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Creating Bold Leaders with Tara Newman

High-performance leadership coach and host of The Bold Leadership Podcast, Tara Newman, is on the show today. We're talking about what it really means to be a bold leader and why good leadership is so hard to find. She's also hitting on the one thing that you should look at if your business is starting to feel out of whack.

You don't want to miss this episode!

Tune into the audio:

Michelle: Hi Tara. Welcome to the Rebel Rising podcast.

Tara: Hey Michelle. Thanks for having me.

Michelle: I am so excited to talk to you because I believe one of the big things a lot of business owners need to do, especially the people who listen to this podcast, they need to start developing their leadership skills.

So I wanted to kick us off with this juicy question, of why do you think people abdicate their leadership role in their business?

Tara: Gosh, we were talking about this right before we went live and I said, you and I are just soul sisters because you use words that I've used, and I've used this word for a really long time about how people abdicate responsibility for leadership. Even when I was in corporate, they would become leaders. They would have people on their team and then they wouldn't manage them, they wouldn't lead them and they would just kind of abdicate all of their authority, their commands, their decision making. And I have a couple of big reasons why I think this happens. So old Tara would say because they were lazy.

Michelle: And what does new Tara say?

Tara: Tara? Tara, who's better educated now and has worked with a tremendous amount of leaders over the last two decades, believes just simply that we're not taught, leadership is not being taught. It's not being talked about enough. It's not being taught. It's not being taught by a diverse amount of experts. So, when I studied leadership, I was in grad school, it was 1998, 1999 and we were learning from a lot of same white men, and there's nothing wrong with them. I mean I go back to their research, I go back to their literature. It 100% has merits in theory, and we also know that we can make our research say anything we want it to say.

Michelle: Yes we can.

Tara: I've learned to question everything. And really the research that I like to do is anecdotal. It's real, it's live, it's from the things that my clients tell me and share with me and I observe in them. And my recent observation is that we're not being taught how to lead. As a matter of fact, we are having more and more things thrown in our way to make us be a follower. Because I think that's how society works.

Michelle: I agree. Because that is something we do not teach students. And as a former college professor definitely wasn't about, let's enhance your leadership skills.

So I'm curious, who are you reading for leadership? Like what books do you really love?

Tara: So, you know, interestingly enough, I kind of don't consume a lot. I don't consume a lot.

And I am a huge believer that my clients and my community are my teachers.

You just gasped.

Michelle: No, I love it. I love it.

Tara: My community and my clients are my best teachers and that they're really, there's a lot of similarities that I'm seeing. There are some differences that I'm seeing, but for the most part, I'm seeing a tremendous amount of similarity in the way that we've just been conditioned in general to think about life, about relationships, about marriage, about parenting, about work. And I mean, I do read some, I like some people out there and I'll share some that, but they're all men because there's not a lot of women really disrupting the field of work and productivity, which I intend on doing.

Tara: So the people that I like, Marcus Buckingham is one, he is a leadership guru. He does a lot of research, but he's very disruptive. He's in the HR work leadership space and that's what I truly appreciate about him. He's about 12 to 15 years older than me with the same background. So we were too close in age for me to learn his work when I was in school. So he's somebody who I found a little bit, probably like maybe a decade after, and used his work heavily in corporate, basically just to make my counter culture points, because he was one of the only people who I could find back up the way that, how rebellious I thought, he was equally rebellious. I do like authors who present a broad range of research.

Tara: So for example, Dan Pink I think does a pretty good job. Doing a meta-analysis almost in some of his books to the point where it's somewhat confusing, right? Because you can find a point to prove anything. And so, I'm reading his book When and he's bringing in a lot of research that proves a lot of different points. So you almost get to the end of the book and you're like, well, what am I supposed to do? And that's the whole, in a way, I don't know if that was his point, but it's my point in the sense that how we work, how we lead, is all individual. It's all unique.

And I think this is why people struggle with this so much, is that they want a blueprint for leadership. They want a formula for leadership and there is none, it's messy.

Tara: You have to get in there, you have to make your mistakes. You have to really drive a stake in the ground for what you believe, what you value, what your vision is, in order to stand out. And to really, and when you think about everything that we have in our society, it's telling us to blend in. It's telling us to fit in. It's telling us to follow.

Tara: I mean everything is, especially now with the advent, now you've got me on a rant, of the attention economy where we are incentivized for being distracted, where people are winning the game by how much they can distract you from your purpose and how much they can confuse you from your goal to attend to their goal. And it's really, I believe, a recipe for disaster when it comes to leadership. Everyone falling into this lockstep to what everyone else is doing, because you're seeing it on social media and you're seeing it online, and you know how everyone else is living and how everyone else is doing marriage and how everyone else is doing parenting or how everyone else is working or running their businesses or whatever. And leading and living from that perspective ultimately will lead to burnout.

Michelle: Yeah. Well, and I love what you said about the fact that they're distracting you from your purpose because they have this thing they want to sell.

Tara: They have their purpose.

Michelle: Yeah. They have their purpose and they have their thing and they want to sell. And sometimes they tell us, well this is the only way you can do the thing that you want to do, is by buying my thing. And then that takes us down this rabbit hole that actually doesn't even serve our business. We spend our money, our time, our energy in like… of course, I've been on a big rant about courses, you know this, and then it's like we get to the end of it and we're like, oh, that was a complete distraction. It was a waste of my time, it's not what's going to move me forward or my business forward or my people forward. So I'm right there with you.

Michelle: So I have a couple of follow-ups.

The first one is what do you think is one of your biggest lessons that you learned from your community?

Tara: Well, here's the lesson that I'm continually reminded of. I think it's really a trap that, so when you get into a role in leadership and you have people who are following you, like you have a community or clients, if you're a small business owner, you forget that not everybody is like you. Not everybody knows what you know, not everybody thinks the way you think.

Not everybody is like you. And that's wonderful. That is probably the best lesson that you can learn.

Tara: And it will be your biggest hurdle if you can't figure that out. And this goes for whether or not you're an executive with employees or whether or not you're leading in your business. Not everybody is like you.

Michelle: Yeah. And then that's, you know if you're a coach or you're doing like more transformative work, you have to suss that out and figure out like, okay, where are our commonalities and where are our differences and how can I be like…

For me, it always goes back to, how can I communicate in a way where they're going to get it and I get them.

Michelle: I love it. I love it. So tell me, Tara, you've gone on this great rant, which I'm all about.

What change do you want to create in the world?

Tara: You know, when I think about the change that I want to create in the world, I want more people first of all, actually leading. And not following, not falling into this trap of victimhood, which is so perpetrated, I think, in our society. And when I say victimhood, I mean where everything's happening to you. This is abdication. This is happening to me. I don't have a choice. I'm not in command, right? Like why bother? Shrug the shoulders. What can I really do about it anyway? This is where we see that abdication and really showing people how not just to lead because that I think is confusing. Because there are lots of different ways that you can lead.

But I want people to lead boldly.

And that means taking a stand for their uniqueness, their vision, their mission, their values. Because when we choose to lead from our whole selves, the world is more diverse, creative, healed, thriving, abundant, beautiful, and changed.

We are each a catalyst for change if we choose not to abdicate.

Michelle: Yes, and I'm hearing two things:

Realizing that you have a choice and the things that are showing up in your life, are there to teach you something and you have a choice with how you deal with them.

But also that when we show up as more of who we are, we are bringing our whole selves to the table. That's when you can actually use her being that catalyst.

Tara: Yeah. I'm here for radical self-awareness.

Michelle: Oh I love it.

What does radical self-awareness mean to you?

Tara: Radical self-awareness means that as leaders we are leading from the inside out, that we are deeply reflective and aware of our own lessons and insights and the actions that we need to take. And we take it from a place of self, and not from a place of, should, or this one said to, or I have the blueprint that says, because when we are more self-aware, then we can become more empathetic, we can come become more compassionate, we become more understanding, we become better listeners, we become better able to support and coach those around us because we understand what it's like to experience A, B or C.

Michelle: Yeah. And one of the biggest things I've learned from you, because for transparency, I am part of Tara's Brave Society which is for bold leaders. And one of the biggest lessons I have learned from you is about self-reflection.

Because I have gone through the majority of my business not taking time to pause and reflect on the week that was or the month that was. And I realized that it really wasn't serving me.

Tara: Yeah. And then once we can self reflect, we can reflect on our business and on where things are going with our business, and we can reflect with our teams.

It all starts at self.

Michelle: Yeah. And then you can start generating insights about how you're showing up to your life and your business, and what makes you tick, and how you respond to things in the world. And then bringing that into your business and figuring out, I mean, so just so everybody knows. So Tara does these CEO debriefs twice a month in the Brave Society. I didn't realize I'd be plugging brave, but since we are, I'm just going to go there. What I love about it, we're talking about what our wins are, what's working, what's not working, where am I rushing, what do I need to let go of? And just having those questions allows me to, you know, figure out what is actually going on in my business and what I love and what needs to change.

Tara: 100%.

Michelle: And that's actually helped me be a better leader.

But I don't think we think about self-reflection as this radical self-awareness that leads to us being better leaders.

Tara: Yeah. I mean, listen, I work with leaders of all kinds, I work with women, I work with men, nobody wants to sit with their thoughts and their feelings. That is scary stuff. Like I get it. And so I'm really here to make it less scary, and also make it more actionable. Because then people tend to go within and they start to swirl around and things get muddy and murky and confusing and they fail to see how that can really inspire the best actions. So you take the quickest path to the result you want. And so I really like to connect the whole journey for people.

Michelle: Yes. Yes. I mean that's part of, yeah, you're brilliant at that. That's what you facilitate within the group and how you even show up on Instagram. So my final question for you, hopefully, it's my final one and I might have a followup.

So if everyone acted on your message, what would the world be like?

Tara: You know, I think we'd see a lot more… I think we'd see a lot more diversity because we'd see more diverse thought, more diverse opinions. Bolder stands for what really matters to individuals. We'd see a lot more uniqueness and that's, I guess what I mean by diversity is we'd see a lot more uniqueness when today I think we're seeing a lot of same, same.

I think there'd be a lot more good being done in the world because the initiatives that we create would from a place that is more whole and healed. And I think there'd be a lot more truth and trust.

Michelle: Oh that just hit me in the gut. A lot more truth and trust. Because I do feel like that's lacking, especially in the online business world.

Tara: Well it comes down to integrity, truth, and trust.

Michelle: And sometimes there's not a whole lot of integrity when it's just one big money grab.

Tara: Well you know, it's really fascinating to me is I've been really looking at integrity and I'm like, Tara, do you really want to be the person who's the integrity police? And out there talking about integrity? And I really just wish my integrity sometimes would just go home, go away.

Michelle: I feel the same.

Tara: And so this is really fascinating to me. And one of the things 20 years ago when I was off in the consulting world, the first time around, so I'm back in the consulting world, I was in consulting and then I went into organizations, and now I'm back out in coaching and consulting. And so when I was there the first time we were creating a lot of competency models for Fortune 500 companies, and we would go through the competencies and immediately we would toss out two competencies, we would toss out ethics and we would toss out integrity and trust.

Tara: And the reason why we would toss them out is when you're creating a model of 8 to 10 competencies, the rule of thumb was that ethics and integrity and trust were given. They were the price of entry. Everybody just assumed you had them. You wouldn't be working within this organization. That was the thought process. You wouldn't be working in the organization if you weren't ethical or you didn't have trust and integrity. And now I'm looking back on it 20 years later going, wow, this was really a misstep because that's not true.

Michelle: No, it's not true at all. Like I always go back to like how people use Robert Cialdini's work, his book Influence and all the psychological triggers he talks about. In that book, he has a huge section on ethics because those persuasive triggers are so powerful, and yet you see people online using them, not because they help people make a decision, but because they want to make more money and they know that these triggers are very, very effective. I think they totally just skip the whole chapter in that book about ethics and doing what is right for your audience over what is right for you. And it's always bugged the crap out of me.

Tara: Yeah. It's interesting because this wasn't even in the online space, but I want, it was pre 9/11 and it was pre-the 2009 recession. And it wasn't until after the recession in 2009 that I actually saw corporate environments. I mean, listen, we had Enron, that was in the early 2000s, and we had whatever the banking industry, and we had the reason why all of a sudden we had Sarbanes Oxley, you know, coming into play. But it wasn't until 2010, 2011 and later that I really started seeing people making some pretty unethical decisions in a corporate environment because a lot of the corporate spaces started to become run more by fear.

Tara: And I always say that a CEO's Kryptonite is the things his people won't tell him or her. The things they're afraid to tell them. And so when they're driving for numbers and we're not going to make the number and they're afraid to go to the CEO and say, “Hey, we're not going to make the number.” They go back and they find any means necessary to make the number. So it really, in a corporate sense, this whole like, well it's a price of entry competency. You have to have it in order to even be working here. I'm like, yeah, and now, no.

Michelle: No. Well I mean going, taking this conversation back to full circle, I feel like that's not, ethics is not something we're taught in school anymore. Like I remember teaching persuasion to my college students, and we'd spend some time on ethics, and some people would be like, but I don't understand what's wrong if I lie on a resume about my experience, if it gets me the job. And I'm like… oh boy. They're seniors in college, right?

Tara: Well their frontal lobes aren't fully formed yet.

Michelle: I know, I know, I know, I know. But it just blew me away. And then the class got into a huge debate about it. But I'm like man, we have not taught people a good enough job to actually reflect and think about the decision that they're making and how it impacts other people, rather than just them and their bottom line.

Tara: That and as a business owner, as a micro business owner, being in integrity, so in a way slightly different than integrity, but being in integrity at all times is really important for the flow of your business. If your business starts getting clunky, you're having some feast or famine, you have weird things happening, clients are dropping off, people aren't committing or they are uncommitting, you're seeing some really weird stuff. You always have to go back and see where are you not in integrity with your values, with your vision, with the way you want to show up in the world. What is going on for you and how has that being mirrored back to you by the people who are surrounding you by your money, by your relationships. It's to me, it's been critically important to understand this so I could grow my business.

Michelle: Hm. And what's that? I would love to tell everybody where they can find you online.

Tara: Sure. I am on Instagram. I hang out on there a lot. That's by far my favorite place. And then I have a podcast called Bold Leadership Revolution podcast, and they can find me there as well.

Michelle: That is so awesome and yes, go follow Tara on Instagram. Check out the podcast because it's great.

And I just want to leave everyone with that idea of, if things aren't flowing in your business, where are you out of integrity? Where are you in integrity?

Because I agree, Tara, that is the key. So thank you so much for being on the show today.

Tara: Thank you for having me.

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