Leadership is evolving, and it needs to. A one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach is no longer working, and for good reason. The immense change we are facing is requiring leaders to be authentic and vulnerable, which means “less fear,” not weak, and in touch with their own individual strengths and gaps. This requires courage, something I’ve also witnessed in the leadership of the Olympic athletes recently in London.

It requires we go in with eyes wide open to embrace and accept who and where we are if we are going to change and grow in a way that is resilient and adaptable. Resiliency and adaptability are principles that underlie true power. “Power over,” a form of intimidation related to fear, cannot engage the hearts and minds of team members. Leaders will have to evolve.

Many employees are just mentally checking out, sabotaging the company, and the best and brightest will simply leave instead of aligning with a leader who is not centered, confident and clear – with empathy and effectiveness – about himself or herself and the value they bring to the table. In order to stay focused, especially with the noise and distraction that seems only to be increasing, feeling comfortable navigating the criticism and the “lack consciousness” of others is more important than ever. It’s time to learn how to stay on track and forget about the biases of small thinkers.

Leaders can learn some of the most powerful lessons in some of the most unlikely places. Take for example, the 16-year-old gold-medal champion gymnast Gabby Douglas and her extraordinary performance at the Olympic Games recently. Raised by a single mother from Gary, Indiana, she exemplifies power, wisdom, and self-respect beyond many adults I encounter and read about.

I read a Chicago Sun-Times sports page article entitled, “Douglas’ Hairstyle in the Cross Hairs.” Yes, this young lady who had won two gold medals in three days and helped the U.S. women win the team event was being talked about in social media about her hair. Yikes! What a sad commentary on the state of people’s mindsets. Her response speaks to her resiliency, adaptability, confidence, and clarity. I can see why, despite her background environmental challenges, she is such a champion and such a leader. In her words:

“I’m like, ‘I just made history, and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short; it doesn’t matter about (my) hair… Nothing is going to change”, she says. “I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it.” (You go, girl!)

Now that’s the truth. Who cares about her hair? How irrelevant. Herein lies some of the most deadly problems in our culture and society; without a vision the people perish.
Too many people don’t have a healthy sense of self-esteem or vision for their life, so they look for anything and anyone to criticize. The leadership lesson from Gabby is that as a leader, one must be comfortable with “self” and stay focused on the vision and mission. One must know how to distinguish between the trivial and what matters. Mindless criticism need not be addressed, and certainly not addressed with emotion, when one knows who she is and where she is going. Change creates fear from others and challenges for the leader.

When you step out of the pack, don’t be surprised if you meet with resistance. This is why your “intrapersonal” relationship is so vitally important. It will determine the quality of your interpersonal skills and the type of culture you cultivate around you. You need to develop your “self” along with acquiring hard skills. It will determine if you can stay focused or get caught up in other people’s drama. Be mindful of where you place your attention, and stop giving away your power to the opinions of others.

This story is an example of wisdom—“Out of the mouth of babes”—that many older adults and leaders can learn from.

Author's Bio: 

Valencia Ray, M.D. teaches business owners and corporate leaders how their amazing brain can actually hijack personal power -- not in the abstract, but in the context of integrating business and personal life. Dr. Ray, a board-certified eye surgeon and medical business owner for over 20 years before selling her practice, shares her own life changing process. By sharing her story, she helps others to expand their vision and learn that by living with purpose and confidence, it is possible to have a more integrated, healthier lifestyle – with less struggle, more inner peace and more abundance.

For more information and to contact her regarding dynamic, inspirational keynotes, trainings in collaborative leadership and team building, entrepreneurship and coaching programs, visit her website at http://www.ValenciaRay.com