Power of One

The Power of One: One Powerful Way to Influence the Organization

Is one really the loneliest number? Harry Nilsson may have gotten it right when it comes to writing a sad love song, but not when it comes to boldly influencing the organization. Power

What’s that? Are we saying that one person has the power to inspire the entire organization?  

Yes, we are. Here’s how. 

Leadership is the power of one harnessing the power of many.”
— John C. Maxwell 

In an HBR article aptly called, “How One Person Can Change the Conscience of an Organization,” authors Nicholas W. Eyrich, Robert E. Quinn, and David P. Fessell assert that on the deepest level, we humans need to contribute to the greater good.  

And yes, obviously, one doesn’t need to read a top business journal to know that. After all this “every person for themself” business is exactly what has gotten this world into the mess it currently is.  

Thing is, though, not everyone sees that. Calling it out therefore seems important. 

Eyrich, Quinn and Fessell go on, “When a leader [at any level], skillfully brings a voice and a vision, others will follow and surprising things can happen—even culture change on a large scale.” 

The Far-Reaching Effects of “Just” One Leader Power

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

—Jack Welch 

The impact that “just” a single leader can have on others is staggering. It’s this focus on the good of the collective over that of the individual, in fact, that makes Bolder leaders so inspirational. It’s also why we’ve written so often on the importance of emphasizing the “we” – not the “me.”  

When we focus on self-seeking ends (like, unfortunately, some modern-day “leaders” (quotes here because we are generous by even naming them as such lol)), the results – as we all have experienced – are often tragic. Millions of displaced people, families torn apart, basic human rights stripped are among some of the disastrous consequences of large-scale self-will-run-riot. And the list of consequences to these consequences – chain reactions as it were – goes on and on. Self-centeredness thereby becomes a (poisonous) gift that keeps on giving. 

Yet there is another path we can take. When we leverage our role and practice conscious leadership by consciously choosing to live higher-level values and to inspire others to do the same, our positive influence ripples out, touching people in meaningful ways. Take, for example, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. Less than one month after the country’s worst peacetime shooting, she introduced swift and sweeping gun law reforms, likely saving countless lives and the broken hearts of many others. The chain reaction her choice induced is incomparable to the one described above. 

And while, yes, both examples cited here may not be directly relevant to the average reader of this article, they nonetheless show how our role-modeling as individual leaders creates a chain reaction which can either help the world – or hinder it.  

The choice of how we show up, what we focus on and what we put out in the world is always ours. 

So, how can we effectively transform our leadership to inspire our teams, our organizations? It’s quite simple: start with conscious leadership. Think of this as a deep, continual process that ultimately brings the best of our inner selves out into the world of form, so that we can create the greatest impact as we inspire those around us. 

Sounds ideal, right? But how in the world do we go about implementing it?  

Below are some practical strategies.  

5 Strategies for Any Single Leader to Have a Lasting Impact: Power

1)  Put self-care first. Having grown up in a church which taught me that thinking of myself first was selfish, that old version of me may not even have included this particular tip here. However, several bouts of burnout and of pushing good people and opportunities away all because I wasn’t grounded in my best self have shown me otherwise: the better I take care of myself, the better I can be there for others.   

We can’t give what (as we say in parts of my home state Kentucky) we ain’t got. It really is as simple as that. True transformation starts within. We can only cultivate the mental soil needed to lead transformation by stepping away to take care of ourselves. This isn’t just a luxury – it is a requirement for every BOLDER leader. 

2) Use your privilege of being a leader wisely. This means supporting and lifting up those who may have less clout or visibility. While starting with Top Teams is most often our recommendation, transformation isn’t always a singular, “top down” process. Indeed, leaders at all levels can make a conscious choice to influence positive change. When we use our position of privilege to lift others up, we inspire an entire culture of inclusivity and growth.  

3) Infuse empathy into everyday interactions. Not only is it just the right thing to do, but more than ever, our world NEEDS empathy. In an age where the “new normal” feels anything but, we need to be patient and compassionate– with ourselves and others. When we approach others authentically to help them feel valued and understood, the organization as a whole benefits with improved teamwork, greater productivity, and a boost in morale. Moreover, by doing so, we also get to bring more meaning to our own lives and leadership.  With all the upheaval of today’s world, who wants to live without that? 

4) Be the executive…of your own brain. So often, we think of leadership as something external. Not so. By monitoring the impulses of our own minds, with practice we can get better at regulating our limiting reactions and choosing responses that will be more helpful to ourselves and others. Again, though, patience and compassion with ourselves are called for here: working through our triggers won’t happen overnight. But luckily, we’ll have lots of opportunities to practice as the inevitable, numerous challenges life throws our way 😉. After all, as we’ve said before, Bolder leadership is the perfect mix of art and science, of technique and practice. 

5) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yup, the unavoidable discomfort which comes with the constant change our world continually throws at us in one form or another. If the last few years have taught us anything (and if there is one thing we can all agree on…imagine that!) – it’s that change is everywhere nearly all the time 

Bolder, impactful leaders know that change is continual – and they welcome it as an opportunity for growth…even when it seems uncomfortable, frustrating, or downright painful. Embrace a change mindset – and watch how getting comfortable with discomfort can transform your leadership and life. And likely those of the people you influence as well. 

Finally, know this: no matter what things look like at this moment, we each have the power of choice. Be BOLDER today. Bolder choices lead to greater levels of impact and fulfillment through the rewards such moves promise. 

“Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. ‘Here, open it, it’s perfect. You’ll love it.’ Opportunities – the good ones – are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.”
 —Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube 

How about upping your own conscious leadership through thought-provoking leadership moves that can inspire you to lead with greater impact? Sign up for my FREE weekly Bolder Moves messages here. They’re practical, always free, and delivered fresh to your inbox each week. 

Brain Rewiring: The Practical Way Anyone Can Become the Bolder Leader of Their Dreams

Brain Rewiring: The Practical Way Anyone Can Become the Bolder Leader of Their Dreams

“My brain is the key that sets me free.” – Harry Houdini

It may seem like magic, but it’s also true: the answer to great leadership may lie in rewiring our brain. This is how any one of us can become the leaders we always hoped we would be.

And it’s not hard to do.

It may take dedicated mental work, yes. But before you know it, you’ll be a witness to your own transformation:  what used to feel foreign and unattainable to you will now become part of your natural way of being and doing.

“By focusing on possibilities, you can see more than a potential light at the end of the tunnel. The light doesn’t have to be at the end of the tunnel; it can illuminate an opportunity wherever you are.”
― John B. Arden, Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life

What We Resist Persists

In other words, whatever it is about ourselves that we’re not wild about as leaders or as humans (which, to us, is the exact same thing), it won’t go away by merely wishing it would.

If only! –  lol

Instead, if we really want to develop ourselves as leaders, we need to face reality: to become aware of those parts of us which are not helping our leadership vision and do something about it.

Take a moment of self-awareness to honestly evaluate your mindset and behavior as a leader.

Are there all-too-familiar areas that you know you could get better in, but push out of your mind, thinking that you’ll never overcome them?

And when (not if) these flaws present themselves in the workplace, you overreact, make excuses and bury what has happened?

We’ve all been there. But what point does that serve? It only reinforces the problem.

The old adage ‘whatever you resist – persists,’ is a valid one. Our brains simply follow the paths we’ve set for it throughout life – they’ve become familiar to it.

So instead of pausing to consider the situation, we instantly react,

like the record that automatically drops down in an old jukebox.

Until we choose a new “record” for the old jukebox, that is. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is oh-so-worth-it!

Science proves you can change the messages you’ve been sending your brain.

How? It’s simple.

All that’s required is a three-step process which we have already delved into in recent articles:

  1. Become aware of what you want to stand for as a leader and, importantly, .
  2. Make a choice to work with the intention of having that vision become a reality.
  3. Commit to a daily practice in small yet consistent ways.

Yes, we can all definitely teach the old dog of our brain new tricks!

Create Certainty in Your Leadership

And this is mostly thanks to neuroplasticity.

In layman’s terms:

Neuroplasticity is the ability of our nervous system to change its connections and structures.

Neuroscientists have long understood this fascinating phenomenon. When we incorporate a little neuroscience into our leadership, it can literally transform our whole lives. It means people can actually change the structure of their brains and form new pathways to teach the brain a new habit.

So those old thought patterns that aren’t serving us any longer? They can be overwritten. Each one of us can rewire our brain to become a more BOLDly impactful leader, and to enjoy a more deeply fulfilling life.

And speaking of BOLDER leadership…Isn’t that exactly what our world needs today?

“The brain is a muscle that can move the world.” – Stephen King

Writing in Inc., Geoffrey James notes that leadership isn’t about the carrot and stick principle (combining rewards and punishment to elicit a desired behavior).

Leadership is about creating a feeling of certainty in those you lead.

Since we mimic the behaviors we see in others, the goal is to create certainty in ourselves first.

As James writes, that’s exactly why successful leaders always appear so self-confident. They’ve created their own sense of security that affects everyone around.

Applying Neuroplasticity in the Workplace

True leadership is one of the toughest skills to find in employees, according to a Global Workforce Leadership survey.

Sometimes we’re unaware of what is holding us back. The answer might lie in our reptilian brain.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.– Albert Einstein

Our ‘lizard brain” oftentimes stands as a roadblock to greater leadership: when our fight or flight reactions sets in, it stays with us. Our minds reflect back to past and future threats – and we end up in fits of anger, frustration and fear.

And each day, repeated triggering of limiting thoughts etches grooves in the mind – which become deeper. The result is more negativity, panic and self-criticism, in a seemingly endless cycle. Sound familiar?

So how do we avoid this continual, negative playback?

In addition to the three steps mentioned above – Awareness, Choice and Practice – we can cultivate daily practices which help raise our own feel-good level.

Step back and create space. Take time to be apart, engaging in enjoyable activities.

Whether it’s quiet time or a gentle practice like writing in a diary, science has proven that when we experience trust, joy or excitement, our brain cells soften and new, healthier pathways are created.

The practice of mindfulness helps create a space between us – and the chaos of the outside world.

By taking the time and creating the space to foster our own higher-level thinking, we are cultivating trust, joy and excitement in ourselves. And these, in turn, are absorbed by those in the workplace. Employees feel our calm confidence – and this helps to motivate and empower others.

Isn’t it amazing how even a small amount of mental work can transform our leadership from average into extraordinary?

Rewire your brain week after week, when you sign up for our free Weekly Bolder Moves right here, delivered fresh to your inbox each Tuesday. Get practical tips and easy-to-implement strategies to step into the best Bolder version of YOU – in leadership & in life.


Intentionality: The Hidden Force that Empowers Our Bolder Leadership Vision

“Our intentions create our reality.”
– Wayne Dyer

With winds that usher in a change of seasons, the month of March symbolizes a time of transformation for many people in some parts of our world.

For most of us, it seems like the fresh newness of spring and all of the hope it brings may never arrive, as distracting, gusty winds – much like the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world we live in – blow around and through us.

Likewise, the swirling winds in our own lives brought about by the many knock-on effects of Covid, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the heartbreaking earthquake in Turkey and Syria and a souring economy may sometimes roar about and knock us off course (or at least, distract us) from our goals.

How to remain steady and confident in the face of this chaos? It may be easier than you think: follow a simple formula which my teacher passed on to me:

Intention + Attention = Results

Start by getting clear on what you want to create.

No matter how great intentions – and their impact – might be, there is one ingredient essential to making those intentions stick:


Clarity on what it is we really want. Not what we think we want or think we should want (to get that job or be accepted by that group of people, etc.). But what we genuinely, in the depths of us, want. Because here’s the thing: intention is all about energy. So, if there is some part of us that is not fully on board with what we say we want, that intention is not really an intention. It’s a mere hope.

Take, for example, the case of Anne, VP at a tech company. Anne wanted to be a published author because she wanted to add another point to her resume. But she really didn’t like writing and saw no way being published furthered her purpose in the world. Her head was in it, but her heart wasn’t. So guess what happened? You got it. Missing the fuel of inspiration, she ran out of steam midway through and ended up unpublished.

It’s important to note here that even if she had pushed herself beyond her limits and gotten published, it still would not have fulfilled her because her heart was not in it. Any of us who has achieved a lot of “things” in our lives and yet still find ourselves dissatisfied can surely relate to that.

Knowing Your Why

That’s why knowing our why – and living accordingly- is so important to our joy, our productivity and our impact.

The good news is that Anne could take the opportunity of this upset to understand what her heart really did care about – and then begin setting intentions toward that.

For our intention to have the full force of landing us on our vision, we need to be fully behind it. We need to understand the helicopter view for ourselves, how that fulfilled intention fits into our values, our purpose, our overall vision. How that fulfilled intention fits into our Why. And for many of us, that takes a fairly high level of self-awareness.

What does this mean? It means we need to shed the layers of protection many of us try to protect ourselves with and get in touch with our truer selves.

“There’s little doubt that clarity of intent sheds light on the path ahead even if it isn’t clearly visible,” writes Vineet Nayar in an HBR article fittingly titled, “The Power of Intent.”

Then leverage the power of choice…

“When people have the capacity to choose, they have the capacity to change.”
-Madeleine Albright

Sometimes we feel as if we have no choices in life.

And with the sad and scary events named above (among many others) plaguing our world and affecting our daily lives, who could blame us?

But the truth is, we do have the power to choose some things – like our mindsets, how we take care of ourselves and how we treat other people. So, we get to have an impact on relationships – no matter what is going on. And given that Relationships precede Results (one my favorite leadership tenets), that’s already quite a lot after all.

Indeed, we always have the power to choose our attitudes and our behavior. That’s what makes self-awareness – and the clarity that comes from it – so powerful: it allows us to understand who and how we are now so we can choose how we want to be. Intentionality – and our attention on what we want to create – is what bridges the two.

So, what is it you choose to manifest? In other words, what is your intention?

This can be answered for each relationship or conversation or our career as a whole, or just a meeting. Anything. The main thing is that we are aware and can choose what it is we want to create – and why.

And then that we go about giving attention to our intention.

Intention and Attention: A Foundation for Success

Pay attention to your intention:

“Choose your intention carefully and then practice holding your consciousness to it,
so it becomes the guiding light in your life.”
– Roger Delano Hinkins

It would be a wonderful world indeed if all we had to do was wish for something and then wait in lotus position for it to arrive. Well, of course, we can always wait for it to arrive, but without attention to what it is we want to create, we might very well be waiting a long, long time – lol.

We might have an intention to get promoted, for example. But if we don’t up our game by expanding our network, building a new client or becoming more of an expert in our field, our promotion ambitions may likely go up in smoke.

But not so when we meet our intention with attention to help it come true.

HealthyPsych highlights the relationship of intention and attention. Our own personal traits play a role in intention, too, noting that our built-in negativity bias requires us to make a more concerted effort to set our intentions and pay attention.

Intention, the author notes, is not about rubbing a genie bottle and making a wish:

“Intention is about choosing, over and over again, where to direct your precious attention.”

Attention gives movement and direction to our intention so that it doesn’t stay stuck on a metaphorical shelf somewhere, but actually begins happening for us and our leadership.

“Attention is … powerful: it generates thinking. It is an act of creation.”
– Nancy Klein

And, we gotta admit, that’s kinda cool – right? I mean, with all the multitude of things we are powerless over in this crazy world, here’s one sure bet of something we can definitely influence.

So why not go for it?

During the sometimes (maybe always?!) crazy, frenzied day, where we literally run from task to task, all it takes is a moment to…

Set an intention and give it your attention.

The rewards are momentous. In addition to actually helping us get what we really want, it also creates a sense of empowerment, ownership, and inspiration for us.

In business – and in life – we may not have the answers in front of us, but by sticking to our intentions and giving our attention to them, it creates a powerhouse to build upon.

A simple act with a ripple effect of positivity

What seems like such a simple act of choice is even so much more: it is a positive act for us, and it can ripple outward to impact others around us, too.

Just imagine the times when you have felt happy, how much did your optimism impact the mood of those around you? That’s what we’re talking about here. You can do it. You can give yourself the solid hope and the brighter future that comes from setting intentions and giving those intentions your attention.

Stir up the virtual winds of change when you sign up for my free Weekly Bolder Moves right here, delivered fresh to your inbox each week. Get practical tips and easy-to-implement strategies to step into the best Bolder version of YOU – in leadership & in life.

Commitment to Growth: What Separates Truly Bolder Leaders from Ho-Hum Managers

Commitment to Growth: What Separates Truly Bolder Leaders from Ho-Hum Managers

“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.”
– Sir Walter Scott

Commitment. Now there’s a seemingly dirty word! Valentine’s Day around the corner or not, all one needs to do is to dip her toe in the dating world to see that many people find all sorts of creative avenues for shying away from this “C” word…not that I would know anything about that personally … lol.

But seriously, what is it about the essence of committing ourselves that can seem so daunting? As I reflect on this for myself, I recognize that historically, it’s a concept that has felt forceful, full of obligation and “musts” for me. And how could it not? The phrase we’ve all heard at some point or another describes the weight of a commitment – “You can’t be a little bit pregnant or a little bit married: you either are or you aren’t” And it didn’t fall on deaf ears with me.

Indeed, I heard the message loud and clear: one cannot only dip their toes in commitment, they need to put their whole selves into it. This full-on nature of the “C” word would scare anyone – especially if there is an element of duty attached to it….but does there have to be?

In all my years of working in transformation, no one – including myself – has authentically stepped even one foot toward evolution by being coerced or pushed. Instead, most of us find ourselves on the transformation journey by simple choice. Yet, by the very nature of the discomfort and arduousness which transformation can ask of us at times, one does indeed need to be committed to the process to be able to keep on it and reap the rewards it promises.

Motivation is what gets you started. Commitment is what keeps you going.”
– Jim Rohn

Commitment: The Vehicle to Getting What We Really Want

So how can the two – staying the course and without the heaviness that often accompanies the notion of Commitment – converge? By being committed to our own growth. That’s it. Not to another person, not to some external rules others are trying to impose on us, not on drinking the metaphorical Kool-Aid. But committed to ourselves, to our own development as humans and as leaders.

How can that not be freeing?

I don’t know about you, but when I look at commitment in the light of overcoming my own challenges, working through my triggers, reframing my limiting beliefs and just generally creating a more of a joyful life I don’t feel the need to escape from, being committed feels pretty darn empowering. And it should.

Leadership in Three Steps

While leadership itself is a vast topic with many different points of view of what constitutes it, in the transformational facilitator and strategic consulting networks I am part of, we boil down leadership into three steps:

  1. Awareness: We become aware of something which might need shifting. You may remember that I wrote about resetting to become more aware in my December 2022 blog.
  2. Choice: We have the power to choose – or not – to do something about that shifting. In my January 2023 article, you can read more about the Power of Choice.
  3. Commitment to Practice (new behavior): Now, as the third in a series of leadership traits, I give you Commitment to our Development as Leaders. Once we choose to move forward with the transformation, we commit to tiny actions to carve out new neural pathways in our brains as a means of reinforcing that new behavior and anchoring it in our comfort zones.

Commitment, therefore, is an integral part of becoming better versions of ourselves – and of creating the optimal conditions for our teams and organizations to step up to their highest levels, too.

Seen this way, such a “dirty” word becomes one of hope – for ourselves, those we get to influence and, ultimately, the world.

Bolder Leaders Commit to Themselves

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.
It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.”
– Warren Bennis

Every expert was once a beginner. In fact, in my experience, most experts remain so because they maintain a Beginner’s Mindset. When I graduated from the Newfield Network as a brand-new Executive Coach, guess what their parting gift to my classmates and me was? An aikido white belt. What in the world would motivate them to gift such a (seemingly bizarre) gift? Because apparently, in aikido (I haven’t yet practiced it), once a student achieves black-belt status they go straight back to the white belt: they are lifelong learners. Talk about commitment! …Lol.

Truly, as we look around, most of us will probably notice that those humans who are fairly serene and joyful despite the many obstacles our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world frequently throws at us tend to see life as all about learning. That is, instead of getting too far into the “poor mes” or “Why bothers?,” they learn to master challenging situations by looking at what they can learn from them. It’s not always easy to swallow their pride, but their eyes are on the larger prize of peace-of-mind and fulfillment.

And if we want to feel more empowered, as though we are mastering our lives and our leadership, we will learn to see it this way, too – even if it means we first need to commit to learning to seeing it this way.

There will, after all, always be situations which, if we so choose, we can learn (and grow) from. All it takes is making a commitment to ourselves to continue our personal and professional development – however dull or irritating it may be at times.

Here are some ways we can do that…

Eight Steps to Expand Your Leadership Development:

  1. Develop a Vision for the Leader (Human) you really want to be: As Maya Angelou wrote, how do you want to make others feel? What values do you want to live? What legacy do you want to leave behind? What do you want to be known for? Why?
  2. Uncover your Purpose: What is it that most moves you? Calls out to you as the cause most worthy in your eyes? What are you best placed to do? Thanks to a deeper understanding of my own purpose, I am beginning to open up my business’s focus more toward Adult Children who underwent trauma in childhood. As a topic affecting 25% of the world (at least), it seems it was never before published about in a business context. This is both an impactful and deeply meaningful subject for me – for those affected and for those they touch.
  3. Define your Values: not the ones you think you should have, but the ones you want to have. Living our aspirational values are what help us make our Vision a reality.
  4. Set an Intention to live your Values and Purpose and to manifest your Vision.
  5. Increase your self-awareness: we all can be doing this, even those of us devoted to this profession ;-). Get feedback. Reach out to sponsors, mentors and other role models.
  6. Leverage your Network. Connect with everyone who can offer support, inspiration and accountability.
  7. Appreciate yourself! Once smart people reach their goals, guess what we tend to do next? That’s right: set another goal! We forget to acknowledge themselves for all of their hard work. And in so doing, they inadvertently contribute to their own dissatisfaction in life (the number one reason for it being – statistically speaking – not appreciating their own wins! So bring out those party favors – it’s time for a dance party… in honor of you 🙂
  8. Share your new experiences through writing blogs or articles, or with an accountability group or mentor, for example.

Staying the Course: The Ultimate Challenge for all Leaders

It’s all fine and well to lay out concrete steps for expanding our development as leaders and even to highlight the need for commitment to our own growth throughout.

But this article wouldn’t be complete unless it also brought in how freaking hard staying the course – any course – can be. Especially in this crazy, heartbreaking world we live in which can seem to throw wrenches in our progress at many turns.

It’s at this point and also when we don’t seem to be making progress – things feel BORING and FRUSTRATING – where most of us probably want to throw in the towel. Yet that is exactly the time we need to hang tight and remind ourselves of our vision for ourselves and our leadership. For this bumpy road is just part of our Yellow Brick one which will lead to greater freedom and joy for us.

“When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution.
The undecided heart searches for an escape.”
– Andy Andrews

This means that even when we can’t see immediate results, even when we want to pull our hair out with boredom or stress, we keep going. Remembering one important fact might help all of us here: through our commitment to growth, we are making an investment…in ourselves.

Many, many times over the course of earning my last degree, overwhelmed with yet another paper (23 in total!), I wanted to call it quits. With two little girls at home, clients to take care of and a business to run, who wouldn’t? But I didn’t. As hard as it was and as much as I ground my teeth and wanted to run out of my house screaming, I stayed put. And now I have a diploma which grows my credibility, and which will stay with me no matter where I go, no matter what I do next.

And that’s the sort of thing I want for you, too. You can do it. We all owe it to ourselves and to those we touch to make the investment in ourselves to be the humans and leaders we have always admired. In this world of increasing darkness, after all, even one additional light is sorely needed and desperately wished for.

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The Power of Choice in Bolder Leadership

The Power of Choice in Bolder Leadership

Identifying and making courageous choices is where our power lies in our leadership and beyond.

“Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made.
If you want a different result, make a difference choice.”– Anonymous

Bolder Moves Through Bold Choices

Anyone who has followed me for any amount of time knows that I am all about Bolder Moves – bold choices leading to greater levels of impact and fulfillment through the rewards such moves promise.

This is because I want to help as many of you as possible to reap the same benefits I have of getting your courage on and of making those moves most in alignment with your True Selves so you can accumulate every thriving point in your favor.

A Kentucky girl from a single-parent low-income household who moved to Paris with little money, no job lined up and limited French skills, I somehow managed to make a life in this country.

This has included learning to get around in a foreign language (albeit with a strong American accent – lol), graduating from two of its schools and being able to navigate the (thick) red tape to set up a bonafide business here.

It all started by trusting that nudge I felt in my body. That was the choice I made, among many others which have enriched both my professional and personal lives.

One of my beloved teachers talks about the distinction between decision and choice: decision is of the mind (rational, logical), while choice is of the heart (intuitive, pulled by body sensations).

She also says that when it comes to joy and fulfillment, in the war of the heart and the mind, the heart will always win. It always has for me. No question. And that’s my wish for you, too.

Choice is power. Being able to claim our choices – and providing space for others to do so as well – is what distinguishes Bolder Leaders from the not-so-much.

The Power of Choice in the Workplace

Most leaders are aware of their ability (or inability) to create thriving environments for employees to flourish in.Choice

Two basic elements allow humans at work to thrive, the ability to:

  • choose
  • have structure

Based on studies, having choice and control in the workplace are what matters to employees – and their work performance.

Tracy Brower, PhD, writing in Forbes, highlights the issues of choice and control, citing the late Barbara Ehrenreich in her book, Nickel and Dimed, who asserted that lack of control – where employees feel they have no choice – is detrimental to the work environment.

Studies have indicated that employees are more involved when they feel they have control over matters that affect them.

When control is taken away or little is available in jobs of high levels of stress, employees’ health is affected. Not surprisingly, it makes a difference when workers feel that they have some say in their next steps and can make their own choices.

When employees have a greater freedom in their workplaces, stress is lessened and performance is enhanced.

The Goldilocks Choice: A Leadership Analogy

Too much choice – or too little choice – have their downsides.

We all remember the childhood story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. While the bears are out of their little cottage, Goldilocks tastes from their three different porridge bowls and decides for herself that one is too hot, one too cold…and it’s the middle one, neither too hot or too cold, that she likes best.

Thus, the Goldilocks Principle: just the right amount.

That analogy mirrors how most employees feel about their experiences with choice in the work place.

Experiments have uncovered that if people aren’t given enough choices, they aren’t satisfied. Yet giving people too much choice can result in a feeling of overwhelm and may hinder effective decision making.

We’re all pretty much like Goldilocks. Not too much, not too little. It’s a little bit of both. Leaders who communicate and listen will be aware of what level of choice their employees are comfortable with.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” – Stephen R. Covey

How Leaders Can Empower Through Choice & Control

So how do we take the Goldilocks Principle from the fairy tale and transform it into everyday business?

It’s all about providing choices. Where to start?

Communication and trust-building are essential. Leaders need to both empathize with employees’ individual needs and to co-create the path to achieving a common vision with them. In giving workers the space to work out how to both follow their own priorities while remaining true to what the organization requires, leaders are setting the tone for higher levels of engagement and impact from their team.

Brower highlights areas where choices may abound:

  • In work scheduling and locations: Research by Steelcase found that 87% of leaders foresee offering much more flexibility to workers, as to location, hours, and how they work in general. These issues are important (and challenging) to balance. On the one hand, employees face school/day care concerns, other family obligations and the need to take better care of their physical and mental health. On the other, leaders need to have times where teams are gathered physically together.
  • Through work content: Yes, of course leaders need to ensure they and workers are on the same page about what needs to be done and by when– but providing variety in how or where this is done is key. It motivates and lessens burnout and can provide new opportunities to boost enthusiasm and create a sense of being a part of something in the workplace.
  • With colleagues: For sure, we tend to work together well with those with whom we feel ‘in tune’, but oftentimes diversity enhances new lines of thinking and fresh creativity. It’s important for leaders to allow employees choices when working together.
  • Via technology & office settings: Specific chair designs, visibility of windows, lighting and reduced noise levels can all contribute to increased productivity. Yet, most people feel even more motivated when they are able to also have choice in their office location. Technology and the various apps it includes allows for tracking categorized time, working from home and even having a dance off with colleagues!

The most important element in any choice we give our people, however, is the strong sense that they matter to the team and to the company.

The Power to Choose is Powerful in Leadership & Life

Surviving – and thriving – post-pandemic has shown us that we can think outside the box and work in ways never before thought.

Most leaders recognize how debilitating it feels when the power of choice is taken away. We must also remember that those who work for us feel no differently.

In a LinkedIn article aptly titled Leadership: The Power of Choice, author Utpal KC reminds us of Viktor Frankl, the groundbreaking Austrian neuropsychiatrist who believed that we humans have a choice of responses to any stimulus. In other words: between stimulus and response exists the freedom to choose.

Yet, he shares, “My experience is that individuals are so used to their spontaneous response to stimuli that many of them cannot even recognise a possibility of freedom of choice between stimulus and response.”

As I look at my own life and leadership here, I chuckle: how many times have I seen myself as a victim – “stuck with absolutely no way out”? Give me a break! How shortsighted I can be when I am unable to identify all my options and see that I am always at choice. Even choosing not to decide is a choice.

Providing choices is key, this we know.

But perhaps we should also recognize our own power to choose – between that moment of stimulus and our subsequent response to it exists the vast, all-powerful realm of one little word: choice.

As we begin to recognize this freedom within ourselves, so also will we be more effective at offering those we lead the dignity and power that comes from the opportunity of choice.

It was the renowned Frankl who spoke the profound words:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Choice comes in many forms: from setting simple boundaries to speaking up to stating our needs. The truth is, our choice probably isn’t going to be someone else’s choice. One is neither good or bad.

Rather, it’s the freedom of choice that provides the golden key.

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