Were You Born to Lead?

Born-to-LeadWere you born to lead?

Perhaps a better question for leaders (current and emerging), is, if the required skills don’t come naturally for you, can they be learned?

The debate whether leaders are born or made has been waged for many years. The question centers around how various leadership qualities are acquired. The answers, while not endorsed unanimously, are based on a number of observed realities. In all my years in business and as a coach, I have yet to see anyone born with all the many skills required to lead well. They are too intricate and diverse for one personality. Most experts agree that a number of leadership attributes require experience to possess.

Dr. Ronald Riggio sums it up well in his article for Psychology Today, Leaders: Born or Made? He points out that research reveals all leaders have qualities that are both inborn and developed. In other words, it takes a certain type of person to fit the leadership mold, and that person must learn skills in addition to any that come naturally. Data reveals that leaders are split, with approximately one-third being “born” and two-thirds being “made”. What this means is that one-third rely most heavily on the skills they are born with, while two-thirds rely most heavily on the skills they develop. Which category do you fall into?

At the core, the question centers on how various leadership qualities are acquired. Are the best leadership abilities innate, or are they learned? Does it matter?

As a leader, you can benefit in a number of ways by assessing your skills. For example, begin by asking yourself a few assessment questions:

  • Which leadership skills, or traits, come naturally for you?
  • How did these play a part in your transition into leadership?
  • Which of your skills did you develop, either by experience or dedicated training?
  • How have these enhanced your effectiveness as a leader?

What do you think? Were you born to lead?  I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Create a Culture of Trust:
The Power of Accountability

AccountabilityIt may seem near impossible to create a culture of trust when organizational morale and engagement are lowered by people who can’t be counted on. They flame resentments and dissatisfaction throughout the organization. But can holding people personally accountable promote positivity, unity and build trust? There is a paradoxical truth in the power of accountability.

People demonstrate accountability by doing what they say they’re going to do, when they need to do it. Leaders promote this by holding people to their commitments and making accountability part of the performance assessment. In fairness, leaders also need to provide their people with the means to meet these commitments.

Accountability also means tackling problems head on and not running from them. People trust coworkers who meet challenges with noble efforts to ensure that everyone wins. A culture of trust thrives only when people at all organizational levels fulfill their responsibilities. Managing work with measurable criteria expands trust in the system. Clarity is a strong trust builder, according to leadership consultant David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line (Free Press, 2012).

Accountability often overlaps integrity, in that people who admit their mistakes are trusted more. Inspiring this kind of transparency allows people to air their mistakes and learn from them. As I share with my coaching clients, be a leader who encourages learning, focusing on fixes instead of blame. The pursuit of solutions empowers people to reach new levels and expands trust.

Strengthen Communication

Trust issues often begin from poor communication. People who don’t communicate clearly or authentically aren’t trusted. Properly conveying information makes conversations, emails, phone calls and meetings more effective and trustworthy. Leaders need to provide training in communication skills and monitor employee progress.

Anger, resentment, offensiveness and rumors destroy trust. Leaders must take aim at these issues and set behavioral standards that are continuously reinforced. Ask your people to put themselves in other team members’ shoes when communicating. How will their words be perceived? Can they achieve a win-win situation? Can they step back from a conflict, calm down and form a more reasonable response?

Employees who communicate reasonably and professionally with each other raise workplace trust. Integrity is best revealed through communication, and unity is best realized in a high-integrity environment.

There’s no question that leaders set the tone for every aspect of workplace trust, and the necessary mindsets are passed down through the ranks. Leaders must put policies in place to monitor and correct undesirable behavior. Those who see the highest levels of coworker trust provide ample training, support and enforcement for trustworthy behavior policies.

What do you think? How has accountability and communication affected trust in your organization? What tactics worked to create a culture of trust? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Create a Culture of Trust with Empowerment

Culture-of-Trust-EmpowermentAre the people in your organization empowered to trust? Consider this: Leaders confer the highest levels of authority and trust on employees who effectively complete tasks, resolve problems and make fair decisions. These employees, in turn, become more open to trusting others. Trust is a commodity people spend in proportion to what they receive. You create a culture of trust with empowerment.

In my work as a coach, I have seen the best leaders give people opportunities to earn trust, and allow the luxury of failure as they work toward accomplishing their goals. You see, failure is often the most valuable way to learn and grow. As JetBlue’s Joel Peterson points out in, The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great (AMACOM, 2016), sharing some of your power creates a higher level of trust among your employees.

When I discuss this with my coaching clients, I review their strategies and tactics for opportunities to empower their employees. Here are a few examples, which may seem obvious, but are often overlooked:

  • Do you have a suggestion-submission system, where employees’ ideas for improvement are evaluated?
  • Do you recognize and reward those whose ideas are implemented? This encourages the process, and increases trust.)
  • Do you have a process/do you examine your policies and procedures with staff to determine whether any can be improved? Employees are the true experts in how things work at the most detailed organizational levels. The trust they feel from leadership will carry over to their peers.
  • Do you offer training, cross-training, continuing-education or mentoring opportunities? This raises the level of engagement, the feeling of being trusted to add value, and raises their appreciation for trust. Employees who feel trusted claim a higher stake in the organization and have greater trust in their coworkers, leaders and future.

What do you think? What would happen if you increased the level of empowerment in your organization? How would it impact trust? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Create a Culture of Trust:
Foster Positivity and Unity

Positive-Thinking2As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on future focused books, specifically what neuro-science reveals about social intelligence, the shifts (and disruptions) in technology and perspectives (“we” vs. “me”), and principles that underpin business and life. It’s pretty clear to me how leaders can create a culture of trust with positivity and unity.

As standard-bearers, leaders must clearly communicate four key values and expectations: truthfulness, honesty, respectfulness and positivity.

Positivity is an often-overlooked means of building mutual trust, as long as one’s efforts are neither faked nor forced. As I share with my coaching clients, infusing your culture with a positive mindset has many powerful benefits. Cynicism and sarcasm are trust killers. People are repelled by these behaviors, knowing nothing trustworthy comes from them.

A positive approach assumes the best in people and gives them the benefit of the doubt, thereby setting them at ease. Trust-building leaders expect their staff to exhibit thoughtful behavior and language. Add this requirement to your organization’s code of conduct or formal HR policy.

Foster Unity

Leaders who foster unity build a culture more prone to trust. It’s really no secret: co-operation and teamwork promote trust. I have seen unity become the norm when people share the load and help each other. Reciprocity is a noticeable and contagious trust-building act. Coworkers dedicated to a common cause commit to each other. They lift each other up and spur one another on.

When dissention or un-cooperative behavior occurs (which they do on occasion), great leaders help employees grasp the power of reconciliation. They don’t expect their people to always get along, but they count on them to apologize and forgive so relationships can be restored and strengthened. Durable relationships lead to mutual trust.

What has been your experience fostering positivity and unity? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Create a Culture of Trust:
Be the Standard-Bearer

Culture-Trust-Standard-IntegrityLike it or not, as a leader you are the standard-bearer. You model the standards of integrity throughout the entire organization, so it’s important to recognize the values and expectations you are communicating through words, actions, policies and procedures.

Where do you draw the lines on truthfulness, honesty and respectfulness? Is positivity expected?  If you want to create a culture of trust, consider your standards on these key values and expectations:


Speaking the truth is challenging in toxic environments where messengers get shot. It may be tempting to ignore reality and tell people what they want to hear, notes management consultant Jim Dougherty in The Best Way for New Leaders to Build Trust (Harvard Business Review, December 13, 2013). Leaders must nonetheless deliver bad news when it’s warranted—and demand honorable behavior from those who receive it.

People sense less risk when an organization’s culture respects those who tell the truth, even when it hurts. When leaders address mistakes constructively and avoid embarrassing their staff, there’s no need to lie or stretch the truth. The penalty for lying must outweigh that for making errors. Enforce this mindset in your culture so truthful coworkers earn others’ trust.


When employees treat each other honestly (do the right thing), trust grows over time. Dishonesty must be met with consequences. If you deal with it firmly, even for subtle infractions, your culture of integrity strengthens and people trust each other more.


A culture of respect and honor fosters high levels of trust among coworkers. Again, a leader’s behavior sets the stage for success. Respectfulness includes basic social considerations like accepting people and listening to their opinions and ideas.

Leaders also demonstrate respect when they seek feedback without favoritism, encourage participation from everyone on a team and value each staff member within the organization. Such behaviors enhance trust; being judgmental, resentful and prone to attack destroy trust. Instill a mindset of respectfulness into your culture so trust among coworkers can flourish.

In my next post I’ll explore the fourth value and expectation: positivity. In the meantime, what do you think? What are your standards for truth, honesty and respect? Would your co-workers agree? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Create A Culture of Trust:
How to Shape Your Future

Create-Culture-of-TrustI’ve been doing a lot of reading on future focused books, specifically what neuro-science reveals about social intelligence, the shifts (and disruptions) in technology and perspectives (“we” vs. “me”), and principles that underpin business and life. If you want to shape the future of your organization, create a culture of trust.

Countless management books, seminars and programs offer insights into how leaders can develop trust within their organizations. Their consistent theme—“It begins with you”—is certainly valid, as leaders must model trust and set an example for their people. Success depends on a personal campaign of inner reflection, values assessment and relational intelligence. Training can be effective and rewarding, but much of the focus often stops there.

A culture of trust is one where individuals have confidence in and reliance on individuals and groups to do the right thing: to be fair, truthful, honorable and/or able.

Leaders develop trust (rely on others to do the right thing) after observing people’s character and behavior over time and gaining confidence in them.

Leaders earn trust by consistently displaying personal integrity, accountability and concern for others.

Trust, in fact, is the most potent tool in a leader’s arsenal, asserts JetBlue Airways Chairman Joel Peterson in The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great (AMACOM, 2016). Trusted leaders are more productive, profitable and prosperous. Their people are more engaged, morale and loyalty soar, and the overall work ethic is enviable. The organization sees lower turnover, waste and inefficiency.

But trust is not limited to Mahogany Row. While we’re often led to believe that trustworthy behavior will permeate the work environment like ripples in a pond, this trickle-down theory is overly simplistic. As Gallup studies reveal, employees trust their coworkers even less than their leaders. Organizations cannot reach their full potential until leaders establish a culture where employees trust their coworkers. Leaders may require assistance from a professional coach to achieve this goal.

What do you think? How do you define a culture of trust? What has been your experience with trust at work? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Develop and Leverage Employee Strengths – On Any Budget

Develop-Employee-StrengthsOne of the questions I am frequently asked is how to develop and leverage employee strengths on a limited budget. It’s really quite doable; most employees want to get better at what they do, to be stronger contributors, and more qualified to advance to greater responsibilities.

I have found the most productive and effective organizations, the ones that have the most engaged and creative people, are the ones that have a culture focused on the strengths of their employees. The emphasis is on what people can do, not on what they can’t do. None of this happens by itself, but only through the living example and specific direction of the primary leader. These are leaders who have the philosophy that strengths are a foundation in everything their organization attempts to do.

Such a culture invests in its people, encouraging and rewarding the use of strengths. Leaders:

  • Create programs to discover and track the strengths of your employees
  • Offer training and teaching experiences continuously
  • Establish a team structure to allow people to maximize and share their strengths

In-house training programs are an effective and budget friendly tool. Offer opportunities for employees to take on the role of trainer or instructor, and share what they know. It raises the candidacy of people for potential advancement or involvement in more complex projects.

Trust people to apply themselves and be stretched beyond their comfort zone; they’ll meet challenges and find new solutions.

Assess performance not just on quantifiable results, but on the effectiveness of personal development—how well strengths are used, and how new ones are developed.

Leaders who focus on strengths often coach their people directly, cultivating more talents and strengths. Setting up a system of internal coaching is also a powerful way to enhance and develop strengths, build networks, and increase collaboration. Teach communication skills, where strengths get enhanced and used to connect people and forge a spirit of unity.

Leaders who instill a mindset of helping one another get the greatest benefits from the strengths of their people, where they feel fulfilled and valued. Applying a collective focus on peoples’ strengths can fashion a culture that will boost your business better than any other approach.

What do you think? How are you developing and leveraging employee strengths? I’d love to hear from you.  Give me a call, 704-827-4474. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.


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An Organization Built on Strengths:
Creating Multi-discipline Teams

Multi-discipline-TeamsHave you noticed how people are often paired together because they are similar, rather than because of their diverse strengths? It really doesn’t make sense to me, when teams composed of individuals who vary in their strengths, skills and personalities, feed synergy and motivation. I have seen leaders achieve tremendous results by creating well–rounded, multi-discipline teams to make the most of their personal strengths.

When paired with other skill-sets, people inspire one another and learn from each other. The sense of unity reduces barriers and creates a collective drive to solve problems with creative solutions. Leaders are better able to forge a focus on goals rather than specific work assignments, leading to a higher rate of productivity.

With teams, empowerment is more viable, where authority is pushed down to the lowest level possible. People develop a greater spirit of self-sufficiency and decision making, providing higher levels of ownership, pride and interest in their work. They share their strengths and develop new ones from their teammates. They use their strengths to embrace challenges and have a more positive outlook when they’re given these freedoms.

Don’t forget the impact of proximity and workspace. A combination of private and common spaces, with appropriate noise abatement and elbow room, yields maximum engagement. Team members are naturally led to combine strengths with the different disciplines and backgrounds of their teammates, letting them get to know, trust, and influence each other. The power of interaction can compensate for a lacking in certain strengths.

Team Challenge

Leaders who select projects for the strengths of their people have a far greater success rate than those who simply dole out work without strength considerations. Intentionally crafting projects that specifically challenge the strengths of a person or team are also more successful. People are more inspired and inventive when forced to use their strengths, especially when they are pushed to their limits.

Projects come is varying degrees of complexity and difficulty. Leaders who want to maximize their peoples’ strengths will assign projects toward the lowest level of capability that can pull off results. This creates a challenge that causes people to lift their game, grow and find fulfillment in ways they never thought they could.

What do you think? Have you created multi-disciplined teams that are strengths-based? What have you noticed about your most effective teams? I’d love to hear from you.  Give me a call, 704-827-4474. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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An Organization Built on Strengths

Organization-Built-On-StrengthsAs a leader, have you noticed how employees who are encouraged to use their strengths are more interested in what they’re doing and apply themselves more fully? They are more productive, inspired, and loyal.

It’s really no surprise. When organizations lead people through their strengths, they benefit in many ways: higher sales and profits, lower turnover and absenteeism, and better customer reviews.

Clearly, it’s to your advantage to maximize the use of your peoples’ strengths. The strength of the organization depends on the applied strength of its employees. But this is more than just assessing peoples’ skills. Leaders who establish a culture of strength-mindedness instill a collective focus on, and value in, the strengths of people. It’s a focus that must be ingrained into everything and everyone.

Defining Strengths

A strength is your ability to consistently produce positive outcomes through near-perfect performance in a specific task. It is composed of:

  • Skills—your ability to perform a task’s fundamental steps. Skills do not naturally exist within us; they must be acquired through formal or informal training and practice.
  • Knowledge—what you know, such as your awareness of historical dates and your grasp of the rules of a game. Knowledge must be acquired through formal or informal education.
  • Talents—how you naturally think, feel and behave (i.e., the inner drive to compete, sensitivity to others’ needs, being outgoing at social gatherings). Talents are innate and unique to each of us.

For you to know the strengths of your people, you first need to know your people. Focusing on strengths is inherently a focus on people: their abilities, interests, knowledge, and aspirations. Technical strengths are only a portion of the picture. Strengths are also measured in the softer skills: character, courage, confidence, and communication. Leaders who spend time with their people, getting to know them, have the greatest ability to assess these kinds of strengths and know how they can be applied in the workplace.

Many personal strengths are revealed through one-on-one conversations. Another way to discover character strengths is to observe how your people handle themselves, how they behave, respond, and make decisions. Getting insights from coworkers or other leaders adds to the collection of information on a person’s strengths.

Technical strengths are often more straightforward to judge by reviewing a person’s work: its thoroughness, accuracy and inventiveness. You can see peoples’ strengths by how well they tackle challenges and find solutions to problems. Their values are revealed in how they take on their responsibilities. Making note of these things gives you a good sense for the strengths of your people.

What do you think? Would you agree that an organization built on strengths is actually an organization with a focus on people? I’d love to hear from you.  Give me a call, 704-827-4474. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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Dealing with Leadership Consensus Dependency

Consensus-DependencyYou don’t have to look far to see the signs of leaders who aren’t comfortable dealing with disputes. Unfortunately, this only reinforces consensus dependency.

Learning to accept and work within conflict is key. Leaders who resist conflict must understand its necessity: the best ideas and solutions often hatch from disagreements.

If leaders can learn that conflict needn’t be painful and that it’s actually healthy in the proper proportions, they can use it to their advantage. Conflict-resolution training can help leaders encourage productive debate without hurting feelings or wounding character. Trust grows, and difficult ideas can be processed to reach consensus on solutions. Minor conflicts won’t destroy unity, as leaders may fear, but rather forge it.

You see, employees want courageous, decisive leaders to pull them through difficult times, especially when conflict arises. Leaders must learn there are times when consensus is beneficial and other times when strong, decisive leadership is the gold standard. One’s ability to separate the two determines success. Making the correct call draws people to you, while fumbling puts them off.

Leaders who reveal themselves, who are transparent and passionate, are the most revered; they create the most loyal followers. Holding back your opinions in favor of team feedback has its place and time, but people want a real leader they can know, trust and learn from.

Consensus-style leaders need to project a leader’s persona that blends the proper levels of humility, courage, wisdom, insight and confidence. Your people won’t sense these attributes if you fail to express them.

As consensus-style leaders overcome their inhibitions, their strength will shine through, and unity will be stronger than ever.

It’s often difficult to assess one’s own issues, so consider working with a mentor or coach. Consensus-style leaders benefit from professional coaching that pinpoints specific weaknesses.

What do you think? How are you dealing with consensus leadership? How would consensus dependency coaching help you and your team? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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