If you are a sucker for great leadership movies like I am — “Invictus,” “Coach Carter” and “Moneyball,” just to name a few — it’s easy to assume that all leaders embody the same qualities as those in the movies.

After all, who hasn’t idealized business leaders to be strong, confident, make tough decisions and stand their ground no matter what? While those leaders do exist, they are a minority. In working with leaders for 30 years, I have found that the reality is shockingly different.

Most leaders take on their roles with the greatest of positive intentions. Yet, along the way, they get lost. Not by conscious choice. Rather they are derailed by an underlying dysfunctional pattern called co-dependency.

Co-dependency is a set of beliefs and behaviors that prevent individuals from having healthy, mutually beneficial relationships. At first glance, the term “co-dependent leader” seems like an oxymoron, yet this dysfunctional behavioral pattern is rampant within the business world. (read more…)

Leaders should show a sense of vulnerability.

This is advice I have given to many senior leaders because it shows a sense of humanity and openness, even transparency. It brings people to them because it shows that the senior leader does not have all the answers.

But does this advice apply to those in middle management and below? The answer is yes, but! Leaders who understand their limitations but know how to solve problems are those that senior leaders look to give greater levels of responsibility.

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I recently returned from a whirlwind vacation that included visiting three of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. As much as I tried to “go off the grid,” forget about work and enjoy the surroundings, my mind remained on autopilot, constantly scanning for outstanding presenters. I wasn’t let down; in fact I had a couple of terrific tour guides who created what I like to call “breakthrough moments” where they truly connected with their audience.

More than a lecture about lava

My husband and I joined a varied group of vacationers on a 17-mile bike ride around the crater of an active volcano on the Big Island. Meghan, our tour guide, was a young geologist. At first, she seemed to be pushing information out to us instead of connecting with us. Once we arrived at the crater, however, she got into her element as she shared her vast knowledge about Kilauea, the volcanic rock and the local mythology associated with it. (read more…)

To some, being a leader is just a job. But to others, it’s a choice, a calling even, to inspire others to engage, perform, and achieve. The women and men who make this choice are skilled in a number of areas that bring out the best in everyone and everything. They’re leaders who get it.

Their secret sauce? They’ve chosen to:

1. Be well-mannered mavericks who know when to go with the flow and when to go against it. Leaders who get it have the insight and courage to buck the status quo when it’s gone awry and are willing to assume the personal risk involved in doing so. “Business courage is not so much a visionary leader’s inborn characteristic as a skill acquired through decision-making processes that improve with practice,” notes University of Southern California professor Kathleen Reardon.

2. Be kind. These folks have closed the book on the view of leaders as flinty heroes who unsmilingly save the day and double the bottom line. (read more…)

There is an interesting story about the shortest letter sent to an English newspaper. The editor asked readers to respond to the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” The following response was reported to have been received from C.K. Chesterton, a well-known writer in the last century:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours Sincerely, C.K. Chesterton

When I learned of that story, I wondered how many leaders realize that the impact they make begins with what’s inside of them. The good “human” qualities that are expressed outwardly by leaders — courage, respect, restraint, empathy, compassion, generosity, etc. — start from within.

What that means is that when we look inside to develop these qualities, they can then manifest and become expressed through us to make an impact on the world around us.

So you, as a leader, have the opportunity to impact what’s right with the world through the positive qualities you express. (read more…)