What does it mean to be a courageous leader?
I’m thrilled to share with you the insights from our latest podcast episode where I had the pleasure of hosting Amy Riley, an internationally renowned speaker, author, and consultant. Amy’s new book, Courage: A Leader’s Guide to Inspire, Engage, and Get Extraordinary Results, is a must-read for anyone looking to elevate their leadership skills.
Here are some key takeaways from our enlightening conversation:
Everyone is a Leader: Amy believes that leadership isn’t confined to the boardroom. It’s about rallying people around a purpose or adventure whether that’s raising children, creating meaningful experiences, or achieving personal goals.
Four Pillars of Courageous Leadership: Amy shared her four pillars of courage in leadership – being authentically yourself, speaking up even when it’s difficult, trusting your leadership legacy, and being bold to create extraordinary results.
Identifying Your Strengths: We discussed the importance of recognizing and leveraging your unique strengths as a leader. Amy suggests writing a leadership autobiography to explore your values and the experiences that have shaped you.
Speaking Up: We delved into the art of saying what needs to be said. Amy emphasized the importance of preparation, intentionality, and respect when having difficult conversations.
Leadership Legacy: Amy introduced the concept of declaring your leadership legacy and sharing it with your team. This involves identifying your strengths, interests, values, and finding ways to contribute and bring value.
Being Bold: Amy shared a powerful story about a young man who took on a challenging project with courage and determination reminding us of all of the extraordinary results that can come from bold leadership.
I encourage you to listen to the full episode for more insights and practical tips on how to be a courageous leader.
As the host of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, I recently had the pleasure of engaging in a thought-provoking conversation with Amy Riley, an internationally renowned speaker, author, and consultant. With over two decades of experience in developing leaders, Amy’s insights into leadership and courage are truly invaluable. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the key takeaways from our discussion.
Leadership: A Vehicle for Purpose and Adventure
Amy’s perspective on leadership is refreshingly inclusive. She believes that everyone is a leader in every area of their lives whether it’s raising children, pursuing meaningful experiences, or accomplishing goals with intention. Leadership, in her view, is a vehicle for rallying people around a purpose or adventure.
The Four Pillars of Courage in Leadership
Amy’s new book, “Courage: A Leader’s Guide to Inspire, Engage, and Get Extraordinary Results,” outlines four pillars of courage in leadership. These include:
- The courage to be authentically yourself: This involves knowing your strengths and where you bring unique value.
- The courage to say what needs to be said: This means speaking up, even when it’s difficult or unpopular.
- The courage to trust your own leadership legacy and follow your purpose: This involves identifying your strengths and the activities that you excel at.
- The courage to be bold and create the extraordinary: This means going after what you want and making it happen.
Identifying and Leveraging Strengths as a Leader
Amy and I delved into the importance of identifying and leveraging one’s strengths as a leader. We discussed the value of a leadership autobiography, a tool that explores one’s values and the unique circumstances that have shaped them as a leader. Amy shared her own story of growing up in a small town which fostered her curiosity about the world and led her to seek exposure to diverse communities.
Speaking Up as a Leader
We also discussed the importance of speaking up and saying what needs to be said as a leader. Amy believes that it is possible to be politically correct while still telling the truth. She emphasized the need to prepare for these conversations and to be clear on one’s intentions. We also touched on different approaches to giving feedback including using formulas like SBI (Situation, Behavior, Impact) or EICI (Example, Impact, Change/Continue).
Leadership Legacy and Being Bold
Amy introduced the concept of “leadership legacy” which involves sharing your interests and values with others to bring value and find opportunities to contribute. She gave an example of her own leadership legacy project, the Courageous Leadership podcast.
We also discussed the importance of being bold as a leader. Amy shared a story about a courageous young man who took on a challenging project and had the initial order secured before the program was even completed. Despite the possibility of failure, he decided to play full out and was able to tell a compelling story at the final presentation.
Our conversation with Amy Riley was a treasure trove of insights about courageous leadership. From understanding the importance of authenticity and speaking up to recognizing the value of a leadership legacy and the power of boldness, Amy’s wisdom is a guide for anyone seeking to inspire, engage, and get extraordinary results as a leader.
To connect with Amy Riley, you can visit her website, courageofaleader.com, or find her on LinkedIn under the same name. Don’t forget to tune in to future episodes of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast for more enlightening discussions on leadership and culture.
Mentioned in this episode:
Amy Riley: The courage to be authentically you. Be yourself. Know your strengths. Know where you uniquely bring value and own that. And bring that. Be you. Be genuine with people.
Voice Over: This is the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, your source for the strategies, systems, and insights you need to turn your dreams into your destiny. Every week we dive into dynamic conversations as our host, Nicole Greer, interviews leadership and business experts. They’re here to shed light on practical solutions to the challenges of personal and professional development. Now, here’s your host, a professional speaker, coach, and consultant, Nicole Greer.
Nicole Greer: Welcome, everybody, to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and they call me The Vibrant Coach. I am here with another wonderful guest. Her name is Amy Riley. Amy is an internationally renowned speaker, author, and consultant. She has over two decades of experience developing leaders at all levels. Amy’s clients include Cisco Systems, Deloitte, and Google Drive. We all know you have one of those. Her new book is the number one international bestseller and is entitled Look What I Have Right Here. Courage: A Leader’s Guide to Inspire, Engage, and Get Extraordinary Results. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. Welcome to the show, Amy. I’m so glad you’re here.
Amy: Thank you, Nicole, I’m glad to be here.
Nicole: Yeah. We were just talking a little bit before we got started here. You know, this book took you over a year to write, right around a year to write. And you have put all of your best tips, strategies, and techniques, or strategy, systems, and smarts, as I like to say, into the book. And the first thing I want to do is just get your definition of leadership. How would you define leadership?
Amy: I would say that we’re all leaders. We’re all leaders in every area of our lives. I’m interested in leadership because I think it’s through leadership that we get things done in this world. And I think that leaders are the most powerful when they are tapped into their purpose? What is my bigger picture/gift to the world, to this relationship, to this project? Right. So that’s kind of speaking around a definition of leadership. I think it’s a vehicle for getting things done. I think it’s a way to rally people, heads, and hearts around purpose, around an adventure. I think it can be developing our kids and, you know, having playtime with our kids. It’s having experiences and getting things done with an intention.
Nicole: Yeah, I love your definition and I love your enthusiasm. And, you know, what was always mind boggling to me is that my guess is most people pursue a leadership position. You know, some people are like picked. They’re like, pick him, put him, put her in charge. But, usually, people don’t take the role or they don’t seek out the role unless they, you know, really want to do something fantastic in the world. And I think that what you’re demonstrating is huge. Now in the definition of leadership, you like to insert the word courage, like, you put a big emphasis on courage. In fact, it’s right behind her on her wall. And so, you know, I know that you think leaders should demonstrate courage in four distinct ways. Will you talk about that?
Amy: Yeah, I love talking about that, Nicole. I realized through my work at one point, I said very distinctly to myself, every time I am impressed or inspired by a leader, they demonstrate true courage. I started cataloging that in my mind. And yes, I did come up with the courage of a leader. Four pillars. The courage to be authentically you. Be yourself. Know your strengths. Know where you uniquely bring value and own that and bring that. Be you. Being genuine with people is the courage to say what needs to be said. Usually, when I say that to an audience, I get nods around. You know, we all have that time that a leader didn’t say what needed to be said, or that time that a leader did stand up for someone or said, hey, in order to remain competitive, we have got to go in this bold new direction, right? They said the thing that needed to be said and that takes courage. Then the courage to trust the legacy which is our own. Leadership legacy, that bigger picture purpose, where we know and how we know that we provide value. Looking to that for guidance and stepping up when that legacy calls us to do something big, bold, new, and different. And then the fourth pillar is the courage to be bold and create the extraordinary, which means the courage to go for it. I mean, it’s really easy and I catch myself all the time just getting into that reactionary swirl of busyness or even cynicism. Right? Like they’re not going to get it. We’re not going to be able to do anything different this time. Like bringing this kind of product to market has to take this many months, right? Being focused on what many call the big rocks, the priorities, what we want, what we’re most interested in making happen.
Nicole: Right? I love that and so let’s kind of unpack these a little bit. You know, the first thing she said was to uncover and share your authentic self. So, you know, just yesterday, in fact, I was on a call with my coach. You know, every coach should have a coach. That’s what I’m just saying. So, I was on a call with a group of people and the coach was talking about, you know, do you know who you are? And, I don’t know, maybe because I’ve done so much coaching in my life and I’ve had a coach for so long and I’m like, yes, I know exactly who I am. I mean, I still have untapped potential. I don’t , you know, have 100% clarity. I’m pretty dang sure what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. So how do people go about doing that? Or how have you done that in your own life?
Amy: Yes. I encourage folks to declare their leadership legacy. And to do that, Nicole, I have them look at their strengths. Where are you? Where do people come to you? Sometimes that actually takes a little bit because our strengths can be so innate and natural to us that we don’t even recognize them. Oh yeah. I just always organize my thoughts that way, doesn’t everybody? Right? But what do people come to you uniquely for? What are your strengths? We’ll have that inquiry. And then also the inquiry of looking across your day’s work, personal, all aspects of your life. What are those activities that energize you? Where do you have passion? Where do you have interest? And then where those two lists intersect is the area of your leadership legacy. And I feel like a really powerful leadership legacy is one that can apply, in some way, in all areas of our lives. It could be that you’re the leader that is bringing global teams together. It could be that you’re the leader that’s streamlining and simplifying work. It could be that you’re the leader that brings care and compassion to every project, every initiative, every relationship. So, declaring that leadership legacy I have declared mine which is what I want.
Nicole: To hear about it.
Amy: Which is empowering others to declare their leadership legacies. Right? Like helping people find their leadership purpose and believe it and live it fully.
Nicole: Yeah. And I love what you just said. Everybody, don’t miss this. It just kind of rolled off her tongue. She said, you have to believe it and you gotta live it. I think that’s fantastic. And so let’s just, you know, unpack what she just said. She said, you know, to be authentic, you’ve got to figure out what your leadership legacy is. And it’s a combination of your strengths and then the activities that you’re naturally good at that you’re drawn to, that you have passion for. So strengths plus activities that bring you joy and passion, an equal sign. That’s your legacy.
Amy: Yes. So, Nicole, if there’s something that you’re good at but you don’t enjoy doing it, that’s not a strength, right?
Nicole: It’s just a task you can handle. Right?
Amy: And because it will weaken you over time. Right? If we keep doing this thing that drains us, I want us all to label that as a weakness.
Nicole: Yeah. And, you know, there’s somebody on your team or somebody that loves to do the thing that you can’t imagine somebody would love to do.
Amy: Amazingly, yes. I have worked with teams time and time again. Right? And somebody is sheepishly admitting they don’t like to do this thing and they’re like, oh, I don’t want to ask anybody else to do that. And then someone else raises their hand. It’s like, oh yeah, I wouldn’t mind that at all. Like, let me get my hands on it. You don’t like budgeting? I’m fascinated by making the numbers work. Okay?
Nicole: Right, right. So you can divvy it up. Right? And then you’ve got to believe it and you gotta live it. All right. So that’s your first assignment after this podcast is you need to figure out your leadership legacy. Well, you know, when we think about strengths, I just want to go there for a hot second. One of the assignments that I give people sometimes, as I say, is if you can’t see your own strengths, because I work with a lot of people who are incredibly humble, like they almost don’t want to admit that they’re strong. It’s like no leaders have to own it, right? They have to believe it, and they have to live it like you’re saying. Okay, so now we are going to add our own to it, everybody. They have to believe it. They have to live it and they have to own it. So I’ve had people like, you know, email, you know, trusted people in their network and say, where do you think I’m really strong? You know, I have this coach. This isn’t me asking. You know, I’m not a narcissist. I just got this assignment. Could you help me out and people get this feedback and they’re almost floored because you said they have a little blind spot. They can’t see. They’re so close to it. They can’t see it.
Amy: Yeah. That’s a great assignment. And I love what you’re saying about owning it, Nicole. Because when we show up and we tell somebody like, here’s where I can provide the most value, right? You’re creating a win-win-win right there. Hey, team. Hey, organization. Hey, colleagues. Right? Here’s what you can most rely on me for. Here’s where I’m going to bring you my best stuff. Right? And then they believe us because we’re saying it’s this, it’s not this and it’s not twenty-seven different things. Right? Here’s where I’m strong. Here’s the value you can expect to get from me. And that’s bringing your best to the work. Let people know that.
Nicole: Yeah, yeah. What would be some other ways that people could identify how strong they are?
Amy: There’s an activity that I love to do, especially with emerging leaders, but it’s great for leaders at any level. I have a leadership autobiography and it’s got the leadership legacy on there. It’s got values on there. What’s important to you at your core? When push comes to shove, what is going to be your guidance? And then the reason why I brought this up is there’s your story. What is it in your story and your unique circumstances that make you the kind of person and the kind of leader that you are? And this doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering. I know I used to think I don’t have much of a story, right? I grew up in a small town. It was a normal upbringing, like no significant challenges. And then I’m like, that’s my story. Growing up in a small town, I knew that I had a sheltered, naive upbringing. And, Nicole, that has made me curious about the world, and it has had me put myself into bigger communities and more diverse communities. And now we’re raising our children in Chicago, right? Because this is what has become important exposure and experiences and learning about different kinds of people and cultures and ways of doing things. Part of my story, which I’m like, oh, I grew up in a small town. That sounds boring, but how did it make you the person that you are?
Nicole: Yeah, and I love what you’re saying because I grew up going everywhere. I was raised by all these aunts. I had five aunts and got passed off to them. So I got raised, in like, chaos. And so this is a wonderful thing for leadership skills is going to be able to navigate chaos, right? And be agile and go with the flow. I mean these are very important things. My husband has the same story as you. And, you know, one of the things about growing up in a small town and I’ve got like three country music songs in my head right now about a small town. But the beautiful thing about it is that usually there’s like really great principles and there’s this reliance on other people or like this underlying teamwork that happens in small communities. And so I think when people do own their story and you really stop to think about it, you picked up some good strategies wherever you were.
Amy: Absolutely. Nicole, I can tell you I’m getting together this weekend with two friends that I’ve been friends with since the second grade.
Nicole: Oh, see? And my husband’s like that, too. He knows the people he went to kindergarten with. I’m like, what? You know, because I went to twelve schools in twelve years.
Amy: Oh, my goodness.
Nicole: I only remember eighth grade, Mr. Shaffer, he was my English teacher, and I only remember him because he took a special interest in me. He said, you’re a very good student. I need a babysitter. And so I babysat his daughter. But that’s the only reason.
Amy: Good job, Mr. Schaefer. Oh, awesome, Nicole. So my husband moved nine or eleven times growing up as well. There might be something there about how we pick our mate.
Nicole: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Okay, so you’ve got a couple of assignments here, folks. As you gotta figure out your strengths, you gotta look at the activities that bring you to life. Add those together and you’ll start to have your legacy and purpose. Maybe I might even use the word like your mission might come to life there. And then the other thing that Amy has shared is that you’ve got to figure out your core values and your story. So all of those things will help you get the first pillar of the courage of a leader which is in Amy Riley’s book. We’re talking to Amy Riley today, and her book is called The Courage of a Leader How to Inspire, engage, and Get Extraordinary Results. All right, so we’ve got four assignments and we’re only in about two. Okay. Now the next thing that we have as a pillar, one of the four pillars of the courage of a leader, is you need to say what needs to be said. Oh my gosh, that does take bravery, you know. And we’re in a world where like, you know, be politically correct, you know, so you can still be politically correct and tell the truth. Is that possible, Amy?
Amy: I do think it’s possible. I will courageously say, I do think we can say anything to anyone. We do need to prepare for that conversation. And I think the biggest thing is being clear on our intentions. What do we want to accomplish by sharing this message? Right? I’ll be working with leaders in coaching and they’ll be like, I could never say that to them. Like, I know this is a senior leader. How could I say that? And then when I give them an example of the words that they could say, like, I know that you are really concerned about our group’s reputation inside of the organization. I have some feedback about something that you said in the blah, blah, blah meeting. Would you be open to hearing it right? Or getting into dialogue is also important, right? Asking others for their perspective and their thinking. And often when we understand just a little bit more about where they’re coming from and how they’re viewing the situation, right then the message we feel like we want to deliver to help them perform better in the future. Whatever it is, there’s a place for it, right? We can attach it to something that’s important to them, something that they’re already seeing. Right. Let me just tell you how that is landing from a different perspective. So, I’ve got examples in the book about how you can talk to people about how their dress is inappropriate or, you know, like, all the topics that we feel like, gosh, we could never say that. And it also needs to come from a genuine place. I think we often need to do work about our beliefs, our being, and how we’re showing up. We might say the perfect words, but we can tell if someone doesn’t mean what they’re saying, right? So if we’re really in that space of, I believe in this person, I know this person has some strengths to bear here, I know we can get through this together, like being able to believe one or more of those things, right, that we can step into that and then have that candid, authentic, forward facing conversation.
Nicole: Yeah. And just think everybody about the last time somebody was a forward facing, candid, you felt – don’t miss that – like the vibe was that they cared for you and they told you the truth and you were like, oh, thank you for telling me. Right? So we all know the example of, you know, you didn’t zip up your fly or you have got broccoli in your teeth or whatever. We’re just like, oh my God, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. You know, and it’s the same thing with the other behaviors that we have at work, whether we don’t, you know, know that we need to, you know, have our shirt up a little bit higher, ladies, or, you know, we need to comb our hair, brush our teeth, you know, mean grooming is a total thing. I think Covid totally put everybody into an anti grooming mode. So, it’s like, it’s bad out there. But yeah, I think that is something we need to do. And you know when I’m listening to you, I think of the word courage. I want to go back to it for a second because I don’t want everybody to miss that. We’re talking about the courage of a leader, four pillars, and saying what needs to be said. But in the word courage is core, right? Which is the French word, I think got my story right, for heart or like love and like you have to. You can’t let people go on with bad behaviors or a blind spot. Yeah, that’s not love.
Amy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Rene Brown says clear is kind. Right? I got a piece of feedback once that I was doing something that annoyed someone, and I found out four months after I knew that we had been interacting in that way. Yeah. And I was devastated. And I’m like, oh, why didn’t you tell me sooner? It was not that big of a deal. I’m like, oh my gosh, if I’m doing this thing that has been annoying you for four months, I mean, that would that’s not what I want to do, right? I want to hear that sooner. And I know that sometimes when we get developmental feedback, right, there’s, I mean, there’s that drop in the pit of our stomach for a moment. But if you can see that someone cares about you and they’re delivering it, they’re sharing it with you because they want your relationship to feel great or they want you to be perceived in the best light. They want you to be as successful as you can be. We can feel that. And when we do the work to get really clear about the positive outcomes that we want for the situation, we can convey that to others, even if we don’t say the words exactly perfectly right.
Nicole: That’s right, that’s right. Because we can feel if people care.
Voice Over: Are you ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference, or organization to help them with their strategies, systems, and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy, and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at vibrantculture.com
Nicole: All right. And so for the second pillar, courageous leaders, they say what needs to be said. And so here’s what Amy shared with us is you got to sit your fanny in a chair and you got to prepare for this conversation. No winging. Right? Because care and preparation go together.
Nicole: You know, be intentional about the outcome that you want to have and then prepare to give them the piece of feedback. And one thing that I love, that she slipped in there very, very stealthily as she said, you know, when you’re having the conversation where somebody said, would you be open to hearing this? And when I got my coaching training way back in 2007, one of the things they said is if you want to kind of bridge a difficult space with a client, you ask permission instead of just charging in there, you know? Well, let me tell you what I’m saying. You know, instead of this diagnosis, you can say, would you like me to share and see? Once they say, yes, they’ve opened the door for you. And so you’re not, like, barging in. And like we said earlier, some people are like, I could never tell them. Well, no, you ask for permission and they give it to you.
Amy: Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you for calling that out. I think another aspect to that could be, is this a good time to talk about this as well? They might be mired in working towards a deadline. I use that one with my husband a lot. Right? I mean, he might have his mind on different things, right? Like can is this a good time to, you know, maybe change what’s going on with you and talk about this other thing.
Nicole: Right. And you know, when you ask permission, you inquire into their personal world. It’s like a thing of respect, like I respect you. I’m not telling you this to make you look foolish, because I want you to be honored. And if you don’t fix this annoying thing like you were sharing in your example, you’re not going to be honored. People are going to be like, oh my God, I have to work with Amy today and she does this annoying thing, you know, and we don’t want that for you. All right. And then being able to open the dialogue. So let’s just talk about feedback for a quick, hot second, because I think giving feedback is a skill. So how do you give feedback to somebody? Is there a proper way? Is there a formula? What are your thoughts on giving feedback?
Amy: Yeah, there are a number of formulas out there that I think can work. I do think, again, the most important starting point is the intention. What do you want for the person? What do you want for the relationship? Get really clear on that. And that’s often how we start the conversation as well. Sharing that intention with them. There is the formula of SBI.
Amy: Situation, Behavior, Impact. Right? And then the key thing with any of these formulas because there’s another one I know EIC – example, impact, and the “C” is either change or continue. With any of these, getting our examples, getting our specifics as specific as possible and in as objective language as possible. What was the thing they said or did or didn’t say or didn’t do that worked or didn’t work that you want to talk about? Because when we describe something very objectively, when you said that da da da da direct quote.
Nicole: You’re quotations are going right there, right?
Amy: Or when you were reviewing the lines of the budget on slide six. Right? The person knows that they said that thing or they did that thing. There’s no argument there. Right? We’re setting it up for them to be as least defensive as possible, to be able to take it in. So making sure that we’re using that objective language. And I think also through dialogue or self reflection, sometimes we can cause someone to discover their own feedback by saying, you know, you’ve got another one of these presentations coming up. I’d love for you to think about what would be most impactful for the range of stakeholders that you have in that room. Think about, think about the situation from each of their views, right? What are they going to be most interested in hearing? And then let’s talk about what you want to share in that next presentation. You might not have to give them any negative developmental feedback about the last time. If you’ve got time for them to reflect and come up with it on their own. So I think there’s different approaches. What will work well for the situation? Sometimes we need to try it in different ways, right, for folks to hear it. Sometimes we deliver it and they don’t hear it, right? They’re not in the space to hear it. But we keep the dialogue going.
Nicole: Yeah. And so I’m going to flip back. My listeners are very advanced. So I’m going to go back to the first pillar for a hot second where you said, you know, leaders need to uncover and share their authentic selves. And I think, too, another part of your authentic self is like how you’re hard wired, your personality. So both, Amy and I, we are all up in the assessments and we teach them and we have classes around them and that kind of thing. So, you know, some of the stuff I’m certified for is like Myers-Briggs and DISC, and I’m sure you’ve got all the same stuff in her pocket, but this is like classic stuff that all organizations need to do. The leader needs to do it. And understand him or herself. And then, you know, the people on your team, you need to know how they tick. And so the reason I bring that up is because what she just said, you know, you got to try different things with different people because based on their personality, they’re going to have a reaction to feedback. And so you’ve got to kind of be able to switch up your style depending on the personality of the human you have in front of you. What do you think about all that?
Amy: Yeah, I love that. Right? I always think it’s great and I have them in the book charts. Right. Each team member, what do you know about them? What’s important to them? What tends to be their communication style? If you’ve done DISC, if you’ve done Myers-Briggs, you know, and you have the information there about their preferences and their go to styles, right? Think about that as you’re preparing a conversation that you want to have with them. I love it. Yeah.
Nicole: And so I think that’s a big part of it. All right. So back to feedback. The other thing that popped in my head that I think is really important is, Amy again, she’s stealth. I’m telling you, she’s so smart. She slipped in, you know, a couple of powerful questions. And, you know, when you sit down and she’s saying you need to get a dialogue going and I think getting that dialogue going is asking some good questions that get the other person talking.
Amy: Open ended questions. Right? What are they thinking? How are they feeling?
Nicole: Right, right. All the who, what, when, where, and why’s? Okay. All right. Very good. And then the last thing on number two, which is they say what needs to be said, is she said you can give them feedback or you can ask these powerful questions that get them thinking. If you’ve got a space of time where they can go to work. And it made the idea of feed forward, which is the Marshall Goldsmith pop in my brain, you know, it’s like, moving forward, what might you do, you know, and ask other people for information so that you can move forward in the process?
Amy: I love that term just because we want to be forward facing. Yeah, because when we think about feedback, it’s like, let me tell you all the things that you did right and wrong in the past, right? Or this thing we’re looking back on, but how do we glean what we need from those experiences to be more impactful, to perform great in the future? So I love having the word forward in there just from the positioning. Let’s be forward focused in this conversation.
Nicole: That’s right. Because we can’t do anything about the past. We know that from The Lion King and the Rafiki scene by the lake in the middle of the night. Anyway, go watch the movie again. Right, Nicole, you’re welcome for reminding you. Okay. All right, so the next one, we’ve kind of touched on it, but you said, you know, uncover your authentic self. And then the third pillar is they declare their leadership legacy and trust the guidance it provides. So when you say declare their leadership legacy, we’ve already talked about the fact that that is figuring out your strengths. What are the activities that you love? What are your core values? What’s your story? All of those things. But how do I declare it? Do I go around talking about it? Do I tell my team members, how do I declare?
Amy: Yeah, yeah, I think first it’s to ourselves, right? Declare this. My leadership legacy is about whatever it is. Mine is about having others discover and fully live into their leadership legacy. Like, find those words that inspire you and light you up and that are going to continue to call you forward. So, I think, first we declare for ourselves, make sure that we really nailed it. This is the space and it doesn’t have to have fancy words, right? I bring global teams together. I know an executive. That’s what he would say. And that gets him going. And when he says that, he thinks about the different ways that’s happened and the ways that he wants it to happen, and he’s ready for the next. So we declare to ourselves. And then I love when teams declare it to each other. Share the concept of leadership legacy. Have everyone on the team be really clear and vocal about what their leadership legacy is. Have conversations about, okay, how do we tap into that? How do we leverage that? Oh, this sounds like the space of so-and-so’s leadership legacy. Let’s get them involved. And then I do believe that we just continue to share it out in circles in our lives. We might not always say, “My leadership legacy is…,“ right, but we might say, oh, I’m passionate about this. Because anything that has to do with dot, dot, dot lights lights me up. I want to get involved. Right? Then we’re just telling people, oh, how we bring value and what interests us.
Nicole: Yeah, 100%. And again, don’t miss Amy’s enthusiasm for all of that, you know, and here’s the thing. What kind of leader do you want to follow? One who’s figured out who they are, where they want to go and what their strengths are, or one who’s confused and just want you to, you know, get the work done. You know, they’re just, you know, worried about the productivity numbers and the KPIs, which is very important. Yes, we have to look at KPIs, but to have that extra energy or behind it I think is absolutely huge. And, you know, I worked with a group of folks at Novant. It’s a healthcare organization here in North Carolina. I was working with emerging leaders, and I, too, love working with them because we can actually maybe impact what’s going to happen for the next twenty years. And so we did mission statements for work and life which I think is a lot like this legacy work you’re doing. And, you know, at first they’re like looking at me and like, what? You know, I have to declare, as Amy Riley said in her third pillar, I’m like, yes, you have to declare how you’re going to roll, right? And so I gave them like 30 minutes and let them move about the cabin freely, you know, like the seatbelt sign is off, you can go wherever you want. Come back in 30 minutes and we’ll share. And, you know, I had a couple of people in the group tear up. Because like, they’re in health care and it was about health care for people who are sick and need my help. And we get so close to everyday caring for the people who are so sick and need our help that we don’t remember. Oh, my God, I’m healing people.
Amy: Yes, yes. Yeah.
Nicole: It’s big. I think it’s really big to declare. All right. And trust the guidance it provides. Now, what do you mean by trusting the guidance it provides? So, I figure out my strengths. I get my story, look at my core values. How does that guide me, Amy?
Amy: I think that there’s the opportunity for there to be real, tangible projects or initiatives, maybe real, tangible relationships. When you’re talking about health care and the leaders that you were working with, like, I care for sick people, right then they’re looking to that right when they walk into yet another hospital room that day. Right? They’re tapping into that to bring their care to this next human, this next patient that they’re working with. You might have projects or initiatives, right? I mean, at one point, a leadership legacy project for me was getting The Courage of a Leader podcast that launched, right? Finding the next guest. Like, I’m constantly generating that one, you know, with the process of keeping a podcast fresh and alive with regular episodes. Right? There’s so often add that to the leadership autobiography as well. The last piece is, what are you working on right now for your leadership legacy? How are you tangibly bringing it to life?
Nicole: Yeah, and being intentional about your next place you’re going to go. And I don’t necessarily mean the next position, although I think it’s a good idea to figure out the next position you want to be in, but like, you know, whatever’s happening in this company, how do I see myself integrating in the future, like go out to the future and visit what’s going on? All right, I love that. Okay. So we have a fourth pillar. And so I want to talk about the fourth pillar. And this one is they are bold and create the extraordinary. So, I think being bold is totally underrated. You know everybody likes, seems to again, want to play nice and you know don’t want to go too big. Don’t want to be obnoxious. We’re not talking about any of that. We’re just talking about being bold which is like stepping out. So talk a little bit about being bold.
Amy: Yes, it’s going for it. It’s being focused on what you really want. It can be really easy to, in our days, be completely inundated with just responding to all of the inboxes, right. Slack and email and text and teams and we’re getting mail coming in from everywhere. And we can get inundated and just reacting to that and not having in our sights. Here’s what I’m looking to accomplish today, or this week or this month, or in this project, or in this relationship. So being focused on what we want and making sure that we’re we’re taking the actions that are really going to get us where we want to go. Not saying that you can ignore everything that’s coming in your inbox, right. But, you get it.
Nicole: Put it on pause, though. You can take a two hour block of time and put everything on pause. And you know, if leaders are supposed to be developing people, if you can develop some people to handle things, you can pull away because really at the top leaders need to be strategic, not managers.
Amy: Yep. Love it. I think this pillar also has to do with really going for it. What is the big goal that you’re scared to say that you want, that you’re scared to go for? Because when we put something way out there, how we are going to get there gets fuzzier and fuzzier as we look out. But I’d like to remind folks, like, all we ever need to know is our next step.
Nicole: That’s exactly right.
Amy: And we take that next step, and then we’ll get more data about how that worked or didn’t work or what that opened up. Or, oh, now I know about another person that’s working on the same thing, whatever it might be. And then we take the next step and the next step. And having our legacy, our commitment, the goal pulls us forward and being willing to go for that and knowing that if we’re going for something big, some things are not going to work.
Nicole: Especially if nobody’s done it before. Like there’s no procedure for it. Nobody’s written the book yet or whatever. And I’m curious if you have a story of a leader that would illustrate this. I mean, the one that. It’s in my mind is, you know, I used to be in property management, and I had this leader. His name was John Gray, and the National Apartment Association had an award, and it was the property management company of the year. And you had to meet certain criteria. And the National Apartment Association surveyed your residents, you know, did all this stuff. And he’s just like, we’re doing this. We’re going to be number one, you know, and with his enthusiasm, you know, and he was not like the most dynamic communicator, but like he was one of these guys that was, like, solid, steady, reliable John. And like we thought, well, John thinks we can do it. Then it must be possible. You know what I mean?
Amy: Yeah, yeah.
Nicole: We were like, well, gosh, if he thinks we can do it, we probably can. And we won it, like, a lot of years. And so it was and isn’t it fun to be number one? Like everybody, be honest. It’s really fun to be number one. You have a story of a leader that just like declared it. Yeah, we’re doing this. And they did it.
Amy: Yeah, yeah. So a couple popped to mind. I think maybe the one that inspired me the most. So I’ll share this one. Actually, a pretty new leader in an emerging leaders program. It was a year-long program that I was leading with a chemical manufacturer. And this salesperson had uncovered, Nicole, a new application for one of their formulas, and he saw the opportunity to sell this approach, which was one of their divisions, to a customer that was in another division. So, it was creating a whole new application for this formula. So it was kind of complicated inside of the organization. It was going to require new processes, new R&D, like just new systems and how do we share this? Like, they’re already a customer over here. So it was really like, he’s like, I see this as an opportunity. I see this as a big opportunity. Like, I don’t know how to get past the obstacles inside of the organization. But, Nicole, he was willing to sit down and we looked at stakeholders from different directions. Who’s most likely to be influenced here? How can you put together the numbers reliably about what kind of opportunity you actually think this is? And, you know, and then looking at like, okay, what would be the cost to the organization to set up what needed to be set up in order to serve this client in a different way? And he’s like, oh my gosh, that’s a lot to figure out. I’m like, okay, who knows that information? How do we piece this together? And he just tackled this one step at a time.
Nicole: How much money did that equate to, do you think?
Amy: Okay, Nicole, you’re asking my file manager to remember things that she is not going to remember. I mean the uptake was in the six figures.
Nicole: Right. Don’t miss that, everybody.
Amy: Yeah. He had the initial order before the program was done, which just gives me goosebumps to be able to say, but talk about a goal that he saw as possible. It was way out there, and there was so much fuzzy between here and there. And, you know, he was inside of this program where at the end, you need to do a presentation about your project and what you learned. Right? And he’s like, I might pursue something that fails epically, and I’ll have nothing to say at that final presentation. I’m like, yep, that could be the case. And, what if what if you get it done? So he’s like, you know what? He goes, what? I’m going to play full out, I’m going to play full out, and I’m going to be able to tell that story no matter what. But he had an order in hand at final presentation time.
Nicole: That’s so fantastic. Yeah. And, you know, a bunch of that just laid a major cornerstone in his career. And what if he didn’t do it? Woulda, shoulda, coulda is the worst place to be, you know, and this thing of being courageous. Right? And today we’re talking with Amy Riley, who is the author, everybody, of The Courage of a Leader. I love your story of your courageous young man. You are the fourth pillar, which is to be bold and to create the extraordinary. As I was listening to your story, I bet you my listeners were thinking, this too is not really selling to the customer. That’s going to be a problem, because if the customer has a need and we have an answer, that’s pretty easy. But it’s like navigating the interior of this business. If we get in our own dang way. And so he had to figure out how to get the company out of its own way is really what he had to do. So love that, I love that. All right. So we have been talking for a good while here. And I’m so, you know, Amy is a very busy person and she gave me a whole hour. I’m so grateful. And so, you know, I know that people are like, no, wait, is it over? We don’t want it to be over. Does Amy Riley have one more nugget? Is there one more little thing that is in this book that you’d like to draw our attention to or just something that’s in your mind or your heart that you want to share with my listeners?
Amy: The time has passed by so quickly, Nicole. This has been so enjoyable. Thank you for that. Thank you. And, I love this question. Yeah. So I’ve been talking about this on social media recently because we’re making that final push through the end of the year and people can feel busy and stretched during this time. How do we unlock the full potential of the team? So the first part of the two part formula is not going to be any surprise to hear from me. Leverage strengths. So leverage strengths and plus be flexible equals unlocking the full potential of ourselves and our team. If we can be flexible in having team members determine how they’re going to reach the goal that we need to reach, have them determine who is going to be involved. Be flexible. Sometimes as leaders, we think we’ve got to give all the direction. Do A, then B, then C, and we’ll get to destination D, but giving as much decision making as possible. How are we going to engage with the work decisions of the team? The better off you’ll be, you’ll have more engaged, higher performers.
Nicole: That’s exactly right. Yeah. Empower your people to do what they were hired to do, right? Have the courage to get your little claws off of things, right? One time I had worked inside of a program and we were doing training, and the person that was overseeing the training wanted us to train the way that they trained. Right? And so I was like, okay. And so I did it as close to the way that they were doing it that I could. And then at one point, somebody above that person said, you know, you got to let them just go do their thing. And then I got observed and and I was with a partner and both the partner and I were like, okay. And so we brought ourselves to the process, which is exactly what she said in pillar one, which is to be authentic. And when we did that, it was better. And I’m not saying that from my perspective, because I got observed and my partner got observed, and the leader that had been so tight with us and so controlling with us said, it’s obvious you don’t need me anymore. And we did need him for guidance for, you know, being a mentor and a coach. But we had some goodies in our pockets we wanted to put out there. And so that is exactly true about your team, that they have that same same thing going on. So, I love it. So this whole idea of being flexible and figuring out the strengths of your people, that’s so fantastic. All right. Awesome. All right. It has been a pleasure to have Amy Riley, internationally renowned speaker, author and consultant, and the author of this number one international bestseller, The Courage of Leader: How to Inspire, Engage, and Get Extraordinary Results. How do we find you? I want to call you and hang out with you. How do I find you if I’m listening to this?
Amy: Thanks, Nicole. The website is courageofaleader.com, and you can find me on LinkedIn at the same place. You can look up the courage of a leader.
Nicole: Okay. Fantastic. All right everybody, it’s been fantastic, well, in my opinion, fantastic episode of Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. And here’s what we would love you to do Amy and I would treasure it. Would you go down and just say that you like this? Would you be so kind as to string together five words into a sentence and put it in the comments? We would love that and everybody will be back with another episode of Build a Vibrant Culture. Thank you, Amy.
Amy: Thank you, Nicole, this was a pleasure.
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