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Be prepared to go non-linear!

Expand your leadership in three areas

You may feel like you are drinking from a firehose as you lead your team, address organizational priorities, and lead yourself. In the day-to-day, the challenges may seem hard and even unmanageable, yet you can juggle these well by focusing on three “lenses.”

John Maxwell, one of the great thinkers on leadership, organizes it this way:

  1. Self-leadership,

  2. Your Team,

  3. Your Organization.

The good news is that taking even small steps in leadership can yield big results.

When I work with new leaders, I observe they feel they can only work on one of these at a time. Often, they choose self-leadership. Since focusing on one area alone won’t work over the long term, I help clients realize that the organization will require them to address all three areas. The nature of your organization is that it will throw challenges at you, and you’ll have to use skills from all of these areas to thrive—and use them all on the same day, sometimes in the same meeting.

Before you jump in, realize you have tools and skills from these areas available and can choose what you need based on the situation and best possible solution. Let’s break down the areas you can intentionally improve.


  1. Hold yourself to a higher standard of accountability than others do

  2. Positive outlook

  3. Focus and deliver results

  4. Outcome oriented

  5. Have strong character

  6. Be a great listener

  7. Continuously learn

  8. Be an effective communicator

Team leadership

  1. Earn the right to influence your team

  2. Help them win when you win

  3. Support and stand up for them

  4. Grow and develop everyone

  5. Inspire them with strong visions of success

Organizational leadership

  1. Influence across the silos of the organization

  2. Build collaborative relationships with others

  3. Solve problems cross functionally

  4. Use innovation and process improvements to meet organizational goals

  5. All this through other people

  6. Lead with clear vision, strong communication skills, strategic thinking

Developing leadership skills is not as linear as climbing a ladder. It’s more like climbing up and sideways on a jungle gym as Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook says. In reality, learning these skills and developing as a leader requires taking a broad-minded approach. At work, chances to learn come your way every day and minute. If you are not paying attention, you won’t recognize some of these as great “teachable moments.”

You can learn a lot through the bumpiness of leadership. Knowing what to do in unexpected situations prepares you to view them as opportunities rather than say, “I am not ready for that.” While linear thinkers may struggle with the idea that progress is not a step-by-step and straight path, anyone can learn by being aware, reflecting, and focusing.

In a typical day, you get thrown into meetings and have individual challenges to your self-leadership with additional team challenges to handle. All three types of leadership must be used at the same time to succeed.

  1. Organizational-You may spend your entire day representing your organization at a cross-functional planning meeting. You are thinking and being challenged on how your team connects and collaborates with the rest of the org.

  2. Self-Or your day is filled with difficult challenges which are ethical in nature, so you rely on your self-leadership traits to make the best decisions.

  3. Team-The team sends you messages by the hour, updating you with their challenges, ideas and status of projects causing you to focus on macro and micro issues alternatively.

You can begin with small steps and keep growing through experience.

As an example, if you find yourself feeling especially frustrated or complaining about issues like workload, it means you can benefit from looking at developing and delegating to your team, so that you can be freed up to add value at a higher level.

This helps you make better decisions by taking other perspectives into consideration. First, you learn the desired business outcome. Next, work with your team to create a meaningful strategy while checking in with your own value system.

Confidence comes from achievement.

Next time you feel challenged, stop and look at it through these three lenses—self, team, and organization—and realize it’s an opportunity to become better at using all three.

It’s normal to feel that leadership is a rocky ride. You are in good company if you feel that way. In a typical coaching session, I help clients untangle these situations, gain perspective and improve outcomes.

When you are ready, here is how I can help:

Email me at to get The Leader’s Guide for getting Untangled

Email me at if you want help with strategies to improve your leadership.

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