Welcome back to First Principles February! To celebrate the first anniversary of the kind leadership challenge and all the amazing growth we’ve experienced over the past year, I’m releasing a 4 part series on the basics of Kind leadership.
In week 2 of this mini-course, we’re focusing on the first of the three core skills of kind leadership, growing humanely. As I discussed last time in Challenge 53, Kind Leadership is ultimately about making decisions that heal.
That means your skill as a decisionmaker will determine how successfully you can build a better world without burning out yourself or those you lead and serve. Therefore, the first skill needed for kind leadership is learning how to be a kind leader to yourself.
By learning how to grow humanely, you can create a firm foundation of kindness that will serve you well in the storms of leadership and life.
Download the Kind Leadership Framework
Other Episodes Mentioned:
First Principles February: What Is Kind Leadership? (Challenge #53)
Get Unstuck: a Course in Kind Leadership Decision-making
To listen to more episodes or subscribe in your favorite app, head to kindleadershipchallenge.com!
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Next Steps in Kind Leadership:
Go to kindleadershipchallenge.com/conversations and enter your email to start having the conversations that will impact your community for the better.
Curious about coaching? Schedule a free 30 minute chat about a current leadership challenge at https://kindleadershipchallenge.com/coaching.
This episode was produced by Podcast Boutique .
Welcome back to First Principles February! To celebrate the first anniversary of the kind leadership challenge and all the amazing growth we’ve experienced over the past year, I’m releasing a 4 part series on the basics of Kind leadership. In week 2 of this mini-course, we’re focusing on the first of the three core skills of kind leadership, growing humanely. As I discussed last time in Challenge 53, Kind Leadership is ultimately about making decisions that heal. That means your skill as a decisionmaker will determine how successfully you can build a better world without burning out yourself or those you lead and serve. Therefore, the first skill needed for kind leadership is learning how to be a kind leader to yourself. By learning how to grow humanely, you can create a firm foundation of kindness that will serve you well in the storms of leadership and life.
Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge, the podcast that empowers principled educational and library leaders to heal their organizations! I’m Dr. Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild, where I use my PhD in Higher ed leadership and nearly 2 decades of experience in academic libraries to coach leaders like you who want to build a better world without burning out.
Kind Leaders aren’t perfect, and we don’t need to be. We strive to make tough decisions without becoming jerks. We design systems that enable our teams to make a big impact without overworking. And we know that once we stop controlling and start collaborating, even the most ambitious vision can become effortless. Kind Leadership is pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. So if you’re up for a challenge, stick around for the next 10 minutes as I teach you how your school or library can create a resilient, thriving legacy that will strengthen your community long after you’re gone.
That intro I just rattled off, that I share every week? It’s based on the three core skills of kind leadership: Growing Humanely, Managing Effectively, and Creating Collaboratively. I’ve created a diagram of the Kind Leadership Framework, including the three core skills of kind leadership as well as the steps you’ll take in mastering each of those skill. This diagram may be helpful for you to refer to as you listen to the next few episodes, and you can download it at kindleadershipchallenge.com/skills. It’s totally free—I won’t even ask for your email address, the link goes straight to the PDF.
Today we’re talking about the first leadership skill of growing humanely, the goal of which is to strengthen your ability to make tough, healing decisions without becoming a jerk, either to yourself or others. Growing Humanely can be understood as a three step process of Nurturing yourself, clarifying your values, and determining kind decisions.
To be the best decision-maker and kindest leader you can be, you first need to get to grips with yourself and what needs healing. Your experiences, your strengths and weaknesses, your unique insights and your personal blind spots that all impact how you make the decisions like the ones you were tracking if you took on the challenge in the last episode. Once you better understand how you tick, you can nurture yourself in ways that increase your ability to see and work with the facts about yourself and the world as they are, rather than succumbing to unproven beliefs in stories about what could be. After getting clear about yourself you need to get clear on your core values—how you think about kindness as a leadership approach, and what ethical standards you incorporate in making your decisions. Finally, you need to design and implement decisions about your work and life that incorporate your knowledge and strengths, as well as the values that you live by.
So I’m going to share one of my first work experiences, and how I’ve used the skill of growing humanely to reframe and start healing its impact on me as a leadership coach.
As I mentioned back in Challenge 11, my first job out of college was with a telecom company in the late 1990s. I started out in Marketing. However, as we crossed over into the 2000s and the dot com boom shifted towards the bust, I got scared and shifted to sales, thinking that my job would be safer if I were making money for the company. Unfortunately, I did not expect to be thrown into the deep end of the sales pool with zero training. I even less expected the 9/11 attacks to happen my second week in the role. And did I mention one of our company’s main network hubs was a few blocks from Ground Zero? All of the sudden, the uncertainty spiked and our quotas doubled. And when Worldcom and Enron, two companies we had modeled our business plans on, both collapsed in piles of fraud and hubris, our impending doom became painfully obvious. And all the while, the only sales advice I got from my then-boss was to make more cold calls (most of which just rolled to voice mail anyway), dress more attractively, and try to sound less intelligent on the rare occasions I got to speak to a human being. Apparently my intellect was too intimidating, though I never quite understood why I needed to dress better in a phone sales position.
I still remember one particularly dark day after I got reamed out by my boss for some newbie mistakes, and because I wasn’t projecting enough false optimism to our customers. The stock was under $1 a share, and my confidence as a salesperson, which had never been great, was shattered. I was standing on the 8th floor landing overlooking the beautiful atrium of the glass building that had been designed and built in better times, feeling utterly incompetent and wondering if fast food might be a good step for my next career. Someone walked past, and in a joking voice said, “Don’t Jump!” That was the state of the culture. About a month later I was laid off. It was a mercy, as at least they hadn’t filed chapter 11 yet and I got a decent severance package. I didn’t really heal from the trauma until I went to library school two years later, and re-learned that I wasn’t an utterly useless person.
However, those events left me believing a very deep-seated story that I can’t sell. As mental blocks for an aspiring leadership coach go, that’s a pretty rough one. So how am I using the skill of growing humanely to heal from my past and make kinder decisions around selling my wares?
Well, the first step of growing humanely is nurturing yourself. To do that, one needs to get clear on the facts about yourself and your situation, and what they imply about how you need to be kind to yourself. I just shared the facts about my first experience in sales. Unfortunately, over the years I began telling myself a very harsh story about those facts—that I would never be able to get good at it without betraying myself or my values. But 20 years and many professional ups and downs after that trauma, I didn’t know if my being an inherently bad salesperson was the story that best fit the facts. So over the past 3 years with the kind leadership guild, I have been nurturing myself by taking this whole sales thing slow, in order to figure out what parts of that story are and aren’t true, and what I would need to learn and heal in order to succeed as a leadership coach. So I’ve tested different ways to get my word out and sell stuff. If it feels comfortable to me, like this podcast, I keep doing it. If it feels uncomfortable, like cold DMing random folks on linkedin to pitch them my lead magnet, I don’t do it, regardless of what the gurus say. And as I’ve nurtured myself, I’ve slowly gotten more confident and my comfort zone has expanded. I won’t ever DM you out of the blue, but if you like an episode of mine on the socials, I might reach out to find out what you found helpful, and to see if you want more of what I have to offer.
So, once you’re figured out how to nurture yourself, it’s time to connect with your core values. Having had a lot of time to reflect on that first experience of sales and everything that came after, I realized that I have certain red lines that I am unwilling to cross, or at least that I care about more than I care about making the Kind Leadership Guild a financially sustainable side hustle. Those values include being at least a version of my smart, slightly intimidating self, selling with the least amount of pressure and the highest amount of honesty possible, and not taking big risks with money in the quest for a big reward.
Now, on to the third step of growing humanely—making powerful decisions based on your acceptance of yourself and your values. The process of making kind decisions is one I’ve thought about a great deal, and my self-paced course, Get Unstuck, actually walks you through this process in much more detail than I can fit into this single podcast episode. But simply put, after defining the problem you need to make a decision about, you need to explore that problem through the lenses of presence, foresight, empathy, stewardship, advocacy and determination in order to make a decision that will, as we discussed last time, give you the power you believe you need to heal yourself, your organization, and the world you serve.
So back to my example. now that I’ve nurtured myself by accepting and addressing the impact of my early experience of selling, and clarified the values that are important to me as I try to sell and teach my leadership expertise, it’s time to define the problem and determine a decision that I believe will start healing the situation.
The problem is simple. I know that to make the kind leadership guild sustainable, I need folks like you to pay money to become kinder leaders. However, I have a deep seated belief that I stink at selling, at least how I was told to practice it by my first employer.
Now, I look at the problem through the lenses of kind leadership decision-making to figure out what I can do to heal this problem, and then do so. By getting present with the opportunities and threats of situation, I see that if I can change my beliefs around selling by improving my mindset, my skills, or both, I can help you all build a more educated and informed world. However, if I can’t get more comfortable with selling, this is just going to be a waste of time and money. The Next Lens is foresight, or what would an ideal solution to the problem look like? Well, ideally I would gain the skills and experience necessary to sell a service I believe in, in a manner that encourages but doesn’t pressure you to make an affordable investment of time and money to become a kinder leader. Third up is Empathy, or understanding what are the most helpful things I can offer to you in order to help you become the kind leaders you want to become. This one’s an ongoing process of conversations and questions with all of you.
Now that I understand what the challenges and opportunities are, what the solved problem would look like, and what you need the most from me, the next issue is stewardship—or more specifically, how can I sell and deliver in a manner that most effectively uses my limited time and money? Then Comes Advocacy, which in this case is getting the support I need from other people to sharpen my sales skills, be that training, research, or finding my own sales coach. Finally, taking all that I have learned in the first 5 lenses, is determination. I have decided the best way I can figure out how good a salesperson I really am is to gradually try and test new things I learn as I feel comfortable, but not push myself or you to do anything that doesn’t feel right. It may take a while to figure out if I really can develop the sales chops to create a sustainable side income from this project, but that’s time I have to invest. And in implementing that decision, I compete the step of determining a powerful decision, and with it the core leadership skill of growing humanely. And like the other two core skills of kind leadership, growing humanely is a cycle, not a straight line. As I learn more and my understanding of myself, my values, and my problem evolves, I will continue to grow humanely, and become a more confident leader and by extension a kinder leader in the process.
So, here’s your challenge! Is there something in your past, like my first experience with sales, that’s holding you back from achieving your full potential as a leader? If so, use this episode as a template to walk through the skills of growing humanely. And if you really want to dig into the process of determining kind leadership decisions, you can learn more about the get unstuck course at the link in the show notes.
Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. Do you know someone who needs to hear this week’s challenge? If so, open your app or head over to kindleadershipchallenge.com/54 and share this episode with them right now. Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.