GCM248 | Reimagine Leadership

 Now more than ever is the time to reimagine what leadership is and should be. The expectations on leaders have changed from what they have been for so many years. The value of diversity and inclusion is now paramount. In this episode, Wendy Ryan joins Rodney Flowers to share her thoughts on what leadership should look like in this new era. Wendy is the CEO of Kadabra, a team of leadership and organizational change experts based in Silicon Valley, California. Today, she gives a peek into some lessons you can take from her book, Learn Lead Lift: How To Think, Act and Inspire Your Way To Greatness. Tune in for an insightful discussion on what to look for in leaders in terms of how to lead, what we need to learn, how we need to lift people.

Listen to the podcast here:

Reimagining Leadership For The Future With Wendy Ryan

I am excited about the show. I have a special guest with me by the name of Wendy Ryan. She’s the CEO of Kadabra. It is a team of leadership and organizational change experts based in Silicon Valley, California. With many years of combined experience in human resources, organizational development, nonprofit leadership and executive coaching, Wendy has partnered with hundreds of individuals and organizations throughout the US.

Wendy helps C-suite leaders and board members achieve success as individuals and in teams. She’s here to share her knowledge about leadership, how to lead, what we need to learn, how we need to lift people. She’s actually written a book called Learn Lead Lift: How To Think, Act and Inspire Your Way To Greatness. She’s going to talk to us about that book. I highly encourage you to go grab that book and read it because there are some really good things about what it means to be a leader. We’re going to dive into that. Welcome, Wendy, to the show.

I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Thank you for who you are and how you are showing up in the world. I really am impressed with your idea of leadership and what it means. I love the title of your book because not only is it a great time, but it insinuates a responsibility to learn, to lead and to lift. As we get started, I would like to understand what inspired you to write that book?

Thank you for all of that, first of all. In terms of what the origin story for the book was about, I’ve always been a writer and loved writing. I had good feedback about it over the years. It’s always something I knew I could do, but it never felt like the right time. It never felt like the stars aligned. I was in a place. The world was in a place where it was the right time to write a book.

I started getting close to my 50th birthday in 2018 and I said, “This is a big deal. You’ve been on the planet for half a century. What do you have to show for it beyond how many kids you have, relationship status, all those traditional markers? This is a good time to take some inventory. Think about all the things I’ve learned, working with all the amazing teachers I’ve had,” a lot of which have been my clients.

Also, I want to test some assumptions. I like to figure things out, put things together, but then I want to kick the tires. I want to challenge my own assumptions and see, “Is the way that I’m thinking the best way to think about this?” That’s what I did. I went out, interviewed a whole bunch of people and looked for people who could talk about leadership from a whole different perspective.

I get frustrated when I see people visualizing leadership as, “This is the person who’s sitting at a boardroom table somewhere.” It’s a corporate idea or, “This is a politician at a podium.” That’s such a narrow view. I wanted to see what else is out there? What other perspectives are out there that all of us can learn from before I put out what I think good leadership looks like? That was the genesis of the book.

GCM248 | Reimagine Leadership

Learn Lead Lift: How To Think, Act and Inspire Your Way To Greatness

In this book, you are changing what a leader looks like. What do you feel has changed? Why do we need to look at leadership differently now versus yesterday?

The majority of people still look at leadership and I already hinted at it in terms of they think about it in a really narrow context, but beyond that, it’s recognizing that most of our organizational or leadership systems are based on the middle of the 20th century and they haven’t changed a great deal. That’s because it worked for a certain group of people. It didn’t necessarily ever work, especially well for most people. We’re now in a time where we’re becoming better at recognizing that. We’re starting to get some skills in some spaces around talking about that.

It’s important that we build on that foundation and say, “How do we reimagine leadership in such a way that it does serve a much broader swath of people now and into the future? We’re not going to be the exact same people in 2040 that we were in 2020 for a lot of different reasons.” The urgency around that is also pretty palpable to me when we think about what’s happening in the world? How we’re starting to think about the social contract more broadly? Leaders have a critical role to play in helping us move forward in a productive way.

Let’s drill down on that because I think this is going to be fundamental to the rest of the conversation here. You mentioned leadership was developed systematically based on the need to lead a certain group of people. Let’s talk about that. What were the details around the way the system or leadership expectation was developed?

It’s important to acknowledge that, particularly if we go back to the mid-20th century when people thought about leadership or the people that we would see in positions of leadership or overwhelmingly white cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied men. That was what was most typical at the time and we still see people that identify that way are still overrepresented in most leadership roles. It has shifted and it is shifting. When we think about people who are working in academia or people that were in positions to study leadership or organizations, those were the models.

The people that we trusted to help us move forward in leadership tended also to be white cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied men. There was a huge number of perspectives that were not part of that conversation of what leadership could be and should be. We’re just at the dawn of starting to recognize some of the consequences of that. What have been the consequences we’ve already seen, and then what will be more consequences if we continue without making a pretty dramatic shift?

What are some of the consequences you have recognized or experienced as a result of that?

There are different levels and depending on when I’m working with clients. We’re talking about these things. I tend to want to figure out, “Are we going to be able to talk about this from the level of the business case or can we go deeper into a moral foundation around all of this that’s important to acknowledge?” Sometimes people aren’t ready to talk about that. If we start with the business case, it’s simple math.

In our current system of leadership, we do not do a great job of harnessing the best talent out there or pulling people into leadership roles that would be the most successful in leadership. We’re fishing from a very small pond relative to the native talent that is out there. The quickest way to talk about the business case is what are we missing in terms of talent, innovation, creativity and performance by having that narrower pool. Obviously, that translates into financial performance, which is what every business has to care about. Whether you’re for-profit, not-for-profit, it doesn’t matter. We all have a budget. We all have to have to make money.

Leaders have a critical role to play in helping us move forward in a productive way. Share on X

There’s a non-financial, non-business case portion of this conversation, but I think it’s more important. There’s a personal responsibility that doesn’t have to be recognized whenever we make it about business. We removed the personal aspect of the conversation. There is more responsibility whenever we have these types of conversations, but I think that more responsibility is the reason why we don’t have the conversation, which is to our demise. I don’t know if the responsibility is one that leaders are willing to take on, which I think is what leaders need to take on-going future.

I don’t want to get ahead of us in the conversation, but I feel that because we make it about the numbers in terms of, “What pond are we going to fish from? What’s the bottom line we need to meet? What are the measures, goals and objectives?” We miss something because organizations, like corporations, are all about people.

There’s a product or service that’s either produced or performed, but people produce and perform that product or service. Without the people, you don’t have the product and you don’t get the service. The most valuable asset isn’t the service, but a product is the people. We don’t talk a lot about the people. We talk about measures, goals, objectives and numbers.

In the book, we talk about the Learn Lead Lift framework for leadership. We talk about mindsets, how you think, skillsets, what you know or know how to do, behaviors, which is how you show up to others and how all three of those things matter. Taking it from a mindset perspective, what you’re speaking to is what I call having a people-first mindset as a leader.

What that looks like is that I think first about who before I think about what or how it needs to get done. That’s not how most of us have been conditioned to think. Especially in the working world, this task needs to get done. We focus a lot on that. We don’t focus on the human that we’re going to be asking to execute on that task.

We’re missing so much in that. By doing that, we’re not saying, “First of all, how is this person going to benefit from doing this task versus somebody else on the team? Am I constantly going to the same person and asking them to do the same task over and over versus this other person over here who really wants to learn how to do that thing?”

We could develop that talent much faster if we thought about who’s benefiting. We tend to fall back on what’s easiest and most natural to us. We fall back on our habits. What people first do is it helps us disrupt that. It helps us stay present with, “Who are these humans that I’m engaging with to do this work?” It opens up a lot more possibilities and opportunities.

What’s missing? Why aren’t leaders doing that? I think that’s a fundamental ask. You don’t need a Harvard degree to be more human-centric. You don’t need a fancy certification. You don’t need this special education, but you and I know that this is an issue. Just about every organization in America, this is an issue in America. Not just at the organizational level, but we’re talking social, political, many facets of areas where we’re dealing with people.

GCM248 | Reimagine Leadership

Reimagine Leadership: The people that we trusted to help us move forward in leadership tended to also be white cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied men. There was a huge number of perspectives that were not part of that conversation of what leadership could be and should be.


This is an issue when we’re dealing with leadership. Leaders aren’t actively taking the role of being more human-centric. What’s required? What’s missing? Why are we having this issue? What can we do to get leaders to a place where they’re willing to act on this and put themselves in a vulnerable place and be more human-centered with people?

Part of the answer is certainly in shifting our systems. However, that takes time and it always takes longer than we think it should or that we want it to. I appreciate your question because that work is essential and it has to go on. However, we need to be able to do something while that is happening. The invitation to individual leaders is, first of all, asking yourself, “Why do I want to be a leader?” Whether you volunteered for the role or you’ve ended up there, you found yourself suddenly with this leadership role. What is your why for that?

What is beyond the title and functional responsibility? Why do you want to do that? Why do you want to put forth the effort? Who are you being as a leader? What kind of human leader are you trying to manifest yourself to be in this world? Instead of buying into a script or something that’s largely unconscious for us of how we should be showing up, there’s an opportunity for us to create that in an intentional way actively. That is the starting point. It has to be an individual seeking of the answer to those two important questions, “Why do I want to be a leader? Who am I being? Who do I want to be as a leader?”

I’m sitting with that question. I know what it means for me. I know that there’s a lot of problems out there. When I ask myself that question, it’s about solving problems. There are problems out there that I want to solve. I need to be a leader in solving them. I need to be a certain way to solve them in terms of demonstrating how to solve those problems. Why is that the way?

I’m trying to make the connection between some of the problems that exist and that being the starting point because that’s not selfish but self-centered. Meaning, understanding who you are and how you can be or what you can be to be a leader in an organization or to a cause, which opens up an array of possibilities. There’s no cookie-cutter answer to that. There’s no model. It’s identifying a need and adapting yourself as a leader to that.

Those questions and that starting point of starting with self are powerful for a couple of reasons. One, we start with telling ourselves the truth. We have to tell ourselves the truth before we can tell other people the truth. When we’re not self-aware, we’re not telling ourselves the truth about why we want to lead or who we want to be as a leader.

It is visible to other people. For example, if I am saying to everyone, “I want to be a leader because I want to help people,” and I haven’t done the self-awareness work to realize that a large part of why I want to be a leader is because I like to be in charge of people. I like to tell other people what to do. There’s a disconnect there. It will come through in my interaction with people.

When I work with people who want to work on leadership, to me, we have to start there. We have to start with, “Let’s make sure you’re telling yourself the truth about why you want to do this,” because that’s going to inform what the journey needs to look like for you going forward. The other part of that is great leadership is really hard.

When we're not self-aware, we're not telling ourselves the truth about why we want to lead or who we want to be as a leader, it is visible to other people. Share on X

It’s not supposed to be about having a title, accolades or recognition. Great leadership isn’t about the visible parts. It’s about the work we do each and every day to show up as great leaders. Unless we’re really clear about why we want to do that in the first place, it’s going to be hard for us to sustain that effort over time. I know you talk a lot about resilience and to me, it’s very much related to that. It’s harder for us to be resilient when we aren’t grounded in why that matters to us and why it is important.

You got to make it purposeful and meaningful to yourself. You find these surface-level leaders where they are the type of people that have the title. They boast in the title, but there’s no hard work done behind the scenes work, grind, consistency and discipline to stick with something.

I think of it as depth too. As someone myself who is an abuse and trauma survivor, I’m a person who appreciates, one, the fundamental impact that has on people, lives and mindsets. Two, the best leaders to me are not necessarily people who have also been through those journeys, but there are people that have the emotional and personal depth to walk with me or someone else who would identify that in a supportive way.

It doesn’t mean, “Do therapy for me. Solve my problem for me,” but it’s having this emotional depth and capacity. We need that so much in this world because so many people can identify with trauma, hard things, multi-generational hardship. Unless someone has been through some hard stuff or has some familiarity with what that’s like, you’re going to get that superficial sense of who they are and their leadership. It’s very consistent.

You’ve brought up where we are in society nowadays and the call for leaders as a result of that going forward. What type of leader are we looking for beyond someone who’s resilient and has the capacity to deal with hardship and walk with people through hardships? What type of leader helps assault the hardship to help us not just cope with it but dissolve it all together?

There are six mindsets in the Learn Lead Lift framework. I talk about them in the book, but to speak to your question, one is that identity matters and the other is the growth mindset. We need to, one, recognize that we’re always a work in progress. In leadership, there’s no finish line. There’s no, “I’m done learning. I’m done growing. I’ve got this leadership thing down. I read Wendy’s book and I’m all good.” It is a continual lifetime commitment to getting better.

Secondly, identity matter challenges the notion that many of us were taught, which is, “I’m not supposed to notice when people are different.” We’re all in a meritocracy. We all can succeed if we just try hard enough individually. Individual effort and individual grit is the main determinant of success. Many of us have already known for a long time. Some of us are newer to the realization, but we know that’s not true. Unfortunately, as much as we might wish to think we’re in a meritocracy, we are not functioning in a meritocracy. Some people are starting in a much different place than others are.

Even if you have grit in spades and resilience in spades, the starting point for you is going to be different for else. To me, in terms of what comes next for leadership, we have to acknowledge that and we have to say, “I’m not going to run around pretending that we’re all the same that I, as a leader, don’t have to think about that. Instead, I need to understand who I’m working with and what is impacting their ability to show up at work? What are the things that are challenging for them in their personal life?”

GCM248 | Reimagine Leadership

Reimagine Leadership: Instead of buying into a script or something that’s largely unconscious for us of how we should be showing up, there’s an opportunity for us to actively create that in an intentional way.


Do I need to know all the details? No, but I need to understand that we’re not all the same and not all starting at the same place. Those are really fundamental shifts that are very tough for some people to make, especially tough to try to make all by themselves. It takes work, effort and education. Mindset work is a place where working with a coach can be so helpful because it’s very hard for us to look in the mirror and see ourselves clearly, see where we have an opportunity to grow in our thinking very clearly.

You’re talking about meeting people where they are. I feel that many of the leaders know to a certain degree that not everyone is in the same place. One of the issues I’ve experienced is the tendency to be more attracted or tend to go to those that they’re familiar with. There is some familiarity to this group of people that what you’re talking about is a little easier like, “I don’t have to. I know what that box is pretty much going to look like when I open that up, but if I step outside of that to something else, I don’t know if I’m going to be willing to even accept what I’m going to get.” It’s being willing to meet people where they are, but more so meet anyone where they are because we can say meet people where they are, but that’s a good target who you’re meeting where they are. I think there’s some expansion to that to include anyone and everyone where they are.

It’s our natural human tendency. The way we are biologically wired is to have an affinity bias. That’s what I think of what you were talking about, where we just feel safer at a fundamental level when we are with people we perceive to be like us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t move into the future or we can’t live in the present intentionally so that we’re not just following along with that bias. We have the ability to say, to recognize that and say, “I get that my most comfortable is when I’m at home, my environment, things and people I’m used to, people who look like me and all of that.”

As leaders, that’s not where we can allow ourselves to stay. We have to be intentional about cultivating professional networks and personal networks with people that don’t look like us and don’t have the same life experience. That can be uncomfortable, feel awkward and feel like you walk into a space and like, “I’m the only person that looks like this. I’m the only person that uses a wheelchair. I’m the only person who happens to be married to someone who shares the same gender identity.” That’s uncomfortable and it’s okay for us to be uncomfortable. For us to be great leaders, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable a lot of the time in order for us to continue to get better and make great things happen. That’s part of our job.

Maybe instead of calling ourselves leaders, we should call ourselves discomfort corralers or something we should build that word in, somehow. I wish we could because it would help us start with the right expectations for what we need to be doing, what the work is we need to be doing to really be great and to help other people be great at this.

I’m not as nice as you. It’s not okay, especially going forward. There’s a part of me that has a low tolerance for what has been accepted as the status quo. On both sides, we have to be comfortable with being leaders and being led by individuals that don’t look like you or have a different background. One of the things that I was adamant about working for the government was that I was the lead for the individuals with disabilities advisory team for a couple of years. One of the things that I wanted to change is I wanted to see more individuals in leadership positions that what is labeled as disabilities. I don’t consider the individual physical challenges as disabled. I don’t like the label and I think it’s so inaccurate.

I want to see people that had a visible challenge in a leadership position. I know that is very uncomfortable for people. Some people have a serious problem being led by someone whom they would consider a handicap. Once you get into that category of handicap or disabled, automatically, you’re put in a condescending category or something lower. To be in a leadership position is very polarizing and I love it. That’s exactly what we need, not just for individual disabilities with Blacks, Latinos or anything different than the status quo. No disrespect to what is there. I just think we need more of a variety and you can’t tell me that there are not people out of all of these different categories that are considered minorities.

Do you mean telling me there are no leaders in that category? That’s BS. Obviously, there’s some type of bias, either conscious or unconscious, that’s happening. I think it’s more conscious than unconscious. That’s preventing the flavor of leadership. What I mean by flavor is the entire gamut of flavors within leadership. That is absolutely what’s necessary to go forward because when you have one flavor, I’ll just call it that of leadership, you’re only going to get one flavor of leadership. What’s missing is the keyword value of the different flavors.

Great leadership isn't about the visible parts. It's about the work we do each and every day to show up as great leader. Share on X

That’s what we need going forward. Not just in organizations but across all political platforms. I’m not advocating for Black. I’m advocating for all varieties. I’m a Black person. I love my culture and all. I still think to be inclusive is to include all ethnic groups. That’s my stance. That’s what leadership needs to look like going forward in the future.

It will make for a more resilient, strong team, more collaborative because, in order for that to happen, it goes back to what you said. We have to go inside and ask ourselves, “What it means to be a leader? Why do I want to be a leader?” That is a very important question because if you do not include all ethnic groups in the answering of that question, then you might want to question your reasoning behind wanting to be a leader in this era, in my opinion.

I appreciate that and we see it very similarly. The Learn Lead Lift framework assumes that leadership is not, “I’m the person that knows the most about this thing. Therefore, I get to be the leader.” Leadership is, “I’m going to bring people together who might have perspectives, ideas and expertise that will together help us figure out what the best path forward is.” It’s all about relationships. It’s all about convening a wide variety of perspectives.

As you’ve called out, we’re not going to get that wide variety of perspectives if everybody looks the same, if everybody’s life path and experiences are the same, if they’ve all got college degrees from 1 of 5 schools that doesn’t happen. It’s much less about what is your CV or resumé as it is about how you are able to show up with and for others so that together we can get something done, together everybody makes their best contribution?

This goes back to the beginning of the conversation where we were talking about measures, objectives, goals and making decisions based on those things. I did a podcast interview with the government a few years ago on the topic of diversity and inclusion. We were talking about how can we be more diverse? How can we be in one inclusive organization?

This ties into what you’re talking about. It’s not checks in the box with training on diversity and making sure that these different ethnic groups have certain amenities at work. It’s more than that. It’s hard-centric. That’s what’s missing. We’ve done a lot of things in terms of accommodating individuals that have physical challenges. We have the events for the different ethnic groups in order to attempt to be more inclusive.

We’ve done a lot of things. Those things are great. Don’t get me wrong. They’re awesome. We do a lot of activities that bring people together, but what’s missing is people are just showing up because this is something that we have to do. It’s one of those things that are, “This is mandatory. It’s part of the criteria. Now we have to do this.” It’s not heartfelt. It’s like you’re made to go to school, so you’re there, but you’re not really there.

You’re just there because you have to be. You’re not really learning anything. You can’t wait for it to be over because you think about what you’re going to do as soon as it’s over. You never were present with the idea. You’re just doing it because it’s something that you have to do. If we can’t get beyond that and open up our hearts to people, especially as leaders. We’re never going to get there. We’ll keep doing the same thing we’re doing and we’re going to keep getting the same thing we’re going to. It’s probably going to get worse, in my opinion, if we don’t change our hearts.

GCM248 | Reimagine Leadership

Reimagine Leadership: We have to be intentional about cultivating professional networks and personal networks with people that don’t look like us and don’t have the same life experience.


I look at challenges differently. I think a lot of times of the things that show up, I choose to look at them as a wake-up call, “What is it about me? This could be to teaching me. Where am I in this?” We’ve had this happen over and over where these are opportunities for us to open up our hearts, even more, to see where we’re falling short. We’re falling short to me as a human race on being more human-centered from the heart.

A lot of people don’t want to talk about this stuff at work because we want to go back to the objectives, bottom lines and the checks in the box. Organizations and corporations are all about people. People are human beings. We don’t have the resources to get this done, those people that were families that have goals, dreams and ideas that are dealing with shit.

As you’re speaking it, what came up for me was that love is a verb. It is supposed to be active. It is supposed to be about putting ourselves forward for someone else and showing up for them. When you speak to heart-centered work or leaders being heart-centered or human-centered, it doesn’t rely upon me or depends on having this warm and fuzzy feeling inside all the time. Sometimes we think about love in a very narrow context. The kind of love that you’re talking about, which I agree is a big part of the leadership equation now and going forward, is, “Who am I being for others? How is that translating into my behavior for others?”

I’m not always going to feel it at a deep emotional level, but interestingly, when that is my mindset, I am focused and intentional that way. There is a sense of rightness, satisfaction, contentment and joy that you can experience when that is your orientation. We need that. A practice that I try to build in is each morning, I’ve talked about the new leadership calculus and how we’re living in VUCA times, we need to have IE leadership, which stands for inclusive, equity-minded, authentic, and trauma-informed. I’ve been integrating the practice of waking up each morning and saying, “How will I eat my leadership today?” Going back to bed at night and writing down, “How did I eat my leadership today?”

I like it because it’s simple. It’s easy to remember. We can keep it very simple, yet it can still be very powerful and impactful. One of the things I did and wrote down is I attended an information meeting. It was four speakers and a conference and you can essentially partner in different ways. I came away from that and thought to myself, “Could this be helpful for my company and me? Yes, but who else could be served by this that might benefit even more? What could it mean and what could be possible if, instead of investing in ourselves, we donated that investment to someone else?”

I’m not giving that example as something because I’m looking for a pat on the back, but offering it as that’s what happens when we have that mindset is that we are open to those opportunities. The moral of the story is not when he donate or not, that’ll have to be part two show to find out the end, but that’s the thinking that needs to be happening. It’s recognizing that even if I don’t know the person who could receive that gift, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s an amazing opportunity for another leader to grow and thrive maybe. Maybe that’s the path that we need to be on right now.

We do need leaders like that. Another attribute of leaders going forward is this becoming aware of unconscious biases. I’m coming to grips with that. The first thing is to understand that we all have them. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is they don’t think they have it. We can recognize that and then be willing to face it like this like, “Let’s confront it. Let’s see what’s there,” and then we can better it, improve it and change the behavior that bias is causing. That’s where we get to where you are where now there are different behaviors, new behaviors implemented. That’s more serving to the whole versus the individual.

Sometimes when I’m talking to people about bias and we’re working on that, it’s always interesting to me how fearful people are sometimes of engaging in that work. I find myself often pulling in that kind of maternal energy. I’m a mom of three. I’ve had a lot of practice cultivating that maternal energy. To some success or not, we’ll find out later, but it really of saying, “It’s okay to be a little uncomfortable here or a lot of uncomfortable.”

We need to recognize that we're always a work in progress. In leadership, there's no finish line. Share on X

It’s going to be okay when you can recognize you have these biases without going down the rabbit hole of not being able then to move forward and work on it or feeling so badly about yourself that you can’t do anything else all day. It’s a place where we benefit a lot from having some help and support with how to do that.

We’ve got to do the work and it’s individual. All of us have to do it. It doesn’t matter how we identify or what we look like. We all have to be doing it. You go back to the well multiple times because there’s always more to discover, unpack and drill into there. That’s okay. I tell people like, “Take it in layers. We’re going to attach this. We don’t have to eat the whole cake today. We’re just going to work on the top layer today and next week, we’ll get to the next layer.” I’m an optimist/realist. I try to create spaces for people to make meaningful progress each time that we meet or that we have a session, but ultimately I want people to walk away feeling like, “That was hard, but I can do this and I can keep going. It’s okay. I’m safe in this space doing this work.”

Giving people that safety and space to show up as their ugly selves is important. We can all look great all the time. For Instagram, I got this idea of rather than get all dressed up once a month, record a whole bunch of Reels and all of that, which some people do and they look great, I said, “I’m going to start getting up every morning while I’m still in my bed head hair, I’m just going to start recording my first thoughts.” I usually wake up with my best thinking. It’s hard because I look at myself at those videos and I’m like, “You can see your 52 years staring back at you,” but it’s real.

That’s the judgment that is holding us down. We can have a biased judgment on ourselves that prevents us from showing up as our best selves. I was just talking to my trainer and he was telling me about a new book. It talks about how winning is dirty. When he said that, “I was talking to my mentor about that same thing. I don’t even want to listen to anyone who looks like they’re perfect and excellent. They show up every day.” That’s not winning. In order to win, you have to get dirty. If you’re sitting up on the podium and you don’t have a grain of dirt on you and I’m supposed to want to be like that, that’s not good representation. That’s a lie because that’s not what winning looks like.

Winning is dirty. I have to get in the dirt in order to win. I love that idea. I’ve adopted that same philosophy. I’m done with the tie. No more. I just want to show up as me. I have scars. A lot of people don’t want to show their scars. I believe in showing your scars because your scars demonstrate that you’ve been to battle, war and you survived. I’m interested in your experience because you’re still here and you got that show for it.

What did you learn out of that? Tell me about that experience I think when it comes to hiring individuals, we are looking for the most prestigious individual to walk through the door because they got paperwork that looks good, but do they have a life experience that is going to be able to engage, connect, work with people and help people feel psychologically safe in order to move the organization forward? A lot of times, it’s not the paperwork. It’s not the criteria that they satisfied. It’s the life experience that allows me to connect, engage and be willing to follow you. We just got it backward because to me, to be brutally honest, it’s all about the show, title and ego.

People can see and sense that. They will follow you as long as they have to if that’s the place you’re leading from, but the minute that you quit, get fired or voted out of the election cycle, you’re influenced sentence because that’s not real followership. They’re following the show. They’re not following you.

Leadership is about transformation. You’re not transforming through your leadership. You don’t have the dip in your leadership. People are just doing it because they have to. How can people find you if they want to connect with you and learn more about you?

GCM248 | Reimagine Leadership

Reimagine Leadership: For us to be great leaders, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable a lot of the time in order for us to continue to get better and make great things happen.


A great way to start connecting with me is through LinkedIn. If you’re interested in the book or learning more about me, you can go to LearnLeadLift.com. That’s the book’s website. You can buy it on the website. Anywhere books are sold. There are a lot of links on there. There are also opportunities to download free resources. Try it before you buy it.

If you want to check out the framework or start to try on some of these concepts, you’re welcome to do that. I want to make sure it’s accessible to people that are ready to go on this journey, but let’s definitely connect. For your readers, my invitation is don’t hesitate to reach out with questions and concerns. Leadership is hard. I see you. I’m with you on the journey. If you need a thought partner, I’m here.

Thank you for doing that. This has been a great conversation. Thank you for your work. Thank you for being willing to talk about this. That’s another thing in terms of leaders. It’s not just the unconscious bias or asking the question of, “Why do I want to be a leader?” It is also being willing to have difficult conversations about what it means to be human. Connecting, being vulnerable with people and showing our not so pristine side, because when we talk about connection, not everyone can connect to the most pristine sound.

We’re trying to show that it’s like a sense of control. It’s like, “I’m better than you. I’m bigger than you. I’m tolerating you. I have more education than you. You should fall on me,” versus, “I understand. I’m with you. I experienced that too. I know how that feels, or maybe I don’t. Can you share your story with me because I’ve never been there?” Going forward, let’s do away with the titles. I have a new structure in my mind for leadership. I think things need to be a little bit different.

It’s the way we’re going out. It’s just time for a shift. Not that it’s not working, but I think there’s a better way. As we wrap things up, what would you say is the thing that we need to do to continue overcoming adversity and challenge as it relates to leadership in the problems that we have that is to take away from this show?

Start with your own self-inventory and make sure that it becomes the beacon for all the work you do going forward. Share on X

I would go back to the two questions we talked about toward the beginning of our discussion, which is, if you do one thing, I just invite you to record with a pen and paper. You talking, draw a picture of why you want to lead and who are you being as a leader or who do you want to show up as a leader? Starting with your self-inventory and making sure that it becomes the beacon for all the work you do going forward.

Thank you so much for stopping by. It’s been a wonderful conversation.

Thanks so much for having me.

Another successful episode. Why do you want to be a leader? Who are you being when you lead? Those are very powerful questions. I love the self-reflection in those questions because a lot of times, when we think about being a leader, it’s all about who we can get to follow us. Self-reflection is the most powerful thing about a leader. I believe leadership is all about service.

It’s all about empowering the people and putting them in the best position to win. It’s not so much about you. It’s about the people that you lead. You have to be a certain type of person or a certain type of person to be that type of leader. I love what Wendy is saying here. Before you ever step into leadership, what is that avatar of yourself?

What is that character of yourself? Who are you? What do you want to be? It’s a very powerful and important question. If you are a leader, maybe go back and do this reflection. Maybe you identify something that comes up for you that would cause you to want to change your style or become a better leader.

If you’re starting out and leadership is on your mind as a possibility for you, this is a great exercise to get a deeper reflection on what that could possibly look like for you going forward and not just for you, but for the people that you lead. This is a great exercise because the evaluation of ourselves is so important as leaders. As leaders, we have great responsibility because we’re leading and people are watching. People are following us.

It’s not something that we take lightly. I invite you into that exercise and not just one time. I think that’s something that we want to practice over and over. We ask ourselves that regularly. Self-reflect regularly. That’s how important leadership is. I would like to know how that goes for you. Let me know. Reach out to me. Tell me what’s coming up for you when you do that exercise? Reach out to Wendy. Let her know what’s coming out with you. Connect with someone. Let’s discuss this. Let’s have the conversation. This is an invitation. Until next time.

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About Wendy Ryan

GCM248 | Reimagine LeadershipWendy Ryan (she/her), MHROD, is the CEO of Kadabra, an interdisciplinary team of leadership and organizational change experts based in Silicon Valley, California. With over 25 years of combined experience in human resources, organizational development, non-profit leadership and executive coaching Wendy has partnered with hundreds of individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. helping frontline through C-suite leaders and board members achieve success as individuals and in teams.

In her consulting work, Wendy’s ability to build trust and rapport with her clients, and her agility in assessing and engaging individuals and teams from “where they are,” facilitates breakthroughs and business results. She is an expert in organizational and individual assessments, leadership development, strategic visioning and implementing change from start-ups through the Fortune 500. Wendy customizes research-based best practices to work with each client’s unique culture and business model. She understands the dynamics of entrepreneurship, venture capital and private equity funding and seamlessly integrates those dynamics into her work for the benefit of her clients.

In addition to her work with Kadabra, Wendy is an active mentor, strategic advisor and angel investor in early stage, BIPOC, LGBTQ++ and womxn-led companies and an advocate for expanding diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the investor and business ecosystem.

Wendy holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resources and Organizational Development from the University of San Francisco and a post-graduate Certificate in Management and Innovation from Bentley College and dual Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology and Spanish from the University of California at Davis. Wendy was previously certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Her first book, Learn Lead Lift: How to Think, Act, and Inspire Your Way to Greatness was released in May 2021.
Visit www.learnleadlift.com or www.wearekadabra.com for more details.