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I sat in bed rubbing my eyes, trying to wake up. The clock read 6:29 am. Europe was well into their day. After navigating a tricky conflict the day before, my energy tank was dangerously low. I longed to stay in bed but five urgent issues loomed in Slack. I lumbered out of bed, slipped into a pair of pants and a nice sweater, forcing mental exhaustion to the back of my mind. Pushing back my own concerns was just part of leadership. This was one morning but it could have been any number of them as a leader.


A surprising leadership lesson from Jenna Lyons

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Former J.Crew boss Jenna Lyons has a devout following for her distinctive and enviable style. Her reality show Stylish with Jenna Lyons promised a glimpse into her world. That legendary style was on full display. The relevation was her leadership chops, especially in episode six— Open House and Broken Hearts.

In this episode, following a flood, the five remaining candidates were tasked to restore Jenna’s formerly musty farmhouse ready to sell. There was a tight timeline. The candidates were all trying to prove themselves in hopes of landing a coveted spot. The house was a reminder of Jenna’s failed relationship…

A hidden reason leaders burn out

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I felt watched. Every small decision, scrutinized. At times it felt like surveillance.

Being a COO was like constantly being on stage. Wherever I moved, a permanently affixed spotlight followed. I wasn’t used to having an audience watching every twitch, every sentence, every decision — and having an opinion about it. At times, it threatened to paralyze me. It lured me closer to my perfectionism tendencies. Imperfect decisions and divided opinions made these urges nearly unbearable. While some applauded decisions privately, the criticism was loud and public.

Where my goal was to empower the team, some saw me as dismissive…

What leaders told me about their experiences

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While we hold leadership up as something to attain, it’s one of the toughest jobs out there. Leaders are criticized far more than they are thanked. They make decisions while facing a myriad of obstacles, ambiguity and shifting conditions. Making mistakes is hard for everyone including leaders who often make them publicly. My own experience as a COO was equal parts wonderful and challenging.

I wanted to understand why leaders sought their position, how the role differed from their expectations and what kept them up at night. I also wondered about their priorities during the pandemic. To get a sense…

What leaders can do when they find themselves complaining

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“I’m complaining too much. I’m stomping around like an angry child who doesn’t get their way. I need to find a new way of interacting instead of loudly complaining when I don’t agree with a decision.”

A new leader confided this to me a few months after their promotion to VP. I applaud their self awareness. They aren’t alone — many new leaders grapple with the transition to having more authority in an executive role. Leaders often long for more authority and when they get it they don’t always know how to wield it. Sometimes they go too far with…

You can’t buy it at a store or get it from a bank

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A shiny new year has unfurled, a blank canvas rolled out in front of us. New beginnings help us make plans. This can feel like we’ve got things under control. 2021 is unlike other years. The world feels more chaotic than years past. Everything feels like it’s hanging in the atmosphere unresolved.

A virus ripping through communities, leaping over oceans and crossing the globe. A changing political landscape. An unsteady economy that companies try to surf long enough to stay alive until the world stabilizes.

These are just a few of the external pressures the team is facing. They’re dealing…

Photo by Patrick T’Kindt on Unsplash

Daydreaming is part of the human experience. It helps us get through difficult days, giving us hope for the future. As kids, we daydream about fantastical scenarios of our adult life. We dream of living in Africa, running wild with our pet cheetah. Instead, we grow up to live in Brooklyn hunched over a laptop 12 hours a day.

When we want something, we imagine how good we’ll feel, how having this thing will change our lives. When reality doesn’t match our imagination, we’re disappointed. One of the best film representations of the chasm between expectations and reality is 500…

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Was it unlucky
to be born with lungs
that struggle
to push air
through twisty canals
narrowing one night
until my face
turned blue
the bells of a a new year
had just rung
my parents sped across freeways
the ER accepted its youngest patient
oxygen administered
heaves of relief
my place on this planet
for now.

Was it unlucky
years later
to have caught a virus
my body transforming it into
a virulent strep
invading my fibrous core
producing a torrent of fluid
creating a vise grip around
my heart
squeezing it shut
laying in cardiac ICU
monitors squealing
of impending extinction
saved at the last moment

Planet Soul

To me, the cards are tools for introspection rather than prediction

Dark lighting photo of a woman reading a book, with a lit candle and apple pie.
Dark lighting photo of a woman reading a book, with a lit candle and apple pie.
Photo: Chelsea shapouri/Unsplash

I was never one of those kids who played with Ouija boards. Was it a game or a spooky prediction tool? I didn’t know and frankly, trying to predict the future scared me. I was afraid it might predict someone’s death, or my own. I stayed far away.

That changed when, as an adult, I turned to Tarot cards. I went to my first reading in an occult bookstore in New Orleans as a fun afternoon diversion. I left a believer and purchased my first Tarot deck that day. I told myself I was just having fun — but after…

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Just what dwells in your heart?
Which way does it bend?
In domination of others?
of earth’s resources
of her creatures
of communion, recognition
of tenderness
of a connecting line
through birds, beasts, craggy crevices
humans, eras, the ages
the continuity of existence
from the paleozoic to the mesozoic
to now.

Are you
to grapple — with those
deepest sensations
or do you
allow them to run
wild through your veins
allow them
to swallow you whole
invade your membrane
subsume everything in its path?

Have you excised
your heart
let it lay
like a disembodied appendage
believing it…

Suzan Bond

Leadership coach for new technology leaders. Fast Company contributor. Former COO Travis CI. Twitter: @suzanbond

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