Are You Ready For Your Leadership Close-up?

by  Jane Perdue  |  Leadership Development
Are You Ready for your Leadership Close-up?

Leadership manifests itself in moments. Defining moments in which we do — or do not – transcend me for we, champion good over evil, or take the high road instead of the low one.

So many public leadership moments have happened lately that have made me pause.

I’m haunted by Donald Trump’s moment in New Hampshire when he forfeited the opportunity to set a good example by correcting the man who made a false claim about the President’s faith.

The Pope’s address to Congress was a moment in which he let the light shine on the positive power of love, humility, and connection.

John Boehner’s resignation was another. He took his moment and stepped down from a post important to him to stave off a fight contrary to the greater good.

These moments, with audiences large and small, public and private, happen every day. They are spontaneous snippets of time that define us as someone to emulate and follow or sideline us as unworthy, uninteresting, or irrelevant.

How Can We Be Ready When Our Leadership Close-Up Happens?

There are several internal decisions we have to make, and be ready to act upon, if we want to make the most of our moment(s).

Am I prepared to touch the touchy issues?

Silence in pursuit of maintaining the peace or avoiding conflict only perpetuates the status quo. When we fail to call out the elephant in the room, individuals and groups continue to be marginalized, bias and stereotype prevail, and people and principles get lost in the pursuit of profits. Even if the message is a hard one for some to hear or for us to verbalize, a leader follows his moral compass about what’s right and what’s needed, and makes her voice heard.

One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
~ Maya Angelou

Do I want to be first respected or liked?

To me, making a sustained, positive difference is the purpose of life, not winning popularity contests. And doing that requires us to take a stand, even when it isn’t popular or easy to do so. This was a hard-learned lesson for me. We’re hard-wired to want connection, and we aren’t normally inclined to accept the discomfort we feel so acutely when people don’t like us, especially when they’re not shy about letting that be known. But, despite the discomfort, it’s better to be respected than to sacrifice rightness for being liked because once lost, trust and credibility are wicked hard to regain.

The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.
~ Michel de Montaigne

Do I know when to be selfish and when to be selfless?

There’s so much magic and allure in being known as the one who solved a challenging problem or created something new. The warm light of adulation can be seductive. Yet, the best outcomes and answers usually happen when we throw the doors of participation wide open and invite everyone to play a part. Being selfless doesn’t mean being a doormat. It just means we don’t hog center stage. It means we’ve found the sweet spot of self-awareness, alignment, and commitment between our wants, needs, and beliefs.

Leadership should be more participative than directive, more enabling than performing.
~ Mary D. Poole
What defining leadership moments have you experienced? What advice do you offer to others to be ready for theirs?
Photo Credit: Dreamstime

About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
I’m a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. Love chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mary C. Schaefer  |  12 Oct 2015  |  Reply

Jane, this is full of so many wonderful nuggets I hardly know where to begin!

“Silence in pursuit of maintaining the peace or avoiding conflict only perpetuates the status quo.” I’ll use this as my foundation to answer your concluding question: “What defining leadership moments have you experienced?”

I was really young in my career, but I knew my supervisor was not treating everyone fairly. He was particularly suspicious and condescending to those in non-exempt positions vs. exempt positions. Now I know it was classism. One day in a staff meeting I asked him a very pointed question that made it obvious he was not telling the whole story to everyone about an issue. In my opinion he did not respect the opinions of those in non-exempt positions (and the issue was going to affect their jobs) so he didn’t share it with them. I spoke up.

Later he came to my office and screamed at me, “Whose side are you on?” I answered that I didn’t know there were sides. (I know he screamed because later people told me that they heard him down the hall.) He told me I would never be management material. I thought to myself that if treating people like they are beneath me is what it takes to be a manager, I would take my chances with treating them well.

To address your other concluding question: “What advice do you offer to others to be ready for theirs?” Be willing to be messy, to not be perfect. I might have made a rookie mistake by raising up this issue the way I did in a staff meeting, but at the same time I do not regret it. The fact that I raised it up ended up serving me very well over the following years with all involved. Not that that is a reason to do it, but in a way, you might as well be courageous. It might not turn out at badly as you think.

Another one of your points: “We’re hard-wired to want connection, and we aren’t normally inclined to accept the discomfort we feel so acutely when people don’t like us, especially when they’re not shy about letting that be known.” I even write about this myself, a lot — getting comfortable with your own discomfort and getting comfortable with making others uncomfortable. But wow. What you say is so true. We are hard-wired for connection. I still catch myself avoiding discomfort sometimes, and must examine my own discomfort and come to terms with my imperfection, and try to make it right when I’ve let myself down in this area.

Thank you Jane for another thought-provoking post. You said a lot about this complex topic in a succinct and useful way.

John E. Smith  |  13 Oct 2015  |  Reply

Jane … I knew I liked you and now I know why.

What Mary said about there being so many excelent points here, it’s hard to know where to start.

You have clearly articulated both why it is important to display the courage to speak up and speak out AND the reality that consequences may follow. I have come to the realization that speaking up is what has to happen, even when one knows that the outcomes may not be what you want.

I would add that this willingness to risk is easier when you win:). I have experienced the frustration of “fighting the good fight” on behalf of positive and progressive management, and having my efforts be for naught … at least, where I was at the time.

Two thoughts here:
1) Where I was is not where I am and maybe was not where I should have been. Sometimes as we fight the fights, we need to step back and consider whether we are in the best place. I am not one of those who believe in security over self-respect, so leaving a bad situation does not rattle me as much as it used to.

2) Sometimes fighting the fight that needs to be fought is the point in and of itself, letting the outcome happen as they will. Others have shared with me how my doing and saying the right thing influences them to be more courageous … that’s a result that is apart from whether the issue of the moment is resolved successfully or not.

You have graced us once again with thoughtful and heroic leadership wisdom … for that, I am personally grateful:)


Jane Perdue  |  13 Oct 2015  |  Reply


Thanks for opening and closing lines that made me smile!

Thanks as well as adding the willingness to take a risk to the mix. It’s spot on. I just spent a few minutes staring out the window, remembering my “fight the good fight” failure moments. And maybe “failure” isn’t the right word to describe them! While the physical/tangible outcomes weren’t what I’d lobbied for, the intangible elements lived on — so like what Mary described in her boss and the taking sides story and in your experiences. Mine, too.

With thanks, grace and a smile,


John E. Smith  |  13 Oct 2015  |  Reply

Side Note: What I hate is when I press “Send” and then see the misspelled word (in this case, “excellent” …


Jane Perdue  |  13 Oct 2015  |  Reply

Too funny…and been there, done that — multiple times!

Jane Perdue  |  13 Oct 2015  |  Reply

Mary — big thanks for sharing a compelling leadership moment story! That incident speaks volumes about your boss and you. To me, he failed his moment and you aced yours.

From my perspective, making ourselves uncomfortable by making our voices heard is an unassailable component of leadership. Sometimes doing what’s right sadly doesn’t make us popular with the powers-that-be.

Your line, “be willing to be messy, to not be perfect, ” is another one of those lines, as Paula describes them, that should be tattooed everywhere!

Smiles and thanks for sharing!


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