EP 23: Advice From a CEO: Take Charge of Your Life and Be an Exceptional Self-Leader

by | Jun 22, 2021 | Podcast

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Want to be an exceptional leader? Be an exceptional self-leader.

Self-leadership is the way you lead yourself. It’s taking full ownership of your attitude, effort, communication, and wellbeing.

In this week’s episode of Reflect Forward: Advice From a CEO, I share a few stories to demonstrate exceptional self-leadership in action and some painful experiences I went through to learn how to be a strong self-leader.

As I have matured aka gotten older, I’ve realized how profound these experiences were. Throughout my life, I have learned the power of facing conflict head-on, advocating for myself, and taking feedback even when it was really hard to hear. I’ve learned how being accountable for my actions and engaging in hard conversations empowers me to make different choices in my life. I’ve learned not to be a victim of my circumstance; instead, I know how to change my circumstances to make my life better.

I also talk about how to apply counterfactual thinking…

According to Wiki, “counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred; something that is contrary to what happened.” Some call these alternative facts, but I use counterfactual thinking to challenge what I believe to be true, just in case it’s not.

Owning it means you can change it. If you want to be successful, you must be accountable. Refuse to retreat, deny, ignore, or blame. Remember, things don’t happen to you. They happen because of you. And you have the power to create a better outcome, but you have to step into it. You have to try. You have to show up. And you have to be willing to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “what I am doing to contribute to this situation? Am I going to make it better or am I going to make it worse?” That is self-leadership.

I share these stories during the episode in hopes that you can see yourself in them. We all lose sight of the big picture. We all are guilty of having an inward mindset. We are all guilty of telling ourselves false stories that allow us to be victims of our circumstances. But we also have to power to change it. You, too, can be an accountable, self-leading kind of leader. And being one will bring you success.

So how can you practice being a strong, successful, exceptional self-leader? Here are my top five tips. I use these every day.

  1. Be responsible for understanding. It’s easy to blame others for not sharing enough information or telling you the why behind decisions. Instead of getting frustrated, ask. If you don’t understand a decision, ask. If you don’t see how the work you are doing is tied to the strategy, ask. If you don’t understand why you were passed up for a promotion, ask. Take ownership of understanding.
  2. Seek feedback. Trust me; everyone has feedback on things you can do better. Even if they say they don’t. You can’t be accountable unless you ask for feedback and take action on it. Here’s an easy way to ask for it. “I really appreciate our working relationship and I want to do a better job supporting your efforts. What’s one thing I could be doing to be a better teammate?”
  3. Own your mistakes and keep your commitments. Everyone screws up and it’s okay if you do, too. Admit to your mistake, apologize, and then commit to fixing it going forward. And when you say you are going to do something, do it. Exceptional self-leaders always follow through.
  4. Speak up. Withholding feedback, not sharing your ideas or speaking your mind is choosing comfort over growth. Staying silent, or worse, gossiping behind people’s backs deprives them of the opportunity to learn and to help make things better.
  5. Take care of yourself. If there is anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that life can be fragile. Don’t choose to live an unhealthy life. Your health and well-being are your responsibility. Choose wisely because your longevity depends on it.


Question from the episode comes from someone who follows me on social media, “Kerry, how do you calm your nerves when you go on stage or in front of the camera. I hate public speaking, but I want to get better at it.”

I have been doing a lot of speaking for organizations and companies these days, and it never fails every time I am nervous. So here are a few things I do to calm my nerves.

  1. Write out what I will say, whether it’s a paid speech or an important message in a company meeting. Being prepared will make you feel more confident.
  2. I always take a few deep breaths before I start. Breathing is the best way to ground yourself. If am really nervous, I go out for a quick walk. Fresh air and movement always make me feel better.
  3. I talk about things I know, and I share personal stories. It’s amazing what happens when you recall a story. It puts you at ease and allows people to connect with you.
  4. Talk slower than you think you need to. It allows you to breathe and collect yourself as you talk.
  5. Don’t be afraid to use notecards and look at them if needed. Everyone understands you want to stay on point.
  6. Smiling when you talk makes everyone feel more at ease, including you.
  7. It’s okay if you mess up, miss a word, or have to repeat yourself because you fumbled a sentence. People connect with humanity, not polish. You don’t have to be perfect.

Like this? Check out my blog on how to reflect forward to be a better self-leader.

Thanks for reading and as always, please comment, like, and share to spread the word.

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