Introduction At twenty-one years of age, my first mentor stared into my eyes pointing her finger a few inches from my face and said, “You go out and be the best damn example out there that you can be because you don’t know who’s watching!” An older woman who had probably smoked for thirty years, her voice was gritty and loud. It’s moments like that one that really stick with a person–at least this one did for me. I found myself thinking before I acted, not honking my horn when someone cut me off, pushing in my shopping cart even though I was tired and it was cold outside, smiling and holding a door open for a stranger and saying things like “yes ma’am” and “no sir”,” to people I assumed rarely heard those words. Lee Iacocca, the former executive famous for championing the beloved Ford Mustang and later successfully turning around an almost bankrupt Chrysler in the 1980s, posed a critical question to America–“Where have all the leaders gone?” through the release of his brash business book. He says, “Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis” (1). A former marine client of mine once told me, “Marines never abort their mission. It may take them more time than they originally thought, but they never abort mission.” He went on to describe Hell Week–the final rite of passage–where soldiers-in-training are severely deprived of sleep and food, put in extreme weather and temperatures and pushed beyond the limits of known physical and mental abilities. But they have a way out. If one of them wants to quit, they can ring a bell, voiding their ability to serve in our U.S. Marine Corp, because, after all, they aborted their first critical mission. My own father repeated this single statement probably a few thousand times growing up, “You can’t go wrong doing the right thing.” I watched him face many hardships and fight many battles throughout his entrepreneurial career of helping alcoholics and drug addicts recover. His commitment to always do the right thing rarely never won him a popularity test, but he has helped thousands of people change their lives over the last thirty-seven years, breaking generational cycles of abuse, addiction and total destruction. Those before me tell me that the makings of a true world-changing leader are made through failure, going through the mud, never giving up and being willing to make the sacrifices necessary so that winning becomes an inevitable reality. Sometimes doing the right thing, being in integrity, staying the course, and being willing to stand for something when it’s not popular–but simply because it’s the right thing to do–is really, really hard. Oftentimes, these are the high-stakes games of life. Perhaps that’s why we need more leaders. Being a good one requires an enormous amount of sacrifice and most people aren’t willing to make it. My Leadership Experiences As a business owner, clients hire me to create revenue inside their companies. Most of the companies are under $1 million in revenue and frequently in start-up mode. Getting a concept off the ground is not an easy task. Clients rely on me to provide them with strategic insight on next steps, but mostly to win as big as I’ve helped other clients to do so. I’ve often wondered how I got to this point in my life. Outsiders looking in frequently praise me on how much I’ve accomplished at such a young age. At twenty-three years old, I was asked to be a national board member for Colin Powell’s America’s Promise–an initiative to help children and youth succeed in the United States. I wrote a grant, won it and and started the first ever Youth Leadership Team for Douglas County, Kansas. I did a small $3 million turnaround in eight weeks on a company that had just gone public in my early thirties. I’ve helped clients pull in eight figures in revenue. And I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with a few known (and unknown) entrepreneurial giants and true change-makers on our planet. Being on the inside and looking out, I only see how little I’ve actually done. What most people don’t know is I still lack the courage to play full out; I can shine up a B- job and make it look like an A+. Inside I know I’m still chained to fear, that there are people far more intelligent than I am, who more often choose the right path, that I’m not even close to being an exceptional leader, and that sheer grit, commitment and my own need to survive is the key reason why I’m even still standing. I simply have to keep going and try my best to win because my family, my clients (and their families) are counting on me. Mentors have been kind over the years. They’ve tried to help me avoid unnecessary pitfalls and pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. Mostly, they’ve believed in me before I could, and trusted me enough to give me a chance. My Leadership Strengths I still see myself as an incredibly green, underdeveloped leader who has been mostly lucky, but if I had to sum up my greatest strength, it’s been getting up off the ground when I’ve been knocked down time and time again. I can be thrown into a situation where I don’t have all of the answers and I will commit to finding the right ones and learning what is necessary to get the job done. Jack Welch might refer to this as Rule #6: “Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.” (2). Being that there is no destination and that our time on the planet is incredibly limited, I see no other option than to ensure I’m on the right path so I can do my very best for the world. I’m also not afraid to take risks, and pushing for intuitively-driven risks in the marketplace has led to huge wins for clients. In his book Winning, Welch outlines Rule #7 of leadership and says “winning companies embrace risk taking and learning” (2). My Emotional Intelligence At this point in my development, I have spent years on my own emotional self-awareness and ability to not only understand my emotions and why I’m feeling the way I am in any given moment, but also how feeling and expressing those emotions affects others around me. Trustworthiness and adaptability are among Daniel Goleman’s traits for self-management capabilities as he outlines in “Leadership That Gets Results” (3), and I believe these are also areas of strength for me. I hold myself to a high standard for confidentiality and follow-through, even though I’m not perfect on the latter. Life experiences have shaped me to become more naturally adaptable, and I’ve also been placed in frequent small leadership roles that require me to learn how to conquer an area in which I previously had zero experience. I’ve never thought of myself as a leader, but rather a producer of excellent outcomes. This course, however, is opening my mind, and I now want to develop myself as a great leader. I would like to spend time developing my ability to more effectively communicate, and also learn how to become a great change catalyst inside of organizations, as I find these are highly critical skills in my field. Perhaps if I could communicate a vision (or simply the steps to a strategy) in a more effective way to teams, we could win faster, more efficiently and with higher team morale. Having already completed one certification through Harvard Online Business School and finding it incredibly useful, I have researched a Business Communication Certification as well, which I intend to take after completing my MBA. I also believe taking full advantage of my MBA experience at JWMI will support my ability to communicate my ideas more effectively. Lastly, I will become more selective in the reading and learning materials I choose to study because my time is limited, but I do plan to dive back into Goleman’s original revolutionary book Emotional Intelligence and Justin Bariso’s new 2018 book release of EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, to further develop my emotional intelligence. I’ll measure my success by tracking positive impact and also the speed at which I can move a project or team. My DiSC Profile My DiSC profile indicates I’m Di. I am relentless at taking action and getting results, but my profile also indicates I’m naturally hardwired this way. Even when it’s hard, I am able to maintain a positive attitude with high energy (4). This can be a double-edged sword, however, as sometimes I’ve found my desire for excellence clouds my judgement and ability to gain speed on a project. My natural take-charge attitude and optimism about what’s possible feeds belief and trust in me and my abilities, which I believe is the strongest contributor to my frequent leadership role inside of organizations. Because I also like quick wins, my natural tendency is to find them inside of a business, project or initiative, which also creates more trust with clients because they get to see progress–even small progress–quickly. Leadership Skill Development & Conclusion Upon my graduation at JWMI, I would like to walk away feeling like I learned exactly what it takes to succeed in the highest and best way, so that I can spend the rest of my lifetime mastering my skills. I know this is a lifelong journey and I’m here to make a long play. I personally see no difference in leadership at home versus work, nor do I think they need distinction. Real leaders present themselves the same way in every setting. The question for me that defines a leader isn’t even winning or losing. Both are inevitable. The more meaningful question I must ask myself is: are you brave enough to rally?