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4 Keys to Unleashing Your Leadership Greatness

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out is largely a matter of conscious choice.

~Jim Collins~

In her poem, A Return to Love Marianne Williamson wrote, “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” These sentences are not in the exact order as they are in her poem, however, they helped me to set the stage for a recent presentation I conducted for the professional women group WOW: Woman to Woman Business Owners and Entrepreneurs in Columbia, SC. This post highlights the four keys that I shared with those in attendance as to how they can unleash a greater measure of the seeds of greatness within them and make 2014 their best year yet in life and business.

Key #1: Focus

Imagine you are in sitting in a theater waiting for one of your favorite shows to begin when all the lights are completely turned off and there is a short period of silence and darkness falls over the room. Then a spotlight is turned on above you and the beam from the light is directed at the center of the stage as the curtain rises for the show to begin.

Our focus is like a spotlight in a theater. Our lives follows the direction in which we focus our attention, energy and time. When we are clear about the direction we're moving towards we begin to cultivate a laser-like focus. A laser-like focus supports are desire to produce results related to our goals versus being busy for busy sakes and getting little to nothing done that really matters to us.

A simple practice that has helped me cultivate a laser-like focus in recent years is the practice of determining the three words that will serve as a compass for helping me to stay on track towards my goals, and if I get off track help me get back on track. I was inspired to start this practice as a result of a post I read by Chris Brogan which you can read here. My three words for 2014 are Align, Design and Deliver.

I know from my experience that if I Align my thoughts and behavior with my desired outcomes for this year, I will Design a strategic plan for accomplishing my goals that increase my capacity to Deliver results that can make 2014 my best year yet. If I get off track during this year, my three words, Align, Design and Deliver does double duty as my compass to get me back on track. What will your three words be for 2014?

Key #2: Faith

Most of the time when people hear the word faith, they think about it from a religious or spiritual perspective. My faith in God is very important to me. And I know many people who believe in the power of God, but have little or no confidence in their own power to create positive change in their lives. You can have great faith in God's power and yet not demonstrate any power in your own life because you lack faith in yourself.

Our will to do springs from the knowledge we can do. A simple practice I've used to help me maintain a connection to the knowledge that “I can do this” is my habit of remembering strong moments. I began to develop this habit after the death of my mother when I was thirteen. When my mother died, I was in complete shock and disbelief. I couldn't imagine living life without her. She was my sense of security. I knew that I would be okay because of mother's presence. After her death, I became angry and bitter. I didn't think I was strong enough to live my life without my mom.

Shortly before the first anniversary of her death, I began to get sick and tired of being angry and bitter. I grew up admiring my mother for her strength. She had demonstrated, over and over, the resolve, resiliency and resourcefulness necessary to overcome daunting odds in her life. Once I got sick and tired of being angry and bitter, I had an intuitive hunch to start focusing on the strong attributes of my mother instead of her death. As I began to think about my mother's strength, I realized that because she was my mother and I had her DNA, I had to be strong too.

The more I focused on my mother's strengths, the more I was able to discover the strength of my spirit, my faith and my free will. I began the journey of unleashing my strong when I shifted my focus off the loss of my mother and onto her strengths which resulted in me changing the story I was telling myself from “I'm not strong enough to live my life without my mom” to “I'm strong because my mom was strong.”

I believed in the power of God as a child growing up. However, had I not exercised my free will to shift my focus which changed my actions then I could have spent many years, if not my entire life, shackled by the emotional pain that I felt as a teen because of the unexpected loss of my mother. This experience will always be a strong moment in my life. Developing the practice of remembering our strong moments reminds us of who we are and what we are capable of. What is a moment in your life that can serve to remind you of how strong you really are?

Key #3: Foresight

Foresight is the ability to prepare and position yourself for opportunities related to your desired experiences. Many years ago, when I transferred from the Columbia Marriott to the “new” Courtyard NW location in Columbia to be a a housekeeping supervisor, I knew from the start that it was up to me to maximize the professional opportunities available in this growing division of Marriott.

I became curious about what it took to be a manager in the Courtyard division, so on a hunch, I made copies of each manager's position description. Since I was already a housekeeping supervisor and my experience at the Columbia Marriott was in the housekeeping department, I used the housekeeping manage position description to develop a strategic action plan for developing the skills necessary to do the job at the Courtyard. Seven months later, my boss decided that he and his wife wanted to return to Florida and I became the hotel's housekeeping manager.

In the six years I worked at the Courtyard, I was promoted into five management positions. I used the position descriptions of each department manager as a guide for developing the skills necessary to manage all the departments within the hotel. On two occasions, I was responsible for two departments at the same time. On February 9, 1995 I was promoted into the General Manager's position at the Fairfield Inn hotel in Wilmington, NC. This promotion required that I relocate and work in my third division with the company.

Your talent, capabilities and strengths has to be developed. You have to invest the time, energy and attention in developing yourself. You are your most important asset. And you shouldn't expect others to care more about your success than you do.

Foresight helps you initiate purpose-drive actions towards your short- and long-term goals. Clarity precedes mastery. Envision what your life will be like if you achieve your desired year-end goals. Now, identify three goals you must achieve in the first quarter of this year to build momentum and keep you on track towards achieving your identified year-end goals. The first 90 days in a new year is crucial to building and sustaining momentum towards the achievement of your year-end goals. Are you preparing and positioning yourself to possess your desired aim? What are the three goals you must achieve in the first quarter of this year to keep you on track towards accomplishing your year-end goals?

Key #4: Fortitude

Fortitude is the mental and emotional strength to manage and overcome challenges and setbacks as you pursue your goals. Six months after my GM's promotion at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Wilmington, NC, my fourteen year-old son, Blease died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest. A few months later, I was hit with the results of the hotel's fall employee opinion survey: according to the numbers, I was ranked the worst GM in our Mid-Atlantic region. Not only was I faced with the death of my child, I was facing for the first time in my ten-year career, a staff that didn't believe in my leadership. After receiving the worse performance review that I'd ever received as a manager, I had a decision to make: I could request to transfer back to my hometown of Columbia, SC and tell myself that I did try, OR I could muster up the strong in me and demonstrate to the staff, who really hadn't had much time to get to know me, what I was made of and why I was the right leader for them and the hotel. I realized that after all the sacrifices I had made, the commitment, loyalty and dedication I'd shown towards each position I held with Marriott, and the obstacles I had overcome to rise from a housekeeper position earning minimum wage to become a General Manager of a million dollar Marriott hotel property, I wasn't about to throw it all away because of one employee opinion survey.

Instead, I did an assessment of my leadership skills and recognized that I had to evolve as a leader if I wanted to be successful at this level. I couldn't sit on my laurels and expect what had worked in Columbia, SC to work in the same fashion with the staff in Wilmington, NC. At the Courtyard NW hotel I'd used the STOP, START and CONTINUE process to help me create perceptional shifts in a short period of time. Applying this process in the workplace always required I spend time with staff members in one-on-one conversations, seeking to understand their perceptions so that I could increase our understanding of one another and provide me clues to how I could best adapt my approach and leadership to succeed in new circumstances.

Just as I had at the Courtyard NW, I asked staff members to help me become a better manager by sharing their thoughts on what they believed I should STOP, START and CONTINUE doing to increase my effectiveness as the GM of the hotel. And, just as I had done before, I began to immediately demonstrate my commitment towards creating a better working environment for all of us. Just like all the previous times that I'd used this simple process, I was able to develop and nurture rewarding relationships with the hotel's team members. So much so that my employee opinion scores for 1996 resulted in me receiving an award at the 1997 Courtyard/Fairfield Inn GM's conference and in 1998 our team won the most #1 awards in four key performance areas for customer satisfaction out of 350+ hotels. This experience truly embedded in my mind that defeat is only defeat when you accept it. And each level that we grow into requires us to elevate our skills and capabilities to sustain and build upon previous successes.

What do you need to STOP, START and CONTINUE to think, feel and do to build your confidence and increase your effectiveness to produce tangible results related to the short-term goals you've identified in key #3?

Anaïs Nin stated, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.” The seeds of leadership greatness dwelling within you will remain dormant if you don't challenge yourself to maintain the focus, faith, foresight and fortitude necessary to think bigger, better and bolder. As Margie Warrell writes in Find Your Courage, “All the courage you need is available to you at this moment; it's just waiting on you to tap into it to create a life that makes you feel truly alive, that reveals your unique greatness to the world, and that allows you to enjoy the deeply fulfilling, purposeful, and happy life you have it within you to live. Dream bigger dreams for yourself, and trust that you have the courage to travel in whatever direction your dreams may take you.”

I'd like to hear your feedback on the 4 keys to unleashing your leadership greatness. Share your comments below.

Thank you for being a part of the growing readership of Grow Forward & Flourish. I'm always seeking ways to improve the experience of community members, so your feedback and suggestions are welcomed. I appreciate you sharing this article with your network.

Unleash Your Power!
Jackie Capers-Brown

Founder, Grow Forward & Flourish

Note: You can overcome any limiting beliefs and assumptions diminishing your capacity to achieve you next level of success. My new book, Get Unstuck Now provides you with proven strategies that strengthens your inner-game which increases the effectiveness of your outer game. the level of leadership success that you achieve. Read Get Unstuck Now. It is available You can get more details about the Kindle version  here and the paperback here.

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