On Leadership and Truth


I want to work for someone that never tells me the truth,” said no employee…ever”

Leaders are often put in precarious positions when it relates to truth.  They are expected to withhold sensitive information and be authentic, not disclose everything about direction and motivate.  It is dangerous balancing act that often times results a systemic mistrust of leaders and leadership by employees.

A recent study by Harvard Business Review showed that a 25% of employees didn’t believe what their employers/leaders were saying, 52% thought that their employers weren’t upfront.

That is almost 88%!  Essentially, that means employees believe less than 2/3 of what they are told.

Is there really any question why the rumor mill/grapevine talk is so powerful?

Given the nature of the social media, any slip of leaking information of a new product or potential merger could mean the difference between a blockbuster new initiative and an idea that is picked apart before it sees the light of day.

What is a leader to do?

Create a Culture of Truth

Creating an environment where truth is the standard must start far before there is any type of crisis that might demand it. If an organization, department, or team wants to have an open honest environment, then they have to create a culture of truth.

This is more than slipping “integrity” into the corporate values.

It can’t be something that is just talked about. It must be an active, conscious effort to enable truth to be set free all the time.

3 Steps to Creating That Culture

Leaders have to give honest feedback

Leaders need to give honest feedback for both good and bad. and they need to do it often. This means that when there is something awesome that happens, managers should tell their teams right away.  They should congratulate and celebrate accomplishments that move the organization forward.  This doesn’t mean throw a party for coming into work on time, that’s the price of entry.

It’s something substantial or “difference making”- shaving weeks off of a process, saving an irate customer from canceling an account, etc. It also means that when there is a problem, failure or screwup it has to be dealt with immediately.  It’s not about making people feel bad or to get good at yelling at people right after a mistake.

Instead, it’s about having courageous conversations that make a difference for the leader, the person, and the relationship.  These conversations should be occurring all the time.

Leaders should be soliciting honest feedback 

Leaders have to be able dish it out and take it.  It’s not enough to give honest feedback.  That is almost expected.  One of the most important paths to an open honest environment is when employees see that they can be honest too.

It is not about nitpicking or gripping.  It is a professional, measure delivery of feedback that includes a suggestion for correction.

Employees should be encouraged to give feedback to leaders in a constructive way without retribution.  This will show that this kind of straight talk is encouraged.  It sets the tone for peers to give each other that kind of feedback too.

Leaders should promote healthy conflict

“Advancement is only made through conflict.” It is impossible to have a functional, honest and productive relationship of any kind without conflict.  If team members do not know how to resolve issues between each other or come to compromise solutions then we have an environment like the American Congress.  This is the land where nothing gets done except to undermine or hurt the other side.

Healthy conflict can lead to increased camaraderie and higher engagement.  So don’t shy away from conflict.

Promote people resolving issues and creating awesome solutions through conversation.  Its powerful, that’s what Reagan and Gorbachev did to end the cold war…

Seriously Motivate People

Leaders know the folks on their team.  They really know the things that really underlie why they work. Having this information enables they to understand what motivates.

Ask yourself these types of questions about people that you lead:

  • Is it time off to take a trek?
  • Is it a little extra money or help coordinating a family trip?
  • Is it tickets to the new Avengers movie?

Leaders that have gained their team’s trust know.

Treat People Like Adults

Leaders aren’t afraid to share everything they can with the folks on their teams. When you work with people you trust its not a big deal to be honest.
If a leader is expected to to treat team members like adults, then there should be an expectation to reprimand those that don’t follow the rules.

Yes, some rules are stupid and don’t make sense, but they are the rules. Leaders can see when someone is undermining the organization, team or them.  Nothing eviscerate the productivity of a team more than a bad actor who gets away with acting bad.

Leaders should be expected to tell their team everything they possibly can and hold the team to an expectation of doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Address the Rumor Mill Head-On

Since most employees don’t trust their leaders, any lack of information will result in shreds of truth wrapped in lies being shared.  In order too cultivate a culture of trust, leaders have to deal with rumors head on.

Sometimes things said are hard to disprove, but every attempt must be made to debunk or acknowlege the trust in rumors.  There is really no way to stop rumors.  But just like any scary stories, the light makes all those hobgoblins disappear.

Don’t Double Talk

Leaders that engender trust, don’t sugar coat news. If the news is bad, they tell an employee the truth.  If it’s great news they are genuinely excited for the team. Nothing undermines trust and gets the dreaded eye-roll than saying something is good when it’s not or good when its great.  All people need to show more emotion and empathy than just saying “That was good” or “That was bad”.

Leaders, in particular, must be the catalyst for passion and enthusiasm to be unleashed.

Be an Adult

Here is a some advice: If you aren’t supposed to tell anyone, than don’t…not even that person that you really trust in the company.

Most good people don’t like secrets.  But they will respect leaders more if they don’t say things when they REALLY aren’t supposed to.  A trusting culture shares everything they can and understands that there are  aspects of that can’t be shared.

Creating a culture of truth can dramatically increase compliance, productivity and engagement! So give it a try! simply be the leader you’d want to work with.

What kind of leader are you? Does your team believe you? Do you know? What can you do today to make sure that you are building, maintaining, and fostering a culture of truth? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
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Leadership Lessons From the NFL’s Domestic Violence Controversy

Self Talk

With the horrific behaviors of some NFL players in the news (Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and many more) there is a renewed focus on the topic of abuse.

It is completely appropriate that these conversations are taking place because no advancement in human history has occurred until people started talking about. I’m not going to get into the specifics of each of these cases. But it’s important to talk a little bit about the leadership implications of abuse: in all of its forms.

Obvious Forms of Abuse and Leadership Responsibilities

  • Physical: Zero tolerance! End of story. If you are a leader in any organization and you see evidence of physical abuse among employees or their families, you are obligated to act, and act swiftly. Period.
  • Verbal and Emotional: There is a widely accepted term to describe this: Bullying. Bullying is not a topic that is relegated to middle school or high school locker rooms. It happens daily in the workplace. Just this month I was working with leaders in organizations talking about behaviors, actions, and words that amount to workplace bullying. The biggest challenge that leaders have in addressing workplace bullying is to stop making excuses. Yes, the bully may be really good at financial modeling, marketing, customer service, or some other function. But they leave a path of destruction across the entire organization. No matter how you cut it, that behavior negatively impacts the bottom line.

The Loudest Silent Killer

There’s another kind of abuse that takes place which often goes unnoticed. And there’s a good chance that you have engaged in this kind abuse recently. This is verbal abuse against yourself; even if it only happens in your head.

Imagine the scenario. You work all day putting together a presentation. It takes all day because you’re constantly being interrupted. With every other sentence you hear a voice over your shoulder pointing out every imperfection. The voice says things like:

  • “That’s such a stupid idea.”
  • “They are never going to accept that.”
  • Or, “Face it, you just aren’t good enough. You may as well start updating your resume.”

Harsh words. And there’s very little anyone else could do about it because that voice is yours.

Words Matter

Words matter. Leaders must appreciate the fact that the words they use will influence the words that their team uses. And the words that are used by anyone will influence behaviors and actions. Inclusive words can form a bond and bring people together. These are words like: we, team, together, support, empower.

At the same time, divisive words can separate, segregate, and build barriers between individuals and teams.

This also applies to words you use on yourself.

Be honest with yourself. You are probably your own worst and most frequent abuser.

Stop The Madness

Here are some steps to take to stop abusing yourself

  1. Would you say it to a friend? The next time you criticize yourself, write down what you say to yourself. Then take those exact words and go tell them to your coworker or your best friend. How would that advance your relationship? If it wouldn’t, then stop saying it to yourself.
  2. End the story. You are probably beating yourself up, because there’s a story about something that happened. History is what has happened in the past. There’s nothing you can do about it other than recognize it, acknowledge it, and learn from it. The story is the importance you put on it. You lived it, but you don’t have to re-live it. Though it happened yesterday, you don’t have to give that story a home today.
  3. Find your leadership presence. Leadership presence comes from the inside. People see it. If you don’t believe in yourself, then there is a good chance that others won’t either. If you think those words and that story is just something that’s rattling around inside your own head, you’re mistaken. It’s a lot more visible than you think. Start by taking a breath, and believe in yourself. Because if you do, there’s a good chance others will too.

 What actions will you commit to take to stop the cycle of abuse?


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David Hasenbalg

David Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps organizations develop collaborative cultures to make a mark in their industry
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Leading Value to Your Target Customer

Leading Technology

Leadership metrics are almost always visible from an organization’s bottom-line. And nowhere is this more clear than in sales and growth figures.

But how does a leader retain existing customers and grow with new ones?

Reeling in a new customer and getting them to commit to buying a product or service takes time and money, and it can be kind of tricky since customers can be forgetful, finicky and often have no loyalty to a business.

It is really up to an entrepreneur or business employees to create that loyalty and make sure a great long-term relationship with the customer.

Re-Targeting Your Target Customer

If you’re looking to do this, make sure to re-target any potential customers in a tactful, inexpensive and efficient manner. Of course, this is easier said than done as it is not that easy to do without the possibility of causing some strife with the customer.

With this in mind, here is a quick guide on re-targeting a customer.

Follow-Up Phone Call or Email

When selling a product or service, a business should not stop at this point. No, instead, an employee should call the client and ask them if they have any questions, need any help or want to buy any more products. Now, when doing this, it is important to make it sound genuine and not like a sales call.

Customers will catch on and will grow frustrated with a sales call in the middle of the day.

However, when making it about the customers’ needs and wants, a business will go a long way in closing another sale and creating a better relationship with the customer. There are massive amounts of data available on when to do a follow-up call or email.


With a simple postcard, flyer or letter, a company can reach out to a current satisfied customer. With a target direct mail list, an entrepreneur will be a step ahead of the competition who is lost when looking for clients. In the postcard or letter, a company should send a coupon discount code for the current client.

At the same time, it is wise to stay cordial, respectful and informative.

To do so without spending a lot of money or using much effort, one should also keep it personal and put the first and last name of the customer on the letterhead. Otherwise, with an informal and indirect approach, one will possibly anger the receiver of a letter. Remember, a wise customer will sniff out a promotional flyer, and a business that can fly under the radar will enjoy a higher conversion rate when using direct mail.


In this day and age, email is popular and most people will have an address or two. For this reason, this is a cost-effective and easy medium for one to communicate with clients. Now, it is important to avoid sending out spam messages as people will quickly tire of sales pitches or marketing material. Instead, when sending out emails, a business should opt for a calm approach and try to give value to the client.

The easiest way to do so is to offer free shipping or a coupon code for a discount on a future purchase.

By doing this, and complying with all spam regulations, a company can reach out to clients without spending much money or time. At the same time, customers will appreciate freebies or discounts as most people love a good bargain.

Social Media

Now, more than ever, one should use social media to communicate with current and potential customers. Just like with email, it is wise to avoid annoying or otherwise bothering customers. However, when offering true value or support to a client, one can go a long way in securing another sale.

Since social media is relatively new, most people will not have a problem receiving marketing messages as it is a cool and unique way to communicate. Of course, a company should keep it tactful and avoid sending out too many messages to followers.

When running an organization, it is crucial to re-target old customers. Without this step, a business will have to spend too much money on marketing and will likely have a hard time finding success in its niche.


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Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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People-First Leadership Lessons from a Lawyer


What do the leaders to which you aspire to be like all have in common? Aside from being successful, they probably have a people-first approach to leadership.

So when it was my turn to become an influential leader, a “people-first” path is what I chose.

Serious Thought to Leadership

When I had the opportunity to co-found a law practice, I gave serious consideration to my role as a leader in the business. I thought about the leaders that I had come in contact with at home, at school, and in the workforce. I realized that the leaders I admired the most — the leaders I aspired to be like — always put others first in their organizations.

Then and there, I decided to apply a people-first approach to my own practice, for both my clients and my staff.

Over the years, I have built a strong reputation for myself and for my business. And I have seen the law firm grow to greater heights as a result!

The Dos and Don’ts of Practical People-First Leadership

Some of these lessons may strike you as obvious, but I think you will find that they are the foundation of running any successful business — especially one in which your reputation and the relationships you create are everything.

Do act genuinely.

The key to people-first leadership is truly believing in it.

You must actually be genuine. Don’t just act genuine.

Show your clients or customers that you care by answering their questions, offering help when possible, and going above and beyond when you can. For example, when a potential client isn’t a good fit with my firm, I do my best to help him find another firm that will meet his needs. I genuinely care about seeing people’s needs met, one way or another.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

No one likes to be let down — especially a paying client. Often in my business, clients come to me with problems that have truly affected their lives in a negative way. Perhaps they’ve been seriously injured on the job or experienced awful side effects from a drug. The natural impulse is to promise you can do something to make their lives better, but it’s important to set realistic expectations.

Whether it’s a matter of cost or payment, the time it will take for something to get done, or creating a vision of the result, it’s best if you never discuss or promise anything you’re not ready, willing, and able to deliver. Failing to keep your word will not only leave the client disappointed, but it will also make your word less valuable in the future.

Do implement your practices throughout your business.

Your people-first mantra should not only be a personal standard, but it should also be embedded in the core of your business and acted out daily by all employees, from management down.

You can encourage this by promoting open communication among all levels of employees, offering consistent feedback and praise to your staff, and continually communicating the company’s vision to your team.

Don’t underestimate the power of listening.

Listening to customers is an incredibly important part of any job that is often overlooked. Business leaders who actively listen to what customers have to say — good, bad, mad, sad, or totally off-topic — show a desire to engage and help in any way they can.

This simple act tells the person that you care and are there to help.

It also builds loyalty and may bring issues to light that can help you do your job better.

Do lead by example.

The best way to promote the behavior you want to see is to demonstrate the behavior you want to see. People are more likely to act like someone they admire and respect than someone they find offensive and un-supportive. Set the standard for people-first leadership by modeling it in all of your business activities, and watch as it trickles down to other employees over time.

At my firm, my partner and I made it a point to return any client calls or correspondence within 24 hours. Before long, we saw this people-first approach being adopted by others throughout our firm.

Don’t be seen as a know-it-all.

Make sure that you are open to new ideas and to new ways of doing things. If not, then you could be seen an an unbecoming know-it-all by the people around you. This would take away from any feelings or perceptions of your people-first attitude and will work against your level of influence with your internal and external relationships.

Personal & Business Growth

Whether you’re already the boss or you’re hoping to move up to that seat one day, you should consider the advantages of applying a people-first approach to your role as a leader.

These practices have not only helped me expand my business, but they’ve also helped me be a better, more focused businessman and leader. You and your business can gain so much when you put others first.

So, would you consider yourself a people-first type of leader? Do you take the steps to be inclusive with those you lead? Are you seen as genuine, authentic, and welcome person of integrity? How could you take steps to increase your level of personal leadership effectiveness by being more people-first focused? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Mike Acosta

Michael Acosta is a partner at Acosta & Williams LLC
He specializes in Pharmaceuticals and Personal Injury Law
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On Leadership, Values and Beliefs


Since the early 1900′s social scientists have developed a number of approaches by which to consider leadership. Lists of characteristics, influencers, behaviors, style definitions, and processes all build upon, yet sometimes conflict with each other.

A leader can learn the characteristics, confidence, behaviors and styles that are most effective, given the specific situational variables.

However,  certain inherent attributes are necessary that influence the leader’s behavior in a group or organization.

On Values and Beliefs

At the core of every thought and interaction is a set of deeply rooted values and beliefs.

We are all guided by our values. How we choose to react to others is influenced by what we value.

When I ask clients to identify their five most important values  I get a deer-in-headlights look back.

It is often the case that we are not even consciously aware of the values that influence our decisions and interactions.  When a cord is struck with us that goes against our values we feel it as stress, anger, frustration, and even betrayal. The same is true for a group of people in an organization.

Recalibrate Values Cards

What are the Top Values of everyone you lead? Find out here.
Recalibrate Values-Cards Exercise

Understanding Values

Think of your last job interview. Did the topic of values come up? Leading others means understanding the collective values and shared sense of purpose.

When personal values do not align with company values work becomes just a job.

When a company decision directly opposes a personal value the impact is disengagement, low morale, and lower productivity.

Leaders who understand this need to do three things:

1.Reflect on the principles, beliefs and values that drive themselves

2. Engage in work that aligns with their values

3. Understand and engage others whose values align

Knowing yourself and letting others know you as a leader will define you as authentic.

Learning To Lead Yourself

Leadership is a cycle of self-reflection and action. The first step in developing as a leader is having a very honest conversation with yourself about what you value.

Consider a list of values and circle the ones that stand out to you.Now cross some off so that you only have ten left. Now take five more off the list of circled values. Those are your top five values. Try crossing off three more. Then one more.

What is left is your core value; the one thing that you would not compromise. The one thing that, if others threaten, you react strongly. This is the one thing that guides everything you do. It is deeply rooted and part of you.

What is a guiding principle by which you live? What is one virtue you could not live without? How is your core value evident in your leadership? Have you ever been in a position where your values were threatened or did not fit with what you were expected to do? What did you do? How do these values align with your organizational values?


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Jacqueline De Leebeeck
Jacqueline De Leebeeck is founding partner of Savvy
She facilitates leadership capacity building and team development
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On Leadership and Creating the Perfect Messaging

Open Minded

Effective leadership means that your vision, mission, and shared goals are clear for everyone involved. There is no room for inaccuracies, vagueness or ambiguity because these missteps only end up yielding lost time and poor results. This all boils down to being an effective communicator.

And one key way for effective leaders to make sure they are communicating most effectively is to be directly involved in the organizations marketing messaging.

On Marketing Your Message

Experts Only: Why Content Marketing Only Works When It’s Coming from the Top

Have you ever heard the phrase “Fake it till you make it?” Sure, it might work sometimes — in fact, maybe more often than most people would like to admit — but you can’t fake true knowledge. And that’s exactly what good content marketing offers: unique insights that are only gained through real-life experience.

Content marketing can mean a lot of things: news, video, whitepapers, infographics, case studies, and more. It’s branded, it’s informational, and it’s designed to open communication with your customers by giving them valuable information. That’s why the focus of your content marketing efforts should cater to your clients’ experience, not your product features.

Real Insights, Real Authority

Giving your customers a more detailed view of the landscape that surrounds your brand — and why it’s relevant to their lives — is the key to good content marketing. Why? Good content serves as an insight, not an advertisement. And the best content reveals how your product addresses the problems, challenges, and possibilities within your industry.

It’s important to create a connection by offering meaningful information in your articles — not marketing pitches.

The best way to accomplish this is by transferring your senior leaders’ knowledge to your customers.

Shine a spotlight on your customers, and give a voice to their concerns and problems. Provide them with information or resources that will help them find success. This isn’t an easy task, which is why it’s important to get the most qualified, experienced people at your company to do it.

Marketing with Knowledge

It seems like the responsibility of creating marketing content should fall to your marketing department, right? Wrong! This is a common mistake. When marketing professionals create content, it can come across as superficial, rather than insight-rich. It’s natural for marketing professionals to turn content into a sales pitch, but that’s an excellent way to quickly disengage your customers.

If your content isn’t thoughtful, your customers will see through it immediately and dismiss it as a marketing message disguised as an article. To stay relevant in your customers’ lives, you have to engage in the conversations they’re having on their own.

And if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, you won’t hold anyone’s attention.

In order to create content that your customers feel is worth reading, you need an expert’s voice. Where’s the best place to find an expert? Look to your executives.

Tapping Your Experts’ Knowledge

You need your business leaders to write your company’s content marketing. Why? Readers can tell when content marketing materials don’t offer expert-level insight. And only business leaders are immersed enough to choose, discuss, and offer advice on their industries’ issues and trends. But often, they’re reluctant to take part in it — for a multitude of reasons:

  • They are busy.

Executives are, by definition, hard-pressed for time. They might be reluctant to contribute because of the time commitment. Here are a few ways to help: Make outlines. Give examples. Help them edit and connect their thoughts. That way, they can focus on the insights, and you can focus on polishing the finished product.

  • They are trying to be modest.

Executives might not want to call attention to themselves; they’d prefer to promote the company. But that’s a mistake. You have to make it clear just how important their experiences and expertise are to your marketing content efforts — and how it can positively impact your business’s bottom line.

  • They don’t know how content marketing works.

Show your executives the value of content marketing. How does it work? Why does it work? And what can it do for your company? Then, incorporate this information into a comprehensive strategy and show your executives where they fit in. After all, executives are used to looking at things from a higher, strategic level, rather than from a task-by-task perspective.

Your in-house experts in your executive branch are your company’s greatest source of knowledge, guidance, and ultimately, good content. Channel your leaders’ voices into your marketing content, and you’ll make connections with your readers that resonate.

So how are you doing at making sure what is in your head is being heard by your customers and the people who you lead? How much are you involved in the content marketing of you business? What can you do to improve your organizations communication strategy by being more involved in the messaging? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Don Broekelmann
Don Broekelmann is the Executive Vice President at Influence & Co.
Don works with Brand Partners to develop Content Marketing Plans
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Leading Colorblind – The Strength of Belief


Leading people when you have “belief” as one of your top strengths makes you stand out in any environment. It is a characteristic that brings one’s core values to the surface time after time in an uncompromising way. 

And when it comes to belief, few things are more clear to people.

It’s Black or It’s White

“It’s the right thing to do.” That’s your bottom line. Come hell or high water, you will not budge from what you feel is right. Your value system is an essential part of your design.

So essential, in fact, you use it to evaluate everything; people, situations, job opportunities, etc. Those you surround yourself with often have a similar, if not identical, set of values and are more than aware of their importance to you. This code that you live by allows you to view the world in black and white.

There is no gray – it either lines up with your values, or it doesn’t. Plain and simple.

If this sounds like you, you’re displaying your Belief strength.

No Gray Means No Compromise

Having a strong Belief strength means having a set of core values that have an omnipresent bearing on your life. Though these values vary from person to person, they often lead those who possess them to have a high sense of responsibility and ethics.

This means that when push comes to shove, they know exactly where they stand, and so does everyone else.

Where other people may experience confusion, they have only clarity. There is no gray when it comes to their Belief; therefore, there is no compromise.

For this reason, people find them to be reliable and extremely trustworthy. Their Belief acts as a guide, shedding light on the darkness, allowing them to be consistent, or, in other words, dependable.

Leading and Being Lead

It is important for those strong in Belief to do work they find meaningful. It will only be meaningful if it allows them to utilize their values. This is great news for any leader with someone strong in Belief on their team. As their leader, you will have their undying support, as long as you and their work line up with their values.

Once Belief feels that you have violated their core values, it’s near impossible to get them back on your side.

As a leader you most likely have a set of values you also operate by, however, you may have a strength that Belief does not get along with. For example, if you are high in Competition, and willing the bend the rules a little bit to win, you may offend Belief depending on their values and what rule you bend. Remember, there is no gray, not even a slight shade.

Values Drive Decisions

If you are a leader with Belief, it’s important for you to understand there are different sets of values out there. Although they may be different, they aren’t inherently wrong. There are many ways to determine what your team members values. Here’s one way.

Belief should not equate to “Judge and Jury”.

This will most likely be difficult for you to keep in mind, but it’s necessary as a leader to support your team, even if they’re different. This does not mean you should disregard your values at work, in fact, that would be detrimental to your happiness and success as a leader.

Belief makes you a reliable leader with clear standards, which is great to have when you’re the boss. Just remember, some people need to operate in the gray to play to their strengths – it doesn’t make them wrong, just different. Use your value filter wisely and you’ll find an abundance of success!

As a leader, what are the advantages of being strong in Belief? Some of the pitfalls? Have you ever been lead by someone with Belief? What did you like most about their leadership style? Least? If anyone on your team has Belief, are you always clear on where they stand? Do you find them reliable and easy to trust?


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Alexsys "Lexy" Thompson HCS, SWP
Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson is Managing Partner at Fokal Fusion
She helps building Strong Leaders through Strong People Strategy
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