You are a leader. If you are reading this article, you are interested in the tools and techniques to achieve that which you truly desire and to motivate others towards the same.
However, did you realize that you, being authentically you, and creating the life and business that you truly desire (no matter what anybody else thinks, says or does) is already being a leader!
You don’t need followers to be a leader. It’s about making a demand of yourself and being the invitation for others.
What if only you could stop you?
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What makes a leader stand still?
Preconceived ideas about change.
It's our preconceived ideas that stop us; our ideas about our roles and where we see ourselves fitting into the world and our businesses. The funny thing is, we are the ones who have defined what that world looks like; it’s not real!
There was a time in my life when the technology company I was working for advertised for a Vice President (VP). With the open position, I was doing my Director role and I was already doing the work of the VP but I thought I wasn’t qualified to apply. Fortunately, a friend of mine got me to question all of my preconceived ideas about what it meant to me to hold that title and how that would fit into my preconceived ideas of what my life as a single mom was and what I could/couldn’t, should/shouldn’t be or do. I realized that I was already doing the work and that nothing more would be required of me than that which I would put into it anyway; which had been an unconscious fear stopping me from applying.
Any definition that you have of yourself, whether good or bad, is limiting you. It puts you in a box that has a subheading, “Therefore, I can’t.” For example, “I am a single mom, therefore, I don’t have the time to be a VP”, etc.
Fear of failure.
The most paralytic emotion is fear. A common fear for leaders is fear of failure. It stops you from making choices, which leaves you standing still. Any fear, including the fear of failure, is a distraction; something that holds us back from our creativity and power – stops us from living the life we truly desire and from leading through invitation.
So, what is failure? In my opinion, it’s not achieving your preconceived ideas! As I said above, these ‘ideas’ are just figments of your imagination, so failure is also not real. I once worked with an executive who liked to cycle to release his stress at work. He had a hard time climbing mountains, making him slower to finish his races. His preconceived ideas about his inability to easily climb mountains would intensify the effort, strain and stress. He had put the mountain in the category of being greater than himself and feared that climbing it could never be done easily. Once he realized his fear of failing the mountain was not real, he began to actually enjoy climbing it, and ended up finishing in the top one percent of all his races with and without steep mountain climbing.
I have worked with many executives paralyzed by fear of making a choice, and it is literally killing them; they present with a range of symptoms from disturbed sleep to depression.
Outlined, below, are three tools to free yourself from paralysis and move forward as the leader you truly are.
Steps To Move Forward
How do you identify yourself?
Write a list of all the ways you define yourself; your role as a mom, employee, executive, wife, etc., your characteristics, like friendly, nice, assertive, go getter, etc., your background, such as being the eldest child, from a middle-class family, a graduate, your ethnicity, age, etc., and everything that would build up a profile of you. Now, let it all go. Don’t use it to define you anymore. You are you, in this moment. That is all. And, in the next moment, you can be anybody you choose to be. This presents you with a clean slate that you can proceed from.
What fears do you think you have?
Take a look at what is underneath the distraction of fear. Write down all your fears around being a leader and moving forward. For example, do you fear that you are not good enough or that your current lifestyle might change? Have you made something vital for success and what would be left if it doesn’t actually work? Perhaps there are specific tasks or positions you are avoiding? Write it all down.
Now, let all that go. What if none of it actually meant anything? What if they were nothing more than mental alarms warning you that you are going off course and changing? Celebrate that!
You want to create the life you desire; not stand still in the same-old, same-old. Imagine that ‘whack-a-mole’ arcade game. Each time a fear pops up; whack it on the head with a “Thank you for letting me know that I am creating the change I desire.”
Make a choice and act on it.
It’s our lack of decision-making that gets us stuck in the same situation over and over. But if you don’t choose, the choice will be made for you, because the world does not stand still.
Any choice will do. Choice creates. And in that creation, you gain additional information, which will assist you to choose your next choice.
So, to stop standing still and to move forward into greater success in all areas of life, let go of your preconceived ideas, go beyond your fears and actively and consciously choose the life you truly desire.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.