Leadership

Lead with Fireworks

I’ll never forget watching my daughter experience fireworks for the first time. She stared up in awe, jumped up and down, clapped and shrieked as blue and red circles bloomed above the trees in our neighborhood.

“Blue, red, yellow!” she screamed joyfully. When the silence took over and only smoke lingered in the black sky, she was smiling quietly. A spark of wondrous excitement remained in her eyes.

My son, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the light display. He covered his ears, closed his eyes, and asked to go inside. For him, fireworks are nothing more than a disruption. They are loud and usually occur well past his bedtime.

These opposing reactions made me think about leadership, coaching, and inspiring others…shouldn’t it feel a little more like that? Shouldn’t leadership feel incredibly joyful and just a little disruptive?

If you are a hidden leader, you likely feel compelled to share an innovative solution, take a next big step, or simply announce to others a joyful ambition that might, possibly, move your team forward. However, many of us don’t want to disrupt. We worry about how others will receive our contribution.

This is a problem. Leadership consultants Matt Kincaid and Doug Crandall address this issue of silence by explaining who does get heard. “Those who talk well, early, a lot, and loudly earn high status.” This is less of a strategy of how to be heard, and more of a warning of who is not being heard. I wondered,

What ideas remain in the dark because we are afraid to share them?

It’s time start lighting up the sky. Disruption causes us to change ourselves—in both small and dramatic ways. In Adam Grant’s TED talk about nonconformists, he explores the success behind original thinkers. They don’t just generate ideas, they speak up and talk about them. They stand out from others because they take action on changes that are disruptive—and may not even work. They champion these ideas anyway.

Disruptive ideas, like fireworks, are chaotic. They make our current understanding of the world slightly hazy. I’m proposing that we embrace disruption anyway and let it radiate through those around us. Big, passionate, booming ideas—why do we silence them in our own heads?

Leaders must be joyful without restriction. There must be a strong certainty that their ideas are important, even if they meet resistance. Even if people cover up their ears. Even if the idea may not work.

Go ahead and start shaking up the quiet sky—if you don’t, somebody else will.

Think of one thing you want to change that is within reach. (Or maybe not so in reach.) What small (or medium, or big) ideas remain hypothetical within your own internal thoughts?

Speak them so they light up the horizon in all of their vibrant colors.

Don’t worry for a second how much sound you make.

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The 6 Women Leaders You Should Be Following

A typical day for me begins around 5:00 am with a cup of coffee and a few scrolls through social media. Twitter and Facebook are my chosen tools for procrastination before starting my day.

Apparently, I am not alone. A recent survey by Ipsos Mori reveals that we spend 3.6 hours on social media; this is 25% of our waking time. If this is true, I want to use this time purposefully.  Rather than continue with aimless scrolling, I set out to find pages and people that could inspire and encourage me on my journey of discovering my hidden leader.

What I found were many, many Facebook and Twitter pages that inspire, motivate and inform on every topic from business, to writing, to marketing, to simply boosting how we feel when we get up in the morning.

But the majority of them were written or founded by men. I had to ask, “Where are all the women?”

In education the majority of teachers are women, but what about in leadership roles? In corporate America, for example, women hold only about 15% of senior executive positions and 17% of board seats. After some research, I narrowed it down to these six women or companies founded by women that share one common goal; to empower women. They each have a different approach, represent different kinds of content, post regularly, and frequently engage with followers. They all inspire.

All of the women or companies on this list are on many social media outlets. I have included their Facebook and Twitter handles as well as their website information.

The goal is to follow at least one of them on the social media platform of your choosing and personalize your growth this summer.

1. Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal is the founder of Lead from Within, global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City. Lolly Daskal’s new book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is a Wall Street Journal Bestseller. Her Facebook page is a positive mix of quotes and blog post.

She brings an interesting perspective when searching for your hidden leader.

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2. LET’S GROW LEADERS

Karin Hurt is the Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, and author of two books: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She believes that building trust and relationships with people is the only way to lead. Signing up for this Facebook page provides you with a steady stream of content that includes personal stories, videos, podcast and blog posts.

Though provoking questions are frequently posted to engage the audience in the conversation.

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3.  Random Acts of Leadership

Founded by Susan Mazza, Random Acts of Leadership focuses on empowering people to become their best selves. Creating relationships is the key to making a difference and delivering results that matter. The site includes interviews with authors, strategies for improvement and building positive relationships.

This page has an intimate, personal feel.

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4.  Natalie MacNeil

Natalie MacNeil is an Emmy Award-winning media entrepreneur, author of She Takes on the World. She is a mentor to women entrepreneurs at shetakesontheworld.com. where helping women reach their potential and build the lives and a business of their dreams is her passion.

She Takes on the World is a fun, quirky page full of personal insights, encouraging quotes and informational videos.

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5.  Lean In

Lean In is the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to empower all women to achieve their ambitions. The page offers inspiring stories as well as expert advice. The web page, Lean In, offers Lean In Circles, where like-minded individuals can connect to learn and grow together.

This page offers real life stories about women all over the world who are Leaning In to change lives.

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6.  Tiny Budda

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and the site’s editor. Tiny Budda offers simple wisdom for complex lives. It features post written by over a 1,000 different blog contributors. It truly is a community where people share what they’ve been through and what they’ve learned to help themselves and others, it just happens to be online.

You’ll find posts about happiness, love, relationships, change, meaning, mindfulness, spirituality, simplicity, minimalism, letting go, and more.

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I am challenging myself to learn a little bit through social media this summer. I have followed all of the women on this list.

Let me know who you decide to follow and what you learn this summer.

 

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summer bucket list

The Hidden Leader’s Ultimate Summer Bucket List

I absolutely love lists. I love to-do lists, to-read lists, to-dream lists. There is something particularly appealing about “bucket lists.” They have a meaningful excitement to them that reminds us that time is finite. Because the summer months are especially fleeting, I write a bucket list every year for my family. I post it right on my fridge on Memorial Day.

Lists like this help us focus on the things that matter. For my family, it’s watching sunsets and staying up late to see rocket launches. Camping in our backyard, spontaneous road trips, and lots of ice cream and sushi. Any list-lover will tell you that time is everything—use it wisely.

Right now, summer stretches before you in all of its finite glory. And if you haven’t read Kylene Beers’ beautiful letter to teachers to go ahead and embrace their truest self this summer, then read that first. It’s healing.

Then, recharge your momentum and find your hidden leader in the next two months. There is nothing extraordinary on this list. I have found that the most meaningful experiences challenge and teach us in the simplest of ways.

1. Choose to be imperfect.

If you toss and turn at night, replaying conversations and wishing you could redo a part of your day, then you will be pleasantly surprised to know that you are not alone. Even the most confident leaders fear they said or did the wrong thing.

When you fall short this summer, acknowledge the discomfort, and move on. Embrace imperfection by fully accepting your story reel each day, bloopers and all. Don’t waste time trying to edit your mistakes; more forward instead. Start by saying to yourself, “That didn’t go as planned. Let’s see what happens next.”

2.  Focus on joy.

There is just not enough of this. Take time this summer to find out what exactly brings you joy—and what takes it away.

3. Get strategic about something you care about.

There is never going to be a perfect time to take action. Start now. Choose one goal that is deeply important to you and set a plan. Truly commit by asking these two critical questions:

  • Why do I want this?
  • What is the very first thing I have to do to get there?

4.  Read

Read to reset your compass. Books remind us what matters. Start with our summer book list or revisit an old favorite that inspires you just by running your fingers over the worn binding.

Rediscover picture books to gain new perspective on leadership and the kind of leader you want to be. Read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon. Learn what it means to truly embrace imperfection from Molly Lou Melon: a clumsy, buck-toothed, bullied child who doesn’t let anyone shake her belief in herself.

5.  Do one thing that scares you.

Do you have a chicken list? Move at least one thing from that list to your summer bucket agenda. In Beers’ letter to teachers, she tells us to “Find something you can’t do and try. Try and fail. And remember how that feels.”

The other important thing about failing is that you create stories in the process. Leaders need stories, more than anything, to convince others that they have been where others have been. Experience struggle this summer, and be ready to share what it feels like when you are encouraging others to jump into the arena.

6.  Find a new way to manage stress.

It’s impossible to tackle the biggest challenges when stress takes over. Take time this summer to really notice how you respond to stress and make a point to change your reaction. Resolve to keep this in place beyond the summer. Don’t allow “feeling stressed” to become your normal.

7.  Write another bucket list for the upcoming year.

The interesting thing about bucket lists is that it’s not really about what’s on the paper. It’s the idea of looking forward. The compelling reason to get up and lead, even when you feel uninspired or when making progress seems daunting. As you prepare for a new school year, go beyond your usual to-do, to-make, and to-plan lists. Write one more list. Because what you are really writing is your story. Make the chapters matter. 

Comment and tell us what is on your own summer bucket list. How will you find your hidden leader this summer?

Ali

Ali

I am a lifelong educator on a mission to start believing in myself. I write to inspire others to abandon perfection and lead anyway. I am attempting this daily at home as a mom with three toddlers in Berlin, Maryland.
Ali

 

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summer books

10 Books Every Hidden Leader Needs To Read This Summer

          Summer is a great time to redefine yourself as a leader. You can make small changes or completely transform yourself.  If September is a fresh beginning, the summer months are for deciding what kind of beginning you want for yourself.

If you are looking for more joy, bravery or meaning:

leading with imperfection

Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu have been tested by great personal and national adversity, in their book, The Book of Joy, they share their personal stories of struggle and hope. According to them, joy is more than just plain happiness; it’s a state of being. Read their stories and teachings about joy, examine the most recent findings in the science of happiness, and uncover the daily practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives.

 

leading with imperfectionDoes being afraid stop you from being your best self? Adam Kirk Smith explores the 10 most common fears in The Bravest You. With stories and examples, Smith examines the foundation of fear and how to use 5 easy steps to not necessarily overcome the fears, but bravely face them and learn more about who you are and what you are able to accomplish. Discover newfound bravery and the confidence to find your passion and live an extraordinary life.

 

leading with imperfection

In a world obsessed with happiness, why are so many people miserable? Emily Esfahani Smith ask us to examine three questions: What makes life worth living? How do people find meaning in their everyday lives? And how can we build cultures of meaning that allow us to thrive? The Power of Meaning offers a new perspective and a toolkit to help you achieve a life of greater depth and significance.

 

If you want to completely change the way you lead others:

leading with imperfectionPeter DeWitt understands what it takes to build collaborative leadership in schools. He aligns the work of John Hattie’s Visible Learning to school leadership and integrates his own experience, best practices, and research to empower school leaders. In his book, Collaborative Leadership, he provides leaders with strategies to strengthen their practice and build their team’s collective efficacy.

 

leading with imperfection

What’s standing between you and your potential? In The Leadership Gap, Lolly Daskal reveals an interesting and insightful system of how we lead and the gaps associated with our strongest leadership styles. Once you have identified your leadership style and it’s gaps, you can begin to grow towards a better and more efficient leader. You’ll be inspired and invigorated as well as informed.

 

 

Daring Greatly is dense with information on how to combat shame and become leading with imperfectionvulnerable, authentic, and courageous – not just in personal relationships, but at work and with your children as well. Dr. Brené Brown offers a vision that encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives. A must read for anyone who feels a bit closed off from the world and/or the best parts of themselves.

If you want to be inspired by real-life leadership:

leading with imperfection

Turn the Ship Around! is a true story of how a US Navy Nuclear Submarine Commander changed from a “Leader-Follower” style of leadership to a “Leader-Leader” style, where everyone is a leader and is fully engaged in the decision-making for the ship. L. David Marquet offers guidelines to create a workplace where everyone around you is taking responsibility for their actions, where people are healthier and happier, where everyone is a leader.

 

leading with imperfection

In Victor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl examines how the pursuit of meaning allowed him and so many others to endure one of the most difficult burdens in human history: a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl’s story teaches us how anyone can choose to make meaning out of any situation, no matter how bad things are. After reading it you’ll see your own challenges in a different light.

 

leading with imperfection

 Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this memoir about the J. D. Vances’s journey from a troubled, addiction-torn Appalachian family to Yale Law School, Hillbilly Elegy is shocking, gut-wrenching, and hysterically funny. The image that emerges is a complex one and is the cry of a nation in crisis. It is a call to action for greater self-knowledge and personal responsibility.

 

In this rivleading with imperfectioneting memoir, Hand to Mouth, LindaTirado shares in vivid detail what it’s like to be a college graduate in the throes of poverty. Raising important questions surrounding the distribution of wealth in American, she drives home the struggles that so many of our population deal with on a daily basis throughout their lives.  Hand to Mouth is a quick read that could change your perspective or further illuminate what you already know.

Download our summer reading list to take with you to the library or save on your desktop to go directly to Amazon.

Happy Reading!

Ali

Ali

I am a lifelong educator on a mission to start believing in myself. I write to inspire others to abandon perfection and lead anyway. I am attempting this daily at home as a mom with three toddlers in Berlin, Maryland.
Ali

 

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3 reasons why

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Start a Blog (and Why We Ignored Them)

3 reasons why“Sometimes when we dare to walk into the arena, the greatest critic we face is ourselves.”

~Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly

When you finally decide to venture into the arena, you walk a very fine line between courage and panic. Here I am, an almost-leader, thinking I have enough experience about leadership to write about it–and actually hit publish. In the weeks leading up to the start of this journey, the critic inside my head was relentless.

I tried to silence the critic by reminding myself why I am here. I thought about the many hidden leaders in education. I wanted to give them a voice. I was excited by the idea that we could call others to leadership by writing about it as something that absolutely can, and always will be, imperfect. Still, the doubt, fear, and excuses flooded in. It felt easier not to hit publish at all.

It turns out that I was not alone in my self-doubt. When I listened carefully to the dedicated educators around me, I heard things like this:

“There are so many better candidates for that position. I don’t think I’m going to apply.”

“I just don’t feel like what I’m doing is making a difference.”

“I’m not strong enough/smart enough/tall enough to be a leader.”

(Actually, “tall enough” came from me. I’m 4’11 and I used to think this all the time.)

And then a mentor of mine who works outside of the teaching profession shared a confession with me: She said she has always wanted to start her own business, but it was on her “I want to, but I’m too chicken” list. I couldn’t stop thinking about that. How many of us have a list like this? How long are these lists? Why do they even exist?

So many of us feel insecure, inexperienced…and imperfect. Maybe this is the reason so many leaders remain hidden in the first place. There were endless reasons to avoid starting this blog. Here are the three that whisper in my ear the loudest and why I (all of us) should stop listening:

  1. Nobody will read it/approve/support your work/care.

This might be true. However, I like to think of that well-known phrase that was adapted from the movie Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come.” Except my own personal adaptation goes like this:

If you build it, they might come, and even if they don’t, at least you’ve built something.

Success is about getting started, not about lack of failure. This reminds me of my painfully slow 5K when I first started running. I jogged into the finish line while the race organizers were cleaning up the refreshment table. I was deeply embarrassed by this until a friend noticed my shame. She asked, “Do you know how many people are still sleeping?”

Get started. That’s all that matters.

 Shorten your chicken list: Reframe how you look at criticism. Instead of letting it define you, celebrate the fact that you pushed your limits. You will not get criticized or rejected when you stay inside your comfort zone.

      2.  Your ideas will not inspire others.

Drew Dudley, founder of Everyday Leadership, has a very down-to-earth perspective on what it means to be a leader. His TED talk on Everyday Leadership explains how simple it really is to make a difference. We may be overlooking and devaluing the impact we have on others. He said, “We’ve made leadership about changing the world, and there is no world. There’s only six billion understandings of it.”

Of those 6 or so billion, you only need to change one. If you can inspire one student to feel like an author, one colleague to try teaching for another year, one administrator to stick with a vision even when it gets difficult, then according to Dudley, “You’ve changed the whole thing.”

Shorten your chicken list: Pull out your “feel good” folder, and if you don’t have one, start one now. Keep every letter of thanks, student card, principal compliment, or parent email that celebrates your everyday leadership. Reread them anytime you need a reminder that inspiring others is not something that is beyond you.

       3.  You might fail.

I used to have this misconception that leaders had all the answers. You have to know what you are talking about. All the time. What does it even mean to know enough, to be good enough? Nobel prize winner physicist, Niels Bohr, defines an expert as “…someone who has made all possible mistakes in one field and there are no more to make.”

I don’t think I’ve heard a more appealing invitation to fail over and over again. If we look at mistakes as the necessary training for expert status, we might stop trying so hard to avoid them.

Shorten your chicken list: Before you take action, predict three potential ways you can fail. Say them out loud, and then ask yourself, “If I make these mistakes, what is the worst that could happen?” The answer to this question might surprise you.

If you wait until you are fully ready for something, you will never get started. This isn’t about creating a blog, being a writer, or even leadership. It’s about starting. Imperfection is guaranteed. Take one thing from your “I really want to but I’m just too chicken” list and do it anyway.

Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do—but haven’t yet? Tell us about it! Your first step starts right now.

 

Ali

Ali

I am a lifelong educator on a mission to start believing in myself. I write to inspire others to abandon perfection and lead anyway. I am attempting this daily at home as a mom with three toddlers in Berlin, Maryland.
Ali

 

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