The Value of Supporting EVERYONE to Show Up as a Leader

Book Club Session 3 Recap

During our third session of our virtual book club for Rehumanizing the Workplace, we convened to discuss what it takes for EVERYONE to show up as leaders in their lives and create deliberate practices to not leave workplace culture to chance.

As a refresher, we define leadership as “maximizing our positive impact on the world by becoming our best, fully authentic selves and supporting those around us to break past barriers and step into their greatness.” We are seeing incredible people show up as leaders during this pandemic and showing us that, at its core, leadership is a BEHAVIOR, not a title or role. So what does it take to create the conditions so we all can show up as leaders?

Here are some considerations from the collective wisdom of the book club community:

  • Realness and Authenticity Matter More than Polish and Perfection. Right now people want authenticity and connection, not polish or perfection. They want realness and transparency in our communication. There’s something about being able to see the human side of others; it helps create a sense of unity. One of the best things we can do is to let go of any sense of trying to have it all together and just be genuine. More than anything, people want to feel heard and seen. So we need to create a safe space to check in with people to see how they’re doing as humans first. We can go first and role model the value of vulnerability (a key component to courageous leadership).


  • Emotional Literacy is Becoming Increasingly Important. We tend to not really want to (or know how to) deal with people’s emotions. However, this pandemic has sparked varying levels of trauma in people that will continue for many, many months. Some are experiencing the struggle and difficult emotions now. Others who are in go-go-go mode will find that they have to deal with those difficult emotions at some point; it may hit them months from now when others seem to be “over it” and settling into whatever our “next normal” is. Regardless of when it hits us, it will come. The best thing we can do is to become emotionally literate and help ourselves and others name what we’re feeling. Courageous leadership requires being able to tend to the fears and feelings of the people we lead, serve, and support. Brené Brown states that we can spend a reasonable amount of time dealing with fears and feelings or an unreasonable amount of time dealing with problematic behavior. A fantastic resource to help build emotional literacy is Mark Brackett’s book Permission to Feel.


  • Creating Deliberate Trust Practices Anchored on Human Check-Ins Matters. We can live and work by design or default. Thriving, conscious, human organizations don’t leave their culture or climate to chance. They create deliberate practices anchored on their core value behaviors to help guide the way – even in the midst of chaos. If there was ever a time to be deliberate about putting the human side of business first and building trust behaviors through openness and vulnerability, it’s now. One example we discussed is how Brené Brown starts every team meeting and huddle with a two-word check-in with how people are feeling (e.g., anxious and hopeful) so they can honor where people are and tend to any emotions they need to in order to continue. Another way to check in is using what we describe in Rehumanizing the Workplace as The Choice Line – taking a quick pulse of whether people are above, below, or riding the line. Regardless of the exact way it’s done, these practices will continue to be important – even as we slowly go back to being able to have more in-person interactions.


  • We Need to Choose and Nurture Resiliency Over Optimism. Many times people think optimism and resilience are one in the same; however, they are distinct. If we look back in history and learn from the Stockdale Paradox (or what Viktor Frankl called “tragic optimism”), the key to surviving and thriving in challenging situations is not blind optimism. It’s about being resilient. This means acknowledging reality, acknowledging and regulating tough emotions, and then providing a rallying cry with unwavering faith that we will get through this (in spite of likely bumps and bruises along the way). We need to remind ourselves and others of times we’ve made it through previous tough challenges and grew stronger as a result.


  • Grace and Compassion are Essential. One of the barriers to us showing up as a leader is in our own human DNA. We are hardwired to be triggered to self-protect. And so many people are operating from that reactive space right now – from our kids to our neighbors and co-workers. Effective leaders also get triggered to armor-up and self-protect; the difference is that they recognize when it’s happening and take intentional steps to not be hijacked. We need to recognize when we’re triggered and then move from judgment to curiosity and empathy. And when we find ourselves hitting that wall and being triggered, the best thing we can do is pause, breathe, let ourselves feel and then extend some extra grace and compassion – to ourselves and others. This includes apologizing and cleaning up our messes when our humanity gets the best of us.


For those of you who are not participating in our live book club sessions, I hope these recaps are insightful for you. And remember that you can use the discussion guide to foster your own learning or start your own book club and share your insights with others.

How are you showing up as a leader right now?

How are you leaning into the discomfort to grow and rally your own resourcefulness?

What practices have you created recently that you want to carry forward and continue?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and insights as you’re reading the book and leveraging the principles to navigate during these times and show up as a leader in your life.


Stay HUMAN. Stay connected. Stay safe. Show Up as a Leader.


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