3 Ways to Lead Higher with Your Natural Talents

Can I keep up the pace? Can I continue to do what I’m called to do? These questions run through my mind about the work that I do every day. Perhaps you have those questions, too? I attribute my success, so far, not to a special energy drink but to the infusion of generous encouragement and affirmation that I received from so many people. Not only did I receive much more than I gave, but I’ve never felt so free to be myself. This giving from others brought me a new level of freedom and made the difference in my performance and outlook. 

As a former Vietnam POW, you can imagine how meaningful freedom is to me and how sensitive I am about the concept. As a leadership consultant and coach, I see that we all have mindsets from our past that are like shackles holding us back from being our best self instead of capitalizing on our behavioral strengths and managing our struggles.

To pay this idea forward of infusing positive energy as a leader, we need to be givers in three specific areas: personhood, performance, and potential.

1. Give affirmation. This is about personhood. We all want to count, to be valued, to know that we are important in this life.

“In our daily interactions with others, we have a choice to be a giver or a taker; it’s much healthier to give than to be needy taker.” [Tweet This]

My goal is to authentically lift others up and not add to the burdens of self-doubt that we all carry. I’m going to be more intentional about affirming their uniqueness, recognizing their talents, and helping them see how special they are.

Don’t know the natural talents of your people? Use an assessment and training like Leadership Behavior DNA to help.

2. Give encouragement. This is about performance. Positive feedback reinforces mental and muscle memory, and it also energizes the recipient. I want to encourage others, but sometimes my old habits as an Air Force instructor pilot kick in. Grading every maneuver against perfection was required in that job, but it’s not very helpful in leadership (and most relationships, for that matter).

“Honorable leaders need to raise their awareness and emotional intelligence to quickly and consistently recognize small successes and good execution in others.” [Tweet This]

3. Give others a vision for their future. This is about potential. From my early years, I had a few people who saw something in me that I didn’t see. In small and large ways, they communicated that vision to me—subtly calling me out to reach my potential. During the difficult years in the POW cells, those messages echoed through my mind and inspired me onward toward the day when I would finally be free again. For years I’ve made it part of my mission to pay back the bank for this great investment that was made in me by so many.

Recommitment to Give

We all have times when we fight the demons of discouragement and doubt, but focusing on ourselves usually makes us needy.  Instead of being takers, let’s commit to become better givers.  It’s a freeing behavior for the giver and the receiver, and it’s mutually beneficial for both parties.  Will you join me in my effort to free others to live and lead higher? Share your comments and plans for the new year in this forum.


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