3 ways Leaders help teams do great work

Steve Jobs, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be satisfied, is to do what you believe is great work”

This quote from Steve Jobs resonates deeply with me. There was a time that I felt that the work that I did was not great. It was accurate, and well received, but I didn’t feel that it made a difference – to the company nor to the people with whom I worked. I didn’t feel heard or seen and I didn’t think that anyone was particularly interested in my ideas ( At times, I was told that no one was interested.)
These experiences set me off on a lifelong journey – to find meaningful work. Work that will pay the bills, work that will leave me with a deep sense of achievement, and work that will make a difference to the people around me. Thus began an exciting, tumultuous journey during which I discovered my happy and sweet spot.
Many leaders have similar stories that explain the careers they enjoy. They can trace the decisions and choices, the roads that they took and the paths that they denied to get to the career/ role that fulfils them on a daily basis.
Leaders, let’s extend this sense of satisfaction to our teams.  As we stand in front of our teams, this week, I ask that we take a look at the faces before us, listen to the comments and observe the relationships, and ask ourselves – Are team members doing great work?
As we harness the creativity and intelligence of our teams in pursuit of our leadership, we can assist team members to do great work, or find the work that they believe is great work.
While it’s a matter of personal choice and how you view your leadership, I ask you to consider with whom do you prefer work? Do you want to work with team members who believe that they are doing great work or those who are working in misery, wishing that they were doing something else or that they were working differently?
I guarantee that it’s much easier to achieve team objectives when the people we work with believe that they are doing great work.  I can share with you three tips that I have successfully used to help team members to find satisfaction in the work they do and to believe that they are doing great work.

  1. Help team members set personal vision – Just as a journey starts with a destination, the personal vision, becomes a compass point that provides guidance.  It simplifies decision making as we are on the path as only one question becomes important – “Will this action help me achieve vision?” Team members can realign personal and professional choices to vision, to discover what great work means to them.
  2. Share your experiences – We learn what is possible from hearing the experiences of others. We can mimic their actions, or we can build on the foundation set or we can be inspired to be bold, to take a risk or to do something different. Leaders note that tone ,timing and intention are important considerations when sharing. This will keep us from boasting or bombarding team members with stories at inappropriate or unwelcome times or pretending that our journey was a simple or easy affair, or that we knew everything at every step of the way. As we share our story we can honestly tell of our failures and successes, what prompted decisions  and the benefits, the fallouts, and the repercussions of the choices we made.
  3. Listen to them – As team members are figuring out the way forward, or establishing their personal vision, they need to talk, to explore, to understand where they are at. They will need a non-judgemental neutral ear that listens from a place of deep compassion and curiosity. The leaders stance during these interactions is critical for the team member to dare to set a personal vision. The leader’s encouraging ear gives the team member the freedom to explore and the confidence to think beyond his current expectations.

Sometimes to find great work the team member’s job may need to change, or they may need to join another team or another organisation. One of the best gifts that a leader can give his team is the belief that great work exists and that they have the means to find it.

How can you help team members do great work?  What will it take for your team members to believe that they are doing great work?

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.

Shadows vs Mirrors – Leadership Paradox

When I was a kid, I loved playing with my shadow. With my back to the sun, I casted my shadow over everything, fascinated by the way it grew and diminished according to the placement of the sun.
As a teenager, I walked in others’ shadows to learn the ropes, to understand the best paths to walk and to easily fit in. By adulthood, I accepted that to grow I had to forge my own path, take what I learnt in the safety of the shadows and convert it to my truth as I exposed myself to the sun.
Larry Senn, in his 1970 doctoral thesis popularised the idea of “shadow of a leader.” His research showed that organisations often become shadows of their leaders.
People want to emulate leaders even without being bullied or coerced (to do so). Staff mimic the language, the style and the behaviour of the leaders as they try to understand the culture, to fit in, to negotiate and manoeuvre their way through the organisation, and to be promoted.
Whether intentional or not, leaders set the culture of the organisation by their expressions of personal likes or dislikes, their personal traits and characteristics and their behaviour.
They stand with their backs to the sun casting long shadows over the organisation. No doubt that Senn was onto something but should we as leaders some 47 years later, be casting shadows in our organisations?
We want our teams to have the same core values and to be aligned to organisational vision, but does this translate to staff being “a chip off the old block?”
Yes we want the stability that homogeneity brings, but how does that serve us in times of change?
We are all human, therefore by design we have flaws. Consequently, as leaders there are times when we are flawed in our thoughts, words and deeds. What if the shadows we cast include our flaws? What if as leaders we project shadows that conjure shadow puppets (changing fingers and hands to wonderful sights) – that are miles from the truth?

When I determined how I wanted to lead and decided the reasons why I wanted to lead I was no longer interested in having mini-mes on my team. While team members and I needed to be on the same page with respect to core values, vision and how we wanted to work, it was important that each team member bring who (s)he was to the workplace. In this way, we created a team of diverse opinions and skills, we challenged each other, we provided different opinions and thoughts and in this way we each grew.
I often held up a mirror to myself to see what I needed to change. I also held that mirror up for team members so that they could see themselves and autocorrect as they needed to. At times, I had to hold the mirror up for the team and determine what qualities were missing in the team, then decide to adopt and encourage others to adopt the relevant behaviour.

Leaders can consider being a mirror in and for the organisations in which we work. We can model the organisational culture that we want, even when it bucks the prevalent culture. We can reflect another way of working that invites meaningful conflict which may be suppressed when all staff sing off the same hymn sheet. We can promote the growth and development of individuals so that they display their full intelligence. We can create environments for risk taking that invite creativity. We can harness the variety and diversity that team members bring to spur our organisations forward.

To look in the mirror, we have to step out of the shadows, become aware, take responsibility and determine with team members what actions need to be taken to achieve our agreed destination.

Whose shadow are you walking in? What shadows are you casting on your team?

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.

Family or Team – Leadership Paradox

“We are family” sings Sisters Sledge, “Everybody get up and sing.”
While it’s ok to shake and shimmy to this song at the office party, I hope that no company adopts this tune as its theme song.
“We are family.” While I can appreciate that these three words generate warm fuzzy feelings and engender sentiments of belonging and safety, I truly believe that they are inappropriate to describe an organisational setting or culture.
When organisations pull the family card, I wonder “If you are family, then who is the father, who is the mother and who are the children?’
The family narrative plays out in several ways.
Very often there is the paternalistic father figure, who dispenses advice and shares his wisdom whether solicited or not. He knows best, the team unquestioningly follows his lead and does as he says. He gives treats for good behaviour and metes out “fair and just” punishment when orders are not followed.
On several occasions, I have had to explain to team members that I am not a big sister nor am I a mother. There seemed to be an unspoken assumption that because my gender is female, that I should be more understanding, more compliant, more forgiving than my male counterparts. I was expected to have a sixth sense and to display an inordinate amount of caring. If not, then I automatically became a witch. Being female has never made me more intuitive, or clued in or sensitive to what is going on with people. I have had to stop, ask questions and listen empathetically to understand situations. This did not come with my femininity and “No” it’s not a gift. It’s a skill that I have honed.
When leaders adopt paternalistic or maternalistic roles they are setting up co-dependent relationships with team members. Members become dependent, they do not have to think for themselves and as with all dependency relationships they secretly harbour ill feelings towards the parental figures. The parent figures also become burdened, wondering why the teams don’t show initiative or are not proactive. This gives them (leaders) even more reason to keep on parenting.
I want to work with adults, with brilliant, creative adults who take personal responsibility for their actions and can be held accountable. I want to create adult-to-adult relationships in which, each party is responsible for tending to the relationship. I want to work with people who will take a risk and are willing to make mistakes. I do not want to bribe or coerce team members to work. I want to work with people who want to work, because they think that something in the work does something for them. I want to lead a team of adults.

I have had many team members throughout my career, I have never had an office husband or an office wife, no one was a little sister or a father figure to me. I treat team members as adults and simply ask that they do the same to me. Each day I leave my family and go to work with teams.

How do you describe your team and the members-  work family or adults? How is that working for for you? How is it working for the people that you lead?

Maxine Attong is the author of Lead Your Team To Win and Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual.  She is an Executive Coach, an Organisational Development Consultant, and a Certified Accountant.  Maxine works with leaders and teams to create more effective organisations.



Hero vs. Host: Leadership Paradox 1

Margaret Wheatley (2011) writes “For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes. Perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out…And we keep believing it. Somewhere there’s someone who will make it all better. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we’ll all happily follow him or her. Somewhere…”
Historically leaders have been showcased as heroes, while the teams that they lead are often portrayed as being in awe and waiting with bated breath for their leadership. These depictions have led us to accept the leader as a sagacious and omnipotent (wo)man of mythic proportions. Leaders in turn have been conditioned to believe that they know best and that they know it all. They will take a bullet for the team and solve every problem that is posed. Even when the leader soundly believes in the whys of his leadership, he still thinks that only he knows what to do and expects team members to do as told.
Leaders are seduced by the vision of themselves as heroes. Who does now want to save the day? Who does not want to receive the adulation of team members and congratulations from the persons to whom they report?
Team members in turn, revel in the image of the caped leader who can make it all happen,  day after day. Unknowingly, the team leader and team members set up a co-dependent relationship, in which team members look to the leader for answers. While this appears harmless, it often leads to team members shirking responsibility and having little accountability, especially when things go wrong.
I must admit that it is thrilling to receive the kudos that come with hero worship, and even more thrilling to think of myself as the smartest person in the room; the one with all the answers. But, how are we contributing to the development off staff?
When I developed my definition of leadership I considered two questions. “How does the leader tap into the intelligence of our team members by solving all problems? How do staff take the risks associated with expressing creativity, if we tell them what to do?
For leaders who have an “S” on their chest. the offer is to evoke our alter ego as a Host leader. Think of when you host a party and invite people over, what do you do? You think of the guests and organise the food according to the allergies and preferences. You introduce guests who have similar interests then get out of the way, even as you keep an eye out for the guests who may have one drink too many.  As hosts, we create the environments that ensure that guests have what they need to operate and function. When you host a great party, you can feel it, it’s almost tangible and people leave with pep in their step.  Can you imagine how our team members will respond if as leaders we co-create (wth them)  these type of environments?
It is possible that as leaders we may not know if  or when we are acting as a hero. To help us be aware,  Wheatley advises, “You’re acting as a hero when you believe that if you just work harder, you’ll fix things; that if you just get smarter or learn a new technique, you’ll be able to solve problems for others. You’re acting as a hero if you take on more and more projects and causes and have less time for relationships. You’re playing the hero if you believe that you can save the situation, the person, the world.”

In what aspects of your life do you play hero?
What would it be like if you became a host?

Maxine Attong coaches leaders who want to effectively Lead teams to win. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win and Change or Die. Maxine is also an OD Consultant , Speaker and Certified Accountant.

The Paradox of Leadership

As I think about my leadership and what it means to me, I am clear that my definition of leadership – the harnessing of the intelligence and creativity with whom I work – offers many a paradox to what I learned. My thoughts on leadership seemed contradictory or opposed to the approaches I read about, heard and saw both as a student and as a team member. And still I believed that what I stumbled upon was true.

I have been taught that leaders lead from the front. All the heroic generals of historical wars are portrayed as fighting on the front lines of the battle. Leaders always save the day – it was Moses who single handedly led his people through the Red Sea to freedom from the Egyptians, And it was the leaders who always have the vision. Steve Jobs is attributed as the creator of Apple and the world has not been the same since.

In many ways my definition stood at odds with these long held and well touted iconic presentations of leadership.
When I think of a harness I envisage a team being led from behind. The leader is not at the front, she is at the back of the team, guiding and influencing direction.

When there is a problem or work issue, I invite team members into the discussion so that we can use our collective creativity to solve problems.  The leader is not the only one whom can solve problems, once team members believe that their ideas are welcome they will happily contribute ideas.

I depend on the collective intelligence of the team to co-create the vision of how they want to work and to state the goals that they are willing to put their energies towards achieving.   When team members are involved in vision creation and goal development,  they have already considered how this will impact on what they want to personally achieve. As a result, they readily perform tasks related to these.

These ideas were contradictory to what I knew and how I led in previous leadership positions. To enact them I had to reject all that I learned and to change quite a few things about myself and my self- beliefs.
I believe that leadership is important and I know the reason why I lead.  As a leader my sole role is to create an environment that allows team members to bring their creativity and intelligence and when these are evident, I need to harness these two elements as we move towards the pursuit of our goals.

What paradoxes do you face with your leadership?

Maxine Attong coaches leaders to be more effective and to lead winning teams.  She is the author of Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead Your Team to Win.  Maxine is also an Organisational Development Consultant, a Certified Professional Facilitator and a Certified Accountant.



12 Pieces of Clothing for the Emperor

For the last two weeks, I’ve written about “Clothing the Emperor“and I’ve received some interesting feedback. Some readers readily admitted that they were naked or had parts of themselves exposed and are working to cover themselves;  while others are struggling to identify what areas need covering up. The 12 questions adapted from my book “Lead Your Team To Win” provide leaders with clues of what parts of their leadership areas are uncovered. It’s pretty simple.

Read the questions.

Answer them  YES or NO.

IF you’ve answered questions 5 and 7 YES and all the others NO, then these represent areas in which you may be exposed.

Then you can make a choice – Fix it or leave it alone.

  1. Does your team work well together?
  2. Does your team discuss tough issues with you
  3. Do your team members eagerly attend team meetings and one-on-ones with you?
  4. Do your team members express a shared purpose for their work?
  5. Do you tell your staff what work needs to be done?
  6. Do team members generate ideas and come up with new projects?
  7. Do your employees take actions that seem to sabotage their careers?
  8. Do you trust your employees?
  9. Do your employees trust you?
  10. Do your team members think they are performing at optimal levels?
  11. Do you think your team members are performing at optimal levels?
  12. Is your team perceived as a high achieving team by the rest of the organization?

Of course there are many other questions and areas to be covered when thinking about our leadership and how we can improve our leadership. The questions posed are to set a seeker on a path, with the hope that once he or she finds the path it will be easier to seek more questions and have more answers.

What other questions can tell us about our leadership? What do you ask yourself to stay clothed?

Maxine Attong uses her Clothing the Emperor process to assist leaders effectively Lead teams to win. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win and Change or Die. Maxine is also an OD Consultant , Speaker and Certified Accountant.

The Naked Emperor – Clothing the Emperor Part 2

Wikipedia shares the Hans Christian Anderson Story – The Emperor’s New Clothes, This story is about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

I can only imagine how the emperor felt when he realised that he was naked. He probably experienced a range of feelings, – embarrassed that he displayed the royal assets for all to see, angry that he was duped by the weavers, hurt that his trusted advisors did not point of the obvious, and at the bottom of it, great sadness that he was the subject of such treatment by a large number of people. He probably was left with the lingering feelings that come with self betrayal, as he ignored what his eyes told him and forced himself to believe what others said.
When I reflected on my leadership, I also experienced a range of emotions. I felt a sense of deep regret over the way that I treated team members and even more ashamed of how I treated myself.
The leaders that I coach confess similar emotions. Their faces and their words reflect the sadness, remorse, anger and deep hurt that these revelations bring.
Over the years that I have worked with leaders I have developed a unique Clothing the Emperor process that involves, among other things, these four steps:

1) Admit that you have a problem – When the young boy shouted, the emperor admitted that he was indeed naked. When he admitted his nakedness, he had choices to make – he could continue to flash his parts or he could get clothed. When we receive feedback from our peers and team members, we need to be open, listen to the feedback and concede that parts of us  if not all) are naked, Then we have a choice to make, remain naked or be clothed.
2) Get rid of the subjects – It may be wonderful for your ego to have people around you who agree to every thing that you say, or who hang on to your every word or tell you that you are the best thing since slice bread. But how does that serve you? Are you to walking around pretending to be what you are not? Are there silent snickers since you refuse to see the obvious? If you are surrounded by people who do not challenge you or who always agree that your idea is the best, then, I suggest that you quickly get rid of them or at the least stop listening to them. These loyal subjects will say anything to feed your ego, while benefitting from the follies of your ego. Switch these out for some truth speakers who will tell you like it is. Also, consider the possibility that the emperor’s court may have been terribly afraid to tell him the truth – who wants to lose a head? If you know that you shout or call other’s names or display inappropriate behaviour when team members disagree with you, then they are not being shady or dishonest by agreeing with all that you say and do – they my be afraid of you.
3) Face the weavers – Those who have duped us can provide us with real insight into our leadership. What about us attracted them? What did they see in us? In the ideal world, the weavers would give us feedback that would provide us with deep and powerful “Ah Ha” moments, but in this world, they most likely will not. Learn from the event, and think about your actions and take responsibility for your part in the charade. The emperor’s ego, his desire to have a coat like no other, and the promise that he could identify persons who were “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent” led him to deny this eyes and believe the weavers. While accepting responsibility for your part , don’t blame yourself for the actions of others – that has nothing to do with you. I’m sure the emperor was not the first person that the weavers duped.
4) Put on some clothes – At the end of it all, we’ve already stood naked in front of the crowd. We have made the mistakes and suffered the consequences. We know today what we did not know yesterday. We are naked and we need to put some clothes on. So let’s just do it. Get a coat, a dress, a pair of pants, whatever is your fancy and put it on. Have some fun with it, we’ve already suffered. There is a world of clothes to try on – once you don’t return to the weavers. As you wear your clothes, use a 360 degree mirror so that you can see yourself as others see you. Get honest feedback and self reflect on the veracity of the feedback. Breathe in and keep going.

It’s easy for us to laugh at the emperor. But he’s the lucky one, he’s a fairytale character; not so with us – we are real, So dear reader, to help you as you clothe yourself I leave you with a few questions:
What parts of you are naked?
Who are the tailors in your life?
What are you wearing now?

Maxine Attong uses her Clothing the Emperor process to assist leaders to Lead there teams to win. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win and Change or Die.

Clothing the Emperor

Wikipedia shares the Hans Christian Anderson Story – The Emperor’s New Clothes, This story is about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

We all have a bit of the Emperor in us. A part of us that we can’t see and that we are not interested in knowing about. We often convince ourselves that others who see these aspects of ourselves “ do not understand” us or are themselves suffering from the same aliments.
These Emperor bits are perilous for the leader, they are our blind spots and negatively impact on our ability to be effective in the role.
When I speak to leaders I often ask:

  • Tell me about your leadership
  • What kind of leader are you?

The answers are not readily given, and often they state that they need some time to think about it. The responses are even more interesting when I ask the follow up question,
“What kind of leader do you want to be?”
They shake their heads, have deep and thoughtful bouts of silence and often confess that they never thought about it.
Now don’t get me wrong, my clients are high performers and goal setters. They are people who have set a vision for their life and are busy getting to it. They know that leadership is important and they have embraced the reasons why they are leaders. Yet, they often have not been deliberate or intentional about their leadership,
As I work with them, to define and enhance their ability to be the leader they want to be, I more or less follow a three step process which I’ve labelled “Clothing the Emperor”. These are simple steps and they are not easy steps.
1) What type of leader are you? This is the hardest of the three steps, since like the emperor we have to admit that we may be displaying characteristics that we prefer remained hidden. There are myriad of tests that indicate personality type, or give an insight to a person’s strengths and weaknesses, and these are a great place to start. To turn the scrutiny up a notch, I ask clients to be brutally honest with themselves and admit what they are like on a daily basis. If we reminisce on how we respond to others, how we treat with responsibility and how we treat ourselves, peers and team members we begin to find clues about what our leadership is like. When we look and listen to ourselves in the various arenas of our lives, we get an even sharper picture. Most of us find this self-review challenging, tiring and embarrassing, so it’s easy for us to not seek this kind of truth. For the brave hearted and the true seekers. I recommend anonymous feedback from team members and peers on what their leadership is really like. This is a way of holding up a 360 degree mirror so that we have a complete view of ourselves and understand how our leadership is perceived. Just as the child cried out that the emperor was naked, so too will the feedback reveal what parts of ourselves are exposed and the behaviours that we are unaware of.
2) Determine the type of leader that you want to be – Most of us believe in the importance of having visions and setting goals, yet, few of us set a vision for the type of leader we want to be. Like the emperor we want to be praised for our clothes, that is, we want to be seen as an effective leader. Unlike the emperor, we need to think about what we want people to say when we put on the new clothes. Think about it. When you strut around in your new clothes what do you want people to say about you? If people were free to shout at you when you parade what do you want to hear? How do you want people to feel when they see you coming down the streets? The answers to these questions tell you to the type of leader that you want to be. When I did this exercise, I became very clear about my leadership, and I knew hat I needed to be a “safe” leader.
3) Go ahead and apply it – So now that you have had the personal insight, gained the feedback, decided what you want to be, you need to do it. Put on your new clothes , take a swirl in them and see if they fit you and more importantly if they suit you. Don’t be afraid to toss it, since the most gorgeous of outfits may be unsuitable for you and your personality. Keep the parts that are a fit and replace the others. Try walking in your new clothes. see how they feel, and see how others respond to them.  Keep wearing them every day. There will be times, when under pressure, with tight deadlines, or under stress, that you will revert to previous ways, and that’s OK. It’s never easy to change habits, so keep your vision and affirmations close at hand to remind you of the way you want to be. Get help, get a coach, and most of all be gentle with yourself when you fail. Failure is part of the process, Remind yourself, that you have been leading in old clothes for x years and now it’s going to take a while for the new clothes to feel like a second skin.

So now you get to decide as you do with every part of your life. “What kind of leader do you want to be?” You get to choose. “How do you want to lead your team?” Your decision, your choice.

Maxine Attong is a “safe” leader. She is the author of Lead Your Team to Win, and Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual, an Executive Coach, an Organisational Development Consultant and a keynote speaker.