How the “Power of And” Changed My Life

This guest post  (which originally appeared on LeadBIG) is from Margaret Seidler, a nationally recognized Organization Development consultant, master trainer, and author based in Charleston, SC. As one of only twelve certified Polarity Management Masters in North America, central to Margaret’s work is Polarity Management®, a set of principles and method to guide people in tapping the power of “both/and” thinking for better, more sustainable results.

the power of andAfter a 360° assessment that was, shall we say, less than stellar, I looked for a magic bullet to improve my leadership abilities.

What made a pivotal difference and accelerated my own abilities was discovering Polarity Thinking — a set of principles and a mapping tool introduced by Dr. Barry Johnson in 1975. I found polarity thinking a straightforward way to both document my wisdom and to shine a light on my blind spots. Continue reading


Why are women not seen as leadership experts?

One day it hit me that very few women are included in the multitude of leadership guru/expert lists.*  Great women lead big organizations.  A number of women are noted writers and educators on the topic. So what’s up with the shortage of estrogen on the lists that garner all the attention?!

I decided to ask male colleague for his thoughts. Our intriguing exchange… Continue reading


Can’t get no credibility

Abby was upset her boss put her through a 360 evaluation process. She was even more unhappy after receiving the feedback. In fact, she was shocked, angry and disbelieving because there was absolutely no way she was unethical, thoughtless or lacking in credibility and integrity. How could people think that of her?!

In following the trail of bread crumbs to the root cause of her issues, Abby was amazed to discover it was her propensity for changing meeting schedules that had opened the door to the lack of trust, low satisfaction and poor performance that dogged her department. Continue reading


Are you having these 5 courageous leadership conversations

After working 20+ years in Corporate America, I felt my soul and kindness slipping away. The relentless focus on the bottom line and the you’re-only-as-good-as-your-last-set-of-numbers mentality had extracted a personal toll, only part of which was visible to me. I left before I lost that last precious shred of humanity.

The length of my “corporate detox” surprised me.  I had expected a transition. Moving from a Fortune 100 VP position with vast resources to a first-time entrepreneur is a hefty leap.  I knew I had changed over the years.  A gal raised in the Midwest had much to learn about Corporate America - its rules, both spoken and unspoken.  Many times I had to learn leadership lessons on the fly since I was the only woman on the leadership team. Over the years, I resisted drinking the corporate kool-aid, to the delight of some bosses and the chagrin of others.

In my “corporate detox” I discovered that I had sipped some of that kool-aid over the years, inoculating myself to some realities that didn’t become clear until I no longer sat in the corner office. An friend introduced me to the work of David Whyte, poet and author. One of his books, The Heart Aroused, Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, became a favorite.

David believed a good leader (one interested in the art and discipline of leadership) continually engaged in five courageous conversations to stay in touch with their values, humanity and others.

Have these 5 courageous leadership conversations with…

1. The unknown future.  Occasionally  ask the experts and those in the know:  What do you think will happen in two years, five years, tomorrow? How do we get ready?  What will be so new that we must rethink and reframe what we know and do? What must we  start/stop/continue for success?

2. Customers, vendors, employees, etc. These groups represent the organization’s future. Ask them: What can we do for you? How can we serve? Where are we falling short? What do you need from us that you aren’t receiving? What must we start/stop/continue for success?

3. Different parts of the organization. Ask these groups: How can we collaborate to create positive outcomes for our customers and shareholders?  How can we achieve those goals without sacrificing employee engagement? What must we start/stop/continue for success?

4. Your work group and colleagues. Ask those who work with you every day: How can I, should I communicate with you? How should I work with you to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes? What is it that we want to accomplish together for the organization? What must I start/stop/continue for success with you?

5. Yourself.  As David says, it’s this leadership conversation—the one on which all others are predicated—happens with that “tricky moveable frontier called yourself.” Ask: Am I living my purpose and passion every day? Are my professional skills where they need to be to handle future challenges? Am I personally prepared for what’s coming? Can I handle it? Do I want to handle it? What must I start/stop/continue for my success?

Powerful stuff, isn’t it? I wonder if I had had these five conversations on a regular basis, would my stay in Corporate America have been shorter, or would it still be happening?

Hmmm….what say you?


Diagram from Red Ice Creations



5 incorrect notions women have about power

Like love, power is one of those words rarely uttered in the workplace.

And, when it is, those conversations happen in whispered tones, usually following a flagrant example of power gone wrong. A CEO believing what leadership ethicist Terry Price defines as “something that’s wrong for others but OK for me.” A newly promoted manager intoxicated with authority who bosses everyone about. A quiet someone with a dissenting view who refrains from speaking up, believing they lack sufficient influence to affect outcomes.

Power gets a bad rap from both women and men. It’s misunderstood or used improperly. Some say it corrupts. Others believe it to be evil and self-serving. Truth is, in and of itself, power is none of these things. It’s simply the neutral capacity to deploy resources to generate change and achieve results. It’s only in how one chooses to use it that it becomes good or bad.

Looking back, no one ever taught me about power. As with many things that exist in the shadows, incorrect assumptions loom large.

5 incorrect notions

1) Because I am the boss, I am all powerful. Despite common stereotypes, it’s not true that absolute power corrupts absolutely. That only happens if you let it happen. Research shows that people who believe they have power become less compassionate, less connected, and see others as a means to an end. They view themselves as above the law and adopt an all wise mentality.

Be brave, be bold and reject that kingly position. Instead, focus more on “we” and less on “me.” Stay connected, stay grounded. Listen to the input of others, in fact seek it out. Resist the siren song of believing you’re above the law and better than others simply because you have a high responsibility, high authority position. Stay self-aware.

2) Because I’m not a boss, I don’t have any power. Au contraire! Just as one can be a leader even if one isn’t the leader, the same holds true for power. Power is readily available from a multitude of sources provided you have the courage and foresight to take it and use it.

You don’t have to sit in the corner office job or even supervise others to have power. It can flow from your expertise, connections, access to information and strong interpersonal communication skills. Personal power is a state of mind in which you confidently believe in your own strength and competence, as Rosabeth Moss Kanter reminds us, “powerful leaders rely more on personal power than job title, or credentials, to mobilize their resources, inspire creativity, and instill confidence among subordinates.”

3) I don’t want power because it will corrupt me. Only if you let it. Formal and informal leaders influence others. Influence goes hand-in-hand with power (whether one wants to admit it or not). Shying away from any position or personal power leaves you powerless, without the ability to shape outcomes or make a positive difference.

“Power is required if one wants to get anything done in any large organization,” says Stanford University professor Jeffery Pfeffer. “Unfortunately, power doesn’t just fall into one’s lap: one will have to go after it and learn how to use it.” Positive use of personal power helps a business effectively realize its mission and goals.

4) Power scares me.  Be scared instead of being powerless. If you don’t step into your power, how will you ever get that pay increase? Negotiate a contract? Create a positive difference? Make your voice heard? Just do it

 5) Nice girls don’t play with power. Oh yes, they do. ‘Nuff said.

What have you got to say about it?

Image from Empowering Women



Performance Management and Goldilocks

The Situation

“I don’t know what to do with Tammy. Every time I try to talk to her about doing her job better, she cries.”

“When that happens, what do you do?”

“Well, I feel bad so I try to comfort her.”

“Tell me how you do that.”

“I find myself saying ‘now, now, calm down. It’s not that bad. It’ll be OK.’”

“Does that stop the crying?”

“It usually takes a little while, but it works.”

“After she stops crying, what happens next?”

“By then we’ve usually used up the allotted time so she goes back to work.”

“So when do you discuss what performance improvements she must make?”

“Well, now that you mention it, we’ve never really gotten that far.”

Performance Management Lessons from Goldilocks

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation where your sympathy pulled you right into the matter almost as if you were an active participant instead of the boss?

If so, there are some nuggets from none other than Goldilocks that can help you get the right balance between compassion and empathy. Effectively handling these performance management situations requires that you not be too hard or too soft, but just right!

  • Too hard. Coming across as cold-hearted, aloof or unfeeling to an employee’s plight lands you squarely in the bad boss corner. Dismissing, making light of, mocking and/or ignoring an employee’s emotional reaction sends the message – whether intended or not – that you don’t care. Taking an uncaring approach doesn’t solve the problem – it creates a whole new set of issues.
  • Too soft. When you start feeling their pain and allow their emotions to become your emotions, you’re in trouble. You end up like the manager in the above story who never deals with the situation. And, while it’s always good to ascribe good intentions, you have to hope that you aren’t being manipulated. When you fail to assert the correct leadership response, you aren’t helping the employee, your organization or yourself.
  • Just right. For those employees who get emotional when you want to talk about their performance, it’s appropriate to feel empathic to their situation. Understanding and acknowledging their feelings demonstrates that you have heart and do care. Offer a tissue. Allow adequate time for them to express their emotions, then gently and tactfully steer the conversation back to the issue(s) that prompted the meeting. By dealing with the situation in a compassionate yet composed and straightforward manner, you serve the best interests of the employee and your organization.

As reported by the Behavioral Coaching Institute, “Research shows that by acquiring emotional management skills and techniques, managers and leaders can more readily create positive and productive results in every aspect of their lives.”

So apply the Goldilocks principle and get performance management just right! What other advice would you offer?

Chart from Apriori, Inc.



Wendy Appel’s New Book: InsideOut Enneagram: The Game Changing Guide for Leaders

I’ve met multitudes of amazing people through the miracle and magic of social media. Wendy Appel is one of them.  She’s a coach, consultant and woman of power dedicated to helping others be better leaders. Wendy has 20 years experience using the Enneagram to help people understand themselves as well as how they come across and interact with others. I thoroughly benefited from reading her book, InsideOut Ennegram:  The Game Changing Guide for Leaders.

Ever traveled to a new city and explored its riches and intricacies with a knowledgeable tour guide? It’s a totally positive experience.

Wendy Appel offers that same rewarding experience in her new book, InsideOut Enneagram: The Game Changing Guide for Leaders, for anyone on a journey to be a better leader.

Understanding one’s self – strengths, weaknesses, blind spots and shadows – is foundational for effectively leading others. The Enneagram is an beneficial tool for building that self-awareness. Wendy proves herself a master of helping us use the Enneagram to plumb the heights and depths of our own types and triads.

Having trouble relating to or working with a direct report, colleague or boss? The chapter “Dynamics and Distinctions” is a not-to-be-missed workplace crystal ball of discovery and insights. Believe you are who you are and can’t change? Wendy details the latest in brain science to dispel that myth and encourage you to spread your wings and jump off the cliff of self-discovery.

Years ago I had a boss who wouldn’t let me include the Enneagram in a three-day leadership development off-site for the senior team, saying it was too “woo-woo.” Too bad I didn’t have Wendy’s book to give him! It’s full of practical workplace examples and case studies. There’s plenty of content for those who respond to logic as well as those who relate to emotions.

It requires courage to take that journey within. With Wendy’s material and self-reflection exercises, you’re in the hands of a very capable guide. Be prepared to think, face the truth and have an uncomfortable moment or two. The new you that results will be well worth it.

Book image from Amazon



Real Simple Power

Today’s WomenBIG guest author is Sharon Becker, LISW, ACSW, licensed private practice therapist and passionate about women supporting women.

Remember the days of grade school when one student was picked as the line leader and the rest of the class had to form a straight line and follow the “leader?” That’s how our early impressions of leaders and followers were planted.

As women, we have fought (and continue to do so) to define new leadership roles in contrast to those created by men. Leadership involves the power of speech. It is the ability to create a voice to inspire rather than persuade or command compliance.

Women thrive on connection and our voices resound greatest when we speak as a collective. We easily access the energy (and, yes, call it power) that comes from sharing each person’s creativity, individuality and the unique qualities that we all possess. Leadership is bringing multidimensional perspectives to the table.

Our unique female ability to create bonds, discover common interests, and reach out with compassion and kindness are the new building blocks of leadership. Freedom to explore the questions and appreciate the importance of listening is critical to problem solving. Through this, we can understand problems from different vantage points and open the doors to new solutions. The goal of true leadership should be to foster and nurture the creative process toward our highest individual and communal aspirations.

So, how do we define leadership? It is not the exertion of control for personal gains and greater power. It is a simpler form of leading based on the true desire for all to gain. It is time for us, as women, to become the next generation of leaders to teach a new form of real, simple power.


 Image from Akron Urban League



Just Get Up and Lead

Today’s thought-provoking and compassionate guest article is by Deborah Costello. She’s a teacher, Math department chair at Trinity Prep School in Winter Park, FL and a consultant for the College Board. Connect with her on Twitter as @costelloland. Deb is passionate about human rights, peace, education, leadership, triathlon training, and most importantly family and friends. She believes that in the end all you need is love.


Deb Costello

Are you a leader?  Maybe you are a manager at work, an usher for your church, or the president of your bridge club.  Hopefully you are the leader in your own home.  Certainly you lead yourself.  Many people struggle with the idea of leadership and conclude they just cannot do it.  It’s too difficult or no one will want to follow them.  I would suggest that this is not true.  In fact there are leaders everywhere we look, people changing lives and making progress.  They are neighborhood watch captains and Girl Scout leaders, community treasurers, and PTA presidents.  But even if you don’t have a named position or a title, there are ways you can lead in your community that are meaningful and exciting, ways that enrich lives.  Let me tell the story of a pair of such leaders.

On Valentine’s Day I showed up in a field outside an art museum with a couple hundred people I didn’t know.  I had been invited by two women that I had met a few weeks earlier.  The event was called, “The Human Heart: An OUTright Love-In.”  Envisioned by Nicki Drumb four years ago, she and her wife, Rachel Gardiner sponsor this yearly Love-In to celebrate the strides that have been made over the past year toward marriage equality. 

As I walked toward the field, I was greeted by a friendly stranger handing out red necklaces made of hearts.  Another gave me a glow stick to combat the gathering darkness.  A third came forward saying, “Your face looks familiar.”  As we talked, she walked me down into the crowd.  I eventually saw a few people I knew, but mostly it was strangers — men, women, couples, children, families — gathering together to celebrate a simple idea.  Love.  That’s all it was about. Celebrating the beauty, the wonder, the joy of love. 

Photo of Rachel and Nicki by Mike Haddad

On the ground there was a giant heart, formed with candles, and we gathered there.  A few people spoke, detailing the year’s events, sharing their own stories.  Nicki and Rachel’s story helped me understand why people had come.  That afternoon they had made their annual pilgrimage to the county clerk’s office.  In the past they had tried to apply for a marriage license.  This year they were hoping to have their existing license recognized, for they had recently married in New York City.  They brought the pastor of their church and stood before the same clerk again this year, but her answer was the same.  No.  The state of Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages.   This year the clerk mentioned that she would retire in five years.  Rachel hopes they won’t still be visiting the county clerk in five years.  Despite four years of rejection, she is hopeful.  You can see it in her eyes. 

As we lit the candles, one from another, and stood together forming a heart, I looked at the faces around me.  There were no protestors shouting, no anger or frustration at what had not been accomplished.  There was only a feeling of gathering strength, of bearing witness to love and knowing that the year to come would bring progress and setbacks, good news and bad.  But no matter what, we would withstand it all and there was great cause for hope.  These two women had led us all to this place and for a moment we stilled our stress and our sorrow, our too much and not enough.  For a few moments we stood together, in love.

Rachel and Nicki are committed to each other and to helping others find the love that they so generously share.  So they keep on.  Each year the event grows a little bigger and more complicated.  This year they included art submissions from local artists on the subject of love.  We met afterward to support a local bar and a food truck outside that had provided a delicious feast.  It seemed so simple from the outside, but I know there were a thousand details.  Maybe this event doesn’t seem all that amazing.  If so, then here’s your challenge.  See if you can inspire a couple hundred people to show up in a field on Valentine’s Day and listen to you speak.

In the end, that’s all leadership really is, a little idea, a little commitment, a little hard work, a little time.  There are so many ways that we could lead in our communities, our neighborhoods, our businesses.  Everyday people do amazing things.  Every day we all could do amazing things.  And yet we don’t.  Too busy.  Too tired.  Just too. 

So if you are in that “too” camp and just can’t imagine a way to lead, start thinking.   A good leader is a combination of three simple things; ability, integrity, and compassion.  In some areas of our lives, each of us is all of these things.  I’m asking you to dig into your heart, where your love lies, where your passions lie, and ask some simple questions.

What can I do?  Can you share your ability and make a difference for someone else?  Do you see a problem in your community that you could help solve?  Are there needs in your neighborhood that are not being met?  I find it impossible to believe that you do not see these things in the world.

Do I believe in my idea with all my heart?  Can you support it and stand by it with honor?  Do you know that by leading in this way you are making a difference?  Can you stand up for what you believe and stick with it even in tough times?  Are you true to your word?  There’s your integrity. 

Am I making things better?  Will other people’s lives get better?  Will you improve your community, raise awareness, offer opportunity, bring people together, or promote understanding?  By leading with compassion, others will want to join you.  We all long for a better place. 

Nicki and Rachel have this incredible capacity to love and by sharing it in this way, have led others to a better day, a positive place where they can peacefully share a moment of compassion and love.  Their community leadership inspired others to join them on Valentine’s Day.  They were able to support local artists and businesses.  Their event inspired me to tell their story.  Perhaps it will inspire you to do a little leading for the Girl Scouts, to share your abilities with the neighborhood watch, to offer your compassion at the PTA meeting, to show your integrity as the community treasurer. 

In the end, we are all surrounded by leadership.  The best leaders have the ability to turn a difficult any day into an amazing every day.  Just get up and lead.