Lead Me Please: Developing Leadership Standby Skills

This weekend, I attended the TEDxWomen’s conference in Washington, DC. The theme was “The Space Between.” Women and men sharing amazing stories about the magic that can happen in the convergence of extremes.

“One day you will want to say, this is actually the right thing to do. And when you turn around, they are following you. I just want you ready for every single moment of leadership that comes your way.”

As I sat fascinated by the courageous stories of powerful women, I kept thinking, “huh, that sure wasn’t on their life map.” For most of these speakers, they weren’t out looking for opportunities to lead. They didn’t have a five-year plan to get onto TED. They found themselves in situations that ignited their passion wars, accidents, loss, violation of human rights. Their life got disrupted. They took action. They began to lead. Most of these women don’t fit the image of a traditional leader. I doubt most were in anyone’s “binders of women” or succession list. And yet, when they started doing the right thing, people followed.

Why Prepare?

So often, I hear people say. “Oh, I am not a leader.” That may work fine in most circumstances. The world needs great followers. But what happens when your passion erupts, and everyone is looking at you. You must prepare to be a leader because someday…

  • Life will bring you a disruption you can’t ignore
  • You will need to take a stand
  • Your heart won’t be able to turn away
  • No one else will care as much as you
  • Your passion will trump that voice in your head that says, “I am not a leader”

How to Prepare to Lead

Charlotte Beers shared her stories of why preparation matters, in her talk on the Space Between EQ and IQ. She also offers 3 vital skills everyone should cultivate to prepare for the toughest scenes in life. Personal Clarity: Getting underneath the personal traits and experiences driving your behavior Memorability: Honing your communication with a keen focus on the listener, “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear” Persuasiveness: Harnessing your passion to attract others to follow I connected with Charlotte to ask for her advice. “What advice do you have for persuading reluctant leaders that they should and can prepare to lead?” Her answer…

When you want to lead in a crisis..you can’t UNLESS you’ve been practicing stepping out to lead on many small things. Watch who you are in those moments and rehearse saying it with clarity, memorably and persuasively. You’ll blow it sometime. So what, it’s only work.

In today’s connected world, I am not sure “if leaders are born or made” is the relevant question. We can all have a platform. The bigger question is, will be ready to use it?

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency and tagged , , , , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Great post! It occurs to be that an additional critical component of preparation for leadership is becoming aware of all the leadership opportunities that occur around us every day. And about how we already lead so we can envision ourselves as leaders. This discernment and visualization seems crucial because the “0th” skill we need is to recognize the leadership need in a situation and to see our place in it. I’m thinking that the “someday [that] life will bring a disruption…” is today, right in front of us – if we are awake to it.


  2. I’ve always found it interesting how few women feel they have leadership skills, when I can see that they obviously do. I think it has something to do with not holding leadership positions and not seeing what they do everyday as leading. I’m referring to people who step up and resolve matters, pull people together, can cut through the bullshit in communications and take the time to listen to the people around them and provide advice and support. But they do not have any organisational “power”, meaning they don’t hold the right position, so they and unfortunately many people around them, do not see them as the leaders they are.
    I’m comfortable that I am a leader and have the skills to take things on when I need to, but it’s taken a lot of years to get to this place. I think that is was my 30 days of leadership in my Year of TED project that helped me finally be comfortable with all of that http://www.kyliedunn.com/2012/07/reflection-30-days-of-leadership.html but it doesn’t mean that These points haven’t made me think about it in a slightly different way (again).
    I’ve also just listened to Charlotte’s talk, it would have been amazing to be there for it. Thank you for the article Karin, and for the link to Charlotte.

  3. Kylie, thanks so much for your comment. I do think some women underestimate their leadership ability and contribution. I see leadership magic in so many contexts. Thanks for sharing your link. We are all growing together. I hope you will stop by again soon.

  4. Karin- Simply superb post. I must say you are energetic. Look at the words you used in the post. Erupt, ignite are energetic words. I must say that leaders must be energizing. They make others act.
    Honestly, a lovely post to read

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