Transition from “People Pleaser” to “Leader” in 6 Easy Steps

“If you want to make everyone happy don’t be a leader – Sell Ice Cream.” – Steve Jobs

I love Steve Jobs and he wasn’t always liked – in fact the company he started fired him. He wasn’t portrayed as a very “nice” person in the movie about his life. So why do I like a person who wasn’t very nice? Well, he had courage and he was a Leader and he didn’t worry if people liked him or not. Lots of people love reading inspirational quotes and imagine themselves stepping into their leadership potential and being powerful. But making that a reality is not always easy. Most of those daydreams stay just that – pure fantasies that stay in people’s minds.

So how did Steve Jobs navigate these tumultuous waters so well? I’ll give you a brief overview of his journey. At the age of 21 Steve was a co-founder of Apple and by the age of 23 he was a millionaire. He was revolutionary, visionary and changed the landscape of the computer industry. But by the age of only 30 he lost it all – with a very public shaming and failure. His own company fired him. Most people would throw in the towel and quit. walk away. feel defeated and just hide away. Yet, Steve had resilience and a deep belief in himself and his ideas. And what happened? He came back in a big, big, big way. In fact, I bet many of you are reading this article on your iPhone!

As a leader we will have creative ideas that may be brilliant that everyone will disagree with (because they have never imaged this before!); or we will draw boundaries and people will get upset; or we will manage our teams, and team members may not like our management style.

It feels uncomfortable, scary and lonely when people aren’t happy because of something we may do. So what do we do when people don’t agree with us or aren’t “happy” with us? We fold, we hide away, we people please. Our inner voice tells us, “Let’s make everyone happy and be liked!!” Even if that is not the conscious thought in our minds, it is what is going on unconsciously in the background. We put our ideas to bed because they may rock the boat. We may silently be saying to ourselves, “It is better to come to work each day, have zero conflict and go home at night feeling safe.” Are we bored to death? Yes! But we are safe. No angry bosses or colleagues – whew. Everyone is happy with us. Woohoo, go us. Yet we also find ourselves rarely getting promoted or doing anything notable. People seem to look past us when it comes time for promotions. For some reason, it always seems like someone else is getting our recognition. We don’t really feel very proud of our accomplishments. And eventually we feel unsatisfied and disgruntled with our jobs. Ah…now we are getting somewhere! What is happening under the tip of the iceberg is where all the answers lie – in the unconscious mind. Have you noticed that the majority of people you work with hit a ceiling, stay at a certain level in their careers and never move up any further? Perhaps this is even your story?

Maybe I’ve confused you so I will explain a bit more. The unconscious mind is running the show the majority of the time, even if we think we are running the show. Have you been a “people pleaser” all your life – not wanting to rock the boat? Well then here are a few steps to freedom!

  • Observe and recognize this quality in yourself – without judgement. Just observe that this quality exists.
  • Take responsibility – take ownership of knowing this quality may be holding you back from making decisions as a leader vs. a follower.
  • Take action to make a change – start to make an uncomfortable decision. Step out of your “people pleasing” comfort zone and speak up for what you believe in, share your ideas, move forward in the face of that fear.

Will there be resistance from your own mind? Absolutely! Yet, if you accept that is part of the process and that only you are responsible for your own leadership and career growth; then you will make some serious and wonderful changes in your life!

How do we become more “Leader” and less “Ice Cream Salesperson”?

  1. Ask yourself these questions when you have an idea: Do I believe in this idea? Do I own my voice? Am I rooted in my decision? Do I love my management style?
  2. Own it – all of it.
  3. Then ask yourself, “Is there room for my own growth and learning?” (There is always room for growth – but not for self-doubt!)
  4. Know your foundation is strong and step outside of the comfort zone of being “Nice” & “Liked.”
  5. Take a small spoonful of it to start – you don’t have to go all in right away. Try it once and then try it again. Baby Steps are excellent steps to take because they eventually lead us to running.
  6. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This new world is going to be uncomfortable, but I can promise you will never be bored or overlooked again!

If you want to be a true Leader you are going to have to get comfortable with people not always being happy and you will need to stop slipping into “people pleaser” mode. You are leading people not playing in the playground. This is real life. We have to start living it, living our power, and leading the way!

So, are you a Leader? Or do you prefer to sell Ice Cream and make everybody happy?

joanne newborn
Joanne Newborn is CEO & Founder of Newborn Evolution LLC. She is an Executive Leadership Coach, Trainer and Strategic Advisor working with Organizations around the globe. Her Superpower is interpreting Senior Leadership’s vision and strategy and translating it to achievable goals to ALL levels of an organization from C-Suite to Middle Management to Individual Contributors. She and her team are transforming organizations’ visions into results by using a unique blend of Eastern & Western Methodologies. She has her MBA from Penn State, her ACC from the International Coaching Federation, is a DiSC Certified Practitioner and a DEI Certified Coach. Her company is a Certified Women-Owned Small Business and a Silver Associate Member of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association. She can be seen speaking on Leadership and Building High-Performance Teams around the US and at Conferences and Universities. You can connect with Joanne on LinkedIn or visit her website.

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