Lessons on Leadership: Know Yourself & Be Authentic

Kathy_TaysSarcastic and energetic, Kathy Wulf-Tayes stepped onto the Ladies 2.0 stage with six important lessons on leadership to share. With 20+ years of account management, leadership, and team development under her belt, Kathy has experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. Lucky for us, she openly shared her failures and successes, leaving us with some actionable tips to apply to our own leadership roles. 

Before I dive into those lessons, let's consider the difference between a boss and a leader:

Leadership isn't a title or a job. According to author, leader, and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek, "Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting, and most importantly, a way of communicating."

Kathy also said leadership isn't something you can teach - it's something you have to experience. But, you can go into those experienes prepared. Here are six tips Kathy's learned in her leadership experience:


1. Lead From Within

Leadership starts with you - you need to understand you before you can understand those you lead. John Maxwell said, "As a leader, the first person I need to lead is me. The first person I should try to change is me." What are your convictions? What are your values? What are your beliefs?

Know those - then know that your convictions/values/beliefs/etc. are different than everyone else's. Then learn what their convictions/values/beliefs/etc. are, because leadership is not about what you need, it's about what they need. 


2. It's Not About You

Status. Money. Power. This is not what leadership is about. Leadership requires selflessness and vulnerability. I'll say it again, leadership is not about you - it's about them.

Thanks to Brene Brown, our culture is beginning to change its perception of vulnerability - it's not a weakness. "Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen." Only then can we trust, create, belong, love, and have the hard conversations. 


3. You Can't Do It on Your Own

If asking for help or letting go of control is hard for you, you'll need to practice. Doing both of these things requires vulnerability; it's admitting you don't have all the answers. As I said earlier, leadership can't be taught - but you can learn tips and tricks from others. Look for help from others on your team, in your network, or on the big stage. 

"Humility is about 'I can't do it alone. I need help.' Humility is about 'We always have things we need to get better at and improve.' Humility is about learning from everyone and everything." - Carly Fiorina 


4. Challenge People to Challenge Themselves

The only person you can change is you - but you can empower those around you to change themselves. Do this by encouraging mistakes and view every opportunity as a learning experience. 

So often in leadership we think about how we are going to change things and we forget that we can change process and we can change policy, but we can't change people. That is why managers manage, and leaders lead. 


5. Seek to Understand

Ask questions and be empathetic. Seek to understand why before jumping to your own conclusions. Be cautious about judging intent or motive, especially before understanding all the facts or sides of the story. 

Remember: people do what they are told because they have to; people follow because they want to. Why are your people doing what they are doing?


6. Connect with People

Kathy's final lesson on leadership really sums things up nicely: recognize that we are all different and we all have a story. Invest in each of your people as individuals. Work to learn their convictions, passions and hang-ups - and use that information to gain trust, understand their actions, and encourage behavior. 


Authentic leadership starts by understanding yourself, and then letting your true self shine through as you lead others. As Kathy said, "real leaders are contagious. It's no coincidence that influence and influenza come from the same root word. They are both infectious."

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