Using Personal Leadership

In past issues of The Competitive Edge Report I discussed some of the aspects of leadership. Recently a number of my coaching clients have been faced with extraordinary challenges—layoffs, downsizing, natural disasters or unexplained illnesses. Helping them deal and address these life and career-changing events has made me appreciate the power of personal leadership.

When I speak of personal leadership I am referring to the ability and skills, often learned through leading others, to maneuver within, combat adversity and move onward and up.

Some personal leadership traits I have observed are 1.) an ability to see beyond the immediate, a vision 2.) a deep sense of values that despite circumstances never waiver 3.) the courage to cut losses early to prevent further harm to self or others 4.) an alternate plan, an escape hatch 5.) connections with people who care and can offer valuable assistance and support.

I sincerely hope none of you have to experience such challenges, but the lessons they teach are useful even during positive and forward-moving times. My clients and I access and practice many leadership skills in our coaching sessions. One of the initial steps in anyone starting a coaching relationship with me is to create a vision statement. How do you see your professional life? How do you imagine your personal life? And how will they meld to create what I refer to as your blended life?

Many times when clients are stuck or have an attack of “perfection paralysis” I find they have a conflict in values. Maybe they value responsibility and are pulled between their allegiance to their employer and family obligations. If they value success, and success is measured in dollars, how do they reconcile this when choosing a profession, such as teaching, where the financial rewards are limited? A good leader verbalizes values and thrives within them.

When I look back at my own practice of personal leadership I realize that courage was essential (though I wasn’t feeling very courageous at the time). Leaving a job I loved because my boss was verbally abusive was risky because I did not have another position. Selling my business prematurely because the isolation and stress made me ill could have affected the purchase price. Soon after attaining a much coveted buying position asking for a transfer to management, when I realized I was better suited to managing people than merchandise, did not exactly thrill those who had mentored me on the fast track. But, in spite of common wisdom, financial risk and possible alienation I made these moves with few regrets and no looking back. The courage I had to muster to take the leaps has served me well in many other situations, most, thankfully, not as dramatic but still challenging.

In this volatile job market, everyone, yes everyone, is expendable. It is the naïve executive who has not assessed with an objective eye the climate in their organization and industry. It is the foolish professional who does not know where the proverbial emergency exits are (keep in mind they say “the nearest exit may be behind you”). In our coaching sessions we always look at options and alternative actions.

The people I know who weather challenges best are often those with the most connections. I speak of ties to family, friends, neighbors as well as colleagues and co-workers. The gifted are able to maintain long-term and long-distance relationships despite the isolation many jobs encourage. These “connectors” are not fearful of running into anyone because they have no enemies and they have a knack and commitment to stay in touch with everyone. They are never in the position of being embarrassed to call because “it has been years”. People with excellent personal leadership skills know they cannot function in a vacuum and pump oxygen into their contact list on a regular basis.

I encourage all my coaching clients to have a Team 100. This is a list of at least one hundred people, rarely family or immediate friends, who can assist them in some way with their career. It is amazing how easily some coaching clients can create this list and how limited others feel.

So here are your challenges for the week:

  1. Begin to create a Team 100. Remember no family and only friends who can help you with you career. Make sure all of the contact info is up-to-date and that you have connected with the people on the list in the past six months. (Or start now). Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year present great opportunities to get in touch.
  2. Take a moment and think about those times when courage played an important role in the outcome. How did it feel? What were the hurdles? If you were faced with a life/professional challenge how confident are you that your personal leadership skills would serve your needs? You may be surprised by your answer.

Jane Cranston is an executive coach, career coach and “The Job Search Expert” based in New York City. She shares with success driven executives and professionals techniques, skills and goal setting strategies that advance their careers, increase people management skills and assists them in career change or job search. Receive Jane’s free "Competitive Edge Report" and the free audio download “Creating a Career Strategy” by visiting

About the Author

Jane Cranston - Executive Coach NY (New York)Executive and career coach, “The Job Search Expert,” Jane Cranston understands the challenges and opportunities in the workplace. She integrates years of experience as an accomplished senior executive with global brand name companies, with the lessons learned from opening three successful businesses, and then applies her education and coach training. This sophisticated mix affords her clients her unique perspective, business sensibility, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Jane is the founder and Managing Director of ExecutiveCoachNY, an executive and career coaching business based in New York City with clients nationwide. She coaches success-driven executives and managers to develop a career strategy that accelerates advancement, increases compensation, enhances people-management skills as well as gets the competitive edge in all business activities.

Coaching with Jane is dynamic, structured, forward-focused as well as fun and inspirational. Working with clients in fields such as finance, technology, media and entertainment, real estate, and the law, she assists them in recognizing and achieving their full potential at work and in their personal lives.

Clients claim coaching with Jane has “changed my career focus,” “helped me better understand how to motivate my staff,” “given me ideas that have increased my income by $100,000s,” and “made me realize what is my part and what isn’t,” and claim coaching is “the best thing you could do for yourself.”

Jane’s soon to be published “Great Job Tough Times” is a step-by-step job search system designed to assist managers and executives looking for employment, or contemplating leaving their current positions, with their resume writing, interviewing skills, networking techniques, and negotiating need to get the right job fast.

Jane Cranston is frequently seen on CNN’s “Your Money” and quoted in nationally syndicated newspapers, magazines, as well as Internet article sites and virtual programs. She authors the free, twice monthly, “Competitive Edge Report.” Learn more on her website


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