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That time when I realised how to become a true leader

Great leadership starts with self leadership. It’s possible to become a leader long before you are ever leading others, you do that by bringing influential energy to others. The magical thing about leadership is that it isn’t about you becoming anything that you aren’t, it is about becoming everything that you are. 

I can remember being in a particularly challenging relationship with a boss at work. For a long time I was passive in that relationship, being the victim of the dynamic. I’d complain to others about just how hard it was to work with that person. Then something shifted, and I realised that I had power in this relationship too, I had a role to play. I started with open body language, and by working hard to overcome existing biases of having worked with this person. I softened, I led the situation and things changed. 

Soft leadership for the win 

I saw a post somewhere recently about soft girl season; namely a time of year where womxn prioritise rest and gentleness over hardness and exhaustion. I love the idea, and it got me thinking about leadership, and how it changed in the pandemic. 

A new kind of leadership was needed in the workplace to navigate fast and scary change, one that was softer, kinder and more empathetic. I saw it in my own role; suddenly the things that had made me quite different amongst my leadership peers, were then the skills that were the most needed. It was an extremely confirming moment for me, in that I truly felt how much the kind of leadership I brought was needed. 

It is still needed. Not just from me, but from all of us. Yet still we aren’t sitting at enough leadership tables. At this time, womxn only occupy 24% at C-Suite level, just 4% are womxn of colour. We still aren’t being promoted or rewarded at the same level as our male counterparts. We struggle to self advocate, we take on additional work without reward and many of us are on the slippery slope to burnout. 

The pandemic may have opened the door for a more authentic leadership presence to come running in, but my challenge to those of you reading this is to try to find the means to keep the door open and powerfully claim your seat at the leadership table. 

What soft leadership does for humans

The majority of businesses, especially in tech, are looking to create something new. Each and every human is creative, but we often bury our creativity after some experience of having our creativity rejected; perhaps by a teacher or by other humans. Many of us arrive in the workplace already keeping ourselves small in some way, in order to fit in. 

Imagine how different our experience might have been if we were met with a leader that unlocked that for us. A leader who believed in our ability to create, our ability to make smart decisions, and our ability to grow, perhaps more than we did. 

Imagine if by having someone who believed in us so much, we felt safe enough to get to know who we really are, and activated our very best sense of self within the workplace. 

What we get instead

My experience I am sure is like many, where I felt the opposite of that. I had leaders who were threatened by my ideas, I had leaders who would gaslight me if I raised anything, I had leaders who would manipulate my thinking to make me think I wasn’t ready for the promotion or growth I was seeking, I also had leaders that would shame me. 

Shaming is the currency in our working world that we need to get rid of. 

Whilst it might make us work harder, it doesn’t make us work smarter and we lose tiny pieces of ourselves each and every time it happens. Unfortunately, for those of us who naturally lead in a softer way, largely womxn, our roles simply got bigger in the pandemic. We found ourselves taking on extra responsibilities for no extra reward, and because we are horrible at having boundaries as a rule, it also meant that many of us experienced burnout. 

When leadership is hard, it looks like: 

  • Giving too much, not having boundaries and working to burnout
  • Passing stress onto others around you
  • Wanting to step up in your career but feeling like you can’t
  • Negative self talk and rampant imposter syndrome
  • Being sick of being talked over and interrupted in meetings

Soft leadership, done well, involves boundaries and self advocating, it looks more like: 

  • Managing expectations, prioritising work and lovingly upholding boundaries
  • Having a smart formula for dealing with stress when it comes
  • Self advocacy and growth
  • Self love and understanding your value
  • Communicating authentically with influence and love

If I want to grow as a soft leader, where shall I begin…?

If you want to be that leader. for yourself first and then for others, I recommend you look across the following lenses: 

Beliefs – Who you really are, what you believe and what you value. This is an essential part of us understanding and building confidence in ourselves. 

Love – Our ability to love ourselves informs our ability to love others. When we love, we communicate better and build better relationships.

Ownership – Embracing autonomy over our life and work, having boundaries and planning and executing on our strategies. Learning the art of firm but fair. 

Operating system – The foundation that supports us, our rhythm, our structure, our boundaries. Making sure that it works, and constantly reviewing it. 

Manifestation – Our focus on what we want in future, and that we start the incremental steps in order to get there. 

The good news is that I am building a course to take you on this journey. A journey that will see you Bloom, and ideally, one that will inspire you to share it with others. Join the waitlist for the first cohort here: https://maven.com/ruth-penfold-brown/bloomaccelerator

Here’s to soft leadership becoming the new normal. Who is with me?


That time when I learnt the 5 stages of burnout

Have you ever experienced burnout? 

The pandemic heralded in a new kind of leadership, one that could support folx to navigate fast and scary change. One that was softer, kinder and more empathetic. I saw it in my own role; suddenly the things that had made me quite different amongst my leadership peers, were then the skills that were the most needed. It was an extremely confirming moment for me, in that I truly felt how much the kind of leadership I brought was needed. 

It is still needed. Not just from me, but from all of us. I’ll share more on that soon, but now I want to talk about the by-product of that shift. 

Those of us who carried more of the leadership weight, and frankly emotional weight were often womxn and folx that weren’t so great at having boundaries to begin with. What that meant was that many of us were left depleted and exhausted and, of course, likely still being paid the same. 

I want to talk more about the insidious grip of burnout, so that we can get better at seeing the signs, so that we can hopefully choose to act to change something before we get there. 


Here are the 5 stages of burnout. They build up incrementally, but can also easily creep up without you even realising it. 

Stage 1: You feel like you need to prove yourself

At first this feels like being motivated to do great work, especially if you are starting in a new role. As long as the feeling continues, you set a precedent for overworking, and then keep giving more. 

IDK who needs to hear this but I will say it: you don’t have to know all of the things. Trust that you have been given your role for a reason, and even though you might not believe it yet, you need to trust the folks that do. 

At first, I get that you feel you have to prove yourself, but I would encourage you to start to breathe that out as soon as you can, because that desire truly can be the first stage of the slippery slope that is burnout. 

Stage 2: You begin to neglect your own needs

The slippery slope begins, and you start to make trade offs with your own needs vs others. This won’t feel like a big deal at first, sacrificing a trip to the gym here, getting up a little earlier there… but before you know it, it creeps.

At first it might help you feel calmer, and ahead of your work somehow, but it quickly tips into the realm of imbalance. There will always be more work to be done (for most of us), so get peaceful with giving enough but not too much. 

Stage 3: You step away from your values

This might start as a feeling like something is off. We might not know what our values are explicitly, but our nervous system will notice when we step away from them. Perhaps you make excuses for behaviour that you see happening (from you and others) and find a way to justify it. 

Each thing that you do that feels out of alignment with you adds up, and sometimes we can feel a sense of resentment about it. These are all the clues we need to make conscious so that we can do something about it. 

Stage 4: You withdraw from your social life

Another creeper I am afraid. At first withdrawing will feel good, likely because you will be creating some space for you – perhaps to do more of stage 1 haha. Regardless, once we start to say no, it becomes a habit that is hard to break out of. 

I coach a lot of people who are aching for company, but are struggling to make plans to leave the house. There’s a good reason for that; our brain. The brain is working hard all the time to keep us safe. Relieving pressure from other areas creates safety and control, seemingly at least. The challenge with the brain is that the excuses that it will give you can appear super legit. 

This is where self knowledge comes in. The better we know ourselves, the better we will be at knowing what we need and when we need it. That means that even if the brain doth protest, you can choose to override it and see your people regardless, and live in a way that meets all your needs. 

Stage 5: You feel depressed, lost and exhausted

The final stage takes a while to figure out when it hits us, because we are so overwhelmed and exhausted. We really might not know what is wrong at first and we might blame other things around us. The only remedy to this is to create some space, some time for you. If you can do that, you may then create the space to figure out what isn’t working for you. 


Creating space for you honestly supports you at all the stages. Once we have some time to hear ourselves, we can figure out what we need to do next. 

Resilience, done well, is about creating a toolkit of resources that you can use at the times you need them, whether that’s practices you do, people you see or places you go. 

To anyone who is feeling overwhelmed right now, do what you can to create a little space and see what comes up for you. 


That time when I learnt how to build better relationships

As someone who has always found it easy to connect to people, earlier in my career I oversimplified the effort needed to create a great experience for others. I was wrong, hella wrong, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time. 

Once I started to understand myself better, and create the structure that I needed to thrive, I was able to build it for others. Only then did I realise how wrong I’d been, and that I hadn’t been courageous enough with my feedback, my straightforwardness and where I was choosing to spend my time. 

Building solid relationships takes effort, but if you can get it right, you will see the difference within yourself and the humans around you. It essentially means learning to access who you really are, developing your self-awareness, and using that as the foundation for all your relationships. 

Sounds simple enough right…? *winky face*


For me, being authentic is when I am connected to the wisdom of my soul; when I am moving and being in the world in total alignment with my values. 


We don’t stray from our authenticity on purpose. Most of the time, it’s often a survival technique we learned growing up. If I act like X, people think Y about me. It’s the difference between living from our head versus living from our body. 

If that all feels a little abstract for you and you are rolling your eyes and thinking “She’s a yogi right haha,” let me help you to think about it a different way. 

We often hear that true authenticity stems from showing up as who we really are. Yet, given there are so many factors in society that can alter us in some way (often unwittingly and in childhood), I think a better goal is to show up as who you really are on that day. 

Who you really are is the true, vulnerable, imperfect you who can be honest when you are worried about something instead of being pulled into stress responses. Who you are also has a nagging voice within you when you do something that doesn’t really serve you—that’s a wise voice it’s worth getting to know, but I’ll move on for now. 

Understanding the real challenges around authenticity is an important part of understanding others. 

Many of the more challenging behaviours that humans exhibit have been formed in a reaction to their environment. Becoming a leader means learning to hold space for the reactions of others and balancing the needs of each individual and the wider team. 

It takes genuine care and kindness to create a great experience for others. It also takes you doing your best to show up as who you really are also, albeit just on that day. 

Now I appreciate that is quite a big ask for most of us. Even if we have developed relatively good self-awareness, we can still be triggered or pulled into stress responses. Or just be having a wonky day. Me included. 

So what can we do about it? 

What we can do, though, is set ourselves up for better relationships by adopting a human success mindset. Namely, a way of being with others that means we try to work to awaken authenticity in all parties. 


Customer success is a term that has grown in popularity and rightly so. It makes sense to do everything to support a customer being successful with your product and therefore business. 

What I am suggesting here is to apply something similar to the way you consider your relationships with others. 

Taking the customer analogy further, let’s start by looking at some of the psychological factors that are at play when we feel compelled to buy something. 

  • Unity: we have an emotional need for community so, if we feel a connection to others, we are more likely to buy from them. How can you create the opportunity for this type of connection? 
  • Reciprocity: we have an emotional need to give something back after receiving something. Therefore, whatever we give to people, we build up their reserves of good feeling towards us. How can you be of service to your people? 
  • Authority: we have to feel like the thing we are buying is credible, therefore we need to feel like the person behind it is credible also. How can you make sure you are showing up as your most authentic self on that specific day? 

How can you work in service of these things to the humans around you? 

Next consider your relationships with your team through the lens of a marketer or, for a bit of more modern fun, ‘Influencer’ instead.

STEP ONE: You have to get to know your audience. Creating a stakeholder empathy map is a smart move here. 

On the left you can see the stakeholder empathy map, on the right, the space for your ideas of how you can build a better relationship

These are wonderful tools for breaking down:

  1. What do people need and expect from you? 
  2. What pleases them? What problems can you solve to keep them happy? 
  3. What displeases them? Where have they reacted badly in the past? 

If you are leading or participating in a team, I recommend doing this for all of your closest colleagues at the very least.

STEP TWO: Consider the different ways that you might be able to engage with your team. Like all good Influencers, you will need a blend of ‘content’ and connection points that address:

  1. What are the goals they want to achieve and how can you support them? 
  2. What are their biggest fears and how can you address them? 
  3. What problems are they facing and how can you help to unblock them?
  4. Things that reinforce and support your belief and trust in you. 

STEP THREE: Build out your marketing plan for each person.

  1. What are the channels of communication they prefer? How do they communicate with you? What is their style of communication?
  2. How do they like to receive and give feedback? Given this differs a lot from person to person, I recommend you contract together around this. 
  3. What are the things that you can do to make them feel seen, heard, and valued? Remembering those little things about them can go a long way in relationship building.

Once you get in the flow of doing this, you will feel the energy of your team or peers lift. Over time this whole process will start to become more natural and blend into how you approach getting to know people as standard. 

If that all feels a little clunky for you, let me leave you with three pieces of advice that you can blend into your own authentic leadership style (remember, leadership is an energy, not just a role): 

  1. Be consistent. Your consistency with you will enable you to build a consistent foundation for your people.
  2. Serve before you tell. Ask questions and seek understanding first. Focus on collaboration to get to the right outcome. 
  3. Always show gratitude. A little thanks goes a long way, even if a project isn’t quite where it needs to be. 


In practical terms, authentic leadership means working to understand the humans you work with and what their needs are, then balancing individual needs and those of the team. 

It definitely means working a little harder at the beginning of a new relationship to build the right foundations but, once you have them, your relationships will become stronger and more flexible, regardless of what comes along.

That time when I learnt how to create lasting change

At one time, I used to weigh about 40 lbs more than I do today. I spent years making myself big promises to lose weight and failing to honour them. What that meant was that the promises I was making to myself to hopefully do something that would lead me to feeling better, were ultimately making me feel worse. 

What I know now, is that big promises are great, but are only ever the sum of their component parts.

Behind every big change is a thousand tiny steps of self leadership. 

When it came to losing that weight, it was the tiny choices that I made day in, day out that ultimately saw me lose the weight and 15 years later, still keep it off. Whilst much of my journey has been self administered trial and error, I have made it my mission as a Coach to help curate the right tools for my clients to be able to make whatever changes they are seeking in a sustainable, realistic way. 

One of those tools is the retro.

A retrospective is a look back on a project or period of work. It’s a session where you explore what has gone well, what has gone less well and what changes you need to make moving forward. 

In a work context, what that means is that you are constantly reviewing and reprioritising. This is hugely powerful for those who tend to take on too much and over work.

The same is true personally also. It is crucial that we don’t assume that the choices we were making yesterday are the right ones for us to make today. Creating awareness means that we can become more flexible with the flow of life.

In work and life, doing regular retros is one of the most powerful things I have learnt how to do. Certainly the most impactful for creating any kind of change. 

Introducing: the personal retro

Many of the folks I work with as a Coach are looking to change something in some way. Big goals are great, but it is how we are living each day that takes us in the direction of those goals. 

Creating the space for honest reflection is a really great way to get real about how you are living and where you might need to make any changes. You can use it for basically anything, and I use it most often as a self esteem building tool. It’s not just about how can I improve, it’s also really powerful for teaching us to celebrate the things we are doing really well to add to our case file of excellence (full blog on that here). 

It’s super simple to do, let me show you how. 

  1. In the morning, before you dive into the meetings of the day, ask yourself:

What will make today great? 

Think through the day that is coming and setting yourself up for success in it. Where might you need to bake in a little thinking time? Have you planned for lunch? 

2. At the end of the day, carve out a little space to ask yourself: 

What was great about today? 

  • Where have I lived as me fully?
  • What things can I add to my ‘case file of excellence’?
  • Where did I have boundaries?
  • Where did I have difficult conversations?
  • What has filled me with energy? 

And then:

What would have made today better? 

  • Where have I held back? 
  • What have I been thinking about me?
  • What has depleted my energy?
  • Any learnings from the day? 

Then repeat, starting the next day with, ‘what will make today great?’ again. If we do it right, it means we are constantly learning, changing and growing.  

Remember, this is about iterative changes and small tweaks to take us to where we want to go. You don’t have to do all of the things, you just have to commit to taking small steps in the direction of where you want to be. 

Side note; you might at first find it difficult to create the habit of daily retros. Try adding it next to another habit that exists already. You can also try scheduling it as a meeting with yourself. For a few more tips on habits you can take a look here. 

This is important work my friends, and if we can master it, we truly start to live into the lives we are capable living. You got this. I believe in you. 

That time when I built a case file of excellence, and why you need one too


/ˈˌself əˈstēm/


  1. confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.

Ahhh the elusive self esteem. We gaze on those that seem to have it with wonder, but in truth my friends, most of us have been challenged by our self esteem at one time in our lives. 

I like to say that I am in active recovery from self esteem issues. Active recovery is important, because, like so many other things, if we get complacent, we can easily fall back into old patterns with it. 

Self esteem today has taken the shape of imposter syndrome, something we all recognise as a feeling of unworthiness for something, usually work related. 

What does it mean? 

An Imposter is; ‘a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain’. Imposter is a powerful word and one that gives a flavour of something distasteful in your mouth. 

The idea of someone pretending to be something that they are not is something that we are fundamentally not okay with. The idea of being unearthed as someone who is not worthy of the thing that we’ve been asked to do (or chosen to do), can be one of our biggest fears. 

Why are we so afraid of it?

At our core, we are terrified of rejection. We are wired to seek belonging and safety in packs. We were made that way because, to survive, it was important to align ourselves with others, usually others that were more powerful and able to provide food and shelter. 

We are so afraid of being rejected by others that we, in particular us people pleasers, will often reject ourselves in favour of being part of the group. That rejection of self leaves us not knowing who we are. 

What can we do about it? 

The most powerful thing that any of us can do is to build a relationship with ourselves. To learn to love and accept ourselves as we are, imperfect, growing and trying our best to make sense of a crazy world. 

It is no one else’s responsibility to love you, but it absolutely is yours. The sooner you can recognise that, the sooner you will realise how important you are to you. 

Whatever you have learnt about yourself isn’t true. You are smart. You have a brilliant brain. You are beautiful. You have a wonderful heart. I don’t need to know you to tell you that, but I just felt like you needed to hear it. 

I used to have a horrible view of myself and I have managed to change it. I want the same for all of you. 

Why you need a case file of excellence

Building a relationship with anyone takes time, care, commitment and attention – with you, you can 10x the amount of commitment haha. You are used to operating a very different way, so you need to build the muscle of self esteem. If you are ready to commit, then you are ready to build your case file of your excellence.

Self esteem is hard to achieve, so whilst we are on the climb, we can buoy ourselves on the opinions of others. Every time someone gives you a compliment or positive feedback on something, write it down. 

I’ve pulled a few excerpts from my case file to inspire you, and added how it made me feel at the time. 

Date 2013 2015 2018
Who from? Former boss Former colleague Former boss
What did they say? Do you realise just how good you were in that meeting? Can you see how much you owned it? You are a true leader. In fact, you should be doing my job. You are an exceptional leader and coach. You have a unique way of positioning questions and challenges to allow me to find ways forward. Thank you so much for your amazing contributions to the company. You have been our cultural leader and I am honored to have had the chance to work with you.  
How did it make you feel? Like I was in the right place, like I had value.  Like I gave real value to those I worked alongside.  Over the moon, elated and thrilled to have had that impact.

My case file of excellence was the beginning of me learning to truly see the value that I brought to the world. I kept it close to hand, so that in moments of self doubt, I could literally read for myself all the different wonderful things that others had said about me. 

Please don’t spend your life not loving you. I promise you can change how you feel right now and start to believe in yourself. That belief may be the difference between you saying yes to your next opportunity vs saying no. 

To my people pleasing peers and low self esteem-ers, I just want to remind you that: 

  • You are worthy of all the opportunities you have been given
  • You are worthy of the love of all of those who love you and more
  • You are witty, intelligent and have so very much to bring to the world 
  • You are safe to say you don’t know something and you will not be rejected 
  • Your needs are as important as everyone else’s
  • When you start to have boundaries, you give the rest of us permission to do the same too

Perhaps it’s time for you to start building your own case file full of evidence of your excellence and amazingness…?

I believe in you.

That time when I realised you need to become the leader that you have been seeking

One of the biggest things I coach folks on is around relationship dynamics, often at work, but also more generally.

As humans, we have a tendency to elevate those in important roles in our life as being something ‘more than’ us, we also elevate our expectations of them to match that pedestal.

For a long time I was right there with you, a new ‘leader’ would come in, I would expect them to be supportive and for them to champion me as I grew. And so often, at best that expectation led to disappointment, at worst, that expectation saw me choose to be in an abusive relationship for 12 years.

So who is at fault here? Me or them?

For a long time, I thought it was them. I would work alongside them, hoping the magic dust of leadership (good or bad) would rub off on me.

It never did.

The truth is, my expectations of them was all wrong. It was me that needed to become the leader that I was seeking.

Why do we want to be led?

  • Because we are afraid
  • Because we perhaps got a little stuck in childhood and are looking for someone to become the parent that we didn’t have
  • Because adulting is hard and it’s easier to have someone else do it

You see, you don’t need another leader, or to be controlled by another partner or friend. You need to sit firmly in the driving seat of your life, and start to make your own choices.

  • Self leadership is learning to trust your instincts
  • Self leadership is taking the time to figure out who you are and why you are
  • Self leadership is embracing imperfection
  • Self leadership is knowing how to access the things that you need, at the time that you need them

What happens when we lead ourselves?

I cried when I got my wedding pictures back recently. It was an emotional moment for two reasons, firstly because I was marrying a man beyond my wildest dreams. But secondly, I looked at those photographs and I saw that I had become a woman beyond my wildest dreams

Ruth at 20, 25, 30, even 35 wouldn’t have imagined Ruth at 42. She therefore didn’t set goals that led me in this direction, but what she did do was gradually start to lead herself. She set boundaries. She learnt who she was. She learnt who she wasn’t. She learnt how to love and accept herself.

That self leadership saw her change her life many times over, build a career, start a business, find love with another human (that was actually love this time haha) and ultimately, move to America.

Our story isn’t about a knight in shining armour, arriving from America to rescue a woman in her 40’s. It’s of two people leading themselves, learning themselves and then choosing the right partner for their next chapter.

Big change starts with little change.

Having realised the magic of self leadership on my own, I make it my mission to support other humans to step into their power, and to become the leaders that they are seeking.

How do we step into our leadership energy?

By focusing on the most important relationship in your life, the one you have with you. You do that by figuring out how you can love and accept yourself, just as you are.

I want to be really clear that this is not about starting to live in toxic positivity and pretending everything okay when it isn’t. The ‘just as you are’ is the most important part. It is easy to love ourselves when we think we are doing well at something, but what about when we are not? Can we still love and accept ourselves then?

We are aiming for a true friendship with ourselves, where we can be our own cheerleader; a steady drumbeat of love, support and commitment.

Then it becomes much easier, given that we know how to be a good friend to others, we already understand the theory when it comes to applying it to ourselves.

For me that means things like:

  • Being the person that helps you process life’s setbacks
  • Being able to catch yourself in negative self talk
  • Offering yourself support, knowing how to access the things that you need, at the time that you need them

If we can learn how to become our own best friend, we can then hopefully stride forth into self leadership in all aspects of our life. How can you be your own best friend today?

That time when I realised the true value of social health

Loneliness is a silent assassin for some of us. 

Some people feel the absence of humans more keenly and quickly, but there are many of us who quietly noodle along, contentedly solo, seemingly all gravy but living with the absence of human connection.

During lockdown in London, this was very much me. I felt very comfortable in my own company, and became super insular, feeding my soul by simply walking up and down Portobello Road and getting to see and interact with humans from afar. I managed to still maintain my close friendships virtually but the people I saw IRL were usually Amazon people or staff at the local grocery store.

I was lonely. I missed humans, but I didn’t consciously realise it for a while. Then sadness came my way and I finally let myself feel and acknowledge my loneliness.

After I acknowledged it, I then did everything I could to change it, and made sure I saw my people more.

Our social well-being is up there with all of the other key things we need to thrive. The World Health Organisation states: ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

Our social circle matters. Our connection to our community matters. It is a very important component of what we need to thrive.

Now I am adapting to a different life, one that means that I have a partner, and therefore human contact in abundance, but I am also in a new place, trying to find my tribe and create a new community.

Moving country is a trip for sure, full of magical new things, but also full of sadness for the people and places you have left behind. I am both delighted to be experiencing new things, and also missing my community and my people. I feel a longing for connection and at times, loneliness.

I’m determined to prioritise my social well-being, now knowing just how much it matters, and make sure that I make new friends here IRL.

Here are some of the things I am planning to do:

  • Try out the local co working space; look out for the person who has her eyes darting up and down from the laptop, and keeps getting coffee haha.
  • Go to a few local classes; look out for the person getting there early and staying late, starting conversation as we grab our yoga mats.

I’ve written before about a more positive definition of resilience. Which is really to know ourselves and our emotions well enough to know what we need, and then take the steps we need to take to get ourselves to more stable footing. What I have just described to you above my friends, is resilience in action.

When we deny ourselves the opportunity to feel what is real to us, we deny ourselves access to authenticity. Authenticity starts with our ability to be honest with ourselves first, and continues when we become whole enough within ourselves to be honest with others.

Developing resilience is about developing flexibility

For me that has meant developing a toolkit that enables me to be able to know how to get back to myself, based on whatever comes my way. I highly recommend starting to consider what you might need in yours.

I can’t tell you what you need, that is something that only you can figure out. My toolkit looks a little like this:

Stillness: Finding the means to connect to my body, for me that means using a gentle breath meditation.

Structure: I need my days to follow a set structure to thrive, before that I operated in chaos.

Support: I have my team assembled that support me in different ways on different things, and I am always adding new members (see above haha).

Self love:  The conversation that I have with myself when no one else is around and the way that I look at myself in the mirror. The way I forgive myself if I get something wrong.

My invitation to you all is to take a moment think about your social well-being. Do you get to spend time with a variety of people who light you up? Do you need to add a few more in, and create the space to meet new humans?

How can you feed and water your community this week?

That time when I realised that leadership is the energy you operate in

Leadership isn’t about what role you currently hold, leadership is the energy you operate in. 

Difficult relationships can provide us with some of our biggest stressors. At one time I had a particularly difficult relationship with a boss. Looking back I can see that my enthusiasm for working on things that I was passionate about could easily have been annoying, but at the time, it was a different story. 

I would lean on the counsel of friends regularly, really just looking to offload and have them soothe my heart and give me sympathy for this terrible person I had in my life. 

Then one day something clicked. I read a book called “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander, something about that book and the idea of assuming the best in others, made my look carefully at the relationships I was participating in. In the case of my boss, I wasn’t assuming the best when I interacted with them, I was assuming the worst. 

I was holding my breath each time we interacted, which meant that I wasn’t allowing the space for anything to flow. I was leading the situation, but leading it to a negative outcome. 

I decided to do the conversational version of breathing out. I relaxed, I started to sit in open body postures in our meetings, I smiled, I opened my heart and I stopped assuming the worst. 

And it worked. Gradually that person began to exhale also, and over time, their energy matched my own. 

What I had done was become the positive leader in that situation. By taking responsibility, I had lead us to embrace a different dynamic together. I realised then how much power I truly held in the way I allowed myself to experience others. 

Leadership as an energy 

In a recent coaching conversation, we got into the weeds of dissecting what it means to step into positive leadership energy. 

We ended up landing on the idea that it is when you have managed to step into being vs performing. 

What do we mean by that? 

Most of us have spent and or spend a lot of our lives performing. Our early blueprint of life sets the foundation for the personalities we curate. 

For a while I used to think my personality was me being truly authentic, it isn’t. It’s a series of ways of being I have concocted to stay safe in the world. If I can make you smile, I’m safe. If I can show you I see you and care, I’m safe. 

Our personality is a performance. 

But look, that performance is so etched in who we have become, I’m not suggesting that we are ever going to lose it.

What we can do though is dial up on our being-ness.

  • Being is when we are on the journey to love ourselves. 
  • Being is when we start to appease less, and ask ourselves who we are seeking to serve in each moment. 
  • Being is when we know how to connect with the stiller parts of ourselves and do so. 
  • Being is when we start to celebrate our abilities. 
  • Being is when we start to live in alignment with our values. 
  • Being is when live our boundaries. 

Being is when we take responsibility for our role in our lives and breathe out all the things we are holding onto. 

Dialling up our being-ness takes work, and a commitment to do so. There may still be some ways that we find ourselves performing along the way to get there, and that’s okay too. 

When I was learning to have boundaries, I felt I had to hold them very firm and rigid. I was performing my boundaries, because I hadn’t had them before so had to hold them very rigid. When I finally started to let go, and let myself be, my boundaries became softer, and more fluid again, but landed in a way where they still serve me first. 

If you can just start with one tiny thing, to BE a little more this week, boundaries might be a great place to start. There might be small things that you can hold a little firmer on, until they find their natural way of being. 

For each of the ways I talked about us being, they are the definition of leadership energy. If we can step into it and claim it, it’s the single best thing that we can do for the people around us, because by doing so, we invite them to do the same for themselves. 

That time when I wanted us to learn to celebrate our differences

Hands up who at some time in their life has felt like they aren’t intelligent? 

(Side note: yes, that is meant to sound like an absolute, because for many of us, that view of ourselves has felt absolute.) 

If a lot of you just threw your hand up in the sky, I am right there with you. What I can also tell you is that there are lots of people like us, and it is no surprise; we exist in structures and societies that favour one kind of intelligence. 

It’s insidiously etched into our souls throughout education, and keeps going in the working world. We exist in a competitive system that teaches us the dark art of comparison early on. You can basically supplement the word intelligent for pretty much any of the other things that we think we aren’t. 

That comparison impacts us all in different ways and creates a tonne of different cages in our minds depending on who we are and our level of sensitivity. 

When we are littler beings, we take the outward assessments of us (that give rise to our own inward assessments) as final

Our littler being version of us, will have looked at the capabilities or looks of others, realised that they have something that we don’t, and rather than then figuring out all the brilliant things we do, simply make a rule about ourselves that we are not [insert whatever that thing is here]. 

We take for granted all of the magic that we bring, because when we find things easy, we assume that everyone must think they are easy too. 

As a coach, I work a lot with people around self esteem is something that comes up a lot. It is something I have also done a lot of work on personally. 

Different but still valuable

Coming back to intelligence then, I can tell you that I am someone who can either hyper focus and remember everything or remember nothing. I can find it hard to read and retain a lot of detail, and I have to be quite deliberate with reading in general. However, what I have always been able to read is humans, situations and energy (there she goes again with that yogi chat haha). 

I am great at finding creative solutions and my brain fires up excitedly when inventing new things. It tends to move quite quickly and can context-switch in a flash. I love these things about me now, but when I was younger, even in adulthood, I would compare myself to others and worry. 

For anyone who is either wrestling with their own relationship with their intelligence or seeking to support others, I’d like to offer a reframe that might make you fall in love with your intelligence a little bit, just like I have. 

Two legs good, four legs bad 

There is a book called Animal Farm by George Orwell that a lot of us read at school (wow, I remembered it haha). It’s a story about the shifting power dynamics as the animals, on four legs, take back power from the humans on two legs… only to eventually create a similar hierarchy once again with some of them starting to walk on two legs and becoming the ruling class. 

I like to refer to this with my coaching clients with two legged intelligence being the intelligence that we think we desire more than our own. I truly respect two legged intelligence, I am actually in awe of it. I would love to have the ability to read lots of detail and retain data. It’s that awe that has made me question my own intelligence so much. 

But what if we could learn instead to celebrate ourselves and our brains, just as they are?

In  Animal Farm terms, I like to think of the type of intelligence I have as four legged intelligence. I have all four hooves on the floor, so I can feel energy, I can assess environments quickly, I can read humans, I can optimise and solve problems. I don’t always retain data, and sometimes reading a lot of it is a challenge… but when I apply myself deliberately and intentionally to things, I can fire up that part of myself. 

My hooves mean that I can feel more, which is a tremendous gift, but can also be overwhelming. 

When I started to realise the magic of my brain, my four legged intelligence, I was able to start to celebrate it.

Can we therefore offer ourselves and our society a reframe? 

Two legs good, four legs good, three legs good, five legs good…? 

You are good at that stuff. I am good at this stuff. Sometimes you are good at this stuff. Sometimes I am good at that stuff. That person over there is amazing at this other stuff. You have this. I have that. And so on…

Can we please just find a way to celebrate ourselves as we are and work to remove comparison? Can we please see the beauty in one another’s differences and understand that we become more powerful when we are simply exposed to them and we don’t think we are failing because we don’t have what they have? Can we agree to just be beautifully different in some ways and brilliantly the same in many of the ways that make us human? 

If you are reading this, my guess is you are already past the school age where a lot of these views are formed. Might I invite you to think about how we break this down in the here and now? How can we learn to celebrate all that we are and all that we bring without the need to be worse or better than each other? 

In case that question left you feeling a little bit stuck…

My advice would be that many of the biggest changes we can make start small, they start with us.

How do you see yourself in the world? How do you see your intelligence? Is there work you need to do on your relationship with you.

Once we develop self awareness around this, it becomes easy to support those closest to us with their own self perception. That may start to add up into a growing number of people who start to believe in themselves and their abilities.

When we believe in ourselves and have confidence, that’s when we start to be a little bolder with our ideas and start to innovate on the world we find ourselves in. And boy does our world need some innovation. 

That time when I learnt the value of values 

I know I’ve been speaking a lot lately about the importance of becoming aligned with our own values, but trust me folks, this stuff is dynamite. I’ve started to work with a few of my coaching clients on this very topic and it’s enabling some really powerful conversations. 

The new year is felt by different people in different ways and in different ways on different days. Some years you might feel pumped; like hell yeah come at me. Some years you might just feel a little overwhelmed. 

This year I am both.

Wherever you are right now on your new year spectrum this year, I got you. 

There is something that you can use to ground yourself in the moment, whatever that moment is: your value system. 

I didn’t know the value of values for the longest while. I think I had some kinda awareness of my intuition but I totally disregarded it. If my nervous system was freaking out about something, a person or a situation, I overrode it. I simply wasn’t aware of the signs my body was giving me. 

I lived a highly stressed, highly disconnected life for a reeeeeeeally long time. 

The first time I listened to my intuition I didn’t know I was doing it. It was when I chose to leave my ex-husband and file for divorce. The pace of change at that time was so fast for me, that I simply went on autopilot to get through it. 

The first time I consciously learnt how to access my intuition was a couple of years later. I was finding it hard to know what I wanted on any level, and a friend at the time simply advised me to start small and try to make decisions that made me happy. 

It was a rudimentary model to say the least, but I at least started to really think about what I wanted for the first time. I actually had some tattoos at the time to symbolise the things that I was using to steer me; ‘energy, strength, grace’ for the way I wanted to operate, ‘change’ for my appetite to try new things and ‘challenge, transcend, transform and explore’ for how I wanted to evolve. I didn’t realise then but this was my first foray into learning to live by my values.

I made choices more instinctively but still floundered often, making as many bad decisions as I did good ones. Still, it was a start. 

Things started to shift when I learnt the power of values at Shazam, where I took the business on their first journey to create their own.

Shazam, at the time, was a business surviving on passion and hadn’t done a great job of articulating what mattered to it most in terms of values and behaviours. I was leading Talent and working to attract brilliant minds to the organisation. For me it made sense to be able to speak about the reality of life at Shazam in that way. 

It was a journey to get there, but when we did, I understood this was so much more than an attraction tool, our values provided an operating model for how we choose to work together and make decisions. 

Having been single and unsuccessfully dating for a few years at this point, I realised that values could be a useful lens for making more personal decisions. 

I worked out my own values with a simple tool and started applying that to my dating life. It wasn’t just about who they were, it was about the person that I was when I was around them. That was perhaps the most important marker of all. 

The result was amazing. I have since rebooted my values a number of times and everything that I am doing right now (like my Pancakes & Peacocks pod) is formed around those values. 

Living in true alignment with my values is one of my most significant goals for 2022.

They are: 

⚡️ Innovation: with a focus on continuous improvement, I am careful to protect my space for creativity and problem solving

⚡️ Community: that I nurture and build strong relationships with other humans that enable us to share ideas and encourage one another to dream bigger

⚡️ Integrity: in how I show up, to myself first and foremost, for that is the foundation, but also in how I move through the world and live in my truest expression of me

⚡️ Love: I seek to love first, ask questions later. Love limitlessly and sincerely, myself first, then let that permeate everything that I do

⚡️ Courage: the value that is the foundation for all the others, to be brave enough to love, challenge, create and importantly, to ask for support

What are your values? If you want to do a simple exercise like I did in the beginning, you can use my worksheet here

Whichever kind of January person you are this year, goal focused, overwhelmed or something else. Let your values guide your decisions and you won’t go far wrong. 

Wishing you an aligned 2022, with love always.