developUs Blog

September 25, 2017 in Blog

You Are Your First Leadership Development Opportunity

After nearly two decades spent practicing for adulthood, upon your 18th birthday the government deems you an adult. Reflecting upon my 18th, well, the government was crazy. But something magical does happen during those 18 years – you begin to develop leadership skills. Some faster and more obviously than others, but we all do it. Babies cry to alert you that something is wrong. Toddlers test limits to see how far they can push their parents before magically turning into snuggly, smiling, little angels again. For decades teenagers have shouted “You can’t tell me what to do! IT’S MY LIFE!” much to the dismay and heartbreak of their parents.

While I wouldn’t recommend crying, testing limits, or screaming at the top of your lungs to anyone who is looking to take on a leadership role – these natural developmental stages do provide us with the practice we need to get it right later in life.

The “A” Words

Around the developUs office, there are four things we talk about constantly, and they are the foundation for our REALationships model for leaders. The four topics are Awareness, Acknowledgement, Accountability, and Authenticity, and they provide the perfect opportunity to channel that previously erratic leadership practice of our youth. In our model, we take about each dimension regarding self, other, and team – and we always start with self.

Self-Leadership is your first opportunity to develop leadership skills. It all starts with YOU.


If you aren’t self-aware, then your chances of being an influential leader (and what other kind is there?) reduce to almost zero. A leader’s job is to make other self-aware so that they can develop and rise to their potential. Therefore, self-awareness is a good starting point for you too. Do you ask for feedback and listen to it instead of trying to negate it, dismiss it, or defend yourself? Have you taken any professional development assessments, like the TriMetrix DNA, which measures your behavioral style, motivational factors, and competencies? Have you worked with a coach? Here’s the thing about self-awareness: just because you don’t know it about you, doesn’t mean that others don’t know it about you. Check out: for a great explanation of blind spots, and then get excited about discovering them!


This is what I refer to as the “own your $#!@” bucket.” Good, bad or indifferent, own it. Acknowledgment is powerful in relationships with others, and the same is true for your relationship with yourself. Think about the quintessential argument between spouses. Husband makes wife mad. Husband apologizes for making wife mad. Wife wants to know if the husband knows what he did to make her mad. Husband just wants to apologize for her being mad and move on with life. She wants him to acknowledge the impact of his behavior. She wants to hear, “I understand that when I said it didn’t matter if you came with me or not, that that hurt your feelings. It wasn’t my intention at all, but I see how it was hurtful to you.” He wants to say, “I’m sorry you’re mad.” While this is a highly stereotypical example, it makes the point about what acknowledgment is. “I’m sorry you’re mad” is about other-person awareness. “I’m sorry I made you mad” is a bit better. But the example above, if ever spoken by a husband, demonstrates a level of self-awareness and acknowledgment that many wives would love to have. It’s about speaking your self-awareness. Acknowledgment is sharing your truth about you. It demonstrates the vulnerability, which, by the way, is a sign of strength, not weakness, and brings self-awareness to life.

Awareness without acknowledgment is like peanut butter without jelly. It’s ok, but it so much better when it meets its pair.


As you may know from the REALationships work that we do, accountability gets a bad rap. It’s not, as many people think, about begin in trouble. Accountability means that what you do matters. lists ‘responsibility’ as the primary synonym for accountability, and who doesn’t want to be described as responsible? If you look at the definition there, it also lists blameworthiness, which at first, I didn’t like so much. But after unpacking it a bit, I realized that they’re right. It is about blameworthiness, especially when we are talking about self-accountability. If you are trying to eat healthily, let’s say, doing a WholeFood30 challenge, and you decide to eat a burger and fries, well, who’s to blame for that? Here’s the thing, non-leaders blame the situation. “Well, I was out with friends (or clients), and they didn’t have anything WholeFood30 approved on the menu.” Leaders, on the other hand, hold themselves accountable. “They did have a grilled chicken option. I could have ordered that with veggies instead of fries, and asked them to hold the sauce.” If you can’t hold yourself accountable for the goals you set for yourself, then how are you ever going to hold anyone else accountable? If you aren’t, what’s preventing you from believing that your goals matter? And if you don’t have goals, set some, and then hold yourself accountable for taking steps to achieve them – it’s good practice.


Authenticity is the end-all-be-all of leadership. Here’s why. People have a built-in BS meter. There’s nothing that turns people off more than disingenuousness. You know people that make you wonder “Why is he acting like that? That’s not ‘him’ at all.” Or worse, “She doesn’t even realize that we can all see through her.” Those are the people that you wouldn’t follow for all the money in the world if you had the choice. John Maxwell, during a JMT Training session I attended once said, “Authenticity is the most important word in leadership today.” He makes a great point about people wanting to follow authentic leaders, not perfect leaders. And you know what the best part is? Self-awareness, self-acknowledgment, and self-accountability are the building blocks of authenticity. A great coach can help push you over the finish line by holding you accountable for being authentic.

Four Things

In order to create a space where others want to follow you, these four things need to happen:

  • Figure out and get good with what you are and are not (awareness)
  • Own it (acknowledgment),
  • Make sure that you are assuming responsibility for yourself (accountability)
  • Be yourself – because as Mike Robbins says, “Everyone else is already taken” (authenticity)

Next Steps

Share with us on social media @developUs which “A” you find most valuable, and a random winner will be chosen to receive one of our favorite books: Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken by Mike Robbins.

Self-leadership is your first and best opportunity to develop leadership skills. BRINGING YOUR “A” GAME is a paradigm-shifting keynote for anyone in a relationship-driven role or business, connect with us at to discuss bringing this keynote to your teams.

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