“Your life story is your leadership story”: lessons from Lisa Sun

As a CHIEF Guide I am fortunate to be able to attend some wonderful events, most recently where Lisa Sun was the guest speaker. Lisa is person who embodies character, courage and candour in a way that is so engaging and inspiring that I felt compelled to share some of the insights that it gave me.

Here are some of the nuggets that I took away from the evening, which I hope will be of interest to Leaders and those aspiring to be someday.

View self-confidence and gravitas as a true reflection of who you are and what you have become

The very definition of Confidence is “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” This is not the traditional interpretation of the word confidence which is often about being gregarious, getting noticed or having a swagger. This is more about discovering the root of our self-belief rather than pretending to be someone else.

Reflect on who and what has shaped you so far

Lisa encourages each of us to uncover our life story to date and how it has shaped the leaders we have become. What do we value? Who and what made us who we are so far? What setbacks have we had and how did we overcome them? What did we learn from them?

I thought about this myself as I listened to her and realized that leaving Ireland to forge a career beyond its shores made me want to prove myself to others and indeed to myself. That brought great energy and focus to my endeavours. I think having my children “humanized” me, making me think beyond career to being more considerate of others and more mindful of my impact as a leader on others too. What have you learned so far that has helped you evolve as a leader?

Six forces that hold us back

If we doubt ourselves, nothing seems possible. She explained:

  • The Deficit Mindset where we view life through the lens of weaknesses or what is missing: a focus on problems rather than potential.
  • The Shrinking Effect: underestimating one’s own abilities; the act of diminishing or shortchanging oneself. Making ourselves smaller in the midst of others.
  • The Satisfaction Conundrum: Chasing external markers of success (achievement, money, more stuff) and never feeling fully satisfied. E.g. I’ll be happy when…….
  • The Superwoman Façade: Maintaining the illusion that all aspects of one’s life are in order when in fact the reality is that we are paddling madly underneath.
  • The Setback Spiral: Negative thoughts, feelings or actions that arise from criticism, setback, or disappointment have the potential to get progressively worse in the face of shame or embarrassment. Setbacks can then make us afraid to take risks, thereby losing out on opportunities. I loved her quote from the ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, “You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” Are we seeing setbacks as constraining or empowering?
  • Systemic Bias: Biases exist in societies and organisations that reward certain behaviours but we can recognize them for what they are. But we also need to be  mindful of our own biases and expand how we assess skills and leadership capability.

Mine for your Gold and own it

Lisa encourages us to answer three key questions of ourselves:

  • What are you good at?
  • What do you love to do?
  • What are you passionate about?

The real power in answering these questions for ourselves is that we get to sift through what we want, what we value and what our gifts are. Lisa encourages us to use our answers to those questions as a foundation so that we can connect more easily to others and stop comparing ourselves unfairly to others.

If you think about the iceberg model of how we are perceived, only 10 percent of the iceberg is visible. That 10 percent represents our behaviours. Ninety percent of the iceberg is below the waterline. That 90 percent includes our thoughts, values, feelings, and the way we think about ourselves. Below the waterline is where we try to reset how we feel about ourselves and what we believe about others. The work we do on the inside translates into our behaviours visible to others.

In summary, Lisa maintains that “real confidence is the outward expression of an inner belief, and that belief translates into action. We see the final result only from the outside, but most of the work is happening on the inside.”

Why not discover what your towering strengths are and your confidence language by taking her quiz at: www.MyConfidenceLanguage.com

Olwyn Merritt MCC
Founder and Director
Pure Potential