Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Leadership Is Not About the "I" - It's About the "WE"

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Suzi McAlpine from New Zealand. We recently discussed leadership, and highlights follow Suzi’s bio.

Suzi McAlpine is an executive coach, international speaker, and author of the bestselling book, Beyond Burnout, and award winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She is a self-confessed "leadership geek" and is passionate about igniting better leadership in leaders and organizations. She lives in Nelson, New Zealand. Visit her website at www.suzimcalpine.com and connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/suzimcalpine/; Twitter at @suzimcalpine; Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theleadersdigest; and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/suzimcalpine/.

QUESTION: You recently wrote a book about burnout. What did you learn while writing the book that surprised you?
SUZI MCALPINE: What a great question! What surprised me (and somewhat annoyed me at first) is that we’re treating burnout like it’s an individual problem, when it is, in fact, an organizational problem.

This is a bit like treating the sick fish, when it’s the water that’s contaminated. The internet is awash with articles for the burnt out – how to avoid it, what to do when you experience it and how to recover from it.

But the research tells us unequivocally that the causes of burnout are rooted in the leadership practices, the organizational ecosystem, and even the culture of an organization. So that’s one of the reasons I focus on first and foremost on what leaders and organizations can do (as well as individuals) to stamp it out - in my book, Beyond Burnout: How to spot it, stop it and stamp it out (check it out here: https://suzimcalpine.com/beyond-burnout/).

QUESTION: How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference in the workplace?

SUZI MCALPINE: Just because you have a title of manager, doesn’t mean you are a leader. Conversely, you don’t need a title or a formal leadership position to demonstrate leadership. Some of the best acts of leadership I have ever seen have come from individual contributors in organizations.

One way to make a difference in the workplace is to start by getting clear on your leadership values – and then work, live and lead by them every day. Small acts, done often, which are in line with your values, shows leadership. And it will make a bigger positive difference to those around you – and to yourself – than you think. I wrote a blog on how to define and lead by your values for my leadership blog The Leader’s Digest.

(Check out the post that Suzi referenced:

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
SUZI MCALPINE: Leadership starts with leading yourself, before you can lead others. That’s especially important for CEO’s. Modelling what you want to see in those you are leading is one of the most powerful ways to influence others. Leaders often underestimate the shadow they cast – their whisper often comes across as a shout. So I would suggest to a CEO that you ensure you are looking in the mirror first. Are your behaviors, actions, and words in line with the brand and values you are espousing for the organization? What can you do to ensure that you are moving closer, each day, to living and leading by these.

TWEET THIS: Leadership starts with leading yourself, before you can lead others. ~@suzimcalpine #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: There is a relatively new title in the C-Suite: Chief Happiness Officer. What do you make of this, and can it, or should it, become standard in all organizations?

(Here's the article about the CHO: https://www.fastcompany.com/40582655/employers-your-idea-about-employee-happiness-is-all-wrong)

SUZI MCALPINE: I’m always a little nervous about catchy titles or slogans. But I like some of what the article you mention espouses. So for me, it’s less about whether an organization has a Chief Happiness Officer or not. And more about what the leadership team and CEO of an organization believe in and put into practice around this concept. What are the strategies and practices of an organization in these areas? What are you doing to measure and hold yourselves and the organization to account on these things? Are your leadership practices throughout the organization reflecting these priorities?

Having said that, having this sort of role on an executive team is a pretty important symbol of how important it is. So it could be a start for some organizations. Just don’t let it be that alone.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
SUZI MCALPINE: I love this quote. To me, this means that leadership is not about the “I,” its about the “we.” Leadership is all about enabling others to reach their full potential at work – for them, their organization and even to help achieve a wider vision and purpose. Sometimes, that’s about removing the pebbles in people’s shoes. Sometimes, its about being their challenging cheerleader. At other times, it’s about influencing up and going to bat for your team. Many times, its simply about listening deeply to another person and being fully present. It’s almost always more about EQ than IQ.

Post referenced in Suzi's final response:
Why Every Leader Needs a Challenging Cheerleader:

Further reading on this topic referenced in Suzi's final response:
EQ vs IQ - Why it matters what you measure

Emotional intelligence is more than a buzzword—it’s a requirement for a return to life

TWEET THIS: Leadership is all about enabling others to reach their full potential. ~@suzimcalpine #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Suzi for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring leadership and workplace insights.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

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