I’ve spent a lot of time running through the pandemic. Many, many miles logged listening to The Daily or The Journal (two of my favorites) but after a year, I was looking for something different. On a recent trip to Massachusetts visiting family, my youngest sister recommended that I start Dare To Lead (on Spotify) with Brené Brown. She figured that it would be a natural fit and she was right. From President Obama to Abby Wambach to Dr. Sarah Lewis, there is leadership gold to be found in each riveting episode. And at a time when the world can be a pretty unsettling place, it’s nice to hear a voice so natural and authentic. This podcast series has become a form of mentorship meets therapy meets inspiration. 

If you care to join me, you can also revel in experts sharing their trials and successes as they navigate the choppy waters of leadership. They are all so, so good but I chose these five to highlight first. I look forward to writing more as I continue to glean nuggets of motivation from these extraordinary folks. Until then … enjoy!

Simon Sinek “Developing an Infinite Mindset”

What can I say about the man who says everything? Simon is a visionary thinker, an incredible speaker, an optimist, and an author of several books, our favorite being “The Infinite Game.” For those of you unfamiliar with Simon (gasp, you exist!?), he breaks down the differences between infinite and finite minded leaders. Finite is easier. The rewards are immediate. The goals are usually short sighted. But infinite minded people have to accept that what they’re contributing to is something you may never see realized. You’re part of a continuum. And where you are today, who you are today, is because of all the things you did and that happened in your life. 

What I loved most about this conversation was the constant reminder that infinite minded people embrace surprise and find opportunity in it and the need to adapt and stay curious is exciting. He says, “the thinking begins at the moment of surprise” and that could not be more relevant after the year we’ve all had. I used to be a finite minded leader playing what I perceived to be a finite game. I threw around sports metaphors that meant nothing to me or my craft and I encouraged internal competition. I wanted to WIN. But as Simon so brilliantly asks, “win what?” I have learned Simon’s lesson the hard way and have worked hard righting the ship of my leadership to focus more on our WHY, our VISION and teaching teamwork. I have transitioned into playing the infinite game with an infinite mindset because I love the act of playing. I want to stay in the game more than anything. I now view worthy competitors as rivals, their strengths showing us our weaknesses, and embrace this hard look in the mirror as an opportunity for growth and change. Because at the end of the day, the only competitor I have is me. GAME ON. Just kidding … 

I look forward to exploring more on AlterEgo’s WHY in next month’s blog.

Abby Wambach “The New Rules of Leadership”

Move over Jamie Tartt, Abby is an Olympian, activist, author… and she holds the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players. This was the first episode I listened to and I was hooked. The principals she reviews from her world famous book, WOLFPACK, are truly, as Brené puts it, “leadership gold.” What resonated most with me, beyond the 8 rules to change the game, was a quote as a girl who never fit the mold needed to hear. “You were never Little Red Riding Hood. You were always the Wolf.” When I heard this, I cried. The validation I received from this one line hit me like a truck whizzing by on the Beltway. “IT’S TIME FOR WOMEN TO KNOW THE POWER OF THEIR WOLF AND THE STRENGTH OF THEIR PACK.” Yes!

Adam Grant “The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know”

This organizational psychologist and author tasks us to rethink the fundamental assumptions about motivation, generosity and creativity. My favorite quote from this one is this, “If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.” Damn. I love that so much. Together they dig into WHY many of us refuse to challenge what we think we know even in the face of obvious change and how that holds us back from making good, relevant and effective decisions. Updating your beliefs throughout your life is key and when will there ever be a better and more vital time than during a global pandemic and amidst long overdue racial reckoning for us to rethink, challenge and question. The safety to question, try and fail has always been an important tool for growth on our team so I pulled a few poignant parts of the podcast which I have bulleted out here. 

  • It’s okay to be wrong, to accept that you’re imperfect but you’re excited to keep learning. 
  • It’s exciting to find out that you’re wrong, that means you’ve learned something. 
  • People often prefer the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. This is an important part of how we grow.

So it’s all about staying curious. Discovering new things. Being a lifelong learner. Very Accidental Generalist of you, Adam!

Angela Duckworth “Grit and the Importance of Trying New Things”

Angela is a psychologist and author of one of my favorite books, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. I was really looking forward to exploring this theme more, as it was also a topic in Nancie McDonnell Ruder’s book Jack & Jill Went Up The Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. So, what is this magical “grit?” 

Passion & perseverance over time = GRIT. But it’s not magical. That is a myth, that genius just … happens. “Grit” implies hard work and if you want to accomplish something substantial it’s going to take a long time. When you see something great, read something great, eat something great, it likely was the result of hours of hidden labor and hundreds of flawed drafts. So having some passion helps. Grit shows up in the process and your ability to commit even when it’s hard or boring (the joy is in the struggle, right!?). It’s more about stamina than it is about intensity. So, Consistency. And this reminded me of a recent post by Richard Moore that resonated with me. “Consistency is pretty hard to beat when you’ve been working hard for years. And to a degree, it really can offset talent. Showing up everyday means you ultimately win; driving the point that you’re reliable at your craft and not a quitter (“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work,” anyone?). In the words of Brené, AMEN!

And here is a little exercise for you to do if you want to know whether it’s grit, or something else altogether. “Grit is when you want to think about this thing even after you have to think about it.” 

Miguel and Veronica Garza “Food, Family and Scaling a Business”

These siblings and co-founders of Siete Family Foods talk about the birth of their family owned Mexican American food brand (focusing on gluten free & heritage inspired products). After a few minutes in, I loved this sister and brother team and their personal story of perseverance. Raised by strict parents and motivated by their own curiosity and discipline, they created a successful company known for servant leadership, putting their people first, becoming a place that felt like a family to their team and their customers. And what resonated most is what they said next. “A family is not without disagreement, and that is not without fighting, and that it’s not without all of the things that come with the entire human existence.” Truth. So next time you are told a team is like a family, remember that it doesn’t mean rainbows and unicorns. It’s about authenticity, honesty, vulnerability, and risk. The good times and the bad. A true expression of one’s self. And with core values that include “passion with compassion” and “boldness with humility” I left this podcast feeling inspired … and craving tortillas. 

So which one of her incredible guests should I focus on next? The choices seem endless and I look forward to seeing you back soon to share in my thoughts. Until then, in the words of Ms. Brown,

Stay awkward, brave, and kind.”

This post was written by Heather Roymans

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