simpler terms, we need to enhance our already positive traits and continue to work to turn our negative traits into positive ones.

Once one understands and knows their strengths and weaknesses, next they must hone in on their communication skills. These are not limited to simply public speaking skills either. Communication skills also include writing style, body language and most importantly, your communication with each individual in your organization/team. This process involves taking time to get to know each person and the varying personality types within your following. This is often a long, time consuming process that few people in leadership roles are willing to take. However, if you want to truly lead effectively, it is important to take time to show the people that you care about them on a personal level and not just from a production standpoint. Your ability to communicate effectively with each individual enhances your ability to improve interpersonal relationships.

Another crucial skill is to learn how to learn. Examine different teaching methods and learning styles out there in order to identify how you and those you are leading learn best. This skill will greatly enhance your ability to make decisions and give clear instructions. Learning how to learn also involves yourself. Understand that just because you are in a leadership position, that doesn’t mean that it is your way or the highway. Be humble enough to open your mind to potential methods outside if your own.

I believe an Effective Leader is one that recognizes the abilities within others and uses their skills in order to help those people become the best versions of themselves, which in turn, helps the group as a whole become the best version of itself. Everyone has the ability to lead, but not everyone has the will to lead effectively. This is very important to remember. We all have the ability to develop as leaders however, not all have the true willpower and selflessness in order to lead effectively and genuinely for the best interest of others.

So, why does better leadership make a difference? It makes a difference because better leadership means more genuine leadership based on personal relationships and trust. How does better leadership achieve those differences? When you can develop a personal relationship with each one of your followers, you subconsciously gain their trust and their willingness to go the extra mile for you and the rest of the team. When this type of culture is created, the opportunities for success are endless.

True Leadership = True to Yourself

Leadership is all about being yourself and demonstrating personal authenticity rather than learning some formula from a text book. Aspiring leaders therefore need to be true to themselves. Real leaders are also open and willing to reveal their weaknesses. There is often a misconception that those in leadership roles need to be stronger and/or more superior than those under them. Obviously they do have to be well educated and competent in their field in order to lead the organization in the right direction in regards to its production. However, as far as human nature is concerned, those holding leadership roles are affected just as much as anybody else. When one is able to admit his/her vulnerabilities/ weaknesses as a human being, this resonates with others confirming that the leader is a person first and foremost and not merely a “role-holder”.

As leaders, when we reveal our true selves, it can allow others to feel more comfortable and makes us more likable. This can result in increased organizational motivation to help each other out and not want to let each other down. This what true teamwork is a about. True leadership is therefore much more than a demonstration of strengths. Real leaders acknowledge their shortcomings and use them in ways to create a healthy, comfortable working environment with team driven objectives.

Good leaders always rely on their ability to read situations. They develop a feel for an environment, and interpret soft data without having to be told. They know when team morale is patchy or when complacency needs shaking up. There are three levels of situational sensitivity, each of which has its own specific skills:

Effective leaders are continually learning about the motives, attributes and skills of their important subordinates. They get to know their people through formal and, often better, informal contact such as when traveling together and/or team events.

Effective leaders read their teams as a whole. They analyze the compound balance between team members, the tension between the tasks and processes, and how the team builds its competencies.

Finally, they are concerned with defining the cultural characteristics of their organizations and keep their finger on the pulse of the organization’s climate.

It sounds cliché to say that leaders need to care for their people. Ever noticed the skepticism in the workforce upon seeing a manager return from a people-skills training course with new, sudden concern for others? This can create a negative feeling amongst one’s following because they sense that the concern isn’t really and will likely be short lived. The bottom line is, genuine concern is difficult to display because it always involves some personal risk. Genuine care means putting others interest before your own and doing whatever it takes for the benefit of your followers. This is a rare commodity that is much easier said than done. The bottom line is, no leader really knows how they will react to these types of situations unless then experience them for themselves. Until those times come, just remember to be genuine and true to yourself. You are in this leadership role for a reason. Trust what got your there and never forget that your weaknesses are not a detriment, but rather an opportunity to connect to your followers and increase organizational moral. Being true to yourself is the same as being true to your followers. The result is true leadership.

Mentoring: A Job of Impact

If you are considering mentoring someone younger and/or with less experience, here are some things to ponder before taking action:

1. Is mentoring for you?

Most effective mentors truly, deeply enjoy helping other people grow and develop. Make sure you’re likely to enjoy the process before you take it on. Make sure you have the time and flexibility. If your schedule is already overloaded or you’re under stress, you might want to consider holding off on a mentoring commitment until things are a little less hectic.

2. Make sure you know what you bring to the table.

A jack of all trades is a master of none. Do not feel pressured to mentor people in all aspects of life. It is important to know and understand what you are good at and where your experience lies. In his book, Winning, Jack Welch says that “There is no one right mentor. There are many right mentors.” From your perspective, that means you don’t have to do everything. You aren’t the only place that your protégé should get help.

3. Know which individuals you can relate to and impact the most.

The bottom line is, mentoring should be a pleasant relationship for both parties. Try to find the younger you in others. Search for signs of your former, inexperienced self. When you find and recognize these signs, it is likely that these are the people who you can most effectively impact. Use your past as the lesson plan. Both your successes and failures are valuable to one’s you are mentoring.

Mentoring can be one of the most rewarding/impactful jobs one can take on. However, make sure you are able and willing to make the time commitment, along with giving 100 percent of your effort. The worst thing one can do is to just have one foot in the door. This gives off a vibe that you don’t consider it a priority and it could have negative implications on the ones you are mentoring. Understand that this process is about having a genuine, positive impact on others which they in turn, can pay forward to the next generation. Also, keep in mind that mentoring others doesn’t only mean that you give your knowledge to others. There is a common misconception that mentoring is one-sided. In reality, the amount you receive is just as much if not greater. Mentoring can open your mind and introduce you to so many amazing and inspiring stories and people. You should both grow and develop. And you should both make a friend for life. Mentoring isn’t just a job. It is a job of fulfillment and true, lasting impact.

Leadership Training: The Difference Between Growth and Stagnation

Most business owners and people in power positions would like to consider themselves as strong, competent and effective leaders. The ones who get it right, understand the importance of developing their skills even after they have been awarded a leadership position. However, unfortunately there are those who choose to halt their growth after reaching the top of the hierarchy.

In my opinion, leadership training and education is something that needs to be practiced on a consistent basis. It helps one unlock his or her full potential and creates an overall atmosphere of equality amongst an organization. If the same methods are being learned and implemented from the top down, it helps create unity and respect amongst all hierarchical levels. The bottom line is, effective leadership is firmly at the core of sustained success.

Two main arguments against leadership training may be: 1) it takes up to much time, and/or 2) it cost too much financial resources. The second part is a very silly argument in my mind, but one that a number of organizations may present. With that being said, aspiring leaders always have the option of open learning. This process allows one to gain leadership training outside of standard business hours. Open learning requires one to study during their own time and at their own pace, moving through a training course and/or other form of education at whatever pace suits best. This means that one can structure their learning around their current life commitments. However, in order for this method to be effective, one must be fully committed and convinced that consistent leadership training is vital to the organization’s success. This often involves submitting to the fact that we don’t know it all; along with setting aside one’s ego ( which isn’t an easy task for many people in higher-up positions).

Most people in the leadership realm are familiar with John Maxwell. He has build a career for himself as one of (if not the most) successful and followed leadership developers. On his podcast, he referenced leadership as being a journey, not a destination. And according to Maxwell, “Consistent growth is key to great leadership. Your family, your organization, and your team depend on it. Most people just look at growth as a season or a means to an end, but good leaders don’t stop growing.” This statement further proves the importance for constant growth and development while striving for and/or holding a leadership position. The bottom line is, growth is a necessary process for consistent success, competence and credibility. When one chooses to stop growing, their days are numbered whether they realize it or not.

‘Road Work Ahead’: The Difference Between Leading and Managing

It is a common belief that management and leadership are the same role. While it is true that often a manager also plays the part of the leader, these two roles are truly separate in function and in the way they add to the success of a team or organization. By understanding the difference between management and leadership you will become more effective in helping others see what lies ahead along the path towards success.

To understand the difference between management and leadership, consider the construction of a new road. To build that road there are workers, machinery and tools which are all essential in the roads construction. Managers help ensure those workers, machinery and tools work together in the most efficient way possible. A manager makes sure those workers are properly trained, competent, motivated, rested and have a clear understanding of the tasks needing to get done. The manager has the same mindset in regards to the tools and the machinery. He or she has to make sure that they are working correctly and that the workers are able to use them efficiently and safely. This is the role of management in a nutshell. On the other hand, a leader makes sure that the road is going in the right direction before the construction begins. That leader also monitors conditions to ensure that the road under construction is still the correct one and that the organization isn’t putting efforts into the wrong place while wasting time and resources.

How does this affect you as a leader? Are you spending your time managing people when you should be making sure that the road ahead is the correct one? As an effective leader, one must present a clear vision and a trail you are willing to walk on first and foremost. While there are times when it is appropriate for a leader to fill a management role, it is crucial to understand the difference between leadership and management so you can be effective no matter which role you happen to be acting in. If you are a leader overseeing other branch managers, it is important that you provide them with the correct perspective so they may be effective in their management role. Don’t manage the managers. Lead them.

If you are not in a formal leadership role, it is also important that you understand that when a leadership opportunity arises there is a difference between being a leader and managing the effort. Even if you end up filling both sets of shoes it is key to understand the difference in roles in order to fill them effectively. If, on the other hand, you learn how to lead by showing people that you are walking down the right road, you will become a natural leader and will be able to help your team find their correct road to success.