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Do you have the courage to abandon what has made you successful in the past?

You know that your actions have served you well until now, and it’s so tempting to just do the same again. You also know that organisations don’t stand still and that transition is continuous. So, it’s time to ask yourself whether the actions that served you in the past are serving you, those you lead and your business today. Are they helping you to be an exceptional leader?


Exceptional leaders act to thrive rather than stagnate. Having a strong sense of identity & purpose is critical, along with inspiring others to be exceptional and creating exceptional business results. Acting to thrive means to focus on strategy whilst being curious, creative and courageous. That may even mean having the courage to step down or step aside to enable the business to thrive without you.

How do you do this as an exceptional leader? First, consider the next change to your business. Look out from the balcony (that is, take the helicopter view), see around the corners and shape a compelling future.



Those who act to thrive succeed, and success leaves clues. Evidence can be found in how they spend their time; it’s all about focus. Check their diaries to see:

  • Who they meet

  • People and companies they follow

  • Topics they discuss

  • Publications they read

  • Places they visit

  • Memberships they have.

Exceptional leaders dare to be different. They don’t accept the status quo. They shake things up; try new things and step outside of their comfort zones. As you probably know from experience, stepping outside that zone is not a comfortable place, however, it can be stimulating. It is where we are stretched and challenged mentally, emotionally or physically. With persistence and repetition in that ‘new place’, and over time, we become more comfortable. The good news about stretching your comfort zone is that is stays stretched and doesn’t revert to its original smaller size.

I worked with the MD of a successful training company. From time to time, due to recession, staff members were laid off and new ones employed as recession lifted. The business model was tried and tested and over many years the company prospered.


I felt it was time to shake things up and suggested to him that the company could expand by offering consultancy services, personalised training and coaching. He liked the idea of increasing revenue, however, he did not believe or understand why customers would buy something new and potentially ‘untried and untested’. I explained that consulting does not come with neat answers to every problem. However, I knew that working with clients to better understand their business drivers and develop joint solutions helps to build solid relationships and creates greater buy-in from clients.


He reluctantly agreed and ‘allowed’ me to contact companies offering these new services but only on the proviso that potential customers received a checklist labelling each offering. Needless the project wasn’t successful. Sadly, he didn’t have the courage, creativity or curiosity to try something different, or belief in the skills, knowledge and experience of his team to create new service offerings.


Shaking things up and challenging the status quo means that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Therefore, in order to survive and thrive exceptional leaders develop personal resilience. Based on extensive research and in-depth surveys, Roffey Park Management Institute* has developed a model for personal resilience. It aligns closely to a multi-dimensional leadership approach and consists of these themes:

  • Perspective

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Purpose, values and strengths

  • Connections

  • Managing physical energy.

*Dan Lucy is Head of Research at Roffey Park Institute


Let’s look at perspective. This is an individual’s ability to step back from a situation and find another way to look at it, sometimes called reframing. The purpose of reframing is to shift your perspective and to find a positive alternative. This enables you to become empowered to act and often changes how you feel about a situation.



The ability to reframe is also connected to your inner voice. Remember that voice in your head, which guides you in a helpful or unhelpful way. For instance, it may say, “This is a disaster and it’s all my fault.” To reframe this your positive response may be, “I can’t do anything about what has happened, however, I can learn from this and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.” Taking time to reframe a situation is a building block to strengthen your resilience as a leader.


The second theme is to understand and act upon each component of Emotional Intelligence#. These are:


1. Self-awareness

  • Read one’s own emotions and recognise their impact on others

  • Know one’s strengths and limitations

  • Have a sound sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities.

2. Self-management

  • Keep disruptive emotions and impulses under control

  • Display honesty, integrity and trustworthiness

  • Adapt to changing situations or overcome obstacles.

3. Social awareness

  • Sense others’ emotions, understand their perspective, take an active interest in their concerns

  • Read currents, decision networks and politics at an organisational level

  • Recognise and meet stakeholder needs.

4. Relationship management

  • Guide and motivate with a compelling vision

  • Develop others’ abilities through feedback and guidance

  • Cultivate and maintain a web of relationships through collaboration.

#Adapted from Primal Leadership: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee, 2004


On paper, they are common sense, however, in my experience, they are not common practice. I encourage you to take time to consider each component honestly. Ask yourself, how well do you know who you are and the impact you have on others? Are you aware of your ‘blind spots’, those actions and behaviours you cannot see? Or do those around you play out the fairy tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes for fear of telling you the truth?


An exceptional leader learns to read the landscape with curiosity, creativity and courage. It’s important to remember that embodying actions and behaviours associated with Emotional Intelligence is always a ‘Work in Progress’. As the landscape shifts, it brings new challenges, opportunities and new people. Nothing stays the same. I believe that exceptional leaders:

  • Have a strong sense of identity and purpose aligned to personal values

  • Inspire others to be exceptional

  • Create exceptional businesses.

Having clarity on leadership purpose and values builds strength and resilience, helping you to act to thrive.


I believe in the importance of creating the ‘right’ connections for you, those you lead and for your business. No business leader has grown an exceptional business without building a strong network of people. How do your connections bolster your resilience? If you give them time and space to think, they will question and challenge you to be the best you can be.


The final theme is to managing your physical energy. It is not necessary to be a physical training expert to know that medical evidence affirms if you manage your physical energy you can excel in other areas of your life. Looking after you may sometimes take second place, yet whenever I hear about successful people, typically they are very good at managing their physical energy. How do you do this for you?



“Being uncomfortable, and even afraid, is a prerequisite to riding four-story waves. It’s the path to personal development; while you can pull back, you can almost always push through. Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret.”

World-champion surfer Nic Lamb


You don’t have to be a big wave surfer. Simply find an activity that exerts you physically like walking in the park, cycling, playing with your children, running. Whatever it is, just go and do it.


I encourage you to read my other articles. If you’d like to lead to thrive and take your business to the next level, contact me at Sue Watson Consulting and let’s start a conversation.

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