Feb 2, 2024

Your Leadership is in Your Story

My chest swelled with laughter and curiosity as the closing keynote speaker, Jade Simmons, walked out on stage in a bear onesie. Yes. A 6-foot black woman was closing a professional conference in light brown fuzzy pajamas with a bear-eared hood and soft paws.

A bear onesie

At that moment, I realized I’d been hiding and limiting my own effectiveness as a leader.

Jade continued her keynote (which included shedding the onesie and putting on some amazing glittery boots), and I continued to see how fear would

  • Block me from achieving the clients, impact, and income I wanted.
  • Hinder me from building the team I needed and leading them well.
  • Keep me in self-doubt, second-guessing myself with almost every decision.

Have you been in this place?

Wanting confidence and peace in your life as a leader but feeling like it’s not for you? Craving clarity but stuck in indecision? Dreaming of growth and promotions but pulled back to a pattern that keeps you from getting what you want?

Listening to Jade that day wasn’t the first time I’d been in that place. In the past, I tried several ways out that weren’t only ineffective but not the person I wanted to be.

  • Competition: I have to beat other people or even worse, put them down to make me look better.
  • Complacency: I guess this is the way of the world. I just have to stay with way.
  • Circumvent: I’ll just avoid it. If I pretend it’s not there, then it’s fine.

Yeah. Not a good look.

What I learned is outside actions aren’t the starting place of growth and effective leadership.

Great leadership begins with the stories you tell yourself.

In my keynote Rewrite the Self-Doubt Soundtrack on leadership mindset, I talk about self-efficacy (which is just the academic word for confidence). Leadership mindset begins with your internal narrative. That story determines your actions which determines your results. To change the results, you must start by identifying the story.

Step One: ID the Story

The fear I recognized came from some old stories, many from a toxic leader. And these stories were just running like Muzak in the background. I’m not paying attention to them at all, but humming along and acting like they’re true. 

Do you have these stories? Regina George from high school is still telling you no one likes you when you wear that. That one aunt is still in your head, saying you’re bossy and people won’t want to be with you. That ridiculous guy in college is still repeating you’re not smart enough to be in charge.

Here are a few of my old stories:

You can’t be funny and joyful and professional.

You don’t know enough. You have to rely on other people’s expertise.

Your ideas are too much. That’s not how the world works.

The reverb of these messages has echoed in my mind in meetings, in my communication, and on stages.

“Don’t make a joke, or they won’t think you’re an expert.”

“Don’t put that point of view out there. Someone may be offended.”

“Don’t laugh too loud and too much. People don’t like that.”

I learned how to identify those stories and change them. Then I changed my actions.

Those actions led to some exciting results.

Step Two: ID the Story Again

As Jade spoke brilliance in her silver boots, I considered 2023. My biggest year in business ever. The most people I’ve ever served. The largest organizations. I wasn’t hiding because I didn’t know how to handle my internal dialogue. It was because the next level of growth is scary.

The thing is, this process of identifying stories isn’t one-and-done. Great! Learned that lesson, NEXT! Every new level-up, new experience, new growth, there’s a new layer or new set of stories to identify. This is a foundational leadership skill from your first associate manager role through CEO and Board Chair.

This process is so powerful and critical to leadership that I use it with my corporate and individual clients and have built it as a key part of the Joyosity Retreat. And I absolutely need to walk this path myself.

I have this amazing vision of transforming global workplace culture so work is a joy, people are whole, and organizations flourish. I can’t hide in small stories and work alone to achieve that.

Dream for just a moment: You have the confidence and skills not only to lead your team, but to create success for you and your organization. And it comes without sacrificing who you are and the life you want to live. Breathe that in for a moment. What does that feel like for you?

For me, it feels like liberty.

If you don’t like funny with expertise and substance, I’m not your girl.

If you think a leader knows all the answers and never demonstrates vulnerability…I wish you well, and may the road rise to meet you as you click the unfollow button.

If you want explosive growth and the most alive feeling that leads to amazing organizations and deep joy as a leader, come with me. We’re starting with a great story.

Here’s your first step:

Tell me in the comments: What’s the story you’re thinking of right now? How is it impacting your results?


  1. […] Last week, we talked about how great leadership begins with the stories you tell yourself because your stories determine your actions which determine your results. (If missed it, read the full article here.) […]


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