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Betsy Myers: Because We All Lead

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If you are currently a leader, or wish to become one, this article will become a treasured heirloom. I invite you to meet a woman who will change the way you view leadership. You will see yourself from a whole new perspective, and will judge your own performance with an entirely new filter. Interested? By the way, even if you don't consider yourself a leader, keep reading, because you may just change your mind by the end.

When it comes to success and leadership, this woman is the embodiment of both. She was President Clinton's Deputy Assistant and was responsible for launching the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach. As well, she played a critical role in Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign. In 2003, she served as Executive Director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government with a focus around authentic inner leadership. In 2007 she took on the role of Chief Operating Officer of Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign. Today she heads up the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University. Did I mention that she's a devoted wife to her entrepreneur husband, Rob, as well as mom to eleven year old Madison too? Meet, the amazing Betsy Myers.

Betsy has spent the past thirty years studying leadership. Why do some leaders create armies of advocates while other leaders create unrest and disharmony? Betsy says it comes down to authenticity. Authentic leaders are approachable, transparent and passionate while also being focused on their mission. Authentic leaders create tribes, garner followers, and lead by example. They trust their instincts. Those that are authentic can and do move mountains. By the way, Betsy is quick to point out that everyone is a leader -- be it a leader in your company, in a classroom, or at home. Whether you like it or not, be prepared to lead, because there's a good chance someone is following you.

Recently I had the rare opportunity to sit down with this leader, who is as authentic as they come. Join in as we learn the five keys to living life under the authentic leadership model, with Betsy Myers.

Clarity: What's most important to you? Do your everyday actions and interactions serve your purpose? Betsy explains that it's easy to get caught up spending time on things that don't matter to our overall purpose. In Betsy's book, Take the Lead, she talks about the importance clarity played in the team's relentless focus to "win Iowa" during the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign. This clarity provided a filter for the campaign. When there were demands on the schedule, the question became, will this help win Iowa? If not, it didn't make the cut. Betsy says this type of absolute clarity is necessary for leading a great business and amazing life. She is clear on the things that matter most to her and when a request for her time doesn't align with her vision, she simply says no. Myers only travels for things that are important to her. She declines speaking engagements that don't further her personal, business, or university agenda. The goal, says Myers, is to clearly define your own personal Iowa and then use that as a filter to make decisions about your time. The easy thing to do is always say yes. The right thing to do is to only say yes when it furthers your clearly mapped out vision.

Your Network is Like Fine Wine: It gets better with age. Myers says that your network is a byproduct of your reputation. If you are good to people, keep your word, and you are approachable, your network will expand exponentially every year. Myers could fill books with her connections and she's not afraid to use them. She has helped make business connections for others, has made job recommendations, and has helped build friendships within her network. She said she's happy to share her connections, but only with those who she is confident have an authentic reputation. For example, Betsy says that she's had a few people who have worked for her in the past that do the bare minimum to get by in their jobs, in these cases she is not inclined to connect them or give a job recommendation within her network. However, there have also been superstars that have worked for her. These are the ones that exceed all expectations. For people like that, Betsy is the first one to open her rolodex to ignite the connection between exceptional people.

Bloom Wherever You are Planted: Betsy says that the only way to accelerate in life and business is to be exceptional at everything you do. If your first job ends up being in the mailroom of a big firm, be the best employee that mailroom has ever experienced. Too many employees waste so much time feeling entitled to something better and never spend time proving it. Her own successes have been built by making the most of every single job she's ever had. Betsy feels that she's not doing her job unless she's made herself indispensable to the organization she's working for. Being a leader has nothing to do with your placement within a company, says Myers. There are plenty of amazing leaders honing their skills at all levels of organizations. These are the employees that companies cannot live without. In a world where many people do the minimum to get by, there is a ton of opportunity for born leaders to shine. Rarely does it take long for companies to notice, and when they do, these treasures often start climbing to the top of the corporate ladder.

Make a Difference: What does Betsy love most about leadership? Making a difference. Leadership is a two way street. She says that every single person plays a leadership role in life. Through our leadership we have the ability to make a positive impact on the lives of others. As well, others have the ability to enhance and improve ours. For example, Betsy has two dogs and she says that her dogs impact her life in a positive way. They quiet her soul. She plays an important role in their lives by providing food, shelter and regular exercise, and they provide a calmness for her. It's a two way street. All leadership is a two-way dynamic, one that can create a powerful positive impact on both sides.

What's important to note, is that when you are leading, it's not always about simply setting an example as a leader at work and home. In fact, you are always setting an example as a human being. Therefore, every interaction you have throughout the day, from buying your groceries, to dropping some coins in the red Salvation Army canister, to helping your child tie her shoes, becomes an opportunity to let the best of your humanity shine. Those who lead their lives by giving the best of who they are in all of their interactions throughout the day, without setting an inner expectation as to how others should behave, are more than just leaders at their home and office, because they also set an amazing example of humanism with every person they meet.

Lead You: In Betsy's book, Take the Lead, she shares her very personal story of losing her son through miscarriage. It was a busy time in her life and she remembers that she was slated for a business trip that would take her across the country. She didn't feel well and she contacted her doctor over concerns about travelling. She was told not to worry by her medical team, so she boarded the flight and lost the baby later than night, in a hospital far from home. Betsy said that the silver lining to this major loss in her life was that the experience taught her something so fundamental about life -- that YOU are your own leader. You must listen to your own body. You must listen to your own heart. You must ask questions, push the envelope, and always evangelize for YOU, because nobody in the world will ever lead you better than you.

Ready for a radical change in your business and your life? Pull up your bootstraps and lead. There's definitely one person that can lead you to greatness -- YOU. What are you waiting for?