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Ever wondered if there was an indispensable leadership quality? Probably not one, but a combination defined as one.

Picture this. You have been selected to represent your department at an executive board meeting of your Fortune 500 company. Your mission is to present a proposal for a project your department feels is critical to the organization, and your ultimate goal is to get the boards’ commitment to move forward with the project, along with funding to support it.

On your way to the meeting, you have a flat tire which causes you to arrive several minutes late. In your effort to change the flat tire, you end up looking a bit disheveled, with a coffee stain you were not aware existed on the front of your shirt. Suffice it to say, you do not appear “dressed for success.”

A bit rattled by your late entrance, you fumble awkwardly through introductions, calling a couple board members by a nickname common to their formal name. When you finally sit down, you frantically search for a pen and note paper, clearly noticeable to everyone in the meeting. Not long after the meeting begins, you must dismiss yourself for a “much needed bathroom break.” Not only did you drink too much coffee on your way to the meeting, but the “fight or flight” state you’re in as a result of sensing you’ve made a bad first impression has made it necessary to relieve yourself. As you walk out the door, you see several board members look at one another with disbelief. You know they must be thinking, “How did this person get chosen to present to the board?” Sound like a scene from a comedy film?

The above example is obviously meant to be an exaggeration of what goes on in meetings across the country. While perhaps not quite so obvious, both men and women are broadcasting in subtle (and not so subtle) ways that they do not have what it takes to be tapped for a career path that leads to the executive suite.

Not only do executives lead their establishments, they many times become the public face of accountability for their organizations. And, it is never so noticeable as when stakes are high. For example, let’s look at James Burke, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, during what became known as the “Tylenol Scare” many years ago.

The year was 1982. Somebody when into retail businesses and replaced Extra Strength Tylenol capsules, a product that dominated market share for oral, over-the-counter pain relievers, with capsules laced with 10,000 times the amount of cyanide needed to kill a human being. They then put the bottles back on the shelves. Seven people in Chicago were reported to have died as a result.

Overnight Tylenol went from 37% market share to 7% market share. Was Johnson & Johnson responsible for the tampering? No, of course not. But Chairman James Burke took full responsibility and moved immediately to remove 31 million bottles from the shelves, offering to replace the product with another in tablet form, and to do so free of charge.

As a young woman, I remember watching James Burke when he appeared on The Phil Donohue Show to express his deepest sympathy to the families of those who lost loved ones. I remember him talking about all the steps that the company was taking so that something like that would never happen again. He was caring and empathetic and in complete control after a virtual disaster. The way in which Mr. Burke handled himself during a crisis situation gained him tremendous admiration, not only for his leadership decision to pull Tylenol capsules off the market, but for his forthrightness in dealing with the media. Because of the way James Burke dealt with that tragic situation, both he and Johnson & Johnson became heroes. Burke exhibited the epitome of executive presence. He was authentic, clear thinking, able to quickly do the right thing because it was the right thing to do, and came across as genuinely caring and connected to his “audience” in his communication with the American public.

With this in mind, do you know how you come across to people? As I’ve worked with leaders, executives, and sales professionals over the years, it has become clear to me that the very best leaders have what is called Executive Presence.

What does Executive Presence look like?

It is the look and presentation of a genuine, authentic leader. Executive presence can be described as a type of gravitational pull. It’s largely how others perceive you – are you poised, clear, and confident? What does the full picture of you tell others when they meet you?

True, authentic, quality leaders have a way about them that shows through all of their actions. It says that if they are not in leadership that they should be. They are grounded, focused, and they think and speak with clarity. They continue to develop their mind-set and their skill sets, and discipline themselves to do the kind of thinking needed for high quality and high level work. Because their minds, including both their thoughts and emotions, are disciplined, their actions follow suit and it is apparent through all that they do.

For example, a person with Executive Presence:

• Has expertise, able to demonstrate real competence.
• Possesses a positive mental focus, always looking for the opportunity in every situation, either good or bad.
• Exhibits integrity by walking their talk, asking tough questions, making difficult decisions.
• Invites others to engage and collaborate with them.
• Is known to be reliable – they are prompt and prepared—every time.
• They dress professionally.
• They demonstrate stamina and fitness.
• Their people skills are practiced and honed, able to make others feel comfortable in their presence.
• They communicate clearly and effectively, able to read a person or an audience.
• They are able to command the attention of others.
• They are active listeners, demonstrating a genuine interest in others’ points of view.
• They move with purpose and energy, making the most of every day.

Someone with Executive Presence may have charisma, but those two terms should not be thought of as synonymous; they are not interchangeable. Charisma, or the ability to “wow” a crowd, is an attractive personality trait, but it does not necessarily demonstrate positive leadership ability. Hitler had charisma, but he was anything but an effective leader. A leader can have charisma, but just because someone has it doesn’t mean they have the ability to lead others toward success.

The good news is that Executive Presence is something that can be refined and practiced. Find someone that exudes the traits you want to emulate and learn from them. To be at the top, you must earn the ability to be with those at the top.

Become your own best coach. Ask yourself the following questions:
• How would I rate my people skills on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high)? How would other people rate my people skills?
• What does my body language tell others? Do I come across as congruent? Do I possess self-awareness? Does my body language invite others in?
• Do I move with confidence? Am I poised? Who do I trust to ask for feedback so that I can gain some clarification and insight?
• Do I need to gain skill and confidence in speaking to both small and large groups of people? Am I willing to get myself trained?
• Am I aware of my emotions and am I able to express them at the right time and in the right way?
• Am I an active listener? If not, where can I learn to become one?
• How physically fit am I?
• Am I someone who approaches every situation with positive intentions?
• How committed am I to developing the executive presence I need to become my most effective as a leader?

Someone with executive presence doesn’t need to make their presence known because it simple enters the room when they do, and its absence if felt when they leave.

Salesman trying to convince a doubtful customer showing products in a tablet at workplace

On the path to success and happiness, you are going to meet a lot of people. Some of these are going to be wonderful, supportive, cooperative colleagues with whom your relationship is mutually beneficial. You will see their presence as a support to your success, and you’ll wish the same for them on their own journeys.

Then there are the others who were the inspiration for my book, You Can Teach a Pig To Sing.” These are the less than cooperative, occasionally downright nasty, personalities whose presence and influence you tolerate rather than enjoy. Still, you can expect that many of these less than likable people are going to meet you at some point on your journey, and you will have no choice but to handle the relationship.

Needless to say, managing these relationships with as much finesse as possible is crucial to your success. Furthermore, nobody in any position of influence or authority will ever get there without encountering a person with whom they are at odds. While relationship management in these situations seems impossible in some cases, the fact remains that cooperation must be attained somehow.

However, there is good news.

Your success in dealing with people doesn’t depend on them – it depends on you. You can gain the skills and tools it takes to effectively manage people – difficult or not. Regardless of what a difficult person says or does, the power is in your hands to create positive change. You are in control of your actions at all times, regardless of what anyone else says or does. Here are some ideas to get you started toward effectively managing someone you may be struggling with.

  • Have a vision of what you want your relationship to look like. This is essential, as you are the one who will be the catalyst for change in the strained relationship. What do you need from this person? Is this a working relationship? A “political” one? A personal one?  You do not need to become friends, but what does a functioning relationship look like for you?A client of mine once told me of a difficult colleague she was working with who was interfering with her ability to advance professionally. She didn’t like this man and he didn’t like her, but she had no choice but to work with him. She applied this principle of creating a vision for the relationship. Later, she reported that once she shifted her vision for their interactions, she was surprised at how her mind had come up with creative solutions for managing this difficult person in her life. They had not magically become friends, but she had found ways to work amicably with him in spite of their personality differences. Simply a change of vision from one person was all it took to create a major shift in the relationship.
  • Examine your behavior when you’re around that person. Take a hard, honest look and be prepared to accept that you may be contributing to the problem in some way. People reflect the attitude we present. If you got off on the wrong foot with someone and have stayed there, it’s likely that you are contributing, unknowingly, to the rut you’re in with this person.What do you see in others that you are choosing to not see in this person? (You may not even realize you are choosing it, but you are!) When you see them, do you put up a mental barrier of some kind? What does your body language and facial expression communicate to them? Spoken language accounts for only 10% of communication. The other 90% is all nonverbal, and of course it speaks a great deal more than our words do. What does that crucial 90% of your communication look (and sound) like with this person? Furthermore, if their body language matched yours during a conversation, how would it make you feel?
  • Choose to see the good in your difficult person. This phrase sounds rather cliche these days, so it’s often brushed aside while we wait for the newest pearl of wisdom, and that’s a shame. Because truthfully this is an essential skill for any leader. You must choose to see those with whom you work as exceptional, because in some capacity, they are. The way that you choose to see a person will be reflected in the way that you treat them, whether you realize it or not. I once read that 95% of our actions are based on our thoughts. So, spend some time in reflection, and find a redeeming quality in this person. Fixate on it, and choose to genuinely appreciate it.

When managing a difficult relationship, always start with yourself. You are one half of that relationship after all. Choose to be deliberate about managing yourself to achieve your vision, and you may just be surprised at the results you see.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I need to contribute more of to this relationship?
  • What do I need from this person that I’m not currently getting? (It’s hard to manage how we express ourselves if we don’t know what thoughts and emotions are driving us.)
  • When I think of this person and our interactions, do I expect the best or the worst? Why?
  • What strategies have I tried to effectively manage this relationship that has failed?
  • What is my next step with your problem person?

To enhance your personal and business success and happiness, why not choose to take action to turn a difficult relationship around. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

As Amelia Earhart once said: The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.


Man about to walk over precipice on SUCCESS word bridge. Dream sky and mountains. Motivation, ambition, business concept.

Success – how do we achieve it? In all my years of working with successful people, I’ve never had anyone scratch their head in amazement and tell me: “I have no clue how I got here! I just woke up today and I was a complete success! I guess I must just be one of the lucky ones, huh? It sure does feel good to bask in the glow of my non-achievements.”

Doesn’t that sound preposterous?

We may laugh thinking about the absurdity of this hypothetical conversation. However, the truth is that many people fail to recognize the steps a successful person has taken in order to make those tremendous gains. Or we may minimize the importance of what they did to get where they ended up. We only see the success or influence or the positive reputation that person enjoys that comes with their success. We didn’t see the growth that took place in secret, behind closed doors, within the battlefield of the mind.

I often speak at conferences on the topic of how to rise to the executive suite. Many people who attend those meetings are looking for career advancement or increased influence; they want to be experienced as a “cut above.” They come looking to discover the “magic bullet” that will help them get where they want to go—faster.

Success – true success – doesn’t just happen to those who are “lucky”. True success is intentional, designed, planned, focused, and worked hard at with grit and commitment to achieve goals and fulfill on a personal vision. Dr. Ruth Shaw, retired CEO of Duke Energy and one of twelve top leaders I interviewed for my book, The Unstoppables, knew that there was much she wanted to accomplish in her life. With only so many hours in the day to get things done, she knew she needed to monitor what she did and when. She learned to prioritize, self-manage, carefully select role models and mentors. She clarified what was most important to her and focused her efforts on achieving tangible results in those areas of priority.

Successful people, like Dr. Shaw, often talk about their journey to personal fulfillment with fondness, sharing how they persevered and benefited from the help and counsel of others, as well as from a stroke of wisdom. They speak more to the tune of “I was clear about what I wanted, expected the best from myself, focused, worked hard, sought good advice, learned from my mistakes, spent time in quiet contemplation, and followed my own ‘True North’. It’s been a long journey, but well worth it. I have no regrets.”

Let’s hit rewind and go back to the beginning of a successful person’s journey. This person may be successful in their career, marriage, parenting, personal development, spiritual growth or any combination of areas.

Believe it or not, people that you would label “successful” in any area never started out that way. Everyone who made it to the top once started out at the bottom. I once heard someone say, “The master was once a disaster.” Everyone made mistakes, had failures. Most who rise to the top in their profession, started out a little rougher around the edges. They may have been a bit less refined, skilled, poised, and confident.

Even though it might seem foreign to you to see a successful person you know in this light, we all know that nobody is born successful. With potential? Yes. But successful? No. Each took personal responsibility for their own success.
Ruth Shaw talked about this very thing, and noted the difference between personal and positional power. She had this to say:

You really have to take responsibility for yourself. The personal
competence, confidence, skills and connections that you develop
are yours; they belong to you, all of them. When you leave a job
and go to another one, or you leave that job to stay home, you will
take those skill sets, those relationships, that history of what you
did with you….

A lot goes with the position itself, and is it NOT about you. It is about
the authority, the power, and the connections that that position holds.
So, try to stay clear in your own mind about the difference. Nurture
those things that are all about you and respect those things that go
with the position itself.

If you truly want to be successful, be your own best coach. Begin my asking yourself these questions:

• What do I want to do?
• What steps do I need to take to get where I want to go?
• What kind of character will I need to develop?
• What knowledge and skill sets do I need to attain?
• What sacrifices will I need to make?
• What did other successful people do that I can replicate?
• How can I learn from those who are successful and whom I admire for their integrity?

These are big questions that no one else can answer for you. Furthermore, each person’s success journey is unique to them, but, many times, we can learn from the individual stories of others.

What I can say, however, is that all the successful people I have ever spoken with all started with the same thing, and they grew from there.

They had a vision of what was possible.
They saw what could be rather than what was.

So, for instance:
• Their career was slow to start and they envisioned a thriving business.
• Their marriage was struggling and they envisioned a healthy relationship.
• Their kids were rebellious and they envisioned a healthy family.
• They felt the weight of their personal development rut and they envisioned themselves with the personal traits they desired.
• Spiritually they were stagnant, and they envisioned the fullness they desired.

Their first step was all the same: they had in their mind a clear picture – or vision – of what they wanted, and they applied focus and concentration. From that starting point, the steps required to achieve success in any arena tend to be similar. Each step to success could fill a book on its own, but none of those steps can ever be realized without the crucial first one.

Wherever you are, your starting point simply is what it is. Your potential lies in your ability to see beyond what is in front of you, and your ultimate success will depend upon your willingness to do what it takes to see your vision come to fruition.

Walt Disney summed it up beautifully: All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

Couple of Latin people with resume in hand, interviewing a job candidate in a meeting room

“Mindfulness” seems to be the new buzzword of the day, and for good reason. It could be key to your success. Communities are promoting classes in mindfulness, and they claim all kinds of benefits as a result of its practice. Time Magazine made it the topic of their cover in the summer of 2014, and it was so popular that it’s recently made a comeback on store shelves. Mindfulness is a concept that’s catching on, and not a moment too soon. So, what exactly is it?

Mindfulness is, essentially, being aware. Some call it a type of meditation. It is the deliberate focus of one’s energy on the present moment and nothing else. It can be useful as a time of reflection, slowing pace, redirecting our efforts, or simply taking a mental pause from the busy distractions of life. Science is showing that it has tremendous benefits that range from physical healing to a potential cure for depression. It is also said to increase our brain function in immeasurable ways.

Why is mindfulness gaining traction in in the U.S? There are probably many reasons, but some believe it is catching on because so many Americans are unbelievably busy. Most people are constantly going and going, without thought or consideration of where exactly their direction is leading them. They often spin in circles, focus ever shifting, while never really gaining any traction or moving forward. Sound familiar?

Our busyness is sabotaging our clarity and long term focus, and ultimately our potential to achieve at the highest level. People are now realizing it.

Take for example, something as simple as an introduction. Have you ever considered how much time you spend being someplace other than where you are? Just the other day a woman I met at a meeting said to me, “I know I just met you, but forgive me. What is your name again, please?” I knew exactly what had happened to her because I’ve allowed it to happen to me, too. She wasn’t really present to the moment when my name was spoken. It wasn’t that she didn’t remember. She never heard my name in the first place.  Has that ever happened to you?

How often do you stop the spin cycle of life, evaluate where you are, give your mind a rest, and re set your compass? Furthermore, what’s to gain from doing so (aside from actually hearing someone’s name when they are introduced to you)?

One of the critical and sorely understated benefits of the practice of mindfulness is mastery over our own emotions. It should go without saying that leaders (I define a leader as anyone who wishes to influence others) must have the ability to manage their mind. We cannot forget that our outer world is simply a reflection of our inner world. So, without this essential skill, we choose to be simply slaves to primal instinct or habits that do not serve us. Emotions are a valid and real part of the human experience, but they’re unpredictable and inconsistent. Furthermore, they are not truth. We can feel something very strongly, but that feeling does not predictably represent or reflect any sort of truth. Nobody will ever follow a leader who is as erratic as their emotions.

A leader must be stable and consistent. Stability and consistency are not inborn personality traits. They are learned disciplined habits that require intentional practice and refinement. How do we acquire these skills and traits? By reflection, accountability, clarity, focus, practice, and discipline. Consequently, these are all things that mindfulness is said to help with.

Business, leadership, entrepreneurship, and their accompanying responsibilities require a lot of work. They take deliberate clarity, focus, concentration, and sometimes real grit. If you are one of those busy Americans, why not choose mindfulness, essential for you to develop your full potential.

Be your own best coach. Spend time in personal reflection. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) How often do I give myself a mental break to refocus?

2) What benefits could I gain from mindfulness, or a similar type of intentional mental relaxation and focus?

3) What is my current struggle with regards to mastering my emotions?

4) If I could enhance my awareness of my emotions and exercise more control of how I express them, what impact could that have on my ability to influence?

Group Of Business People Having Meeting In Office

• Would you like to consistently grab the attention of your audience, prospect, or client before you open your mouth?

• Have you ever wondered why some people make an instant connection with others, while many folks struggle to be heard?

• Did you ever wonder why certain people enter a room and, without saying a word, others notice them and think to themselves, “Now there goes someone with star quality!”

What is it about some people that allows them to not only grab, but maintain that kind of attention and almost instant credibility? Personal Presence.

If you’d like to be that person, here are a few things to consider:

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Leader: Finishing well matters!

It’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters!

December, with the close of another year, is a time of reflection: What have I accomplished? What have I failed to get done? What do I want to finish in the coming year? In a reflective mood, thoughts often zero in on relationships that need repair or developed in order to move forward with creative energy, as unhealthy relationships drain power and impinge on productivity. Think of the energy surge you’d experience knowing you finished the year with healthy, intact relationships at home and at work, producing internal peace and a synergy that affected everyone and everything around you.

Naomi Rhode, one of twelve women leaders interviewed for my book, The Unstoppables, talked about finishing well. She said, “I’d like my legacy to be meaningful conversations and things that are done well, done excellently, with eloquence and with class. I believe we should think about finishing well. Some questions might be: “How do you finish well, not just in life, but how do you finish well in your relationship with your mother-in-law? With your children? In every aspect of your life? How do you finish well so that when you get to the final stages of life, you will indeed finish well?”

As a leadership speaker and executive coach, much of my focus is on relationships, the bedrock of leadership. And, perhaps like you, I’ve learned the most about how to have healthy relationships through painful personal experience. For me, my relationship with my father was the best teacher.

Growing up with my father was not always easy. He was often demanding—expecting every job to be completed and to be done right. Whether it was drying the dishes, scrubbing the floor, raking the leaves, shoveling the snow from the drive in the winter, writing a term paper, or something as simple as addressing an envelope, nothing less than completion and excellence was expected. When I was a teenager, his personality rankled me, and more than once my interactions with him left me feeling frustrated and miserable. Little did I realize how his insistence on finishing well would lead to no regrets when my father died.

After speaking for the Michigan Assisted Living Association on the topic of creating great relationships, a woman from the audience came up, put her arms around me, and with tears in her eyes whispered, “You have no idea what your words meant to me today. I am forty-seven years old and have been battling with my mother for years, and today, for the first time, I realized that she will never change. It’s up to me if I am to have the relationship I want with her.” She realized her part in finishing well with her mother.

A couple of weeks later, a young man who works on a physicians’ team emailed me to say that he’d read my book, You CAN Teach a Pig to Sing – Create Great Relationships…with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere, and it brought tears to his eyes as he realized the part he’d played in contributing to a miserable relationship with his boss. He said that one simple idea allowed him to see his boss in a whole new light, relieving a mountain of stress he’d been carrying around. He now understood his role in finishing well with his boss.

I don’t know about you, but today I like to finish well at anything I do, whether it be finishing a speech or a consulting job or work with a coaching client or participation in a 5K walk (no, I’m not a runner). Finishing well with my father meant that I needed to change. It meant allowing my father to be who he was without expecting him to be different. It meant loving my father and honoring him by focusing, not on the things that irritated, but on all the incredible gifts he poured into my life (albeit, I didn’t know it at the time)–things like standards of excellence, honesty, generosity, loyalty, commitment, resilience, courage, and faith–the list goes on. These were all things my siblings and I learned simply by having the good fortune to be raised by loving parents who cared about “finishing well,” whatever the job. And I was determined that I wanted to finish well when it came to my relationship with my father.

I could share a number of examples to illustrate how our often contentious relationship changed over the last 10 years of his life due to changes that I made, but my father’s parting words to my son Joey the day before my father died says it best. Joey went into my father’s bedroom to say goodbye, and emerged with tears streaming down his face. “Mom, Grandpa said, ‘Joey, your mom is an angel; she’s always been here for your grandma and me. She’s the strong one in the family and you need to know that about her. Take good care with your mother; she deserves nothing less.’”

I don’t believe that my father could have said that 10 years earlier. Thank God he lived to be old enough for me to mature enough to make it possible for me to say at the end of his life, “Yup, my dad and I, we finished well.”

I’ve read that only about 30% of leaders finish well. As a leader in your organization—home, business, place of worship, or community—I am convinced you want to be a part of that 30%, whether it be finishing well in your career, a job, a project, or a relationship. To be an enduring positive influence (something most leaders hope to achieve) requires a commitment to finish and to finish well.

Leader: Be your own best coach. Consider your answers to these questions:

1) In each area of your life, are you on track to finish well?  If not, what areas need a renewed commitment from you?

2) What do you need to change in order for you to finish well?

3) Who do you need to be and what specific actions do you need to take to finish well with each significant person in your life? Spouse? Child? Co-worker? Boss?

4) When will you begin to bring about the change?

Faisal Khosa wrote, “It does not matter how we start, it matters little the colossal mistakes we commit along the way. The only thing we will be judged by is how we finish.”

How do you intend to finish?
I welcome your comments.

Trust - Business Concept

Last week I spoke for a room of approximately 150 leaders. My focus was on the importance of being an authentic leader – someone aligned with your values and what you believe to be morally and ethically right and wrong. My belief is that such alignment breeds trust, fundamental to being the kind of leader others desire to follow. I gave examples from my upcoming leadership book, The Unstoppables, of leaders who were aligned and how that alignment directed their behavior and the decisions they made, and ultimately the positive impact it had on themselves, others and their organization. Several people commented afterwards that the program made them think about how aligned they were and the kind of impact they were having on those they lead.

Our company, The Aligned Leader Institute, defines an aligned leader as someone who acknowledges and is in alignment in all four realms of existence: Spiritual, Thought, Emotional, and Physical. In fact, we have trademarked S.T.E.P UP to Leadership® to indicate the path to effectiveness.  You are an aligned leader (and therefore a trustworthy leader) if you consistently choose to be guided by the invisible realm of the spirit, living life in accordance with universal laws and principles. You are an aligned leader if you live by the values you espouse, and you make decisions based on what you morally and ethically believe to be right and wrong. Driven by the unseen spiritual realm, your thoughts, emotions and physical behaviors all line up. Like an apple tree, the quality of the fruit you produce is the outward sign of the quality of your invisible root system. The greater the alignment, the greater the quality.

When acting in alignment with universal truths and with who and what you profess to be, you do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. You may not feel respectful of others at all times, but you are. You might be tempted to act unethically, but you don’t. You may not feel like forgiving, but you do. Why? Because your operating system is powered by something greater than ego, habit and impulse – it is powered by an authentic spiritual realm.

If you are a leader who acts out of ego, you are driven by a need to feel good in the eyes of others. For example, you may avoid speaking to employees about their poor performance for fear they might take offense, or you may take credit for the ideas and achievements of others because your ego craves praise. You act as you do to bolster or protect your image in the eyes of others. Your cup of self-respect is filled by how others view you. Unfortunately, you also stand to lose personal self-worth and a sense of control should others disagree with you. As an ego driven leader, you often fail to make the right decision, have a difficult time dealing effectively with conflict, and struggle with operating from a position of integrity. You are swayed by social mores and norms. You offer little moral or ethical leadership. You are not consistent; therefore, you are not trustworthy.

If you are a leader who acts out of habit and impulse, you do what makes you feel good. It’s work to hold people responsible, so you don’t. It’s tough to discipline yourself to stay physically fit, so you lose interest. It’s difficult to control your emotions, so you tend to react instead of respond. Much like the ego driven leader, as a leader driven by habit and impulse, you are externally controlled. When a negative event occurs, e.g., someone challenges you, your self-respect and self-control dissipate as fear and anger escalate. Rather than respond appropriately to the situation, you react negatively in order to recoup the self-respect you fear you’ve lost. You lack discipline and moral courage. You are not consistent; therefore, you are not trustworthy.

As an aligned leader, your operating system is powerful because it emanates from the spiritual realm. You are not driven by short-term, feel good motives. Yours is a world of powerful vision, strong values and universal truths. Your behavior is not dependent on momentary pleasures or reactions. You understand powers and truths greater than you, and live in accordance with them. Your thoughts, emotions and physical behaviors are governed by them. You are in alignment. You are consistent; therefore, you are authentic and trustworthy.

As an aligned leader, if you claim to value honesty and openness, you live the truth, no matter how difficult. If you say you value integrity, you are ethical in all your dealings, even when it doesn’t serve you personally. If you live by the principle that you hunger for what you feed on, you make sure you surround yourself with literature that nourishes you, uplifts, inspires and propels you. If you live by the universal law of sowing and reaping, you make sure that you sow good seeds into all your relationships. Then both you and your organization reap the rewards that come with mutual respect and caring. If you live by the universal law that says if you desire to be a leader to all, you must be servant to all, you never ask people to do what you yourself are not willing to do. You lead by example. You are consistent; therefore, you are trustworthy.

As an aligned leader, you enjoy self-respect, self-esteem and freedom from external controls. You welcome conflicting points of view, admit shortcomings, overlook offenses, and make tough decisions, no matter how unpopular. You nurture, respect, use and value the diverse talents that others bring to the workplace, leading with a combination of tenderness and toughness, humility and strength. You guide others by using your positional authority combined with the moral courage and wisdom that you derive from living life on a higher plain governed by universal laws and strongly held values.

Others observe your personal power and commitment. They respect your choice to make a difference in the world and your commitment to fulfilling your purpose for being. They see your wisdom in choosing to remain faithful to something greater than you. They sense your commitment to them and their well-being. They recognize you as a leader whose word is your bond, who is fair in your dealings, respectful of others and who gives credit where due, living a life of purpose and reverence. They sense they are safe with you and can trust you. They recognize you as a person of noble character. As a result, they choose to follow you and to do willingly that which they would not ordinarily do.

Because you are consistently aligned, you are not only trustworthy, but you are a powerful person who possesses the ability to transform yourself, your relationships, and your organization.

Be your own best coach, answer the following questions:

  • What are my strongly held values?
  • What do I morally and ethically believe to be right and wrong?
  • What universal truths/principles do I live my life by?
  • How would I rate myself as one consistently aligned with universal truths, strongly held values, and a sense of what is morally and ethically right and wrong?  1 (not consistent) to 10 (extremely consistent)
  • Based on the questions above, what needs clarification?
  • In what area(s) could I improve alignment?
  • If I were to align myself consistently with who I profess to be – what I profess to value – what I believe to be morally and ethically right and wrong, what difference would that make to me? Others? My organization?
  • What will I commit to doing, beginning today, to become more internally aligned and therefore more trustworthy?

Lance Secretan said it succinctly: Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet, and doing the same thing consistently. This builds trust and followers love leaders they can trust.