Monday, March 26, 2018

Add Value & Make a Difference With or Without a Grand Title

Those of us who spend a great deal of time in social media have the opportunity to meet fabulous people. I’ve met many amazing people from all over the world and am honored to learn from them, share content, and engage on a regular basis. Recently, I “met” Janice Kobelsky on Twitter, and based on similar interests, invited her to appear on my blog. Highlights of our conversation follow below her bio and links.

Enriching lives fuels Janice Kobelsky, FCPA, FCMA’s leadership development work. Janice offers custom workshops, online programs, and her 'Think Anew' blog. She is a UCalgary Continuing Education instructor, independent consultant, speaker, and coach; and her focus includes high performance leadership, personal excellence, and building the skills and confidence needed to add value and make a difference. You can connect with Janice on Twitter @JaniceKobelsky and Facebook /JaniceKobelsky.Leaders. Her site is, and she can be found on LinkedIn at

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?
JANICE KOBELSKY: As I think of good leaders I know, they all share a common denominator. It’s the ability to gain the respect and inspired accountability of those who choose – and want – to ‘follow.’ It’s influence that’s earned because of who you are. That applies whether you’re a ‘leader-with-title’/position or a leader who just is, because you need to be.

Here are 3 traits that define a good leader:
From the Latin word ‘cor’ – meaning heart – courage starts with bold willingness. Daring. Desire and commitment so strong that you ‘cannot not.’ It’s an attitude that reminds us not to wait for someone else. To be willing to be the one, take the risk, and rise to the challenge. Courage summons the inner strength to choose action.
#2: CARE
A good leader cares. You care about what happens while you’re there, and what lasts after you’re gone. Because of that, you earn the trust and commitment of those who follow you. When we care, we become purposeful. Deliberate about the effect we have on others, our communities, environment, and workplaces. Our world.
The point of good leadership is not command and control. Our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments demand more. We need to bring people together to explore, discover, create, and collaborate. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes deliberate and genuine curiosity – to embrace diversity and cultivate openness. It’s curiosity that evokes new and fresh solutions and ways forward. Courage. Care. Curiosity. Those are, I believe, three essential traits to bring out our best as leaders. Good leaders, whose leadership matters. Leaders whose presence inspires and whose actions make a difference.

QUESTION: You talk a lot on your social platforms about making a difference. How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference?
JANICE KOBELSKY: Sometimes leaders without titles are in the best position to make a difference. They’re unconstrained by role and responsibility, with more personal freedom to act. They make a difference through their influence, not authority. It’s leading from wherever you are versus from the front.

Entrepreneur. Parent. Teacher. Student. Colleague. Manager. Teammate. Friend. Volunteer. Influencer. A leader/difference-maker is one who sees a need, takes up a cause, or seizes an opportunity. In other words, at different times and in various ways, it could be any, or all, of us.

A colleague of mine years ago called it being able to “push people with a rope.” In other words, there is no push and no pulling, either. There is no visible tether of any kind. Instead, it’s the power of influence.

It’s having the courage, care and curiosity to see potential and possibilities. Then, being willing to lead in a way that you, and those around you, do their best.

It’s also knowing that there is no small act. Nothing too insignificant. Dr. Peter Senge (American systems scientist; leader in the development of ‘learning organizations’) said it best: “Becoming a force of nature doesn’t mean that all our aspirations must be ‘grand.’ First steps are often small. What matters is engagement in the service of a larger purpose rather than lofty aspirations that paralyze action.”

In short, how does a leader-without-title make a difference? By adopting a ‘just do it’ willingness to instigate and create powerful results. Choices; not position. It’s leadership with a focus on purpose. What is the cause, issue, challenge or opportunity? Will you rally the right people to create a sort of collective leadership? Then, create a dynamic where recognition and performance pivot on others. On their deeds. Not on you, the ‘leader.’

QUESTION: What’s your favorite leadership book and why?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I have a library filled with favorite leadership books. My new favorite is one released in January 2018 by Kimberly Davis (@OnStageKimberly on Twitter) entitled, BRAVE Leadership. The book rolls up the three core traits that define a good leader – courage, care, and curiosity – into one powerful word: BRAVE. Not fearless, but BRAVE. It’s a practical guide to tap into our own potential and get better at leadership. This is true no matter our current position, circumstance, or level of skill. And, Kimberly’s messages strike a chord every time. She reaches out from the page with stories that make sense. Methods that ignite possibilities. It’s an empowering and practical must-read.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite leadership quote and why?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I have so many! A great favorite is this from Jim Gentile: “A big part of leadership is recognizing that your fruit often grows on other people’s trees.” It reminds us that being a leader is about results. It is about performance and productivity. It is about people. It is about nurturing and energizing their potential. Helping them grow. It is about making a difference: for – with – and through others. For this generation, and those to come. So it is about us – because to be a good leader, you’ve got to be willing to listen and learn, grow, and adapt. But, at the same time, it is not about us. It is not about the titles or positions we hold. It is not hinged on authority. And, it is not for the indifferent or ego. It is about active courage, deep care, and authentic curiosity.

QUESTION: One of your recent blog posts talked about leadership, trust, and arches. Can you explain the highlights of that inspiring post? (Read the full post here:
JANICE KOBELSKY: The Roman arch is one of the most difficult architectural feats. They’re amazing in their strength – and endurance. Many are centuries old. They’re witness to the courage, care and, curiosity it takes to build something so bold and beautiful. Folklore has it that they were even a life-or-death test of commitment and quality. Those who built them had to stand under them as the scaffolding was removed! So they're a powerful and poignant metaphor for leadership and earning trust. They remind us to be all in. Inspired accountability – in ourselves and with and from others. The post is a short read with some meaningful questions. Questions that I hope help us fall in love with our lives and our work by ‘standing under our own arches.’

QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I think I’ve found a new favorite quote in this one! To me, it sums up this discussion beautifully. Leadership is a gift. It’s a gift that is given to us, when others entrust us with their aspirations. When we facilitate their contribution and possibilities. When they gift us with their work, time, vision, and focus. Their lives, under our arches. That’s a privilege. It’s a responsibility. And, it’s a gift. It’s also a gift that we give to others. When we have the courage, care, and curiosity to do what it takes to energize their potential. It means we’re willing to go to the mat – to “block and tackle” – for others.

As leaders, that doesn’t just mean removing external obstacles. It’s also being fiercely protective of others’ well-being. Willing to do what it takes to help dissolve whatever holds them back from showing up at their best. Helping them see themselves in light of their strengths. Inspiring greatness. Because we realize that everyone we lead has something amazing to contribute. You, a good leader, ease that into fruition. You ignite that possibility. Being a contribution. Making a difference. Thriving. Together.

My gratitude and appreciation to Janice for appearing on my blog and sharing her incredible leadership insights, and thanks, of course, to Twitter for the introduction! 

Image Credit: Janice Kobelsky.

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