As you may know, Michelle Baca typically hosts our Leadership Spotlight blog series as well as our brand new Convergence Spotlight series, asking other professionals or our own team members to share their perspectives on leadership so you can get to know them better. For this next post in the Convergence Spotlight series, we’re turning the tables on Michelle and featuring her viewpoint.
Michelle has been a consultant with ConvergenceCoaching for 8 years. She specializes in helping firms build their practices and improve their operations, develops leadership in others through her expert coaching and is also a speaker and teacher, presenting training programs and presentations for a variety of associations and conferences.
We asked Michelle to share her thoughts around what it means to be a leader and how to develop leadership in others.
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
MB: Even before I became a member of the ConvergenceCoaching, LLC team, our founder, Jennifer Wilson has demonstrated what it means to be an effective leader. In our very first phone conversation, she was confident and direct but also very kind and compassionate, showing interest in me by asking curious, open-ended questions. She is the type of person that you always walk away from conversations with her feeling better about yourself.
She has challenged me in ways that have stretched my abilities while at the same time, making herself available so that I felt supported. In the car, on the way to one of the first workshops that we taught together, she assured me that whatever I said up there in front of the participants would be just perfect and that if, for some reason, I got into challenging territory, she would be right there. It was a fun and safe way to learn. It was like jumping out of an airplane but knowing that you had a fail-safe parachute just in case.
And, Jennifer is one of the funniest people I have ever met. When I’m with her, I usually laugh so hard that my stomach hurts. If you have ever been in one of her presentations, trainings or workshops, you have likely gotten a little taste of her brilliant sense of humor. This is one of the traits that makes her one of my favorite types of leaders because she makes success and personal development fun for people.
ConvergenceCoaching: What is it about a leader that you believe makes others genuinely want to follow them?
MB: People are genuinely moved to follow someone when they feel endeared to them in some way. Sometimes this feeling comes from having an urge to repay that leader for everything that they have done for them. Sometimes it comes from seeing how passionate the leader is about the vision that they have set out to accomplish. And sometimes it stems from a track record of trust and respect. The most inspiring leaders have impeccable interpersonal skills, which allows for the development of mutual respect and admiration and creates this feeling of endearment.
ConvergenceCoaching: What is the most challenging part of being a leader? What is your advice for successfully overcoming this challenge?
MB: I feel that the most challenging part of being a leader is that it frequently requires striking a balance between having a strong, firm, decisive, authoritative personality while at the same time, being compassionate, encouraging, vulnerable and relatable. It can be difficult to embody all of these because most individuals tend to be much stronger on one end of the spectrum versus the other. We can overcome this by soliciting input regarding our strengths and weaknesses as a leader and using that information to figure out which qualities we need to further develop. Then, we can establish goals to improve in these areas, being sure to make the goals measurable and checking back in with the people we work with regularly to measure improvement.
At ConvergenceCoaching, we have developed a tool called the Leadership Attributes Evaluation which is a great way for you to solicit this kind of input from others.
ConvergenceCoaching: Do you believe that great leaders are born or made? Why?
MB: I believe that some great leaders are born but that others are simply born with a strong desire to lead. Those who are “born leaders” typically find themselves in leadership positions from a very early age and find that leading and inspiring others comes fairly naturally. These are the kids that were organizing activities and clubs and running for student council since elementary school, or even pre-school.
On the other hand, those leaders who are made, because they were born with the desire to lead but lack some of the skills and abilities required – are able to learn and develop themselves into powerful leaders if their passion and determination is strong enough. For example, I wouldn’t necessarily describe my husband as a natural born leader because he didn’t really blossom as a leader until well into his twenties when he started his own business and had to start figuring out how to lead and inspire his team. He is self-taught and has done an incredible job at developing into a strong leader.
And there are some leaders who are made either because they were forced to step into leadership or because someone saw leadership potential in them when they didn’t see it in themselves and gave them the opportunity to shine.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
MB: Volunteer for tasks and opportunities that make you “nervously excited.” Great leaders rarely waste time waiting until they are absolutely sure that they are “ready.” I have experienced the highest levels of satisfaction, fulfillment and pride when I have raised my hand or agreed to do something that I was a little bit scared to do. I love this quote from Richard Branson: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it –say yes. Then, learn how to do it later.”
ConvergenceCoaching: Do you have a favorite movie or book that you feel exemplifies what it means to be a great leader?
MB: The 2000 motion picture, Gladiator is one of my favorite movies of all time. Russell Crowe portrays a powerful leader that is respected because he is willing to be on the front lines with his men. He is strong, humble, brave and loyal.
ConvergenceCoaching: What would you like ConvergenceCoaching blog readers to know about you?
MB: That I love to laugh! Many of the topics we discuss are business-related and more on the serious side, but I love cheesy humor, goofy movies, corny jokes and not taking life too seriously! Please send me your best jokes!
It’s especially fun to “switch the microphone” and learn Michelle’s perspective on leadership and great leaders. I love her advice for stepping into leadership positions and how you sometimes have to throw yourself into what you’re committing to – even when it makes you a little nervous – in order to truly experience the most growth. What have your best leadership learning moments been? Share your thoughts with us below!