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“Many of us live in denial of who we truly are because we fear losing someone or something-and there are times that if we don’t rock the boat, too often the one we lose is ourselves…It feels good to be accepted, loved, and approved of by others, but often the membership fee to belong to that club is far too high of a price to pay.”

Dennis Merritt Jones, a universal speaker and author


As a CEO for 20 years, one of my daily prayers is, “Please release me from the need for love, approval and acceptance from others.” It’s not that I don’t need or want these, it’s that I don’t want to need them from a person when I’m serving. This may be an unexpected topic for a business publication but I’m in the business of culture transformation and that’s always people transformation. A good leader must know how to lead their people in the direction that strengthens the most authentic and expanded version of each. In order to do so, leaders must understand what makes humans feel a healthy sense of belonging and significance so they can most naturally be themselves without fear of loss. This can only be taught and modeled when leaders also know what they need.


I have a saying I use with clients, “If you can’t say ‘no’, you can’t say a real ‘yes.’” The same is true about authenticity. I can’t lead in the best way possible if I’m concerned about being loved, approved of, and accepted by others including my customers. Once I make not losing someone the motivation for my actions, I have become transactional, making void the value of any offer or service. Then I’m buying, not providing, and the price is often the sale of my soul and watered-down service. Not a great look or favor to those you lead. I write this because ultimately one of the bedrocks of my culture model is that every person must be given the conditions and conversations in which they experience psychological safety. Only then do people feel safe to be authentic. Otherwise, they suffer; they experience anxiety, depression, fear, and they tend to withdraw their creativity and initiative. This creates a team of people who lack innovation and needed vitality for their life and work and to support a healthy, productive, and competitive business.


To help your people you must support authenticity in yourself and your staff.  Canadian Psychotherapist and author Nathaniel Branden explains the importance of this, “It is naive to think that self-assertiveness is easy. To live self-assertively – which means to live authentically – is an act of high courage. That is why so many people spend the better part of their lives in hiding–from others and also from themselves.” So how do you as a leader help your people live authentically, to care so much for self, and for one another and those being served, that they don’t waste an ounce of time or energy protecting themselves and worrying about possible losses? Here are four elements in the work I provide and foster in client sites, so people learn to nurture courage in self and others using encouragement practices:


  1. The first is affection; conditions that include kindness and validation, so everyone feels important, seen, heard, and connected. Affection is only possible when gossip is eliminated, open communication and trust are high, and when people are supported in learning how to be caring and supportive, even when challenges arise.
  2. The second is compassion, being with one another as each learns and grows. Compassion is why we rotate leadership of small review sessions, so everyone knows what it is to both lead and follow. Compassion is why everyone has a partner with whom to give and receive monthly mentoring. Compassion (with curiosity) are promoted at every turn. Otherwise too many drown in criticism and intolerance for self and others. Compassion is ‘we are all in this together.’
  3. The third is confidence, speaking the highest truth without equivocation. Confidence is declaring that people are great or want to be great and if they’re not, there is a darn good reason why. Confidence is communicating that problems indicate needed change in a system or team. Confidence speaks of the highest mission and visions.
  4. The fourth is trust, not only in one another but in the goodness of people at their core. Trust allows us to listen without rushing to fix, convert, or change people. Trust is respect, receptivity, disclosure, and recognition that it’s ok for us to be separate, amazing human beings and to acknowledge differences with appreciation and curiosity.


I care enough to risk losing people because I know good leaders realize the importance of their commitments, their constancy. People can be fickle, life goes its way, but a strong leader remains ‘constant’. Let me know if you’d like our support in being such a leader and in developing the same leadership in your workforce. We’d be happy to help!


Why People Hire Judy Ryan and LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages. We help organizations instill into every person a common language and toolset for how to participate in a responsibility-based Teal workplace. Visit our website at www.lifeworksystems.com, and click the link at the bottom to complete a culture assessment and schedule your first consult to review a report on your feedback, all at no cost.  You can also contact Judy Ryan at 314.239.4727 or at judy@lifeworksystems.com.

This article is published in Judy’s column The Extraordinary Workplace produced by the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, in September 2022.