Have You Capped Your Potential?

11 Madison Avenue

There’s an unusual looking building I often walk past in New York at 11 Madison Avenue.

And it got me thinking recently…

All Base, No Stride

Today the stout-looking building in the picture above is home to Credit Suisse’s World Headquarters. Back in 1909 the Met Life Tower on the site was the tallest building in the world.

In the decades that followed, the enormous base of what was to be a record-breaking 100-story tower was constructed… but then the Great Depression hit.

As the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building soared to new heights, the decision was made to cap the Metropolitan Life North Building after finishing only the 32-story base of the planned tower. So here it stands today with the all the potential and foundations in place for a structure more than three times its final height.

11 Madison Avenue is a beautiful building inside, but it is not the tour map icon it would be if it had reached it’s potential.

I wonder if you have settled for reaching only a third of your potential as a leader? Have you capped your potential?

Are you stuck at 11 Madison Avenue?

Some People…

There are many reasons why leaders cap their potential.

Some fear failure and settle for achievement that’s comfortable.

Some suffer failure or disaster and don’t want to experience the pain again.

Some are plagued with self-doubt or insecurity.

Some dwarf their plans in tough times.

Some get jaded and lose that child-like faith that they can live a life worth noting.

I wonder what your real potential is?

I wonder what future plans are gathering dust and not gathering momentum?

I wonder. But you know.

Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York
Email | LinkedIn | Website | Blog | Twitter | +1 917 913 4598

Breaking It Down – The Antidote To “IKEA” Leaders

I have a love/hate relationship with IKEA.

On the one hand, they sell exceptionally cost-effective furnishings that can often look good for the price. On the other hand. I so often find that the frustration of dealing with their products overshadows the money I save.

Simple Made Difficult

IKEA LeaderFor instance, take the shelving system I bought last weekend for example.  When I went to IKEA and bought shelving, the assemble-yourself-packaging didn’t include the screws needed for attaching the shelves.

Worse though, when I opened the “instructions,” what I actually found was simply a picture of the parts and then a picture of the finished product. No steps.

What could have been a simple assembly process turned into trial and error, hours of aggravation, and the inevitable discovery at the end that I had some pieces left over whose purpose remains unknown.

• As a leader, is your vision an “IKEA instructions experience” for your team?
• Do people around you seem to spend a lot of time trying to clarify what you see or what they’re supposed to achieve next?
• Do you convey a big picture outline sketch of the finished product you see, then direct people back to a list of resources and leave them to “figure it out”?
• Do projects take much longer than you think they should?

Make it Simple, Einstein

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Maybe this is an opportunity to ask whether or not you’re taking the time to break it down for your team.

Like it or not, most team members need both the vision and the next steps. This is not about micro-managing. And it’s not an anti-vision message either. In fact, if you can’t show people a vision of what you’re trying to build,  then all the steps in the world may be  nothing more than “busy work”… or as the old adage goes, “climbing the ladder, only to find it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”

Get It In Gear

But let’s face it – it’s faster and more fun to come up with ideas than it is to break those ideas down into a plan that people can actually execute. I’ve consulted with organisations that clearly had “vision fatigue” – the cumulative effect of endless ideas and initiatives that rarely get executed.

These organizations have much higher level of frustration and a lower level of employee engagement.

Whether it’s you, or someone else whose gift is turning ideas into plans, don’t underestimate the price we pay for not translating all that possibility into steps our team can actually take.

So if there’s an aspect of your vision that seems to have stalled, why not take some time this week with a few of your top producers to break it down for the team.

  • Create a plan
  • Lay out a sequence of steps
  • Clarify the starting point.
  • Set some milestones

Then see if pictures and plans produce better results than pictures alone.

So how can you simplify the next large vision by breaking it down to doable steps? How can you help your team get past visionary “pipe dreams” and make them happen? How can you connect your next venture to tangible steps that become a blueprint for success? I would love to hear your ideas!

Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York
Email | LinkedIn | Website | Blog | Twitter | +1 917 913 4598

Image Sources: richardsnotes.org, blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com

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Burn Your Boats – When Leaders Go “All In”

When Alexander the Great arrived on the shores of Persia, his army was overwhelmingly outnumbered.

The odds against them were terrible. Turning away and getting back in the boats seemed like an option to let them regroup and come back another time. But rather than having an emergency escape plan available, Alexander gave the orders to his men to “burn the boats.”

As their only means of retreat went up in flames, legend has it that Alexander turned to his men and said, “We go home in Persian ships, or we die.”

Not quite the stirring Braveheart speech, but certainly motivational in it’s own way! What followed was an astounding victory over an army that was in many ways superior. Win or die. Simple.

I’m more comfortable being the “options guy.” I like knowing Plan B (and maybe C too). I want to have contingencies for the worst case scenario. I get some security from having an exit plan. And history is littered with examples of times when just such a retreat plan would have been wise.


There’s nothing like burning your boats to focus your mind on one thing, and one thing only- success. It’s extraordinary what we as leaders are capable of when we are in a corner, with no other option but to give our absolute best (and even beyond that).

Coming to Shore in America

I write this article from New York City. We moved to America recently from Sydney Australia with our three kids under the age of 5. We’ve taken my business global. Plus we’re launching our own not-for-profit, in the most expensive city in America during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

In other words we burned out boats. In poker terms we “went all in on the short stack.”

• How about you?
• What risks are you taking in your leadership that have put you and your team “all in?”
• Are your troops fighting with one eye on the battle, but the other on retreat?
• Is your desire for exit plans resulting in mediocre commitment?

Perhaps burning your boats is most important when the odds are already stacked against you. There’s no “test and see” when you are outnumbered 5-to-1. When the numbers are stacked so high against you, quick decisions like burning your boats is a must. Time is of the essence in this type of situation and you’ll waste what precious little resource you have if you stall.

The only legitimate plan is to garner everything you have, and pit it against your competition in a way that circumvents their strength and leverages yours.

That requires 100% commitment. Really trying won’t do it. Giving it a shot won’t either. 100%.

There is nothing impossible to him who will try” ~ Alexander the Great (circa 348 BC)

So how are you doing at burning your boats? Are you playing it safe and keeping your emergency hatch in your side-view mirror? Or are you taking the right risks when it is time to “go all in?” I’d love to hear your stories of courage when you were backed in a corner!

Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York
Email | LinkedIn | Website | Blog | Twitter | +1 212 726 1479

Airbrushes, Avatars and Authenticity: Leading Without Misleading

Airbrushed Before and After

If you were to look at many leaders today, you’d think that they were superheroes. Unblemished. Never afraid. Superpowers. Boundless energy. And performing with a perfect record…

But this is not reality. And it is not anywhere near being helpful. In fact, it’s misleading.

I believe that today’s leader must wrestle with who they truly are, and bring that authenticity to their leadership of others.



Have you ever seen how much editing is done to the photos of models before they appear on the cover of a magazine? The contrast between the before and after shots is astonishing. In the hands of a graphic designer just about every imperfection can be fixed.

Got wrinkles? Nothing a little Photoshop airbrushing won’t fix.

Looking a bit pale? No problem, there’s a filter for that.

Teeth slightly off-colour? Not when we’re done editing.

Sadly, many leaders today are airbrushed too. Whether it’s driven by pride, or pressure, or the pursuit of perfection it takes a heavy toll on the individual and on those they lead. The airbrushed leader and those who edit their image are ruthless with every imperfection.

They crop and edit, filter and retouch, copy and paste, mask and delete. Perfection is the elusive standard, but in real life it’s a constant struggle to live up to the standard of the unblemished hero.

For many years I was an A-grade people pleaser. It’s an exhausting life, and in many ways a unfulfilling one too. When you lead that way it isn’t about being yourself, it’s about how people will perceive you. The airbrushed leader gets nervous about taking risks, saying sorry, empowering their team, or resting when all their ducks aren’t in a row.



Monavatar LisaThe rise of “avatars” began long before James Cameron’s epic blockbuster film by that name. In internet and gaming circles, an avatar is a character or icon that represents you. You might be a 12-year old kid in real life, but your avatar can be a 6ft burly assassin called LoneWolf. 18 million users have avatars in the hugely popular online game Second Life where they say, “The only limit is your imagination. Who do you want to be?”. In James Cameron’s movie the lead character is confined to a wheelchair, but not when he lives through his Avatar.

Leadership is not virtual reality. But it’s easy to forget that when people start feeding your ego.

Perhaps my avatar could have the business leadership of Richard Branson, deliver speeches like Barack Obama and have the hair of Donald Trump (ok, maybe not). I hope you hear my point though… it’s a dangerous and hollow game to live through an identity that isn’t really you. I truly want to be inspired by great leaders but without forgetting who I am or becoming detached from the reality of the things I need to work on in my own leadership.



False IdentityWhat a release it is when we live with authenticity. To be the genuine article, or “Fair dinkum” as we say in Australia.

Interestingly I’ve found my friendships richer since I dumped the airbrush. It also turns out that people are only more willing to follow you when you’re not pretending you’re bulletproof because you wear your undies on the outside.

These might just be the most important leadership lessons I’ve learned.

No make up, no make-believe. Just the daily choice to be yourself and the best “you” you can be.

  • In which areas of your leadership have you airbrushed away your imperfections?
  • Are you allowing yourself to hide behind an avatar instead of truly being yourself?
  • How is your leadership today inspiring others to live with authenticity?

Bookmark Airbrushes, Avatars and Authenticity: Leading Without Misleading

Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York
Email | LinkedIn | Website | Blog | Twitter | +1 212 726 1479

Image Sources: news.softpedia.com, authenticlifeconsulting.files.wordpress.com, freakingnews.com

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