Angela was a senior leader in various industries and then took the courageous leap to become an entrepreneur. The result: she co-founded Personify Leadership with Michelle Cummings.
Her book, The Courageous Leader: How to Face Any Challenge and Lead Your Team to Success, builds on those many years of experience. Angela shares great client stories to show us how anyone at any level can choose to honor the courageous leader within themselves, as well as some of her own missteps and successes on the road to becoming who she is today. This is a must-read for anyone who aspires to become the type of leader others can look up to.
- When you and your partner started Personify Leadership, how long did it take for you to develop your leadership development program? And how did you end up with its current iteration?
Michelle and I had been working together for a few years prior to starting Personify Leadership. We didn’t know it at the time, but our combined approach to leadership development was the first iteration of our program. After we got serious about developing Personify it took about six months to develop the program and then another two years to finally get it to its current-day status. Every time we hosted a train-the-trainer for facilitators interested in delivering the program, we got such useful feedback and we continued to incorporate it into the program. Even though I’m no longer with Personify Leadership, they still do that to this day!
- The epilogue mentions that the book is based on your Spine of a Leader program and that it’s only of one of the 8 core competencies. Why did you choose to write about courage rather than any of the other ones (e.g., heart, mind, voice, etc.)? And why write this book now?
Funny story. My husband and I were talking about which body-focused competency I thought people most associated with my leadership style. In that conversation, I said I thought it was my heart. He laughed and I tried not to be offended. He then continued to say that the competency that people most associate with my leadership is courage. When I thought about his feedback, I had to agree. I will do what others only dream about and I credit that to courage. We are all capable of that kind of courage and I want others to know that. I can’t say why I picked now versus any other time to write The Courageous Leader except that it was always a goal to channel my experience into a book and when I made it my focus, the time allocated to do the work presented itself.
- Your formula about meaning being the difference between despair and growth really made an impact. (E.g., Despair=Pain-Meaning and Pain Meaning=Growth) Since there are so many people currently unemployed or underemployed, how do you suggest they find meaning while struggling to find employment?
There is nothing easy about being underemployed or unemployed. Nothing. I remember the first time I had to pay rent without a paycheck. The despair I felt almost swallowed me up whole. I do think when we find ourselves in these types of situations the best we can do is to look for hope and beauty to get from one minute to the next. Then when we have enough strength to feel hope and beauty amid our pain we can choose to add purposeful meaning to our situation that leads to growth.
- If you had to choose one courageous leader that most personifies your teachings, who would it be? And can you explain why you chose him/her?
In the public eye, I would choose Abraham Lincoln. Few people know that Abraham Lincoln started out as a business owner before becoming a lawyer and then a political figure. He and a business partner started and ran a local grocery store. When his business partner left town and took all their money, he stayed in town and repaid their debt. Long before he was President he led with integrity and courage in his community.
- Has there ever been a client you could not successfully coach to be true to their inner courageous leader? Can you share the experience? And why do you think this attempt failed?
My client’s success is a lot less about me and my ability to coach and much, much more about them and their desire to do the challenging work. If my client leaves committed to being courageous then they will be, even if they struggle and bobble a little bit along the way. I’ve had a few leaders who have chosen to ignore feedback or are not open to feedback. These are the leaders who do not change their behaviors.
- What is the one action we can take every day to remind us of our values and to be courageous?
Feel the pain and do the right thing anyway. This is the one thing we can do every day that keeps us aligned with our values, who we are, and what we want out of life. Every worthy goal in life has some struggle attached to it. I remember becoming a parent for the first time- the thing that has brought me the most happiness in life- and yet struggled with adapting to the role. It was both wonderful and hard and I couldn’t reconcile the two. I learned over time, as all parents do, that the wonderful and hard parts of parenting will always live in tension with each other. That’s part of living courageous beautiful lives.