Check ego at the door: 5 questions with leadership expert Cy Wakeman

In a push to cultivate leadership talent and bring more people downtown, major Dayton players including the Victoria Theatre Association and the University of Dayton Center for Leadership have partnered to create a new speaker series that will bring well-known national business leaders to the region.

The series is a partnership between the UD Center for Leadership, the Dayton Development Coalition and the Victoria Theatre Association and is sponsored by Premier Health. The three speakers are leaders who “inspire shared thinking and encourage life-long learning, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation, according to the organizations.

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Cy Wakeman, who will speak Oct. 17, is a New York Times best-selling author and international keynote speaker with over 25 years experience cultivating a revolutionary new approach to leadership, according to her website biography. She was named one of the “Top 100 Leadership Experts to Follow” on Twitter.

Wakeman’s newest book, “No Ego,” points out that ego-driven behaviors are the No. 1 source of drama in workplaces today, and it’s costing organizations billions annually.

This news organization asked her five questions about leadership:

1. What is "reality-based" leadership?

Reality-based leadership is a philosophy by which leaders work to eliminate drama or emotional waste from the workplace through teaching and holding others accountable to using great mental processes. It’s focused on ditching the drama, which is emotional waste in the workplace, and turning excuses into results by getting employees fluent in accountable practices.

2. The average employee spends 2.5 hours per day on drama. What is one concrete step that a leader can take to eliminate workplace drama?

Leaders coach the people in front of them (not group coaching via email or team meeting) so that these individuals can approach their issues or challenges from a much different perspective and with greater skillfulness. Leaders use tools and great mental processes that they teach others and facilitate the application of the tools in real time to find breakthroughs to daily challenges. One of the sets of tools is a series of questions that enable people to bypass the ego and get right into self-reflection and accountability. For instance, when someone is upset and into drama – a simple question such as, “What do you know for sure?” and “What could you do next to add value?” will help the individual move into self-reflection, edit their story, and get clear about reality. This provides a list of options already known to the employee that they can act on to add value.

3. How can leaders get over their own ego and lead without entitlement?

Many of our top Reality-Based Leadership organizations begin simply with one great leader who lived the philosophy themselves. Moving beyond ego is advancing to a place of self-reflection. You can get there by asking yourself some simple questions like: Am I working harder to by right than happy? What would great look like? If I didn’t believe the story I was telling myself about this person/situation, what would I do next to help?

4. How can college students start honing and shaping their own leadership styles?

A great place to start is to check your ego at the door and stop believing everything you think. You’ll see from my leadership lesson in the next question, our stress and suffering do not come from our reality, but the story we make up about reality. In life, a great place to keep yourself ready for what’s next is to recognize that you will always have extenuating circumstances. Succeed anyway.

5. What is the single-most important lesson you've learned about leadership throughout your career?

The most important thing I have learned is that most of our stress comes from the story we make up about our reality, not the reality itself.


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