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5 Important Lessons for New and Aspiring Leaders and their Organisations

Updated: Aug 6, 2022

In their book “How Women Rise: Break the 12 habits holding you back” by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith the focus is on women. Yet I found 5 insights that will resonate with any new or aspiring leader, and with any organisation that wants to provide the optimum environment for diverse talent to rise and flourish.

You burn bright is leadership coaching by zoe fenn for future leaders in the creative industries

Lesson 1: What got you here won’t get you there

You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a good lawyer, but you’re not here to be a good lawyer, you’re here to be a leader. That’s your job

The very premise of the book is that the habits, so useful in the early stages of a career, become the habits that hold people back. Whereas all previous promotions are essentially about doing the same job, but better, a leadership role requires a very different set of habits. For example, people-pleasing, so valued in junior staff because it shows them to be flexible, dedicated and reliable, when over-played at a leadership level is likely to leave people over-committed and struggling to delegate. Other habits include over-valuing expertise, perfectionism and minimising one’s achievements.

Lesson 2: Past behaviour may shape future behaviour, but it need not determine it

Familiar habits can feel part of who we are, but the book is packed full of examples of people who have successfully embraced new habits. It also has handy tips for building new neural pathways: pick a habit, start small, enlist the help of others, make it bigger than you and keep at it.

Lesson 3: Don’t get caught in either / or thinking

I loved this nugget because it is so true that what stops us from embracing a new habit is because we think the only way to do this is to do the exact opposite, for example, letting go of perfectionism means low quality work. Yet there is a balance to be struck - we can take credit for our own achievements without coming across as shameless self-promoters.

Lesson 4: What starts as a habit can end up becoming the goal

Doing things perfecting and knowing all the answers might start off as habits, but practised over time they take over and become the goal of the work itself. They then become the bar against which we evaluate our contribution, our worth and our value.

Lesson 5: Organisations perpetuate keeping people stuck

Ironically many organisations position themselves as agile, innovative and at the frontier of change, yet when it comes to their people, the culture often reinforces the very habits that keep people stuck. How often do you hear comments like “this calls for diplomacy, better not ask Juliet” or “ask Anna, she’s always keen to volunteer.”

If you recognise yourself or your organisation in any of this, then my final takeaway from the book would be ‘let go of judgement.’ The number one barrier to forming a new habit is frustration that progress is not as quick or complete as we would like. Learning a new habit is messy. It takes perseverance, courage and trust, but it is also fascinating and deeply empowering. You get to decide… do you act in accordance with old you or future you? Do you act in accordance with how the organisation has always done things or in accordance with the kind of organisation you want to be?

If you’ve enjoyed this thought piece, please like, comment and share with your network.

If you want to learn more about how coaching can transform your or your organisations’ capacity to lead then get in touch at to book your free 50 minute consultation.

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