Employee engagement and experience: here's something else better

Employee engagement and experience: here's something else better

Wikipedia defines employee engagement as, “a property of the relationship between an organisation and its employees. An "engaged employee" is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organisation's reputation and interests.

There are over 1795 results on Amazon for book titles on the topic. They talk about ‘pillars’, ‘fundamentals’, ‘frameworks’, ‘strategies’ , ‘rules’ and ‘guides’ for getting people to like their work and therefore get better results for the company.

Speaking Up: why it's so hard and what to do about it

Speaking Up: why it's so hard and what to do about it

Toni Hoffman was a senior nurse at Bundaberg Base hospital. In 2006 she was awarded the Order of Australia medal and the Local Hero Award.

She went through hell. She was the whistleblower on the Jayant Patel case, a surgeon who was convicted of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm. (These charges were later quashed and a retrial ordered. In 2015 he was finally barred from practising medicine in Australia. Her actions likely saved many lives and caused improvement in the hospital’s systems.) She was shunned by her peers, unsupported by the administration. Her health suffered.

Stop These Nasty Cracks In Your Culture And Build Something Awesome

If you’ve ever worked somewhere with culture problems, you know the telltale signs of cracks: closed door conversations increase, hushed conversations that end abruptly when someone walks by, a few more staff departures, long lunches, early clock-offs at the end of the day, and a revolving door of staff bringing problem after problem to your attention. Then there’s the general vibe. People seem stressed out, bummed out, weighed down.

The tendency of many leaders is to look for the rotten apple. Who’s the detractor that is causing the decay? 

While there may be some negative energy vampires, chances are these are a SYMPTOM rather than a CAUSE of culture chaos.

Culture is a dynamic system, much like the play of a football game. It’s not a simple case of set the plan, execute the plan, and all is well. The game needs careful management and nimble responses. Frequent checks on the play and the state of the players edges the team towards victory. Little things can cause major disarray.

Here’s what to check for cracks:

The Players

Do you know how happy and satisfied each team member is with their role and their work? Do you know how aligned they feel to the vision and purpose of the organisation, their team, and their role? Do you have metrics to measure cultural health of the organisation?

The Leader

Yes, that’s you. As the leader, everything you do is broadcast as if through a megaphone. How are you showing up each day? What mood are you inflicting on others? How much feedback are you giving each day to people around you? How effective and heartfelt is it? How often are you celebrating success - for yourself, and with your team? Do you have daily practices and rituals that set your positivity signal on high?

The Systems

I notice in many organisations that systems drive unwanted behaviour. I’ve written previously about rewards andrecognition that create poor, unintended results. Systems are meant to allow and foster play and success for the people that work together. Too few leaders take the time to review their systems for friction points and challenge whether the systems are serving or detracting their mission and means of getting there. When was the last time you paused to audit what is working, what is not, and most importantly, why you have chosen to do something a particular way? Does it still serve you, your team, and your clients?

The Love Factor

You don’t hear that word often at work! When I think of the teams I enjoyed leading and being part of, there was always a great sense of LOVE at play. I loved the work, I loved the mission, and I loved the people I worked with. And it’s love with a deep caring and respect for each person, even the ones I wasn’t closest to, or had much in common with. My experience is that when a leader shows up with love and compassion first, it smoothes out cracks, and builds a solid foundation.

What cracks do you notice first in culture at work? What are your tips and strategies for building a culture worth belonging to?

Why silos creep into culture, and what to do about it

“The staff don’t think outside of their own departments. They don’t think strategically about what is best for the organisation, just for what is best for their group. They have a real turf mentality. I really want to break the silos and get them being more collaborative, entrepreneurial, innovative!”

Geoff grimaced. This was a key frustration for him and the leadership team since the major re-structure last year. He thought that with new leadership, new direction, and new organisation that the teams would gel and jump in to the future, gleefully holding hands. Likely he was not that naïve, just hopeful.

Here’s the thing:

The capacity for individual contribution is directly proportional to past wounds and current care by the leaders.

We are tribal by nature, and defence is our default. If we feel threatened, we will rally to our team. Survival shrinks perspective. We don’t elevate to the greater good, we narrow to the common denominator.

Think of #PittsburgNotParis. This is survival mode in action: when you are facing the loss of your livelihood, and all that you have known for generations, and wondering how you will put food on the table, then you are unlikely to think, “The Paris Agreement is for the greater good of humanity and the future of the planet. I’m ok without a job.” It’s just not going to happen. Not without A LOT of gritty leadership.

So if you’re facing silos at work, likely you have your own #PittsburgNotParis situation going on.  Your first priority is to allay fears, and then put your leadership savvy to work.

Firstly, check your Purpose is visible, measurable, and achievable. This creates focus.

Next, check your Leadership hygiene: make sure you are accessible, congruent, and transparent in all that you do and say. This builds belief.

Next, scrub the decks. Check your systems are smooth and don’t cause undue friction. This frees up capacity.

Check the work environment and its structures stimulate rather than stifle energy. This uplifts spirits and unleashes creativity.

Check your people have the skills to do what you need them to do. Do they have the communication, delegation, management, creative thinking, and strategic thinking skills required to spark innovative ideas and share them with those in authority? This ensures capability.

Lastly, what are you doing to build YOU as a leader? Do you have an A-Team outside of your work and industry that can give you frank feedback? Do you have a curation system to stay on top of trends affecting your industry? How are you expanding your perspective and maturity as a leader? What are you doing to build your capacity and courage? Are you growing or stagnating?

If your organisation is to thrive, you need to lead with an appetite for learning and the humility to show you need it.

Have you experienced silos in a workplace? Why do you think they happened? What worked, and what didn’t in trying to break them down?

Do you want to stand out or fit in? The key influence hack to help you feel powerful

I have a Gold Star syndrome. As a kid I always wanted to be first, to win the prize, and to be the best student. I was thrilled when I got called out as an example for others. This competitive edge served me well in terms of academic and career achievement: I worked hard to get good results. It caused endless suffering when someone else did better than me, usually it was my school aged nemesis, Susan, and I was no longer the star. This drove me nuts.

I also have a powerful need to belong, be part of something, a member of a tribe. The need to stand out sits alongside the even bigger need to feel like I belong. This too can be paralysing, even as an adult.

Every three months, I meet up with my peers at the Thought Leaders Business School community. There are 150 highly successful, fiercely driven, confident business professionals in the room. And every time, this triggers all of my inner child pathologies: “Will I fit in? Will they like me? Where is my place here? Will I be the star pupil?”

There’s a paradox that exists in human social dynamics: the simultaneous need to both stand out and fit it. It harks back to basic social drivers: to belong to the family, and to feel cherished and prized at the same time.

Feeling like we don’t belong can drive us in to a shell, shrinking our visibility and hence our influence.

Wanting to stand out can push us to objectionable behaviour: pettiness, arrogance, and grandstanding. This alienates others.

When it comes to influence, if we let our basic human needs turn in to pathologies, we sabotage ourselves.

The single best cure I have found for these ailments is this:

Help others.

If we are trying to stand out, or feeling left out, we are immersed in our inner world, disconnected.

When we reach out, our focus shifts to others. The kryptonite of selfishness and self-obsession drops away, and we become immediately more compelling. If we help others, we also get the bonus effect of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. We do good, and we feel good. When we feel good, we emit warmth. Warmth is one of the key factors in charisma and influence.

If we get known as someone who gives support, we get valued. We both stand out and fit in, not because of performance, but for heart. That kind of influence uplifts all.


Zoë is on a mission to encourage big thinkers with big hearts to make a big difference. She is passionate about showing leaders how to improve their ability to connect, build unified teams and expand how they serve in the world.

With over 30 years experience developing leaders, she has published “Composure: How Centered Leaders Make the Biggest Impact” and “Moments: Leadership When It Matters Most.” 

Reward or Punishment - Don’t tell me you’re still doing THAT?

As a business owner who depends on the quality work of my team, I face the perennial question of, “How do I motivate and encourage my staff to do their best?” I try and do all the right things: I pay well, I offer encouragement, mentoring, and feedback, I focus on creating a fun and engaging culture that has at its heart our mission to show big thinkers with big hearts to make a big difference.

And yet even as a small team of three, we run the risk of falling in to the common reward/incentive traps that corrode culture lickity-split.

Let’s look at these common mistakes:

Mistake 1: Using extrinsic rewards alone.

Extrinsic rewards of the carrot and stick variety drive poor behaviour. Daniel Pink highlights the challenges of traditional management strategy in his book, Drive - The surprising truth about what motivates us. Targets can create performance anxiety and actually decrease outputs. Targets and rewards can also drive corrupt behaviour as people fudge the numbers to get their results.

Pink says that what is needed instead are the opportunity to get in to ‘flow’, (being able to focus on something one is passionately interested in), work that has meaning, and the ability to be independent and autonomous.

As the business owner, it is my job to help the team do the work they are best at, have the right resources to do it, and help them have a sense of development and progress.

Mistake 2: Making it about the money.

Whenever the boss raises the targets, it can feel like they are simply trying to line their own pockets. Disproportionate effort by the staff and reward mostly to the boss can create resentment.

Simon Sinek expounds that what sets successful companies apart is their ‘why’ - their cause, their beliefs. By simply making a bigger revenue target, we may be ignoring the bigger ‘why’ of the company. Biggertargets needto be tied directly to the overarching reason for the business. In our case, bigger revenue targets are tied to our intentions to serve more organisations and more leaders. We focus on building business so we can reach more leaders with our message of global consciousness and integrated leadership thinking. Revenue is both a symbol and reward of this work.

Mistake 3: Measuring people not systems.

Stacey Barr, performance measurement specialist, has a favourite gripe: organisations often default to measuring people, instead of the results generated by the people in a system. Focusing on targets and therefore individual performance, is a blinkered view of how an organisation actually works. There are many reasons why an individual might not be performing: the IT system keeps crashing and they can’t access their files, the stock-take was delayed because the stock-taker broke their arm on a ski trip, the accounting process is laborious and bureaucratic. And yes, the individual may be unskilled, lazy, or unsuited to the role. Why do we jump to the last conclusion first?

I recently hired an assistant and then let them go. Why? I worked carefully through the causes of the underperformance: some of them were due to our clunky induction process and systems, some challenges were due to the heat where she lives, some of it was due to her busy, distracting home office environment. We tidied up our systems and gave her a chance to operate within these, making allowances for the heat and a nagging cough.

Ultimately we decided she was not suited to a very detailed, process-oriented role. She would be much better off with simple back office tasks without deadlines. Unfortunately we did not have a role that matched her lifestyle, home office environment, and professional skills.

We changed the systems we could, and still found there was a mis-match.

How then should we approach rewards and motivation?

Daniel Pink says focus on the intrinsic motivators.

Simon Sinek says focus on being purposeful.

Stacey Barr says focus on the systems.

Here’s my suggestion:

Focus on the above, AND be collaborative while doing it. Success and reward at work should be a SHARED experience. Use these questions to focus you and your leadership team:

As a leadership team, share your individual and collective WHY. How much money do you want to make and why? What are the results you want to produce for yourself? For your family? For the staff? For the organisation? For the community? For the cause your business supports? What’s important to each from a lifestyle perspective? What do you value most at work? What irritates you and causes resentment? What does reward look like for each of you?

What are the systems that support and detract from the collective results you want to achieve? What are the results in the system that could be tweaked to improve overall performance? How can you make progress visible? How can you make each other accountable? How can you support each other if you are not getting the results you intend?

I would love to hear your thoughts! What incentive and motivation strategies have you experienced? What worked? What didn’t?

How much connection do you build in your team?

I just got back from an extraordinary few days with the first Leader’s Edge Mastermind group. This intrepid group of eight met for the first time in Alice Springs before heading out on the spectacular Larapinta Trail, one of the world’s classic overland tracks. Our intention was to EXPERIENCE this remarkable landscape, REFLECT at the foot of inspiring ridge lines, and CONNECT deeply with each other. Oh, and we had some laughs! This is the start of a 12-month leadership development and peer support odyssey, so it’s important to set the tone for fun!

After much drawn out avoidance and procrastination, the group named themselves the “Fearless Bustards”.  A ‘bustard’ is a type of terrestrial bird we spotted at one of our campsites, called ‘Fearless Campsite’. Hence, the name.

  The Fearless Bustards in Ormaston Gorge

The Fearless Bustards in Ormaston Gorge

Humans are tribal animals. We love to belong. We feel safe in groups. The transition from nomads to city dwellers has not eradicated the fundamental urge to connect.

Sadly, in cubicle nation the opportunity to connect, really connect as fellow human beings, is rare.

After four days on the Larapinta Trail with eight others from vastly different backgrounds, this is what I know to be true:

Connection binds.

A shared experience in wilderness settings creates bonds like no other. To gaze together at the full moon rising, and wonder at its timeless beauty humbles. And unites us. We feel in its ageless presence the fleeting nature of our own time here on this marvellous planet.

Worries fade as the heart is filled with awe. We crack open with joy and sheer delight! This openness allows us to see, and be seen.

Connection frees.

As the thread of trust is woven by caring for one another, looking out for each other’s welfare, laughing together, we feel our usual masks dissolve. We feel the flicker of play return, the sustaining energy of happiness ripple through our being.

The sunlight floods the landscape and burns away pretence. We are simply travellers, companions mesmerised and embraced by country aeons old.

You don’t really get that in an elevator or office block.

Connection is transcendent.

And so we must return to the lives we’ve created. Each in our own corner of the world, we feel yet the bonds of friendship and respect. We know we can reach out for a quick hello, or for a longer conversation when we feel fragile and uneasy.

How then can we create connection with others that binds, frees, and transcends?

Wilderness journeys are a powerful tonic. A must-do for every team, at least once per year.

Excursions outside for an afternoon will ease tension and slide frayed nerves in to neutral.

Daily breaks for a walk and a chat, a real chat, weave simple connections between you and others.

Let yourself be human, let yourself reach out and really see someone else, and let them see you too. Embrace with a full heart and safe hands.

What do you do to build and sustain connection in your team?

How do I deal with emotions in leadership?

I've started playing golf. I have a handicap of 45.4. If you’re not familiar with golf, this is very very bad. Just as a benchmark, the pros have minus handicaps. The only reason my handicap is not bigger is that they don't go any bigger. The good news is that I can only get better!

I played a round with my husband Rob on Sunday. It was glorious sunshine! The perfect day to ruin a beautiful walk with a game of golf. On the first hole I scudded the shots in to the trees. On my second shot, the ball hit a tree and redounded behind me so that I actually lost ground on that hit. By the time I had had seven shots in the rough ground, through trees, taking air swings, I'd had enough. There were people coming up behind me, I was getting more and more frustrated, more and more embarrassed, and I felt like crying. I wanted to hurt something.

What amazes me is how wound up I felt about being so upset! After all, this was meant to be fun.

It occurred to me that we do this a lot. We make up stories about what is going on, we catastrophise, we beat ourselves up about our performance, we worry about what others are thinking. We get hysterical about things that really don't matter in the long run. Why is it so?

Life after all is not a serious thing! It is a joy and a delight! And yet we can take it so seriously.

Lucky I have my husband to remind me of these key points, like when I'm taking my fifth swing at the ball in the bunker (a bunker is a sandpit, designed to be a miserable place of endless frustration, often carved out of the ground at the most awkward places when you’re just about to land a nice shot at the tee). In the bunker, where despair meets angst in a full-bodied wrestle, the husband pipes up and says, “Remember, you're the author of Composure.”

I admit, ‘composure’ was not what I was feeling at that particular moment! There may have been one or two swear words involved. Okay, maybe five or six.

I think golf is probably the best exercise for learning how to manage your emotions. You get to learn how to:

Let it go. Emotion of any kind affects every shot. It’s instant feedback. The angrier you get, the worse it gets. And it’s not just novices like me. If you want some feel-better vindication, check these awesome videos out:

Laugh at yourself. Seriously, what else can you do?!

Surrender. You gotta go zen. It is what it is. We get 100 years on this planet, if we’re lucky, so soak up the craziness, surrender to the moment, and enjoy the walk.

And besides there is always the time - the next hole, the next game, a fresh start and a new day.


How good is your strategic plan? Avoid these mistakes & use these tips

It’s May and that means budget time. Oh, and strategic planning. And most strategic plans suck. They’re often lumbering beasts, full of fancy words, and not that useful.

Strategic plans can be extremely helpful if they're done correctly. They can be clear guides on the right action that moves you in meaningful work towards a goal that matters. I recommend Stacey Barr's book, Prove It, for the definitive guide on how to develop measures that matter and a strategy that works.

When it comes to strategic planning and strategic thinking,  leaders often do it backwards.

This is typically what happens around budget time: Quick, let's write the budget. How much money do we think we're going to need to spend? How much money are we currently spending right now on the basics? What are we going to do to make more money? What's our income target for the year?

Starting with targets is absolutely the wrong way to go about it. There is no context or meaning to it.

The other big mistake is not having a plan at all. That's being a reactive thinker. Leaders go in to survival mode and scramble to get work in the door to keep the doors open.

A third mistake is ‘weasel’ words. This is Stacey Barr’s term. What she is referring to is corporate speaking jargon. You might have something in your strategic plan like, “Our mission is to be the most effective organisation with sustainable outcomes.” What the hell does that mean? What is sustainable? What is effective? How can you see that? You can't see that. That is not a viscerally rich picture of anything.

Be mindful as you have a look at your corporate speak problems in your strategic plan. You might also want to check out Gabrielle Dolan’s Jargon Free Fridays.

Another mistake is combining targets, milestones, and projects as KPIs. An example of a poor KPI is “produce a magazine”. This is not a KPI. This is a project. A KPI is a measure of activity results. It's not about producing something in a one off. It's something that can be tracked as either improving or getting worse, such as customer happiness. How do you measure happiness? You start by asking, what does a happy customer do, say, feel? When you start asking questions like that, all of a sudden, you have pictures of happy customers. What do happy customers look like and sound like? Happy customers brag about their work with you. Happy customers tell you how much they enjoy working with you. Happy customers write testimonials. All of a sudden, you have a way to measure that. You can measure the amount of testimonials you receive per month or per project. You can measure the amount and quality of feedback.     

Key tips on strategic planning:

Start with results.

Instead of thinking of targets, such as ‘how much money do we want to make’, ask, ‘what results do we want to produce through our work?’ Keep asking why is that important until you get something meaningful. Here’s two of mine: “Organisations improve their contribution to community and planet” and  “Leaders enjoy their work and lives.” That's the bigger picture purpose of my business.

Next, focus on the result areas that you want to work on.

Maybe it’s client happiness. Maybe it’s return on time invested. Maybe it’s quality of service.

Next look at the individual results.

Then you develop measures for that. If we look at developing measures for client happiness, what do you see people doing, saying, feeling, or experiencing as a result of your work? Once you have that, you can start to be able to measure improvements in performance or activity. Then, you can set a target for that. Once you know what the baseline is, you can set an improvement target. Your baseline might be one testimonial a month. Maybe your target is to get three per month.

Once you have a target, you ask,  ‘how do we improve that result?” Now you're doing strategic thinking.

Basically you reverse engineer from the desired results back to the strategic initiatives.

The process is:

•    What is the result?

•    What is the measure?

•    What are the targets?

•    What are the improvement initiatives or the strategic activities that take place?

•    What budget do we need to create those results and manage those initiatives?

This is such a radically important idea. It sounds so simple. I just want to go ding some bells around it! Ding, ding, ding! This will transform how you do strategy, and thus the results you get.

Results, measures targets, improvements. It's a neat step by step. See Stacey Barr if you want to learn from the master. WWW.STACEYBARR.COM

This is linear thinking and it has some clear benefits.

The benefits are:

There is a starting point and end point and it has progress bars. I love progress bars! That's when you measure. You have something that shows where you’re improving or not, such as a fundraising thermometer. Progress bars are extremely motivating, as Dr. Jason Fox has written in his book, Game Changer.

These are all characteristics of linear thinking that are extremely useful at any stage of your leadership development. The benefits of linear thinking are that it shows progress, which we mentioned is very important for motivation. It creates a sense of achievement, which is also important for motivation. It creates movement and momentum. This is really important to getting off the ground and getting into action. Linear thinking has huge benefits.

We can become even more effective than a linear thinker. And that's being a systems thinker. Why? Because it allows you to be a lot more nimble, responsive and proactive in planning.

So, how do you do that?

It starts again, with ‘why’.

That part of the linear thinking also applies to systems thinking. You need to be purpose driven in your focus. Your ‘why’ for what you're doing needs to be deep and powerful and meaningful to you and the people that you want to engage with. That's the first aspect of becoming a systems thinker.

We then build multi-level plans.

We focus first on results for business. The next layer of the multi-level plan is look at the systems that produce those results. Now you're starting to move into systems thinking. It's looking at what are the systems in place, and the systems that we play within, that create these results.

As an example, you might have a sales system, a client recruitment system, a client engagement system. Where are the improvements you can make in each of those systems to improve your results?

The other aspect of systems thinking is to look at 'what are the systems that the organisation belongs to? What are the economic system, the political system, the social system that you sit within that have an impact on you and your clients? Are there ways of influencing or working within those systems to produce better results?

That's a multilevel plan.

We also need to have multi-stakeholder plans.

This is not just about you and your clients. It's about your clients, your staff, your community, and your society. When you start to have multi-stakeholder plans, the richness and effectiveness of your strategy broadens and has a more far reaching consequences that are meaningful to you and everybody that you come across.

We can build a multi-dimensional plan.

What does that look like? We've talked mostly about strategy, in terms of starting with results, then measures, then looking for improvement initiatives. That's one aspect. Multi-dimensional strategic planning includes that. It also includes your corporate culture. How are you going to grow, evolve, and maintain that? It includes leadership. How are you going to expand and grow your leadership thinking as a leader? How are going to grow the leadership thinking within the organisation, so you have leaders growing leaders? The fourth element is contribution that links back to the purpose - what lasting difference and legacy will you make? How is that built into your strategic improvement methodology and what you're actually going to be focusing on for the year?

We can expand horizons.

When we're thinking about strategy, we want to have different horizons in mind. They get fuzzier the further out they go. There is the yearly horizon. Then there is the decade horizon, then the lifetime horizon. Then we have a generational horizon and multi-generational horizon. That is very big picture thinking that's really important for you to consider. This legacy work.

We include the ripple effect of impact.

Consider what is the impact: local, national, and global. Then your web impact, not like the internet web, but your customer's customers. That is the ripple effect. Do you have that component integrated into what you’re doing?

To summarise the six improvement areas for moving towards system thinker:

1.  A purpose driven focus

2.  Multi-level plans

3.  Multi-stakeholder plans

    4.  Multi-dimensional plans.

5.  Expanded time horizons.

6.  Impact plan.

All of this is incorporated in strategy, culture, leadership, and contribution.

There you have it. That is my best tips on how to go from linear thinker to systems thinker and what mistakes to avoid when it's your strategic planning time.

How do you go about strategic planning? What tips can you share?


Zoë is on a mission to encourage big thinkers with big hearts to make a big difference. She is passionate about showing leaders how to improve their ability to connect, build unified teams and expand how they serve the world.

With over 30 years experience, she has published “Composure: How Centered Leaders Make the Biggest Impact” and “Moments: Leadership When It Matters Most.”



What should you sacrifice as a leader?

This is where I wrote this message:

Seminyak, Bali

After speaking at a conference in Bali, I booked in a few days to rest and let the brain re-calibrate. It has done wonders for the body, heart, and soul. I am so grateful for my life, and for those who helped make this life possible.

For my Australian and New Zealand readers, I wish you well on this ANZAC Day. [ANZAC is a commemoration of the fateful and disastrous landing at Gallipoli by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. It is a sobering reminder of the cost of war: young lives lost]. On this day, as well as Remembrance Day, I think of my grandparents, all four of whom lived through the Second World War. The shadow of it haunted their steps and shaped the lens of their life. Much was sacrificed during the war. For my maternal grandparents, their ability to cope with life’s disasters without alcohol was one of them. They sacrificed sobriety to the spectre of war.

War has not ended in this world, and the call to sacrifice life for a cause remains ever present. For most of us reading this message, leadership rarely calls us to pledge our lives. We remain comfortable in our largely peaceful corner of the world.

As a global thinker and citizen, we ought to know what we would lay down our lives for. Is there anything for which you would make the ultimate sacrifice? My grandparents went to war for King, country, and a way of life. They endured war so they could have peace, freedom and choices of their own making. For what would you take up arms?

Sacrifice in leadership comes with the territory. It’s one of the main reasons that not every one should lead others: sacrifice is a concept and action that requires great maturity and self awareness. Not all are ready for this kind of surrender.

What should we sacrifice as leaders?

Selfishness. One cannot be a leader if one is driven by selfishness. To be a leader, our thoughts are on those who would follow us and support the cause we all rally behind. Selfishness has no part to play here. The distinction should be made around the self-first concept. Self-sacrifice is martyrdom, and is not always necessary or helpful. Self-first as a concept is where we tend to our own needs (like sleep, rest, exercise, health, well-being) so there is more of us to give. We need to look after ourselves if we are to live to serve another day.

Invisibility. To lead is to make a stand, to be seen and heard for the sake of what we believe and who we serve. Invisibility keeps us hidden, inspiring no one and encouraging nothing. We do not need to lead from the front as a hero; what we do need is to be a visible and vocal presence of encouragement. We need to be seen to model what we believe. Integrity is when action reflects thought and words.

Fear of criticism. Actually, many fears need to be sacrificed: fear of making a mistake, of letting others down, of not living up to expectations, of being found wanting. As leaders, we will make mistakes, we will disappoint others, and we may find ourselves short of skill or capacity to do the job. Leadership is knowing all this, and doing our best anyway, because we believe that our petty fears are not enough to stand by and let what matters go unsupported. There is something bigger than us that calls us to sacrifice our fears.

Feeling like a fraud. Everyone has a first day on the job. We all needed to learn how to walk as babies. When we fell down as toddlers, did we feel like frauds as humans? The essence of our humanity is in getting up again and trying once more. The longing for growth and contribution is the fabric of leadership. At this altar we may leave the shackles of fraud.

Hope. Hope is an emotion for those who feel powerless and victims in life’s wake. It is for those who wait to be rescued. As leaders, we do not waste energy in a lament of hope; we forge our own path, seeking a way through turmoil with effort and focus. We can replace hope with determination, conviction, and grit.

What do you sacrifice as a leader? What is the cause that you dedicate your life to?