Iceberg Model for Leaders

Want to increase your impact as a leader? Go below the waterline.

As a leader, you’re well aware that challenges at work (and in life) are a given. From tight deadlines and budget demands to HR issues, it can feel like the minute one issue is solved, another is there to take its place.

Instead of emphasizing how to avoid disagreeable situations, what matters more is how you respond to life’s changes and challenges.

In leadership and in life, we all face challenging situations.

What about you? Can you recall a time recently when you faced a distressing situation? Maybe:

  • You took offense to something that a colleague said or did.
  • A disagreement at work escalated into an all-out conflict.
  • At a key meeting, you felt ignored when you shared your insights.

When we encounter a challenge, many of us respond with the familiar fight, flight, or freeze approach (or a combination of all three!). After the dust settles, we may find ourselves saying things like:

  • I can’t believe I said that. What was I thinking?!
  • I know I should have responded more effectively, but I just had to get out of there fast.
  • I wish I could have done something differently, but I just shut down.

At the height of the challenging circumstance, you’ll likely experience some unpleasant physical symptoms, such as:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Facial flushing; an influx of warmth
  • Muscle tightening and/or clenched jaw, fists
  • A knot or heaviness in your stomach
  • Breathing troubles – hyperventilation, rapid breathing

Impactful leaders know this simple secret.

Consider this question posed in a 2014 McKinsey&Company article, Lead at your best:

“Instead of that “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction, what if you could pause, reflect, and then manage—creatively and effectively—what you’re experiencing?”

The most influential leaders worldwide know that you can choose to respond more effectively. As you deepen your capacity to better manage your reactions, you’ll also inspire others to follow your lead.Iceberg Model for Leaders

You might be thinking, “That sounds great – but where do I start?” The answer is more straightforward than you think. It all starts with a simple metaphor about an iceberg…

We humans share an interesting similarity with icebergs. Moving along the open waters, at first glance it may seem that what you see is what you get – just a towering piece of ice broken off from a glacier.

The waterline only represents the tip of the iceberg (literally).

It’s when we take a moment to consider what’s going on below the waterline that we increase our ability to understand our behaviors.

In ourselves and in others, we tend to observe surface behaviors and actions. That approach isn’t particularly effective. Why? Because 90% of what’s really happening – what drives human behavior – is happening below the waterline.

With this analogy in mind, think about a time when you responded in a less than desirable way. Let’s explore what’s happening beneath the surface.

McKinsey authors Barsh and Lavoie present some thought-provoking questions that I’ve summarized below, but I strongly encourage you to read the entire article to deepen your perspective even more.

To be an impactful leader, go below the waterline.

1) Start at the “tip of the iceberg.” How are you behaving? What are you saying? Think about the impact your words and actions had in that moment…and beyond.Effective leadership

2) Dare to descend below the waterline. Be honest. What thoughts and feelings did you have, but kept to yourself? Were you influenced less than productive (but very common) desires to be liked, seek approval, or conform in some way?

3) Make a bold move by navigating deep waters. Ask how you can you bring your values into this situation. Meaning, what matters to you? What are your beliefs related to this event – and about yourself and others? Might these have shaped your response?

4) If you’re ready, dive even deeper. What are your underlying needs? What might be at risk for you in this situation? Can you define what your deepest desires are?

How often have you heard cliché statements such as “like attracts like” or “what you fear, you create”? Actually, there is truth to both statements.

Transform unproductive behaviors while deepening your leadership capacity

Say for instance that it’s important to you to be seen as calm and competent, and you often worry about “coming undone”. At work, a major project deadline is missed. Before you know it, you’ve just unleashed some harsh comments to a team lead in the heat of the moment. Your greatest fear just happened.

Enter: the iceberg metaphor. Using this technique can help you transform unproductive behaviors into ones that are better aligned with your core values and that produce more desirable outcomes. There’s a bonus, too: you may find that you experience a deeper understanding of yourself – and of those you lead.

Over the next coming months, I’ll be taking a close look at this topic, sharing tips and tools that will inspire you to think differently. So, stay tuned!

Take action today: try this quick leadership tip.

I’d like to leave you with a simple tool that you can start using right away: Before your next meeting officially begins, check in with everyone present. Have each person share a tidbit about what might be happening “below the waterline,” starting with yourself.

Doing this encourages more open, honest conversation while deepening everyone’s understanding of how their colleagues may be feeling. As you make this a habit, you’ll notice that meetings become more productive. Now go on, try it today!

If you’d like a quick burst of leadership inspiration delivered fresh to your inbox each week, be sure to sign up for my weekly Bolder Moves Messages here.

Inspirational Leadership

How One Little Word Sets Inspirational Leaders Apart from the Rest

“Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we

have to, but because we want to.”

-Simon Sinek

Inspirational leaders often share a common attribute. They know the seed of success can grow from one small but powerful word: Why?

People inspired by their leaders will follow not because they’re being told to by someone in authority—but because they want to out of sense of shared values and beliefs.

Before you can motivate others, you must know your own “why” behind your values, your beliefs. It’s not about “how” you do what you do – but “why.”  More precisely, as long as we know our “why”, the “how” and the “what” will take care of themselves.

As you read through the following post, explore the “why” behind what really inspires you. As you do, you’ll find that you’re more easily able to inspire and empower those you lead to greater levels of success and fulfillment.

Inspirational Leadership

Understanding Your “Why” So Others Can, Too

In a well-known Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last,” brings home the value of knowing the why for your actions. He believes that people aren’t inspired by what you do as a leader as much as why you do it, and that what you do is proof of what you believe.

Sinek believes that the most inspiring leaders and organizations in the world share a powerful commonality that is in opposition to everyone else. He says they all think, act, and communicate in the same way.

Why Are Some Leaders Inspirational – and Others Aren’t?

If you’ve ever wondered why some leaders have the ability to inspire while others do not, Sinek says the explanation is quite simple: few people or organizations know the “why” behind what they do. Sounds surprising, right? But it’s very true.

Being driven by a cause, a purpose, or a belief will bring the right people to you who share those same values, who believe what you believe. And, says Sinek, those folks will work for you “with blood, sweat, and tears.”

Stop and let that soak in for a moment. By getting clear on your purpose, your why, people will follow you with their full selves.

So, How Clear Are You on the “Why” Behind What You Do?

Sinek masterfully deepens this concept: “But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

Contrast this with the 70% or so of us humans running around on the earth operating from the outside-in. We can try (and “try” is the operative word here!) to get our needs of security, belonging and self-esteem met through others and, consequently, frequently feel disappointed and frustrated because we will never succeed getting from others what only lies within us. Living from the outside-in is therefore a set-up to a dissatisfying life and way of operating in the world. Living from the inside-out is another story.

To live – and lead – from the inside-out, start by finding your why – your cause – that drives you forward. Getting very clear on what your values are- and ensuring they are indeed your values and not someone else’s – s one sure-fire way to begin understanding your “why.” Another is to listen to that quiet, steady voice inside you, the one that has never steered you wrong.

4 Easy Questions to Help You Discover Your Why

This Forbes article has four simple questions you can ask yourself to better understand your “why.” Here they are:

1) What inspires you – what makes you come alive?

2) What would you say are your natural talents and strengths?

3) In what areas do you add the most value?

4) What matters most to you? How will you measure your life?

As you get clearer on what you stand for, watch as your team begins filling up with people who believe in the similar things you do. Watch as, together with you, these people put their all into manifesting the same, expanded results your vision had in mind.

Transformational Leaders Inspire Top-Notch Performance

Knowing that all-important “why” can guide you as a leader to use your own special combination of skills and strengths to excite and inspire both individuals and teams toward success.

Transformational leaders create the space for their teams to think bigger, to come up with creative ways to navigate challenges and to take on bold new projects. Transformational leaders inspire excellence from people through empowerment – rather than from “command and control” tactics.

Think about it – which of these motivates you more: Being “told” what to do – or feeling empowered…inspired…to move to greater levels of success? I’m willing to bet you’d rather listen – maybe even relate to – someone’s “why” than listen to a leader drone on about mission statements and goals that have little meaning for you.

Understanding Your “Why” Isn’t Just About You…

Having a clear understanding of your “why” has an important trickle-down effect. As others relate to and are inspired by you, others in your organization will also be motivated to reach their full potential as well. A win-win!

Honestly contemplating your “why” might open up new pathways you weren’t even aware of previously. Consider journaling for a week or two and scribbling down “why” you do what you do every day. I’d love to hear your results!

Looking for strategies on how to become a more inspirational—and effective—leader? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.


When it comes to inspirational leadership, one trait really SHINES.

Openness…recognition…trust…humility…accountability. Most successful leaders embody these and other key traits. But there is one trait that shines above the rest. Can you guess it?


How centered are you as a leader?

The Harvard Business Review shared results of a study by Bain and Company on the characteSelf-awareness leadershipristics of inspirational leaders. They surveyed 2,000 people and came up with a list of over 30 key leadership traits that inspire employees. The results? Surprising, according to the article’s author.

The study found that one attribute in particular – centeredness – stood out. In fact, “Ranking in the top 10% in your peer group on just one attribute nearly doubles your chance of being seen as inspirational. However, there is one trait that our respondents indicated matters more than any other: centeredness.”

Bain concisely defines centeredness as “a state of greater mindfulness, achieved by engaging all parts of the mind to be fully present.” Leaders who are centered can listen effectively, successfully relate to others, stay present in any situation, and keep calm even in stressful circumstances. Survey respondents said this behavior represented a truly inspirational leader.

The value of centered leadership is far-reaching.

As far back as 2010, a McKinsey article called How Centered Leaders Achieve Extraordinary Results asserted, “Five capabilities are at the heart of centered leadership: finding meaning in work, converting emotions such as fear or stress into opportunity, leveraging connections and community, acting in the face of risk, and sustaining the energy that is the life force of change.”

The benefits and rewards are obvious. For a moment, let’s turn to you now – as a leader and as a human being. When you think about an average day, how centered would you say you are?

Are there certain “triggers” that sometimes knock you off balance? Practice awareness for at least several weeks to watch how you respond in different situations. Consider keeping notes in a journal or using whatever method works for you to track your behavior over time. This, in turn, will help you start thinking about how you might become more centered, in leadership and in life.

Successful leaders practice mindfulness. And you can too!

Try these three practical strategies I’ve outlined for you below. The best part about this is that when it comes to mindfulness, there are no gimmicks involved to get started – no special tools or gadgets…not another app to download…no expensive workbook to buy…and you’ve got nothing to lose. Well, except maybe some excess stress and strain you’ve been holding on to!

    1. Use your breath. Breath is a very effective way to begin a practice of mindfulness. And you don’t need anything special to get started – except a few minutes of your time. Don’t try to force or alter it; simply be aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Just observe. That’s all. Make a habit of doing this at least once each day and notice how it becomes easier over time to be more present in those moments of noticing your breath.
    2.  Give it your full attention. Multi-tasking drains us and leads to poor results. Whatever “it” is that you’re doing – from the most basic to more complex tasks, bring your full presence into it. What sounds simple actually takes some practice. Begin by listening to yourself and to others more astutely. How many times have you been in conversation with someone only to find your mind scattered off in various unrelated directions? Choose to quiet the inner chatter (the breath is a great way!) to give your very best to each moment.
    3. Make self-care a priority. You can’t give from an empty cup, so this one just makes common sense. However, too many of us are neglecting caring well for ourselves, which can lead to our bodies and minds not feeling in top form. Reframe how you think about self-care and have fun drumming up creative ways to infuse it into your daily activities. Here’s a great HBR article to get you started with 6 Ways to Weave Self-Care into Your Workday. A great takeaway? “Self-care flows from an intention to stay connected to oneself and one’s overall mission.”

Effective leadership starts with you.

In truth, effective leadership is never a “one size fits all” approach. Instead, it’s up to you to find the practices and strategies that are most aligned with your unique values and beliefs.

The leaders I work with and observe strongly benefit from practicing mindfulness and from developing the full set of skills necessary to become centered – in work and in life.

Would you love to receive simple strategies and effective tips to help you become a more centered leader, delivered to your inbox fresh every week? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.

Effective leadership is about art and science

Effective Leadership is a Mix of Art and Science

“The only thing that is constant is change.”


When it comes to leadership, truer words were never spoken. Effective leadership is about so much more than a set of skills we can memorize to get people on board with our ideas.

Being an Effective Leader is a Life-Long Pursuit

In my experience, it’s a life-long pursuit to enhance the value for the entire organization and to understand how the human brain is wired to handle the one given in every company: change.

In that light, here are two questions you as a leader might consider asking yourself:

  1. Am I effectively guiding my team to achieve all it’s capable of?
  2. How well do I influence change when necessary?

Part of being an effective leader is the ability to continually adapt to our ever-changing environment and to guide those we lead to do the same.

Enter: The Neuroscience of Leadership

In The Neuroscience of Leadership, authors Rock and Schwartz explain a key link between neuroscience and effectively leading organizational transformation. How on earth can imaging technologies like fMRI’s, PET’s, and QEEG’s aid your ability to effectively lead change?

As leaders, we may believe human behavior works in a certain way. In reality, science tells a different story and helps to shed light on why many change initiatives often fall short of expected outcomes.

The authors are quick to point out that none of this suggests that leadership is solely a science – they fully recognize there is a definite art and skill to effective leadership. Instead, they assert that those who grasp a bit of cognitive science can lead change most successfully.

Effective Leadership is a Mix of Art and Science

In essence, it’s that blend of “art” with “scienceEffective leadership is about art and science” that may offer the greatest opportunity for advancements at your organization. To be sure, many of the world’s most successful organizations have been doing this for years.

Once thought of as contrary to everyday leadership or even flat out incorrect, the authors highlight the following points relating to organizational change, summarized below. I strongly recommend you read through the entire article to deepen your understanding:

Five Interesting Conclusions on Leadership

1- Change is…difficult…challenging…demanding. However you want to describe it, organizational change can be uncomfortable. And there is never a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

2- Behaviorism may not be the best approach. According to the authors, “the carrot and the stick” approach based on traditional incentives and threats just doesn’t work.

3- Humanism? The benefits might be exaggerated. Though it can work at times, connection and persuasion may not be all that’s needed to sufficiently engage people enough to accept change.

4- Your power lies in your ability to focus. Professionals in different functions (i.e. finance versus marketing) “have physiological differences that prevent them from seeing the world the same way.”

5- Expectation molds reality. Akin to the placebo effect, our expectations really can influence our experiences. Think of the impact this has in leadership.

Neuroscience Can Help Us Think About Leadership Differently

When I’ve written about leadership before, I’ve suggested how studies and articles such as these clearly demonstrate how challenging it can be to change the ways of an entire organization.

In a sense, the ability to effectively lead truly is a union between skill and science. As David Rock explains in his Psychology Today article, neuroscience is helping us to fill gaps in our understanding of leadership, allowing us to examine the components of what leaders do.

Research, he says, has often been chockful of surprises that are making us rethink many things. For instance Rock suggests, “Rethinking our understanding of how we solve complex problems could save thousands of hours wasted in dead-end meetings.”

How can you take this knowledge and apply it in a way that enhances your leadership abilities?

Effective leadership solutionsHere are five takeaway tips for you today:  

  1. Stay current with emerging research. Effective leadership is a life-long pursuit to enhance value for the entire organization. Staying current with new breakthroughs in research can help you guide your organization most effectively through life’s one constant: change.
  2. Use neuroscience to your advantage. For successful organizational change, you may not need to understand the intricacies of it all. But it is crucial to understand that one person’s brain will be pre-wired to resist change, while another’s will be wired to accept it.
  3. Remember that expectation shapes reality. Our preconceptions have a significant impact on what we perceive to be true. Knowing the issues ahead of time can help you reshape those expectations so that change is more easily accepted.
  4. Keep checking in with yourself. Is your leadership helping your team to achieve all it’s capable of? Do you really understand how to effectively influence change when necessary? What might you rethink so you can improve outcomes?
  5. Practice guiding versus dictating. The human brain wants to meet the challenge of change by focusing on solutions rather than problems, coming to its own answers, and discovering its own insights. Gently guiding rather than boldly dictating can assist in effective problem-solving.

Looking for innovative viewpoints on how you can enhance your leadership abilities? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.

Self Awareness Leadership

Truly Effective Leadership Comes With Self-Awareness

Would you want to work for you? Self Awareness Leadership

Asking yourself this question can greatly improve your leadership skills. Why? Because it’s a first step toward greater self-awareness, which has been proven to be an essential trait of effective leaders.

Self awareness helps leaders to know their natural dispositions and preferences so they can improve upon or compensate for them as needed. It also improves the bottom line. A 2013 study by Korn/Ferry International discovered that “public companies with a higher rate of return (ROR) also employ professionals who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness.”

Wherever you are on the spectrum of self-awareness, consider taking a fresh look at how it can transport your leadership skills to new heights.

Self Awareness Leads To More Emotional IntelligenceEffective leadership

Being self-aware, according to Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, is “one of the core components of emotional intelligence.”

And strong emotional intelligence can give you the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others. You can then use that awareness to better guide your own behavior and your relationships with self and others — which makes you a leader that people want to follow.

World renowned researcher who coined the term “emotional intelligence,” Daniel Goleman, elaborates on this concept in a recent business article from The Telegraph. He explains, “If you think of the worst and best bosses you’ve ever had, it had nothing to do with their title or degree, but everything to do with the kind of person they were – for example, whether they were emotionally intelligent or not. People want to work for a person who is.”

If this all makes sense to you, then you’re ready to commit to gaining greater self awareness.

Try These Strategies to Improve Self-Awareness

Here are some easy ways to start down the path to heightened self awareness.

  1. Use one of the many tests available to better understand your behavior and mSelf Awareness Leadershipotives. Some good ones include:
  • Leadership Circle ProfileNot only tells you what is or is not contributing to a leader’s effectiveness, but also tells you “ why” this is so. It gives the leader causational insight into what is happening beneath the surface.
  • Myers Briggs – Reveals your “sweet spot” personality for working and communicating with others, which may or may not be the optimal approach in your work with others.
  • CliftonStrengths (formerly Strengthsfinder) – Shows you your “natural strengths,” which the test defines as your thinking style or the type of work you thrive on.
  1. Learn what triggers your behaviors. What particular drivers make you react a certain way—and why? What are your personal or professional blind spots? Identifying and understanding your triggers can help you achieve more productive interactions with others.
  2. Practice mindfulness. One of the key benefits of practicing mindfulness is a direct increase in self-awareness. The Harvard Business Review recently cited their work with a global IT company from Silicon Valley which showed that “even just five weeks of 10 minutes of daily mindfulness training enhanced the participating leaders’ self-awareness up to 35%.”
  3. Ask for feedback. This can sometimes be tough to hear, so choose someone you trust to share their view of your typical interactions. Be open to what they have to say – and be willing to implement changes if they are in alignment with your priorities and values.
  4. Be easy on yourself. Remember, you’re a work in progress! Look at your successes and what you’ve learned objectively, acknowledging what you did well – and what you might do differently next time. Learning from our mistakes is a key component of gaining self awareness.

Along with the tips above, there’s one more thing for self-aware leaders to practice…

Strong Leaders Combine Self-awareness leadershipSelf-Awareness With Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is simply being aware of how your behavior impacts those you lead and then making adjustments as needed. This proves to your team that you want to bring out their best, without being intimidating or negative.

Leaders with both self-awareness and self-regulation skills set a positive example for their team members to follow, building teams that are more motivated, productive, and willing to courageously grow in their own right.

As a leader, could you ask for anything more?

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