5 Tips to Lead with the Use of Self

Today I am reflecting that leaders can lead using ourselves and that leading from whom we are is possible the most powerful leadership tool that we have and possibly the only one that we will ever need. 

When I think about the self, I’m thinking about the self as the physical, spiritual and emotional being. Leaders can integrate those three experiences to lead our teams effectively.

Yes, it sounds a little strange, but walk with me and hear me out. 

 I refer to myself as the CEO of this entity called Maxine Attong. Whatever I’m doing, I am first leading this entity and then leading others. 

When I think about the self, I think about two aspects of self. 1) personality and 2) self belief

My offer is not a psychological self. I will leave that for the social scientists.

‘m going to explain how these two aspects can impact upon our leadership. I’m also going to share some tips of how to engage this idea of self to effectively lead.


Personality is our way of thinking, how we are feeling and behaving. This includes our moods, our patterns of thoughts, our attitudes and behaviors.

What is your personality?
Does your personality change according to where you show up

Most of us belong to different groups, social groups, and professional groups. If we trace our interactions in those different groups and how we navigate each we will realize that we probably show up differently in each group.

We show up in professional settings differently from how we show up with our very close friend groups or how we show up with our football team. The language that we use, the emotions that we show and the attitudes that we display are different. 

A lot of my coaching clients share that they wear a mask when they get to work

They put on their professional mask and their persona changes when they walk through an office door. They leave a part of themselves somewhere on the commute to work and pick it up on their return.

  • At the workplace, the attitudes and beliefs that you display, how much of that is you? 
  • Under this veil of professionalism, what parts of you have you sacrificed?
  • What part of your genuinely true, funny, creative, highly intelligent selves are you not showing up with? 
  • What are you leading with under this mask, this personality that has been tailored for a particular environment?

What essence of you is missing? 

The invitation is for us to understand what mask we are wearing and to determine how it has impacted upon our leadership.

Consider that the strongest essence of who you are may just be missing in your leadership. The call is for us to establish

  1. What mask we are wearing?
  2. Is that mask serving us in the realm that we’re entering?
  3. What other elements of ourselves can we inject into that mask to make a difference in our leadership? 
  4. How do you lead with a mask on? 


.This is trickier than the mask because our self belief determines how we look at the world and how we make meaning of what is happening in front of us.

For example, most of us have learned how to behave, how to treat and think of other people from whomever we’ve been listening to. The voices of the people who loved us, the people who raised us, the people we have experienced all play in our heads and heart.

Have you ever questioned if these voices are still relevant? 

Think about it. You learned a lot from your teachers, who were 10 to 30 years older than you. Now that you are in your 30s, in your 40s or your 50s are those voices still relevant? 

The way that our parents saw the world, the things that they experienced, what they told you about people who look a certain way or who behave a certain way, is any of it still relevant? 

The world has changed so much in the last 20 years. 

If our self belief is hinged upon what we learned from those voices is our self belief relevant? 

How do those self beliefs show up in our leadership in terms of how we behave and how in terms of our attitudes and most definitely in terms of the way we treat other people?

Oscar Wilde said, “Most people are other people.”

 Who are you when you show up? 

What is your personality when you show up and what is your self belief? 


Consider this a story.

A woman tended her garden with beautiful flowers, every morning. One day, she became ill and was bedridden. Her son, who loved his mother dearly and knew how important her garden was to her, made a commitment to this garden until she recovered.

Each day he watered the flowers, and cleaned the leaves. 

After three months his mother recovered. 

He excitedly said, “Mom, I took care of all of your plants.”

When she saw her garden she began to cry. 

Her garden was in ruins and she and she yelled at her son. 

He in turn was confused. He said, “Mom, I took care of your garden. I cared for each and every flower and each and every leaf.”

His mother then said to him, “The life of a plant is in its roots. They are invisible. You forgot to water the roots and the result is visible in the complete devastation of my garden.”

It is easy to tend to the flowers that we bloom and or leaves. As leaders we have to pay attention to our roots. We need to examine our self-belief and our personality to ensure healthy roots,

I will share five tips on how to lead with ourselves from the root of whom we really are.

  1. Understand and know ourselves. How can  we understand other people if we don’t understand ourselves? We need to understand our virtues, our vices, our attitudes, our perceptions, what makes us tick, what makes us mad or what makes us sad. Most of us know our strengths and weaknesses and this is just the tip of the iceberg, because that is about skills and competence. We need to know whom we are deep inside. We need to be aware of what motivates us, what drives us, our limitations, what we believe about ourselves. We need to go deeper and understand our inner critic, that voice that says you’re not good enough and where this voice came from.  It is critical for us to us to know what where our self belief emanates from.
  2. Honor your story. You have a particular story that makes you unique. Tell your story in a positive way to yourself. You are not a victim because you have survived and you have thrived. Tell your story in a powerful way that makes you claim that narrative in a way that removes all shame and eliminates any suggestion that you are not good enough in this story. It doesn’t matter what was done to you, and by whom. What matters is that this is your story and you honor your story by seeing it in a really, really positive way. Yeas you can do this and tell the truth.
  3. Understand your emotions. Do you know why you’re jealous of some people? Do you know what makes you sad or do you even know what it is to feel sad when you’re feeling sad? When we understand the emotional range of whom we are we unravel a huge piece of whom we are. 
  4. Empathize with yourself – I’m still learning to have great empathy for myself. It’s very easy to project and have empathy for others and to walk in their shoes and to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them as if they are coming to you with best of intentions. What would it be like to do this for yourself? What would it be to look at yourself as the little child who resides inside of all of us. What would it be like to deal with ourselves with great empathy and believe that we are operating every day from our best self?  How about giving yourself the benefit of the doubt? 
  5. Pay attention to your emotional and physical sensations  When I understood myself, my emotional range and I began to have great empathy for myself, I began to zero in on the emotions of other people . Then I realized that I am a mirror for you, just as you are a mirror for me. The physical and emotional sensations that I have when coaching an individual or facilitating a group allow me to be better and more effective coach and facilitator.

Leading with the use of myself was one of the most powerful lessons that I’ve learned over my leadership journey  

This is my lived experience and so I ask leaders to understand and accept  themselves.

What are you walking away with after reading? Which of these tips do you want to try? What has been you experience.

Drop me a comment I would love to learn your story.

  • Leaders, let us understand our flaws, our brilliance, that we are perfectly imperfect, that we make mistakes, and that we have sparks of brilliance. 

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can co-create in the systems that we live work and play within.

Our 4th annual Gestalt Leadership Caribbean Conference – Leading with Equity is on April 29 2021. This year we are discussing Leading With Equity. This is a virtual event.

Register at maxineattong.com5

It’s a Matter of Trust

She knew the woman for years, they shared dreams, consoled each other and celebrated together. She explained that while she still had affection for the woman she could no longer be in relationship with the woman because she could no longer trust the woman.
Her reaction and her pledge to abandon years of friendship, made me pause in deep reflection and ask myself, “Do I trust others? Do I need to be trusted?”

Do I trust others?

I release you from the expectation that you have to live up to my trust. My trust is not a badge of honour for you to wear. I remove from you the burden of being trusted. You do not have to jump through hoops to earn my trust, you do not have to keep proving that you deserve my trust. I lighten your burden, as I do mine. I no longer have to decide whom to trust or whom not to trust. I free myself from searching for evidence of whether or not you should be trusted. I am unfettered by the ramifications of broken trust.
You are free to be who you want, do what you want and say what you want in relation to me. Your words and actions will have consequences.

Do I need to be trusted?

I have released myself from needing your blessing of being trusted. I no longer genuflect at the altar of your trust, waiting for you to bestow the magic words, “I trust you.” I am unfettered, I am free.  I free you from judging my actions, looking keenly to see if I meet the trust standard. You now have one less task. I do not need or want you to trust me. I want you to relate to me. I am free to be who I want, do what I want and say what I want in relation to you. My words and actions will have consequences.

What about trust?

I trust myself. The trust that I place in myself is universal – it is  vested in all of us. This trust is in you too. You do not have to trust me, you need to trust yourself. And as you trust you and as I trust me our interconnected-ness grows and our humanity expands.

Trusting others

When we place our trust in others, we are putting our internal on the external. We weaken our connection to  self. We ask others to care for something that only holds true value to us. When we make demands to trust others we are also asking them to give up valuable bits of themselves.

Broken Trust

When our trust is broken, the hurt is deep, because we suffer an internal wound. When our trust is broken it takes a long time to heal, because it is an internal wound. When our trust is broken we feel unsure and it takes a while to recover because we have betrayed ourselves.


I believe that we are all interconnected as human beings. My trust is for me, as yours is for you. When I trust myself and you trust yourself, all the rest will fall in place.

Tell me, whom do you trust?

Maxine Attong is an Organisational Development Consultant, author and coach. If you enjoyed this post, please share with you colleagues, friends and network

(Featured image by Good Morning Quotes)

Five reasons to fire a client

I fired a client today and my soul rejoiced.
I was hired to complete a project that was stalled for two years. This was a good contract. The work was challenging, the duration was to year end and the contract price would comfortably cover all my expenses well into the new year. It seemed serendipitous since I declared the week before that I needed a client to see me through the end of the year. Like a lot of good things in my life, this contract was effortlessly attained. A third party introduced us, the client, his staff and I had several meetings, I submitted a proposal, we signed a contract and I started to work.
When the work started, I started observing the client’s behaviour, listening to the staff and seeing patterns emerge. Slowly, I became aware that this was not the client for me, not did I want to serve the client, he was just not the client for me. As I reflect on the experience I realised that there were signs all along that shouted at me, even though I took a few weeks to listen to the messages.

Client has a pattern of changing consultants– When I reviewed the artefacts left behind by the previous consultants, I noticed that the client half-answered or evaded questions about the the same dubious practices. When I reviewed the files, I noticed that there were several references and recommendations about the same issues, which voided the argument that the client’s practices were due to ignorance.

The client’s business partners are not your type – Even though I was not directly doing business with the client’s partners, they were not people that I wanted to associate with or be associated with. Professional circles are small and the client notified several of his external stakeholders about my involvement in the project. Therefore by association I would be seen as dealing with the same characters as my client was.

Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde – My client presented a squeaky clean image, spoke a lot about God, and was polite and reverent in his responses to me. Yet the documents and his dealings with staff told a different story. The data did not line up with the client’s version of the truth, and the staff told tales of a short tempered man, who was harsh in his criticisms. The staff confessed that they were only staying for the duration of the project since they believed that they would benefit from interacting with me.

You bring the client home – When my sister confronted me and said, “ You talk about him a lot,” I realised that even though I was not complaining, the client, the staff and the staff’s tales were weighing heavily on my mind. I was not happy with the situation.

Forget about the money – Ah the money. It’s hard to ignore the lure of a pay-cheque when you’re not seeing another to replace it. I had to instruct myself “ Pretend that there is no money. Will you want to work with the client?” When I answered a resounding, “No”. I knew that it was time to remove myself from that equation.

It’s not about me – It is hard for me to walk away from a client, because I’ve been trained to complete what I have started, and to give service when it is needed. I sincerely believe that the collective intelligence and creativity (of me and my clients) are enough to solve almost any problem and that most people want to do better, and will do better once shown how.  This client reminded me that it’s not just about me. Regardless of my principles , my vision and my purpose I have to accept that people are entitled to their own agendas. Therefore when the client’s agenda does not mesh with mine I can make some choices – change my agenda to mesh with his, stay and promote my agenda or leave. In this case I chose to leave.

What clients do you need to fire? What would you do differently if the money was not part of your decision?

Maxine Attong is the author of two books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead Your Team to Win. She works with leaders to create more effective and efficient organisations. She is a Keynote Speaker, a Gestalt Organisational Development Consultant, a Certified Professional Facilitation, Evidence Based Coach and a Certified Accountant.

4 Tips for Servant Leaders

 Maxine I totally agree, I think most of us suffer from the hero leadership syndrome so to speak. In my more humble moments, I think about my lord and saviour whose example of leadership, i.e. servant leadership served him well. He knew when to listen, when to talk, when to give, and how to receive. He practiced the virtue of waiting, and had the courage to admit mistakes and take responsibility. He did all this through serving others (host). By hosting (serving) there can be no loss because everyone wins and the problem/challenge is managed for the best outcome for all. – Delia Joseph GM – PMSL

The phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf.  In his 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader, he shares “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions”

While Delia’s feedback indicates that she views leadership from a religious perspective, her thoughts are very much aligned to Greenleaf’s idea of the servant leadership. (They both view servant-leadership as a life philosophy, as well as, a leadership style.)

Servant leaders share power. They encourage, support and enable team members to unfold their full potential and abilities and invite team members to participate in planning work and making decisions. Characteristics such as trust, empathy, collaboration and the ethical use of power are necessary for this type of leadership to succeed. These leaders bravely debunk the idea of the leader at the top of the food chain and willingly share responsibility and accountability to create more effective teams. Leaders who practice servant-leadership know that this is not an easy path, since it does not preference personal egoistic needs, and often goes against most of what we have learned and seen in leaders – leading from the front, making all decisions, taking full responsibility, delegating, managing, co-ordinating.

For those of us who want to adopt this noble practice I offer four tips, to keep you on track:

  1. Establish Boundaries – In all relationships there are non-negotiable values or principles that we hold dear. Determine what these are for you personally and lead with these in mind. Share these with team members and seek to understand what are their non-negotiable values. Just as the host limits the access of guests to areas of her space – perhaps her bedroom – so too the servant leader determines his boundaries.
  2. Self Care – Serving others can be draining. After attending to the needs of  others, the server must extend self care to himself, to give himself the opportunity to restore, rejuvenate and to rest. Servant leaders need to retreat, to have a sounding board in someone that they trust, and to take time outs for themselves by themselves.
  3. Saying “No” -Saying “No” is essential for maintaining boundaries and practicing self care. Without “No” boundaries become negotiable and self care is optional to the whims, desires, wants and needs of others. The leader articulates “No” without feeling guilt or shame knowing that she is not being egoistic. The leader says “No” believing that she is standing in her personal power, true to her principles and serving the needs of the team .
  4. What would Jesus Do? For those of us who approach servant leadership from a religious perspective, let us ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” Jesus was a complex man, who from an early age questioned and challenged the status quo. While he was humble and served his people he was great at setting boundaries, saying “No”, speaking his truth, standing up for what he believed in and having courage. He showed a whole other side to the kid version of gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

What type of leadership do you practice? What tips do you use to keep yourself on track?

Maxine Attong is the author of two books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead Your Team to Win.  She works with leaders to create more effective and efficient organisations.  She is a Keynote Speaker, a Gestalt Organisational  Development Consultant, a Certified Professional Facilitation, Evidence Based Coach and a Certified Accountant.

The other side of change

Today as I downloaded pictures from my phone to my laptop, I was faced with my year in review. 2016 has been a watershed year for me – a year of upheaval, a year of change, a year of faith, a year of self-belief and a year of broken promises.

I’ve been through the emotions associated with grief as I dealt with the change– that was not of my own making – and I can testify that it’s not easy.

I’ve been looking at myself, being sad, feeling angry, throwing confetti at the pity party and I did not recognize myself.  My rational mind found my behavior incongruent with the logic of the situation – I understood and agreed with the reasons for the change and yet I was in pain.  The mind tried its best to console me with all the clichés and euphemisms – “this is temporary, it’s for the better, you still have health and strength” – and none of it worked

My body and soul were in the midst of a deep grief…wallowing.

Four months later all parts are reconciled and all parts have accepted the change.

As I looked at the pictures, and reminisced over my experience, these are the things I can share:

·         Change is painful. There is no magic pill, there is no distraction that lasts long enough and numbness wears off. There is no choice you have to go through the pain.

·         Sitting still and doing nothing is an essential activity  during times of change

·         Talk to people whom you trust about the change and be quiet with all others

·         You can function effectively while grieving, once you honor your need to rest

·         Self-belief is a great antidote for change

Now I am grateful that I have gone through the pain and  am on the other side of  change. Sure there will be residual effects, but I am resilient and I have all that I need to go again.

How do you manage change?

(If you need help to manage change- business or personal – visit my website www.maxineattong.com  and drop me a line)

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win. She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.

Managing change

I’m pretty good at managing change. I get excited by the prospects of it, I am enthused by the answers to “What if?”, and generally I operate in a state of awe.

There are spells of time when I feel overwhelmed. The anxiety of not knowing coupled with the uncertainty of it all makes me wish for a crystal ball. I throw pity parties, ask “Why me?” and I wallow in self doubt.

Most times it’s OK to sit with these dark and uncomfortable feelings since it’s important to process the feelings. However, when I admit that I’m being self indulgent then I know it’s time to answer the 15 questions.

As I’m dealing with major change in my life I have had to answer the 15 questions ( more than once).  The answers provide a reality check, remind me of the possibilities and help me to manage the change which I cannot stop or control.

  1. How do I keep myself going in this time of change?
  2. What routine can I stick to?
  3. How do I center myself when stuff hits the fan?
  4. What role does my personal vision play at this time of change?
  5. What quality of life do I want when the dust settles?
  6. What is my catastrophic fantasy ( about the change)?
  7. Who can assist me now?
  8. What attitudes do I need to change to get through this?
  9. How can I maintain focus?
  10. What is the role of my beliefs at this time?
  11. How do I keep it all going when my beliefs are challenged?
  12. What dreams can be fulfilled (after the change) that can’t be fulfilled now?
  13. What am I holding on to ( that prevents the change from being an opportunity)?
  14. What do I need to let go of (to embrace the change)?
  15. What will be my joy in this time of change?

Which question resonates with you? How will it assist you in your time of change?

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win. She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.

God in the work I do

Feedback from KF  “I enjoyed reading your ten tips and am very happy to see the commitment to ensuring that your spirituality is not separate . Very inspirational.”

This comment resonated deeply with me. When I’m speaking in general terms I replace the word God with Higher Power or the Universe to be inclusive and acknowledge that readers have different points of reference and beliefs.  When I speak of myself and my belief, then I use the word God, because that’s what I believe.
A few years ago, I would not have used the word God. It has taken a whole lot of bravery and some self talk to write the word, and in doing so make the declaration. It is not that I am by any means religious. I know a handful of prayers, even fewer biblical quotes and I don’t regularly attend church services. Yet I truly believe in God.
There was a time I thought that to talk about God while talking business was taboo, a bit bush and plain unscientific. As an accountant, I worked with numbers – numbers have no mystery, they are not fickle, the answer is always certain without any doubt. They are tangible evidence of decisions made and actions taken, and I could control the bottom line.  I would discourage any God talk, reject all chain letters and quickly exit the room when vocal religious or bible quoting persons entered the room.
As I developed my life’s vision and my orientation shifted to people, I saw a change in my belief system.

How can I enhance the lives of others if I do not believe in something bigger, more powerful than I?

How can I help people achieve their dreams if I don’t trust that there is an endless supply for all of us?

How can I assist others to trust their innate intelligence and creativity if I don’t have faith in love?

In working with people I have learnt a deep appreciation for the good and intangible being that provides the energy and wisdom for me to do the work that I do – and that for me is God.
And so with this new belief, I’ve learnt to listen to clients with my heart, to feel in my body what they feel, to follow their spirits as they soar and as they dip and to be honest and kind when giving feedback. This is not magic, this comes from me knowing and acknowledging  that I am not in control, that there is more to life than what I can see and feel, that there is a power that loves me, fuels me and gives me all that I need.

How do you see God/ Higher Power/ Universe in the work that you do? #Godworks

P.S. I still reject chain letters, avoid bible quoters and don’t enter into God talks that don’t celebrate the humanity of and in others

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win. She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.


What Would Jesus Do?

I was taken aback the first time I heard it, “I want to be like Jesus.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.  She said, “I want to love my neighbor, and turn the other cheek.”  As a good coach I pressed,”Tell me more.”

My client went on to explain that the reason that she puts others first, works long hours, gave more than she got, took less than she deserved, never quarreled, never argued, never stood up for herself, never set boundaries for others and accepted all that she got was because she made a deliberate choice.  In her quest to be more like Jesus she often put others first and saw about herself last.

I confessed to her that I did not know the bible so she would have to help me out. I asked, “What’s the story with him throwing over tables in the temple?” She corrected me and explained the story to me. “What’s the story about him arguing with some elders, when he was a kid?” She looked at me inquisitively and shared the story. “What’s the story about him and the woman who was being stoned?” She nodded patiently and told that story as well.

“What was Jesus doing in those stories?”, I asked. She sighed heavily.  We sat in silence  until she softly replied, “He was standing up for what he believed in, he was setting boundaries and he was saying No.”

“What do you think?” I asked.  She smiled and answered, “He was something else.”

As I made my session notes I thought how we can see one side of a story and make an entire belief system around it. I reflected on the stories that I hold on to, the things that I believe in and committed to look at the other side of them. Maybe I could see more than I see and unveil a whole new perspective.

What do your stories tell you?

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win. She is a Keynote Speaker,  Executive Coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an Accountant.

Letters Behind my Name

When we exchanged business cards, he looked at mine and asked, “Where are the letters behind your name?” I responded, “Do you remember that board member who graduated from XYZ college, but the school never heard of him? Or the guy who committed suicide because all the letters behind his name meant nothing? What about the politically appointed professionals who turned out to be frauds?”
He nodded, and I continued, “What did their letters mean?”
He was not convinced, “How do people know who you are and what you can do?” I shrugged and facetiously said, “I guess they can Google my name.” We both laughed, but he left me thinking.
When I recently qualified I proudly wrote the letters behind my name. As I became more comfortable with my profession and gained more experience I wrote the letters less and less. As my confidence level grew I determined that I no longer needed the letters to announce what I am, or what I have done; just as when I speak to someone I usually know whether or not they are the real deal, I presume that someone will do the same with me.
I admit that when I changed careers, I tried out the new letters behind my name, but the signature did not fit the way that I felt and I quickly dropped them.
Letters behind a name have uses. They announce us as professionals and give an inclination of what we can do. It is a way to be recognized by peers and the wider world. When I speak at a conference the organizers usually place letters behind my name to give the audience confidence to attend the session. Why then do I not write letters behind my name?
Letters do not speak of whom I am. They are a statement of what I am qualified to do, but give no indication of how well I do them. They are for the world, they are not for me because I know what I am and what I can do.
In the decade that I have stopped writing letters, my peers have never questioned if I belonged nor have they doubted my competence.
P.S. Since I stopped decorating my name I have been challenged only once. The client was furious since he could not use the notes that accompany the financial statements as a proposal to investors. I had to hold his hand while walking him through the difference between a business proposal and financial statements, while assuring him that the financials will be included in the proposal. ( Which kinda proves the point)
What do the letters behind your name mean to you?