Tag Archives: Leadership DASH

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

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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

Kindness Bears Fruit

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During a recent dining experience, I was favored to share a conversation with the Chef/Owner.  I will never forget how he looked me in the face and with all sincerity said, “Kindness alone saved me.”  Needless to say I was so impacted by his statement that I scrambled for a pen to capture this small but profound account of his life.  In just that moment, he had gained my undivided attention, and I wanted more.  His statement moved me so much so that I repeated it and knew immediately it was “ripe” for my upcoming Weekly Wisdom blog post.  He went on to explain how Kindness was the one thing in life that had permeated him to the very depths of his being.  It was kindness that had led him to change and lead a more simple life.  Kindness had inspired him to both eat and live healthier.  Kindness had led him to a greater spiritual existence, and kindness dictated the manner in which he would live out the remainder of his earthly existence.  Wow – there was so much packed into this small but life-altering testimony.  I could hardly wait for time with pen and paper and the opportunity to inspire others with what I had heard this night.  This small town Chicago suburban “restaurateur” had not only served me great food, but also great lessons for life. So, here it is…

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The experience that evening was so powerful it drove me to my dictionary for a closer look.  Classified as a noun, kindness was defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.  In reality, this definition did not come close to capturing the depth of what kindness had clearly accomplished in this man’s life and truth to tell in my life either.  It left a void.  So I turned to the Greek Dictionary where indeed I found my answer.  Translated from Greek, kindness equates to moral excellence suggesting if real in your life kindness will permeate your very existence.  And moral excellence is intentionally setting higher the bar for the manner in which you will live and setting it higher than your comfort zone allowing you to continually stretch toward what is good, just and right as you encounter others.

As I learned from this restaurant owner, kindness is not a matter of how you are served at a restaurant or even that you are served with a smile.  Kindness is a fruit that when properly nurtured, cared for, and pruned, like a healthy fruit tree, can bear life-giving, life-inspiring, and life-transforming fruit.  When kindness exists as fruit in your life, it becomes a part of who you are not just what you do. Kindness is not a box that you can – without more – check completed.  It is more than please and thank you, or being polite when circumstances dictate; more than benevolence, or even philanthropic pursuits.  It is more than patting yourself on the back for lending someone a helping hand.  Kindness is an attitude, belief, and core value.  It is character and integrity.  It is humility and humanity.  Kindness is a difference-maker!  And it reminds me of a quote from my book on leadership that really applies to us all, “Leadership is not advanced by the number of people you encounter; rather, its power is in the depth of the transaction.”  Where do you measure on the making a difference meter?

My hope for you after having read this blog is that you will never be able to view kindness in the same manner and that it will move you to thought AND action. Kindness is a moral imperative for life that reaches capacity within when you so impact the lives of others that they will never be the same as a result of having had an encounter with you.

Quote borrowed from Leadership DASH Breaking Through the Finish Line.

williams_geneace09_v3   Until next week, Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Courage Over Comfort!

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Last week I challenged you to “Fuel Your Passion” by setting an intention that is aligned with what you desire to achieve in life.  That intention, I suggested, must be turned into action steps to move you in the direction of your life’s purpose.  Since last week, I hope you have given yourself permission and time to think about you, as you cannot effectively help others until first you have “tended to self.”

Interestingly, when I sat down to think about what I would share this week, I thought about a quote that is near and dear to me – one that inspires me every time I read it, hear it repeated, or just think of it.  “The Possibility of Extraordinary Begins at the Edge of Comfort.”  Thinking of this quote led me back to the pages of my first book and a discussion about comfort versus courage.   Anyone can walk in comfort, but courage requires an entirely different mindset.  Consider the process of learning to swim.  “In swimming, the instructor starts his student in the shallow end.  The shallow end experience is meant to help the student become less fearful of the unknown, more knowledgeable and comfortable in the water, and at ease with swimming technique.  In essence, a student’s time in the shallow end is designed to teach an important how-to lesson while simultaneously minimizing fear of launching into the deep.  The shallow water is akin to ‘easy’ because a swimmer can reduce risk and difficulty by simply changing his position to a stand.”

“In life, just as in swimming, there are those who have not allowed themselves the gift of release from shallow water thinking.  Shallow water thinking limits one’s imagination.  It prevents you from moving beyond what is comfortable.  It tempts you to continue with things that offer little challenge and stimulus for growth.  It leaves room for fear and doubt and edges out courage.  In fact, it discourages you from pushing yourself to the next level of performance.  It disavows you of faith and champion thinking and certainly limits your ability to accomplish what is beyond your immediate reach.”  Shallow water is the place of comfort, and your time there should be limited and temporary.  It is more than probable an impediment to achieving purpose.  But courage challenges you to release shallow and comfort because the greatest things in life happen outside your comfort zone.

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Today I encourage you to move beyond the familiar and take a step toward the unfamiliar.  Move in the direction of something that is much larger than you – something that challenges you to dig deeper.  There is much more inside of you than you know.  Take a deep breath and march right up to the edge of your comfort zone and let go as if you are approaching the edge of a cliff prepared to jump.  Don’t be tempted to allow fear to talk you into remaining in comfort.  The parachute of life is bound to open.  And there the real work begins…

Quoted material taken from: Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line

 Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams