What to Do If You’re a Lonely Leader – Four Steps

By Tasha M. Troy

As a college student, I always hated the group activities.  I didn’t understand the value of hearing different perspectives, and I thought my point of view and my way of understanding were the “right” way. I usually volunteered to be the notetaker in those groups so that I could filter the summary of our discussion back to the class.

Boy, I’ve come a long way from those days!

I first understood the power of collaboration while I was teaching in South Korea.  While teaching college-aged students, I began collaborating with another teacher who taught the same level.  Together we created engaging materials for our students.

Later, while working for the Samsung Human Resource Development Center, I started collaborating with a colleague who had complimentary strengths.  I was highly visual, and she was highly auditory. She was very creative, and I had a good sense of organization.  We made a great team!  And I was sold on the concept of collaboration.

I had to learn the same lesson working with my students.  In the first years of my career, when I was doing the “Lone Ranger” thing with lesson planning and preparation, I was also very directive in my classes, assuming I knew what the students wanted and needed.  However, as I began working with professionals instead of college students, that approach wasn’t so effective.  I had to learn to teach collaboratively.


How Can Lonely Leaders Change?

John Maxwell says, “If it’s lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.” I have found this to be true in both working with students and working with other trainers and instructors.  Maybe you’re in a position where you have gotten ahead of your people and you realize you are at the lonely point of leadership.  John has some advice for “lonely leaders.”

The first is to avoid positional thinking.

This was the first thing that I had to change in order to connect with my students, the people that I interact with on a regular basis. I had to stop seeing myself as the teacher and the person with the content. I had to see myself more as “we are in this together, we are all experts in one area or another.” We all have strengths and weaknesses, and together we can move forward farther than if we try to do it alone.

The second is to realize the downsides of success and failure.

This might sound strange – the downside of success?  However, one of the downsides of success is you may find yourself isolated or getting separated. When you are very successful, it’s easy to become egotistical, to start thinking that maybe you don’t need other people or that you can do it on your own, that you are self-sufficient. If we look back to truths about the top, no one got to the top alone.

One of the challenges of failure is to start seeing yourself as less, and that’s not necessarily the case either. If you’re trying to hide your failures, you and your team are going to lose the lessons that could be learned from that experience.

The third piece of advice is to understand that you are in the people business.

It doesn’t matter what company you work for, what industry you’re in, if you are a leader of people, you are in the people business. As an instructor, it’s little easier for me to see that because I’m in the people development business. But even if you’re on the accounting team, the accountants on your team need to know that you trust them, that you believe in them, that you recognize that they’re doing a good job, that you value the work that they do.

And finally, buy into the law of significance.

The law of significance comes from John’s book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. This law states that one is too small a number to achieve greatness. If you have small dreams, small goals, maybe you can accomplish them by yourself. But the bigger the goal, the more people you need to come alongside and help you achieve that goal. Again, this is something I am finding true in my own life. Remember my seemingly small goal of living overseas, which I talked about in my last article?  There were several people who contributed to my achieving that goal.


Take It Deeper

As I wrap up, I want to challenge you to think about a couple of things.

Number 1: Are you better at the science or the art of leadership?

The science of leadership is casting vision and the technical skills of leadership. It’s getting things organized, keeping people on task, getting the assignments right, and accomplishing goals. That’s the science side.

But the art – how are you connecting with the people on your team or the people around you?  How much influence do you have?  How well do you listen?  These are more art than they are science.

Number 2:  How big is your dream?

If you have a small dream, you just need a few people around you to support you. If you have a big dream, you’re going to need to start connecting with people who are like-minded and taking them along on a journey with you.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communicationsor email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.


Does Leadership Have to Be Lonely?

by Tasha M. Troy

When I was much younger, I had the goal of living and working overseas, a goal that I was able to accomplish before I turned 30.  It was not a terribly complicated goal, but for me, it was everything.

In retrospect, that was not a terribly challenging goal. Getting the education, being in the right position, and getting the right training – those were all important, but without the right support and connections, I would never have accomplished my goal.

  • My parents did a lot to support my efforts in towards getting the education I needed.
  • I had to get some teaching experience, and the director of the program I taught with in St. Louis – my first position in my field – took a chance on me.
  • One of the senior teachers mentored me a little bit and opened an opportunity for me to attend a conference, which led to the opportunity to get a job teaching in South Korea.

I couldn’t have accomplished even this seemingly simple goal by myself.

So even my small goal required a network of people around me to support that process.

We often hear the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top.” When I first started teaching and training, that was how I managed the groups that I was working with. I always focused on delivering great content, but I didn’t always get real close or make the effort understand the students.

John Maxwell argues that the phrase “it’s lonely at the top” was never made by a great leader. Great leaders understand that they need to know and understand their people.  This is not just how well they can function on a job, but some of their hopes and their dreams, their values, what is important to them, what truly motivates them. I’ve found the more I get to know people as individuals, the more effectively I can lead them, whether it’s leading them through a class activity or a project or whether it’s leading my friends through a challenging situation or my family through a difficult time. The more I connect with the people, the easier it is to have influence and to lead them.

In his book Leadership Gold, John shares four truths about “the top.” Now everyone’s trying to get to the top of the ladder, the top of the mountain; they want to be at the top of their game, but there are 4 truths that John shares that I think are really relevant.

First: no one ever got to the top alone.

Here in the United States, we often have this focus on a self-made man and how we encourage people to be independent, strong, and off on their own.  We idolize the Lone Ranger, but the truth is, no one ever got to the top alone; even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. This was actually highlighted to me a few years ago when I read a book by Dr. Howard Gardner.

Dr. Gardner is famous for his “multiple intelligence theory.” Simply put, to measure IQ, you measure mathematical and linguistic knowledge, but Dr. Gardner says there are seven or eight different types of intelligence including spatial and bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

In his book titled Creating Minds: An anatomy of creativity seen through the lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi,he took different “geniuses” in these different types of intelligence and showed how their career developed. The truth is, none of them were able to accomplish their incredible success by themselves, regardless of their area of genius. Each of these people had a group around them that challenged them and encouraged them. So no one ever gets to the top alone.

Second: making it to the top is essential to taking others to the top.

This is something that I practice in my own life. I focus on teaching and training communication and relationship building skills, and I know that if I am not continually developing those skills and becoming better and better at handling difficult people, at managing conflicts, etc., there’s nothing I can teach or encourage others to accomplish.

Third: taking people to the top is more fulfilling than arriving alone.

I get such a thrill out of helping other people develop the skills that I am still developing; I’m just a few steps ahead. As I encourage other people, it’s such a fulfilling experience to see people begin to have better relationships and stronger relationships because of just small things that I’ve been able to teach them.

In particular, part of the course that I taught this spring was intense listening, and I encourage people to focus on listening to understand, not listening to respond. I’ve had two people come back and say, “I now have a better relationship with my adult daughter because I’ve taken the time to listen and understand her perspective.” And that is such a wonderful thing for me to hear, that the things I teach actually impact relationships and improve people’s lives.

Fourth: much of the time, leaders are not at the top.

John Maxwell talks about how leaders need to actually go back to where the people are so they can lead them back up. If you are not investing your time and your energy with people, you’ve kind of missed the point of what it means to be a leader. In fact, he said that if you’re leading and nobody is following, all you’re doing is taking a walk. And if you’re too far ahead of the people you’re trying to lead, you’ve lost your ability to influence them.

Take It Deeper

Where I’m at now, my personal mission is to make the world a better place by helping others develop the interpersonal skills needed in a culturally diverse environment. I have to meet the right people who will help me help others. In the end “one is too small a number to achieve greatness.”  I am now focused on finding the people who want to go to the top with me.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

The Missing Ingredient

By Tasha M. Troy

This week I say goodbye to a group of clients that I have been working with for six months.

The EHLS (English for Heritage Language Speakers) Program is an incredible, intensive program – for participants and for trainers.  It is a professional development program focused on professional workplace communication skills and brings together an amazing assortment of international professionals who have committed these six months to their own personal and professional growth.

Even though it is a very intense six months even for me as a trainer, I return to teach this program year after year because it is such an honor to be a part of the growth of these bold and accomplished individuals.  Honestly, I feel I learn as much as I teach!

Last week, each participant gave a presentation in a research symposium, and they all did a fantastic job.  This is where I felt the proudest of them, largely because I, in partnership with another trainer, am responsible for the oral communications training culminating in their symposium presentations.

Of all the teaching and training positions I have held, this one has provided the greatest personal and professional fulfillment for me.  Playing a part in helping others improve their lives in such a tangible way always gives me such a sense of significance.


The Need for Significance

We all need a sense of significance to keep us moving forward.  In his book Intentional Living, John Maxwell quotes Rabbi Harold Kushner, who says, “Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it” (p. 100).  This is what I’ve found in teaching with the EHLS Program.

I suspect that lacking that sense of significance is what makes so many people hate their jobs.

  • A good leader will help their team see the value in the work they do.  According to John Maxwell, “Good leaders listen, learn, and then lead” (Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, p. 49)
  • A bad leader makes their people dread coming in to work day after day.  After all, I’ve heard it said that people don’t quit companies; they quit people.

The simplest solution would be to change jobs, but that is not always possible.  Does that mean most people are stuck with unfulfilling jobs over the long term?  I don’t believe so.


Finding Significance

No matter what type of leader you have, you can always step in and lead yourself.  This is not always easy, but it is always possible.  When you take the time to identify what it is that motivates you, you can find ways to make your situation more fulfilling.

In his book Intentional Living (p. 92-100), John Maxwell provides three questions to help you identify what that might be:

  • What do you cry about?
  • What do you sing about?
  • What do you dream about?

The answer to these three questions will lead you to activities that give you a sense of significance.

This doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly love everything about your job, and you might not even be able to find significance in many of the activities of your job.  However, the more you can identify or build fulfilling roles and responsibilities in to your regular work routine, the more fulfilled you will be.


Take It Deeper

If you are feeling stuck in your job, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start to make a change.  If you need someone to help you ask the right questions to make the best decision, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

For more information about the EHLS Program, visit their website at http://www.ehlsprogram.org.


Works Cited

Maxwell, John. (2015). Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters.

Maxwell, John. (2014). Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership.

Finding Your “Sweet Spot”

By Tasha M. Troy

Growing up, I had been led to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to.  It wasn’t until I read John Maxwell’s book Put Your Dreams to the Test that I was presented with a contrasting view.  I was confronted by “The Reality Question.”

“Am I depending on factors within my control to achieve my dream?”

This question really focuses on if my dream is based on the reality of my strengths and talents or if it depends on blind luck.  Some of my early ambitions were clearly in the latter category.  John Maxwell says, “The trick is to balance the boldness of dreaming with the reality of your situation.”  Fortunately, I eventually figured this out.


The Process of Finding My “Sweet Spot”

As a young college student, I had a dream of living and working overseas.  In retrospect, it was a fairly reasonable goal – I had a talent for learning languages and reluctantly recognized my ability to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a teacher.

When I discovered the field of Teaching English as a Second Language, I knew I had found my ticket to see the world!  I pursued an education that would give me the greatest opportunities in that field.  When I moved to South Korea to teach English to children (still in my 20s), I “finally” achieved my goal.

However, I discovered something unexpected – I don’t have the personality or disposition to effectively teach children!  After only one year, I found work teaching college-aged students in South Korea.  While I was better suited to working with young adults, I still struggled in certain areas and was dissatisfied with my effectiveness.

Eventually, an opportunity opened up to teach professional English skills at a large multi-national corporation in South Korea.  This time I was working with mid-career adults, and I discovered my “sweet spot” – the place where my strengths, talents, and personality converged to make me highly effective.

As John Maxwell says, “When people are going with their strengths and working in their sweet spot, the work they do is simple and easy.”


Facing a New Reality

Today, I have a new dream. I am working towards helping people reach their full potential, whether it is helping professionals in transition to recognize their “sweet spot” or working with teams to develop the communication skills needed in a culturally diverse workplace.

The Reality Question helps me recognize to what extent I am prepared to meet this challenge and to what extent I need to learn more and to collaborate with others to achieve my ultimate goal.  I know the process will take a bit of trial and error, but I am prepared to take this journey of discovery!


Take It Deeper

I challenge you to take inventory today of your strengths and talents.  In the end, it is in knowing ourselves that we are best able to move forward and live a life of purpose and success.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

A Process for Greater Influence


By Tasha M. Troy

In the past 3 years, my level of influence has increased dramatically.

As a trainer in a professional development program at a university, I am often in a unique position of bringing a group together to create a learning community.  Where most workplace teams remain largely intact for long periods of time, every 4-6 months, I’m bringing a “team” together.

For many years, I had noticed – and accepted – that some students naturally connected with me and a small minority simply didn’t.  Whether it was a matter of personality difference, unmet expectations, or my teaching style that turned them off, I never knew.  It was a small enough minority (1 – 2 people in each class) that I decided not to worry about it.  I accepted that not everyone would “click” with me.

However, when I started studying leadership three years ago, I realized that, as the leader of the class, it was my responsibility to connect with the students, not the other way around.  Since that time, I have been intentional about building relationships and rapport with those students and clients who are not naturally drawn to my personality or teaching style – with dramatic effect.


The Five Laws of Leadership

One way to explain the changes I have experienced is to look at the Five Levels of Leadership as described by John Maxwell in his book Developing the Leader within You 2.0.  These are Position, Permission, Productivity, People Development, and Pinnacle.

Position (Rights) – As the instructor of the course, I have a certain position and authority.  It is reasonable to expect that my students and clients will participate in class activities and will complete assignments on time.  This was the level that I operated at for most of my teaching career.  I had a measure of effectiveness, but it was limited when students weren’t naturally drawn to my personality and teaching style, and this caused me trouble at times.

Permission (Relationships) – Especially now, because I work with adult professionals, I have found that depending upon my position as instructor is often not enough to ensure participants get everything they can out of the training.  I have to make a personal connection with each individual, and they have to trust that I have their best interest in mind.

One of the key things I had to change to truly be at this level of leadership was intentionally connecting with each individual student.  Today, when my co-trainers sometimes find they have little influence with any particular student, I find I have considerable rapport because of those intentional connections.

Production (Results) – This is the level where my competence in my content area must be demonstrated and passed on.  I have long been open about sharing my learning experiences with my students; I feel it helps them see that I understand the struggles they are facing, that I relate to their circumstances.  I also often talk about developing communication skills as an introvert, which many of my students are.

However, about 5 years ago, one of my students accused me of not practicing what I was teaching, which are the communication skills needed in a diverse workplace.  This caused me to reflect and examine whether I was living fully into my content or not.  It set me on a path of personal learning and development that gave me greater credibility in teaching these skills.

Today, I am very intentional about not only living what I teach but also increasing my knowledge, understanding, and skill in my content area.  As I model good communication behaviors, my students are better able to learn.

This is also the level at which my collection of students can become a learning community, a team who supports each other, even when their individual goals are different.   As I build rapport with the individuals (on level 2), I learn about their strengths and weaknesses, which enables me to plan class activities that help individuals shine in their strengths and learn to develop their weaknesses in a safe environment.  I often remind my students that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and that we can function better together than individually.

People Development (Reproduction) – Because I teach in personal and professional development programs, my number one goal is to get to the point where my influence can help my students become the best versions of themselves, in particular in their communication skills, but also in their people skills.

Without the rapport I build with my students at levels two and three, I would not be able to move to the fourth level of leadership.  When my students and clients start experiencing success in small ways, I am able to move to the fourth level of leadership.  I try to structure my courses to give participants a quick “win” in order to establish myself at this level.  Then, as the course continues, I have greater influence and can coach them into greater successes.

Pinnacle (Respect) – I am not yet fully at this level of leadership, but it is my goal to positively impact an ever-widening circle of influence.  With each client I coach to reach their goal, with each student who becomes a more effective communicator, I move a step closer to this level.

Take It Deeper

I don’t know where you are in your leadership development journey, but I know that there is always more for you to reach for.  Yes, moving to higher levels of leadership will cost you in some ways, but it will pay you back richly for everything you invest.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.


Empathy: What the World Needs Now


The world today seems a much scarier place than it did 15 or 20 years ago. The culture in the US has shifted in ways that create isolation and frustration to dangerous levels, and we see the results in tragedies over and over again.

And I haven’t had to look at the headlines to see it.  I’ve found this lack of empathy in the lives of the people around me.

The truth is that humanity is wired to be self-centered.  We all naturally see the world in relation to how it affects us and make decisions based on perceived personal benefit.  In the US, with our high value for individualism, this tendency has been given free rein, with occasional catastrophic results.

However, when these tragedies happen, most voices are calling out for “remedies” that seem superficial to me.  I believe the root cause is that people have not developed empathy, or the ability to see the world from another’s perspective.


Personal Maturity

A mark of personal maturity is the ability to put others first, to consider their needs before you consider your own.  In generations past, this quality was valued and celebrated.  In our culture today, people are both ridiculed and praised for this level of maturity.

  • People are often considered a “doormat” or accused of being naïve at best, a fool at worst, when they put others first.
  • People may be praised as heroic or as a respected leader when they put the needs of others first, especially in a crisis.

This maturity level goes by several different labels:  an element emotional intelligence, the key characteristic of level 5 leadership, the foundation of connective influence

However, it seems to me that developing this level of maturity depends on whether you have a scarcity mindset.  John Maxwell says, “Scarcity thinking is all about me.  It says, ‘There’s not enough to go around.  I had better get something for myself and hold on to it with all I have’” (Maxwell, 226).

With this mindset, it is impossible to think of others and to put their needs first.  If we want to develop empathy, we have to start by replacing our scarcity mindset.


Combating Scarcity Thinking

Could it really be that simple?  I believe so.

I once heard, long ago, that the founder of the JC Penny stores was a generous man who tried to out-give God, so I looked a little into his life.  I discovered that the original name of his store was “The Golden Rule,” and he conducted business under that philosophy: “This company’s success is due to the application of the Golden Rule to every individual, the public and to all of our activities” (Barmash).

When he died, he was a very wealthy and successful businessman, in spite of having been wiped out during the Depression.  One of his applications of this principle was in how he treated his employees, whom he referred to as associates, by implementing a profit sharing plan.

There are other examples we can look at – C. J. Walker, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, to name a few – to find that an abundance mindset can make all the difference.

“Abundance thinking is the mindset of people of significance, and it has nothing to do with how much they have. … But whatever they have, they are willing to share because they don’t worry about running out” (Maxwell, 227).  This is the mindset necessary to develop empathy.

If you want to begin cultivating an abundance mindset in your own life, start with gratitude.  I challenge you to daily write down three to five things you are grateful for in your life.  Before long, you will begin to see the world through a different lens – the lens of abundance.


Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.


Works Cited:

Barmash, I. (1971) J. C. Penney of Store Chain Dies; Built Business on ‘Golden Rule.’ The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/02/13/archives/j-c-penney-of-store-chain-dies-built-business-on-golden-rule-j-c.html

Collins, J.  (2001).  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t.

Goleman, D. (2005) Emotional Intelligence

Goulston, M. and Ullmen, J.  (2013).  Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In.

Maxwell, J. C. (2015) Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters.

A Process for When Conflict Comes Along


I was recently asked how someone could deal with a person who dominated a conversation, never pausing long enough to let anyone else “get a word in edgewise.”  She had recently been at a dinner party where this had happened, and she had been quite at a loss as how to address the problem

We have all faced similar situations, where it isn’t clear what the best way to resolve the situation may be.  What I find is that many people are haven’t had the training to know how to address these situations.

Conflict is inevitable.  It is not possible that you will be in harmony with everyone around you at all times.  Whenever there are two or more people working together, there will be disagreement and conflict.

It is how we respond (or react) to conflict that defines our relationships. 

The authors of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High summed up the dilemma as “how can I be 100% honest … and 100% respectful?” (p. 22).  The question comes down to the “nature vs. nurture” debate, whether some people are born as natural conflict resolvers or whether these are skills that can be learned.


A Process for Resolving Conflict

I believe that conflict management is a skill that can be learned, a key element of emotional intelligence, and the sooner we learn how to address these conflicts constructively, the better:

Whenever I think about resolving a conflict, I always go back to “The 5 Core Concerns,” one of which is autonomy.  The best resolution will be one in which all parties have a say.

In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions (p. 175-177), John Maxwell describes the process he uses to address problematic behavior, which meets this need for autonomy:

  • Meet privately ASAP to discuss their behavior
  • Ask for their side of the story
  • Try to come to a place of agreement
  • Set out a future course of action with a deadline
  • Validate the value of the person and express your commitment to help


Walking Out the Process

I have walked through this situation myself when someone I am leading is having difficulty.

  • Whenever I need to confront someone, I make sure the conversation is one-on-one.
  • I allow time for them to express their position and point of view.
  • I help them see the impact of not changing their behavior.
  • I let them express how they intend to do things differently and hold them to it.
  • Throughout the conversation, I am careful express hope that the person can change their behavior and meet expectations.

By following this process, I see change happen, even if it is slow in coming.

In the past, I didn’t always follow this process.  The result was defensiveness and stubborn refusal to change.  Today, the results are much more positive.

If I – an introvert who avoids conflict – can learn this skill, so can you!

100% honest.  100% respectful.


Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.