This article was initialy published on Forbes.com
A while back, I wrote an article called Awaken Dormant Leaders. It is one of my favorite articles ever, and it seems to connect with many people.
Recently, a few visitors to the site sent me emails to ask me to write more about this topic. They told me they felt like dormant leaders and wanted me to give them tips on how to break out from their slumber.
Here are the top 5 ways to awaken the dormant leader that lives inside you!
#5 Change your perception and change your life
One of the big challenges of dormant leaders is how they perceive the world around them. One of my friends once told me: “Change how you let things occur to you and see how it changes your life!”
This can seem odd at first, but think about it. When someone tells you something mean, for example, you have a choice of how you receive it. By default, you may be telling yourself something like: “Oh, this person hates me!”
What if, instead, you trained yourself to think something different. For example, what if you told yourself the person was being awkward instead of hating you? What could be different in how you react and respond?
One of my personal favorites when I have situations like this in my life is to tell myself: “Wow, that is interesting, I want to know more!” and then I get curious instead of mad. We have more control over how we perceive things than we may initially believe.
Here is a hands-on practice to get you started. Every day, take a moment to reflect on a hard situation you experienced at work. Jot down on a piece of paper how you perceived this situation in the moment. Do not get overly detailed; a sentence or two is more than enough. Then, make a list the different ways you can choose to look at the same situation instead. What difference would choosing one of these other make for you?
#4 Take full responsibility for what is happening to you
There is something around dormant leaders where you may feel like a victim. You may feel as if things get inflicted or imposed on you and you have no other choice.
Try this little exercise from Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles book. Take a moment and reflect on the following questions, one after the other:
- What is the difficult or troubling situation for you at work?
- How are you creating this or allowing it to happen?
- What are you pretending not to know?
- What is the payoff to you for keeping it like it is?
- What is the cost for not changing it?
- What would you rather be experiencing?
- What actions will you take to create this?
- By when will you take that action?
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to follow through on this action?
For question #9, as long as you are not scoring it a 10, your actions are not powerful enough. Find a different set of actions which motivate you more instead.
#3 Create your own possibilities
I remember one particularly painful year in my career where I was a dormant leader at my job. Things were very controlled by the management team that I was working for. It appeared to me as if they were slowing me down each time I asked for permission to do things.
At one point, my personal strategy became to start running and doing work at my own high pace. As I reported back to my manager on what I was doing, I knew this person would not be able to keep up with me. In our follow-up conversations, I offered to do more and more things. I framed it in a way that this would free her up to do the more important things that she needed to take care of at that time. I committed to let her know if I needed help on anything.
Here is the practice for this one. Start by thinking of the little things you would like to do at work that would save you time or effort. Make sure you place higher on your list the things that you have full control over and will not impact others.
Once or twice a week, when you have a moment, do one or two of these without asking permission first and see what happens. When you gain confidence, talk about these things with your manager or the people around you. Let them know the results you are getting and allow yourself to get excited when you tell them about it.
#2 Remember your gifts and tell yourself empowering stories
Many dormant leaders forget their gifts and tell themselves stories that disempower them. Some may even tell you stories about their glory days and the great things they accomplished in the past. In the same breath, these same people will also tell you about how they feel so lost now.
We all tell ourselves stories in our heads. Stories about how we perceived a situation or ourselves. These stories feed our spirits in very different ways. Some of them make us feel warm, fuzzy, and confident while others completely disempower us.
As with choosing how a situation occurs to us, you can also choose the stories you tell yourself. What could be different if you told yourself a very different set of stories than the ones you usually do.
The practice here is two-fold. For the first part, for a week or two, take a moment every day to reflect on the stories you told yourself during the day. Which of these do you feel are true and you can prove with tangible facts? Which of these are the ones you make up for yourself? What lies behind these stories? Is it fear, lack of confidence, lack of courage or something else? Do these stories empower you or disempower you?
For the second part, look at the stories you collected up to now. Choose four or five of the most disempowering ones and rewrite them instead in a way that empowers you. Do something cool with these stories. Take a moment every day for 30 days where you can read yourself back these empowering stories. Remember to make it fun and live, breathe, and feel through them in your mind.
Make sure you do not read them like a mindless robot. Try to feel them and enjoy the moment of telling yourself the story.
#1 Have the courage not to settle for a life you do not want
We spend so much of our time at work. This makes it so important to work in an environment we are comfortable in and where we can be ourselves.
I often ask dormant leaders why they stay in their current situations if they are so unhappy. Here are some of the recurring answers I get:
- It is the same everywhere anyways, I’d rather stay with the devil I know.
- I come here for the paycheque. We all need to make money somehow, right?
- Is it possible to be happy at work? I have never been happy anywhere anyway.
- Why should I speak up for myself, what is it going to change? No one is going to listen.
These answers can point to many different things. Do you have the courage or skills to speak up for yourself with your boss or to make the choice to look for a different job? Could it be that, sometimes, you hide your lack of courage by settling or enduring a situation you do not want?
Have you ever considered why you keep dwelling about your current situation? Why are you not making any changes?
Could it be that you do not see it as painful enough yet for you to do something about it? Here is a practice that may help you. Take a real and honest look at your default future in this company. Your default future is what will happen if you do not make any changes at all.
Write down everything that comes to mind. How painful does it look? Do you actually want this default future? If it is not painful enough, think about it some more and add more notes. Try to get to the point where you look at the list and say: “HELL NO! I will not let this happen to me!”
Could it be you feel you have trouble expressing yourself or that you lack the skills to have the conversation you want to have with your manager? If this is the case, take a look at the people around you in your life. Who has the skills you are looking for? How can they help you or mentor you in preparing for the conversation? Reach out to them and ask for the support you need. If all else fails, find a coach to help you prepare and talk through the challenges you may have.
So, there you have it, those are the top 5 ways to awaken the dormant leader inside you! What are you willing to do in the coming weeks to awaken from your dormant leader slumber?