“Own their stuff” is jargon that may be unclear. Let’s dive deeper into its meaning.

Ownership means telling on yourself. Being willing to share the truth about your internal dialogue, to be vulnerable, and to share all of you – not just the parts that you think others want to see.

There are four ways courageous leaders do this.

“I” Statements

Words matter. In our culture, many people have largely replaced “I” with “You.”

The use of the pronoun, “you” removes the speaker from what they experience. Thus, it isolates us from emotions we’d rather not feel – shame, sadness, fear, lack of control, and more. Whereas, using the pronoun “I” forces us to take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions.

Part of leading involves difficult conversations. For example, as a leader, it may be necessary to remind someone of their commitment to arrive by a specific time. If I enter into that conversation by saying, “You’re always late. Why do you think that you’re so special that you can do whatever you want?” The person you’re trying to lead is likely to be defensive, resentful, and may lash out by pointing out your hypocrisy – you’ve likely been late some time too.

Talking with the person by sitting down and saying something like, “When you arrive late, I feel disrespected and unprepared to be of service the way others deserve.” This simple change removes generalizations, blame, projections, and shame. With the intent of opening a more in-depth and more productive conversation.


If we are going to rise to the leadership challenge, then we must unmask and value ourselves as whole human beings.

I’ll tell you about my mask. The outward appearance is confident, stoic, and intelligent. Behind my mask, the part I don’t want to show, I’m scared, stupid, and lost.

I built my mask from age seven to seventeen. First came the inside.

As a kid with a learning disability, dyslexia, who lived abroad where friends came and went at the whim of their father’s employer; my pain seemed unbearable at times. Then when I was ten, we moved from Puerto Rico to a small, farm town in Indiana. Talk about not belonging or fitting in.

Construction on the outside of my mask started with the move to Indiana. I discovered my athleticism, a way to gain some acceptance and inflict pain I was feeling on others. For nearly a decade, I played football, wrestled, and ran track pretending to be confident so the coach would put me in the game. Enduring pain with a stoic demeanor – never let them see the hurt, pain, exhaustion, or tears. I didn’t date the cheerleaders; I dated the smart girls. Trying in vain to distance me from my dumb jock identity.

Damn, that was hard to write to you.

Learn more by watching the movie The Mask You Live In. This award-winning film follows boys and young men as they struggle to be authentically themselves in the face of America’s definition of masculinity.

It’s not just boys and men, Miss Representation, also written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, explores how the media and society tell us that girls and women are valuable only for their youth, beauty, and sexuality.

Emotional Intelligence

Leadership is powered by emotion. Emotional intelligence (EI) – ‘being intelligent about emotions determines whether everything else a leader does works,’ is at the heart of Daniel Goleman’s book Primal Leadership, Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.

Goleman and his co-authors, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, identified four domains of EI and within these domains are learned competencies:

Self-Awareness involves knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions. The Self-Awareness cluster contains three competencies:

  • Emotional Awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects.
  • Accurate Self-Assessment: Knowing one’s strengths and limits.
  • Self-Confidence: A strong sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities.

Self-Management refers to managing one’s’ internal states, impulses, and resources. The Self-Management cluster contains six competencies:

  • Emotional Self-Control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check.
  • Transparency: Maintaining integrity, acting congruently with one’s values.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change.
  • Achievement: Striving to improve or meeting a standard of excellence.
  • Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities.
  • Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks.

Social Awareness refers to how people handle relationships and awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns. The Social Awareness cluster contains three competencies:

  • Empathy: Sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns.
  • Organizational Awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships.
  • Service Orientation: Anticipating, recognizing, and meeting customers’ needs.

Relationship Management concerns the skill or adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others. The Relationship Management cluster contains six competencies:

  • Developing Others: Sensing others’ development needs and bolstering their abilities.
  • Inspirational Leadership: Inspiring and guiding individuals and groups.
  • Change Catalyst: Initiating or managing change.
  • Influence: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion.
  • Conflict Management: Negotiating and resolving disagreements.
  • Teamwork & Collaboration: Working with others toward shared goals. Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals.

Not to worry, Goleman reports that highly effective leaders are not strong in every competency. Instead, they have their own unique mix of about six total; with at least one competency in each of the four areas of emotional intelligence.

As you read the list, did you focus on your weaknesses or strengths? I encourage you to cultivate your natural abilities, but focus on the competencies which are moderately strong. Apply personal development in these areas to become the most effective leader you can.

Shadows and Projections

Unacknowledged shadows and projections erode emotional intelligence competencies. Through the work of self-discovery, courageous leaders uncover their shadows and stay awake to them.

Last week, we practiced accountability and discovered some of our shadows. Another technique for shadow mining is to examine our projections. We project what we hide, repress, and deny – our shadows onto others as their motivation for their actions.

From Wikipedia: Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.[1]For example, a person who is habitually rude may continuously accuse other people of being rude.

Funny thing, my observation, and personal experience are that it’s easier to own the negative beliefs about ourselves than it is to claim our gold – that is what I do well, what’s uniquely me, and brilliant.

Go Answer the Call