Leadership “Makers” and “Breakers” for Emerging Leaders

Pitfalls, vulnerability, and challenges to self-confidence are not uncommon for emerging professionals. Whether you are a new supervisor in healthcare or the technology field, a junior professor in STEM, or a leader for your own non-profit, trepidation is not unusual. However, many emerging leaders find themselves with an imposter syndrome that can immobilize their career trajectory. To move forward, working through the emotions and mind games must be intentional.

Ten years ago, I interviewed five diverse, emerging leaders in sales, merchandising, communications, and finance positions (Diversity MBA Magazine, 2010). Not surprisingly, their thoughts about leadership resonate with us today; especially in the rapidly changing global and technology-driven environment.

They described “leadership makers” or the qualities and skills that build leaders.  These are leadership courage, belief in oneself, and grit, among other competencies.

Where is your “grit?”

Angela Duckworth in her book, Grit (2016) discusses the need to take risks, taking a stand, and taking a chance. Do you have grit?  Answer the following questions below:

  1. I am relentless when I want to accomplish something; I never give up
  2. Setbacks don’t deter me; they make we work harder or choose a different path
  3. I have so many creative ideas I often get distracted from what I am doing
  4. I sometimes lose interest in a new project

If you said yes to the first two, you have some grit, according to Duckworth. If you said yes to the second two, you may need to work on knowing yourself, finding your focus and thinking about how you spend your time.

Skills for Emerging Leaders

In addition, the emerging leaders told me about other skills they exercised regularly including believing you can do it, or self-confidence,  execution and results, and empowering others.

“I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations” and “It is important to learn how to build teams and to leverage the talent of the people around you.”

“Believe that you can do it. As one man/woman can do, so can another.”

Relationship building (connectedness with others) was also seen as a vital step to gain power and influence, particularly for peers and those higher up in the organization.  Brene’ Brown, author of The Power of Vulnerability(2011) spoke about building relationships in her TED talk. In business, there is a belief that you always must have the answer, you must know what you are talking about, and identifying problems shows weakness.  Brown takes a different approach and talks about establishing a connectedness with others. She describes vulnerability as a critical part of leadership in her new book, “Dare to Lead” (2018). She speaks about the importance of the following in establishing relationships:

  • Courage to be imperfect
  • Compassion to be kind to yourself first, and then others
  • Connection as a result of authenticity
  • Vulnerability as willingness to show your true self and take a risk

A few additional points of advice from emerging leaders:

  • “You have to be passionate about what you do. Passion drives you to get excellent results.”
  • “You have to drive leadership through others.”
  • “Always seek to teach and develop others to achieve their full potential.”

Switching to the flip side, emerging leaders also talked about “leadership breakers,” which are:

  • Divisiveness, being mean
  • Lack of boundaries; respect
  • “Don’t care” or absent leadership
  • Too nice; no accountability
  • Malicious gossip or condescending behavior
  • Weak conflict management skills or ability to confront

Support for Emerging Leaders through AAG Coaching

Sometimes emerging leaders are faced with the above leadership breakers, and struggle with how to appropriately and effectively handle these behaviors in the workplace.

Coaching for leadership performance is often a very effective way to build  leadership skills and learn how to apply these skills in your workplace role.  We have helped individuals learn how to handle difficult situations, gain more power and influence, build self-esteem and credibility with others,  set boundaries, and hold others accountable. Contact Dr. Arredondo and Dr. Liang for more information about our coaching practice through www.arredondoadvisorygroup.com or parredondo700@gmail.com


*Adapted from Duckworth, A. (2016), “Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance,” Scribner: NY, NY, 2016.

Brown, B. (January 3, 2011) The Power of Vulnerability TED talk, https://youtu.be/iCvmsMzlF7o

Brown, B.’ (2018). Dare to Lead. New York: Penguin Random House Press.

Liang, L. A., Ph.D., (2010). Leading through the Fog: Leadership Secrets from Five Top Emerging Leaders. Diversity MBA Magazine, September, 2010.

Liang, L. A,  and Trautlein, B. A. (2010). Leading Through the Fog: Coaching Strategies to Manage Conflict and Build Trust in a Changing World, Diversity MBA Magazine Conference workshop.

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