Category Archives: Leadership

Created to Create

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Recently while teaching a class of eager college students, one young person stated unapologetically and in no uncertain terms his belief that, “We were created to create.” His rather emphatic statement sparked a great discussion, including the question about purpose. While it is not so surprising that a group of college students in a World Religions course would erupt into serious discussion around purpose or why any of us are here in the first place, it is very interesting that more and more corporate executives are landing on this precise question – “What is My Purpose?”

The fact is many executives are not only seriously considering the question, but also understanding the connection between purpose and superior results. Even more interesting, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested that clarity of purpose fueled by courageous pursuit tops the list of the most important priorities in leadership development. Truthfully, this helps me breathe a sigh of relief, as I have been helping others find purpose professionally and personally for as long as I can remember – long before I myself embraced true purpose and took courage to make a career change after two decades in the practice of law. That said, it seems only fitting that today I address the issue of purpose since I am preparing in a few short weeks to lead a group of University professionals down the path of answering this very question.

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “Am I fulfilling the purpose for which I was called and created?” Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are in this world by accident or that you were not uniquely designed to fulfill a particular purpose. There is a reason for your existence, and it is the privilege of each of us to find our road to purpose.

Perhaps you have asked yourself the question over and over again with few answers. Like my students, I suggest it is a question greater than you and best left to the Creator. But there are a few things you might consider. Have you slowed down long enough to hear your life’s call? Sometimes the key is in quietly shutting out the noise of life so that you might hear what life is saying. Don’t be afraid to look back over your life. Life really does speak. Look at the places you frequent, the things outside of you that bring you joy, the kind of people and things that draw you as well as the people and things to which you are drawn. Volunteer your time giving back; get involved in a project about which you have great passion or concern. Listen, listen, listen, and listen even more. Get in the habit of listening for life at all times. Listen to conversations you have with others; listen to the conversations you have with yourself; and listen to the conversations between others. Life’s goal is not to hide your purpose. Rather, it is to call you and then usher you into purpose. Your responsibility is to get into a place where you can absolutely hear the call.

Ask, seek, knock, listen, and when life speaks be prepared to take up the challenge life places before you. Become a more critical thinker, and give your best to each day life gives you. Expand your dialogue with others, and do not be afraid to ask (of those you trust) what they see in you understanding you were Created to Create.

williams_geneace09_v3  Until Next Time, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

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The Good In Giving

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At some point in life, most of us are tempted to become weary in well-doing. The weary temptation may be especially true in the lives of those who have given unselfishly in a life of service to others. You might want to know how long it will take before you experience the breakthrough that you have been seeking. Despite the lure, you must hold fast and not give in to the weariness temptation. It is true we reap what we sow, and it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Perhaps it is time for those of us who are known by the title leader to view giving and serving through a different lens. Instead of viewing giving from the perspective of how much we are blessing someone else through our gift, it might be more fruitful to consider the ability to give as a gift itself. In that way, giving would be as much a blessing to the giver as it is to the recipient.  In other words, if we look at the opportunity and privilege of giving as a gift to the giver, it could positively impact our thinking about the value in giving or the value in doing good.

Expressed another way, gratitude has been defined as thankfulness or the state of being grateful. Most often, however, it is a response to having been the recipient of something tangible. Yet, there is another way in which to consider the significance of gratitude. What if we were more grateful for the opportunity and privilege of being able to give and make a difference in the lives of others? I imagine it could transform the source of our joy. After all, transforming our source of joy could very well lead to a greater sense of gratitude.  Recognizing the gift inherent in giving speaks volumes about the true nature of gratitude.

williams_geneace09_v3 Until Next Time, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

An Age-Old Truth!

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Last week, I started on a journey to offer insight on Leadership as Process.  I suggested that whether you are a born leader or were born to lead, all leaders experience transformation on some level.  Thus, I maintained leaders are “formed for success” from the inside  out.

As I set down this week to deliver on my promise to further discuss Leadership as Process, I recalled the words of my friend – “all of life is a process.”  In turn, I thought perhaps it would be beneficial to begin by delving a bit deeper into what Process – in this context – really means.  Process, I contend, is a series of specific actions that produce or lead to a particular outcome.  The same can be said of leadership; how far you are able to go and what you are able to accomplish depends largely on knowing your desired outcome, charting the course to reach your ultimate goal, and taking the necessary steps to get there. Process is action oriented and outcomes driven.  In other words, Process has an end in mind. At the same, time, it is characteristically dynamic – suggesting that Process in Leadership is not static but nimble enough to withstand corrective measures when necessary.

In preparing this week’s post, I thought about what this all means in real life application and immediately remembered my many years of experience as a litigator.  Whenever I started with a new case, I would sit with my case, study it inside and out, develop a litigation strategy, and outline specific steps to follow with one – and only one – goal in mind – winning.  To win as a leader, I propose, requires a System or Process by which you choose to live and operate.  That system or process is essential in the lives of leaders, as it becomes formation in action.

In that way, Leadership is a Process of formation.  It is individual, inside out work that develops, shapes, changes, refines, reforms, transforms, molds, and prepares. Unlike external work, which is temporal, true formation work lasts, as the internal is infinite.  That is – true formation is transforming and transformative.  It is an outgrowth of a continual and critical model of self and life reflection that will provide you an opportunity to learn as well as grow. In short, the greatest leaders understand they are shaped for the better by life’s experiences—something I term experiential formation.

Experiential formation teaches experience is life’s greatest instructor. But experience can be the best teacher only when we learn the lesson an experience was designed to teach. Nothing happens in life apart from experience. Often whether young or more mature we become our expe­rience—good, bad, or indifferent, as experience shapes, forms, and reforms, and life is made up of a series of experiences.

One of the many experiences you may encounter as a leader in the formation process involves what may feel like moments of exile. Resist the temptation to define yourself by your exile.  Understand your response while in exile will character­ize you. Be assured that wilderness moments are temporary.  Wisely use your time to traverse the rough places in ways that foster and encourage listening, learning, and growing.  Understand the power, meaning, and depth of transformation that is often commu­nicated in the whispers of the quiet, and avoid the temptation to run, sprint, jog, or dart from the very idea of spending time alone. Rather, comprehend the value that is gained for your journey during the quiet and time of reflection.

Evaluate life expe­riences as well as how you respond to them as a means of better understanding behaviors, patterns, growth (or lack thereof), and opportunities for further development in your walk as a leader. The result, I hope, will be that you come to appreciate that wise leaders use their experience as a catalyst for growth and development. They understand the value in lessons learned and turn tragedies into triumphs and testimonies to encourage others on their own roads of life.  This I would offer is the dynamic aspect of “Process” mentioned earlier.

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In truth, wise leaders leverage experience for a greater good and view the setback as a setup allowing them the opportunity to operate in an even greater space and pave the way for exponential impact. Unfortunately, absent close assessment, experiences are often repeated because the intended lesson has gone un-interpreted. The value of expe­rience can often be gained only through close and critical examination, and the greatest leaders allow their experiences to aid them on the inside out journey of becoming even greater contributors in the lives of others.

Thus, Leadership as Process requires we each take steps similar to those I took for years preparing to win a case… Sit with life, study and understand who you are and your specific goals for your life as leader. Develop a strategy for where you want to go along with the specific steps you will follow to get there.  Take the twists and turns of experience as a teacher in the refining process, and never be afraid to begin again.  As I suggested last week – Everything Begins With a Start…

Until Next Week, Best Wishes On the Journey… Dr. G

williams_geneace09_v3  Dr. Geneace Williams, Esq.

Excerpts borrowed with permission from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line by: Geneace Williams.

Original Copyright © 2013 Geneace Williams.                                                        Edited Edition Copyright © 2015

Leadership – “InSide Out”

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For those who regularly read my blog posts about leadership and life, you know I am often inspired around life’s deepest ‘matters’ by the energy and power derived through engagement and dialogue with others. And this week is no different, as I was inspired while having my annual birthday lunch with a friend. She gave me a simple reminder that sent me on a “thought binge” about leadership and growth. You should also know that I highly value the strength in living and “leading” a fully integrated life. Here is what my friend said to me: “all of life is a process.” Immediately, I thought about Leadership and the value in viewing Leadership as “Process.” As such, my wish for you is that over these next two Weekly Wisdom Blog posts you will be able to further glean how you can apply this teaching to your life while connecting leadership to core values and actions that create great leaders.

In full disclosure, the conversation with my friend reminded me of a piece I wrote not so long ago on leadership and formation and the critical connection through a process often termed trans-formation. Not so ironically, I was also reminded of last week’s post entitled Living Your Legacy, which highlighted Five Living Essentials for creating a life-transforming legacy to impact the lives of others.  Indeed, the components of The Five Essentials are a part of the theory of formation I discuss this week.  Here I share portions of the former writing on formation, which views leadership as an important Inside-Out “Process.” I invite you to continue to analyze the many facets of leadership as we grow together.

Here is Part I:

The question was once asked – are leaders born, or can one learn to lead?  I contend there is truth in both camps.  But whether you are a born leader or born to lead, you must experience transformation on some level in order to be an effective leader.  In my work with leaders from many walks of life, I always suggest the best leaders are formed to meet success.

Formation is a kind of re-formation that leads to trans-formation.  In other words, formation is serious business that requires you to abandon comfort for tough internal work that promises to challenge your thinking and prepare you to operate at a different level. You will know you are ready for formation work when you are equipped to confront the possibilities that exist beyond your level of comfort and are willing to embrace the fact that positive change presup­poses confronting your growing edges. Likewise the leader who desires authentic and transforming growth is primed to resist the temptation to remain or become anesthetized by life’s challenges and/or its successes. Instead they are motivated to move as if life itself is depending on their will­ingness to pursue the journey of growth called formation.

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Formation is a moral imperative both in life and leader­ship. As such, true formation work is a prompter inviting you down the path of setting values and ethical boundaries by which you will live and lead. It is a dynamic, continual process fueled by receipt of input and feedback, both inter­nal and external, and it requires responding in an active manner.  In essence, it is a journey that occurs over time.

Formation happens at the point of intersection between intentionality and authen­ticity, two of the five living essentials discussed in last week’s blog. Intentional leaders concern themselves with who they are and the path they travel. An authentic leader is genuine beyond the surface and ever seeking her true self while working to live a purposed life shaped by a personal philosophy of integrity. With crucial ties to integrity, moral consciousness and ethical patterns are the rules of law in formation. Said another way, rules of law are standards and boundaries by which one chooses to live, and the work of formation suggests integrity, honesty, morality, virtue, honor, and service.

With these opening thoughts on the critical nature of formation in leadership, I will pick up next week with more in reference to Leadership as Process, but first I invite you to challenge yourself to do the following over the next few days:

  • Identify an area in your life wherein you desire to or know it would be beneficial for you to grow.
  • Focus on that one area over the next week.
  • Identify at least one thing you will do intentionally to spark growth in this area of your life.  Don’t be afraid to set your bar high. As I often say, you must abandon comfort to experience the extraordinary.
  • Once you have set your goal, begin your work, and remember – EVERYTHING BEGINS WITH A START…

williams_geneace09_v3    Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey! Dr. G

Excerpts borrowed with permission from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line by: Geneace Williams.

Original Copyright © 2013 Geneace Williams.                                                   Edited Edition Copyright © 2015

Living Your Legacy

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In life, we often hear talk of legacy associated with a famous person who has passed on. For a longtime now, however, I have contemplated the question of legacy, spoken on legacy, and written about it.  In conversations with clients and those I have the privilege of mentoring, I am certain to ask – “What impact do you desire to have achieved once your work on earth is done?”  And I personally practice what I preach by asking myself the legacy question at the conclusion of my work with others. It goes something like this, “What value did I add that is certain to outlive the work I have done here?”  I ask these questions not to focus on the accomplishments of the leader.  Rather, the impetus for such questions is to turn the attention toward the people a leader has the chance to impact.  In other words, what have you done with the gift of opportunity to positively impact the lives of others – both now and into the future?

After a recent speaking engagement, I was humbled to hear one of the leaders in the room comment openly on how she had been helped when I raised the legacy question with her in preparation for her move into the role of President for the organization.   Frankly, her critique of the value of being asked the legacy question “up front” inspired this week’s discussion.

Truthfully, when I first embraced the idea of legacy leadership as a tool in my work, it was a lot like talking about legacy after a person had passed on, as it was an “after the fact” question.  Conversely, in more recent times, I have been able to help others experience the greater value of asking and answering the legacy question at the point of engagement, instead of at the end.  This path allows others a more clear opportunity to set specific goals on approaching an assignment in a manner that will yield the greatest impact in the lives of others.

Beyond simply asking the legacy question, specific action steps are necessary.  There are, I argue, five action steps or better Five Living Essentials for creating a life-transforming legacy to powerfully impact the lives of others.  I call them the Five Living Essentials because they must come alive and be lived in order to make a real difference.  You might want to jot them down for personal application.

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Intentionality – Intentionality in leadership means you approach leadership intending to achieve something great. You do nothing by accident; rather, you operate from a well thought out and written strategy and plan of action.  In other words, the best leaders live with purpose.  The intentional leader searches to find the precise reason they live on this earth and are deliberate about the journey to achieve just that.  When intention meets purpose, it sets the stage for transformation, and authentic leadership is born from life’s transformational moments.

Authenticity – Authentic leaders are true to the person they say they are and practice ‘what you see is what you get’ type leadership.   These leaders refuse to profess one lifestyle while living another.   As such, authentic leaders immerse themselves in self-awareness and self-development and emerge more mature with the ability to remove the masks that prevent them from walking in purpose and developing into the unique persons they were intended to be.  As an authentic leader, you will ably express vulnerability thus inspiring others to do the same.  In fact, authentic leaders admit wrong and embrace change.  Instead of simply imitating others, authentic leaders boldly live life as they were created to live.  In doing so, these leaders are more capable of being their true selves with others.

Transparency – Transparent leaders operate from a place that allows the light of their innermost selves to be seen by others, as they are marked by the uncanny ability to be candid and open with self and others.  In short, authenticity is about self-awareness and self-development while transparency is more about self-disclosure or self-expression that allows others to see your true person.  In other words, transparent leaders reveal self in new stratospheres.

Influence – Influence carries the power to produce results, and the most influential leaders realize they both influence and are influenced by others.  Influence is an ethical question about you as a leader knowing and understanding your power to influence or be influenced in an ethical manner.  Power is simply possessing authority, but influence is the ‘know how’ in using power to achieve good.  As such, you strive to know those who are within your sphere of influence and understand you often influence just because you hold the title leader.

Impact – Leaders of impact drive to make a difference in the lives of others.  They are driven by the very possibility of leaving behind for future leaders valuable lessons that will cause them to also become leaders of impact.  Influence is about how a leader uses power.  On the other hand, impact is the result of powerfully using influence in an ethical manner.

In whatever role you work, live, or play, it takes all of these elements to create legacy, and to be distinguished as a leader.  Which elements have you already embraced?  Which ones do you yet have to adopt?  What will be your legacy?

williams_geneace09_v3 Until Next Week, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Be a Bridge

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This past week while on campus at Benedictine University to teach my usual Business Law course, I noticed a huge gray wall constructed in the middle of the hallway in the Kindlon building where class is being held. It caught my attention because it is a recent addition to the décor: one not there even the week before. While many words were inscribed on this wall, four in particular stood out – Build Bridges not Walls. The wall and those four little words, prominently displayed, nearly stopped me in my tracks leaving me to ponder – how could I possibly share the significance of the imagery now embedded in my mind. Here I was minding my own business on my way to teach a class when I glanced at this wall and found inspiration staring back. With so much racing around in my head, I could hardly make it home from class fast enough to jot down the thoughts that had been occupying my mind the entire evening. I knew then as I know now this topic is ripe for discussion.

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For certain the inscription got me to thinking not only about how I live my life, but also about the real impact of those four little words on how we all choose to live our lives. Do walls of indifference and separation surround us, or are we drawn together by a bridge built to overcome difference and divide? Quite frankly, this prompted me to recall a line from my first book on leadership – “you must get out of the boat in order to walk on water and move from the side of the road to build a bridge.” It was a line I had penned to encourage and inspire others toward the value in leadership as sacrifice. What I meant was in order to achieve something of significant proportion we must contribute something of import to the lives of others.

This momentary experience had taken me to a contemplative place connected to the transformational significance of bridge building to overcome the divide between people, places and things. Indeed this four-word phrase, captured on a wall for the general consumption of college students – and apparently all who visit campus, – had and has the power to bring about change in the world in which we live transforming it for the better and for all. But words alone are powerless to transform. It takes people to drive transformation. And I was left with this one pregnant question that perhaps you too are inspired to raise with self – what am I doing to build a bridge or better “be a bridge?” What am I doing to be a bridge to people who do not think like me, look like me, act like me, respond like me, or even have the privilege of living like me, but who are people nonetheless? What good have I sown into the lives of others causing me to reap a harvest in kind? What will I do tomorrow on behalf of an-other different than what I did today?

As I turn the page to close this blog, I am reminded of a physical bridge of significant US history located in Selma, Alabama. This weekend thousands of Americans from across the country have gathered to commemorate “Bloody Sunday,” a 1965 march for voting rights, wherein marchers attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were beaten and tear gassed at the foot of the bridge never to make it across that day. It is no coincidence that just at the time I am writing this blog people are gathering at this bridge once again, as we still have a ways to go as a nation and for that matter as a world. The importance of a bridge is tied to its symbolism as a structure that overcomes barriers and facilitates safe passage over an obstacle. Thus, one important factor for real transformation is that more of us become bridge builders to help others not only survive, but more importantly thrive. What good have you done today? For whom have you built or become a bridge? If you find you are dissatisfied with your current answer, tomorrow is yet another day!

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Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey – Dr. G

Book Quotes taken from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line with permision.

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Just Say No!

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The popular three-line statement after which this Blog is named was born out of former first lady Nancy Reagan’s passion for discouraging children from experimenting with drugs. Since then, however, “Just Say No” has taken on considerable popularity in an untold number of venues. From credit cards to relationships to the foods we eat, “Just Say No” is a household term that has gained and maintained significant notoriety around the power and importance of saying no. Just googling this simple phrase led me to a website of the same name that is self-described as the “No Community across social platforms.” In short, wherever you find strung together these three one syllable words they are meant to encourage you to say no – where and when appropriate for you.

In reality, however, it is not as easy as it sounds. As I look around the world, I am constantly baffled at how difficult it is for some (including me at times) to say no while others find NO something they deliver with ease. I was reminded of this fact during a conversation with a friend this week wherein she said, “I am amazed at how it is so easy for me to say No to me and yet so difficult to say No to others.” Of course, her statement got me to thinking about the reality of how difficult it is for many to say no – even when it is in their best interest to do so. Whether it is saying no to a family member, friend, employer or client; an organization whose cause we love, or a solicitor who sends an email promising the world in exchange for little or nothing, saying no is a healthy essential in life that allows us to maintain balance and boundaries. It is often said – saying no is easier for men than women; but I dare not tackle that subject in this short blog. My goal is to encourage ALL of us around the growth that is achieved when we learn to give and receive the necessary – No.

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This thought provoking conversation with my friend prompted me to think about how the inability to say no is often associated with an “addiction.” And here I use the term loosely as I am aware the word addicted has its own set of issues and can trigger all types of responses. But hear me out before you hit close and stop reading. I suggest it is possible many have trouble saying no because perhaps we have become a world that is addicted to saying yes. While addicted often points to substance abuse, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary and other sources I referenced, addiction is “to devote or surrender to something habitually,” or as another source recorded – “enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.” The truth is, we find it difficult to say no for a variety of reasons including guilt, pressure from others, co-dependency (a term used by my psychologist friends), threats both perceived and real, and of course our habitual “friend” – fear. And fear, I argue is what keeps us addicted to saying yes. That is, we are often afraid of the outcome if we do not say yes.

But consider the following: In life, we must find balance where we are able to say no to some things so that we can partake in self-care, self-development, and yes self-actualization. If you always say yes to everyone else and what everyone else needs, it is almost a surety you are saying no to yourself on matters that really matter and particularly matters that make you better for achieving what you were born to accomplish. So today, I encourage you to learn the art of saying No, as it is often in the best interest of not only you, but also the person to which you are struggling to say no. If it is a “thing” to which you cannot say no like too much stress or eating too much of the wrong things, you would be surprised the sense of freedom you feel after just the first time of saying No.

So I offer you this “Call to Action.” In the upcoming week, take courage to confront fear by saying No to something you have struggled to say No to and experience a new sense of freedom. Take that newly found freedom and allow it to help you begin to establish healthy boundaries for when you say yes and when it is absolutely OK (in your best interest) to “Just Say No.”

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Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey – Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams