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Stop Managing, Start Leading Your Life


We live in a culture that obsesses over control of outcomes, predictability, and immediate gratification (short-term results), which is really a Manager mindset. It’s important to get results, it’s important to have rules and predictability. Yet if we spend all of our time there, our world is reduced to the pursuit of Perfection (impossible) and the belief that we are always supposed to be “in control” (an illusion) and have a Fix for every problem. Thus, we are constantly set up for disappointment. We often agree, in general, that much of what we’ve been doing is no longer working, and we want things to change. But what we really mean when we say we want change is that we want for everyone else to change, and for us to get what we want without discomfort. Managers, who are fabulous at maintaining the status quo, cannot take us into the future. Leaders are those who declare a future that is different from the past – and that takes courage and requires that we let go of the familiar to step into the unknown. Yet in our culture, we often punish leaders, because they make us uncomfortable – even when we agree with them. In my writing and my speaking, I am quite deliberate in my use of the word, Leadership. For many years I assumed that everyone who reads or hears my message understands exactly what I mean by that word. Not! Most people, I’ve learned, think the terms Manager and Leader are interchangeable. I use these words to define two different roles we must play to be successful, at work and in life. Both are important, yet in different ways – and the most successful among us strive to achieve a balance between the two. This chart shows a sampling of the distinctions I make between the two mindsets:

Manager Mindset

Command, Control Task Focus Compliance with Expectations Metrics & Measurement Maintain the System Reactive stance Safety & Predictability Efficiency (doing things right)

Leader Mindset

Communication, Conversation Personal Presence Engagement with Vision People & Relationships Build New Systems Proactive stance Risk & Discomfort Effectiveness (doing the right things)


Your internal Manager (aka Habit) keeps your physical, emotional, and assessment systems running in the background, so you don’t have to think about everything all the time. Your Manager also provides feedback on your “performance,” and points out when others are creating problems for you. Most importantly, your Manager works hard to keep things predictable. Your internal Leader challenges you to learn and evolve. Your Leader wants to have conversations about vision and values and a new future, and asks, “are you sure you’re heading in the right direction?” Your Leader strives to build better connections with others; and most importantly, pushes you out of your comfort zone and reminds you when what you are doing is out of sync with what you say you want -- if you choose to listen!


When you find yourself “stuck,” it’s often because you have stopped listening to your internal Leader. To be a Leader in your life, you must:

  1. Declare a different future. Create a new vision for your life. Reexamine your personal values and notice where your behavior does not align with what you SAY is important. Then take action to change.
  2. Take personal responsibility for You. Let go of (ever) blaming others for anything that happens. You are always half of every relationship, and when you choose to change, you can transform your outcomes.
  3. Reach out to others for support. Build a team around you (which can include a Coach, of course!) and leverage others to keep you moving in a new direction and hold you accountable to your promises.
  4. Risk, Fail, Learn, and Grow. Any behavior that’s not working for you can be changed (even if your internal Manager resists). Try new approaches to how you walk, talk, sit, stand, think, and even how you breathe. You will feel uncomfortable and you will experience some failure. Adjust, then practice, practice, practice the new approach.
  5. Accept That Perfection is a Myth. Embrace that being effective for the long run is more important than being perfect.
  6. Go with the Flow/Let go of Control. Real Leaders accept that they can set a direction but cannot obsess over every detail. And learning to ride the wave is more realistic than trying to control it.

When you give more power to your internal Leader, you increase your capacity to enjoy life and adjust to what the world throws at you. You will spend less time in anxiety and fear and more time creating the possibility for happiness, joy, and calm. Most importantly, you will feel more confident and powerful in your own skin.


Management is a skill set, a set of learned tools that you can apply consistently in similar situations. Preserve your personal management skills, because they keep you on course. Leadership is a journey, not a specific destination. While there is a broad set of skills and tools you can master to be a great leader, the truth is that, no matter where you are right now, there is another dimension of Leadership ahead of you. Keep learning, because the road ahead is sure to be bumpy and the better your adaptation skills, the happier you’ll be!

Resources to get you started.

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