The Present Leader: Showing Up When It Matters Most — #SH302

The Present Leader: Showing Up When It Matters Most — #SH302

  • Photo Above: Cave Art, Bisons, Altamira, Spain. >40,000 yrs BCE

Approximately 95,000 years ago, humans developed the distinct ability to think abstractly about our world. Our systems for communication evolved into the language, reasoning, mathematics, science, and other forms of meaning-making that we capitalize on today. Our social connections became stronger and our tribes grew. In general, we have learned to think more about our purpose and reflect internally about our thoughts and actions, including how we fit into the larger context of our community. 

But this type of abstract and philosophical thinking doesn’t come without its challenges. When we find ourselves searching or lost in an internal dialogue, we also tend to manifest stress and worry about the present and future dangers that we (might) face. The problem is that if we’re left to our natural instincts, we can do more harm than good. Our concerns create anxiety, our anxiety develops into apprehension, and our apprehension begets paralysis. Then, when our inaction is at its worst, we lose the ability to be present with others. Instead of projecting a faithful present and a positive future, we’re stuck on a carousel of unwanted, inaccurate, and misleading assumptions about our self and others. 

The good news is that this state-of-mind doesn’t have to be our reality. Great leaders learn to be present in both mind and matter. They harness the mental strength to stay focused in the moment. This is not an innate ability to connect with people and live in the moment. The belief that any soft skill, like being present as a leader, is native for some and foreign to others is simply not true. Great leaders actually plan to be present. They hone the skill of presence with strategy and practice. This essential skill is only done with strength and ease when we become deliberate about it. 

As our world leaders look to increase social distancing to preserve our safety, there has never been a more important time to be present as a leader. The further apart we need to be physically, the more intense the need for connection becomes. The following pillars are the necessary aspects for being a present leader. 

Are You Tuned In?

The simple definition of being tuned in is “noticing.” This is what some leadership experts have deemed as mindfulness, not to be confused with meditation practices, although meditation goes a long way in helping with our tuning abilities. “This process of noticing comes naturally when we’re exposed to something we think is new, and it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming” (Langer, 2016). 

Effective leaders treat every situation uniquely, even the ones that are similar to what we’ve encountered in the past. People who tune in are less judgmental and more authentic by not making assumptions or jumping to conclusions based on past interactions or previous circumstances. Mindfully tuned in leaders are present by extending trust and enjoying authentic relationships with friends and coworkers. 

Who is Presently Leading

Presently leading has a dual connotation. First, it means that you’re present, in the moment, rather than stuck in the past or the future. Present leaders don’t allow themselves to be trapped by dwelling on their past failures or projecting their future fallouts. Second, it means that whomever is “presently leading” is a leader. Titles don’t make leaders. Leaders are the people who show up to do the work, to make a difference, and to bring about the best in others. 

“The industrial era, struggling for the last decade or two, is now officially being replaced by one based on connection and leadership and the opportunity to show up and make a difference” (Seth’s Blog). Presently leading just means that someone has taken the reigns, ready and willing to do what it takes to move forward. 

What are You Forecasting for the Future

Effective leaders who identify what the future will look like are typically making that prediction based on the future that they intend to create. “In an unstable world, the best option is creating the future now” (Rockwell, 2018). Great leaders can’t see into the future better than the rest of us, but they are tuned in and leading in the present to create opportunities that bring about what they want for tomorrow. 

Forecasting the future requires us to be steadfast with our beliefs and behaviors regarding the here-and-now. With an unwavering focus on our vision, we become clearer on what needs to be done in the present. The actions of today are the fruits of tomorrow. 

Leaders know that when we’re tuned into the world around us, when we stay present for our current scenario, and when we work to make the best future for ourselves and others, we reap the benefits of a positive and productive relationship with our community. When we shed the futile consumptions of our abstract thoughts–the negative feelings of doubt and disaster–we push forward into the world that we want and that, ultimately, we’ve designed. That’s what it means to be a present leader–the one who shows up when it matters most. 

Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

One Thing Series: Everyday Feedback w/ Anna Carroll, @annacarrollMSSW — #onethingseries

One Thing Series: Everyday Feedback w/ Anna Carroll, @annacarrollMSSW — #onethingseries

Don’t miss this leadership podcast with Anna Carroll.

Anna Carroll, MSSW, is an author, executive coach, and speaker. She helps leaders and professionals speed up their cycles of successful leadership, feedback, and results.

Anna graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, including a year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study the social aspects of computing. She received her MSSW degree from University of Texas at Austin with a focus on human behavior, influence, conformity, and how change does and doesn’t happen. She founded Interaction Design, Inc. in 1990 to facilitate organizational improvement projects and design and lead structured interactive training. She received her Licensed Professional Coach certification in 2013 from the Coaches Training Institute. 

Her clients include Austin Regional Clinic, eBay, Engagio, Fandango, Horseshoe Bay Resort, NES Global Talent, PayPal, and Zimmer-Biomet. She has spoken recently at Microsoft, the Texas Conference for Women, and the Society for Human Resource Management, to name only a few.

Carroll wrote The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success (River Grove Press, 2013) and The Everyday Feedback Workbook: How to Use the Everyday Feedback Method with Your Team (Ingram-Sparks, 2015) and conducts training for how to give and receive helpful, transparent feedback. An important quality of her “everyday feedback” approach is lowering stress and building great relationships along the way. She is passionate about researching future workplace trends and exploring the brain science and psychological factors that are key to making great feedback happen. She is currently writing a book about surprising insights regarding good and bad feedback in organizations.

She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Michael Wilkes and loves world music, cities, and great conversations.

Her interview with TheSchoolHouse302 cuts straight to the heart of what we value and believe in for organizational growth, which is quality feedback.

  • Listen to what she says about organizational dynamics and how leaders often handle tough conversations. She talks about what is often ignored yet we complain about it and still expect improvements to occur.
  • She acknowledges that much of the feedback conversation is steeped in brain research and the NueroLeadership Institute is leading the way.
  • You can’t miss what she says about how she learned under duress. We can all benefit from her story. Don’t miss this part.
  • She’s the third person to bring up Tango on our One Thing Series. The beauty is in why!
  • Anna’s thoughts on luck, excellent performances, and solutions are thought-provoking, to say the least.
  • You can’t miss what she used to believe. It’s something we typically think regarding success but she challenges the notion! Most importantly, she reminds us to Stay Calm & Try Things!

Anna’s interview uncovers some of the dysfunctional behaviors common in many organizations. She calls out the typical reactions to feedback as ineffective and provides simple ways to work through them. What really resonates with us is that feedback is the key to improvement. Her experience and wisdom provide insight for leaders to create an environment where feedback is the norm. Be sure to listen and share so that we can all learn to address tough issues through difficult conversations.

Please follow, like, and comment. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you. For more great leadership content, follow

You can find our One Thing Series on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Joe & T.J.

#reviewandreflect: Supporting Creativity as a Leader

#reviewandreflect: Supporting Creativity as a Leader

Creativity Chart This is TheSchoolHouse302’s monthly #review&reflect, wrapping up our focus on Creativity. Our review and reflect series embraces the powerful sentiment from Soren Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Take time with this post as we take a deep dive into our leadership content so that you can develop the skills you need to lead better and grow faster.

Skills I need to develop for improved creativity…

This month we focused on creativity, and we introduced the topic through our low-level leadership series. We truly espouse the notion that finding “bright spots” and “soaring with your strengths” are keys to accessing and duplicating superior leadership qualities. However, there is tremendous value in identifying key behaviors that thwart a desired result as well. We often need to know what not to do first, before we can explore what to do.

We liken our low-level leadership series to that of the great vehicle app, Waze, which informs travelers of all kinds of potential obstacles and issues that lie ahead during a drive. By identifying the three surefire “waze” to crush creativity, we provide leaders a navigational tool to help them avoid common hazards.

Passing judgment, over-prescribing recommendations, and limiting risk-taking are all creativity crushers. An effective leader simply responds differently than using any of these three low-level methods. Rather than passing judgment, she supports her subordinates to gain a greater understanding. Instead of restricting thoughts and controlling situations, she collaborates and creates a space to think. Lastly, she rewards the people who are taking calculated and thoughtful risks to support the core of the vision. 

Be Creative


If you find yourself thinking, “well, it really depends on the person,” then we encourage you to dive into the following great reads. Organizational cultures should not be situational, and organizational norms should not fluctuate based on individuals.

Great leaders are avid readers…

Review: In our #readthisseries we featured books that highlight real people who we can emulate and real wisdom for the courage we need to succeed as leaders.

Our first recommendation is, Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative.. This is a quick read that we feel sparks creativity.

Our second recommendation is from Eric Sheninger and Trish Rubin, BrandED: Tell your story, build relationships, and empower learning. This is a terrific book for school leaders looking to brand their school or district and truly bring their story to life. It offers practical yet creative advice.

Our final recommendation comes from Sir Ken Robinson, Creative schools: Revolutionizing education from the ground up. The bottom line is that Ken’s message challenges us as educators. Only read this book if you are serious about change, creativity, and alternative to the current system of schooling.


You can’t miss our #readthisseries on 3 books you need to read now.

Who should I follow…

What does an expert have to say about creativity? If you want to dig even deeper into the mind of a creative thinker, you’ll want to listen to our #onethingseries this month, which featured creativity expert and author of Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon. One simple but magical act you can do each day, according to Austin, is to take a walk. We champion this sentiment because it encourages the need to find our center, to find “me” time, to enjoy nature, and to open the mind to creative thought.

Austin Kleon

Action: This month we asked you challenge yourself through TPA: A Framework for Growth Through Reflection

Think - Plan - Act

To learn more about supporting the people you lead, complete this #ThreeMinuteChallenge.

To become more collaborative, complete this #ThreeMinuteChallenge.

To become better at rewarding risk-taking, complete this #ThreeMinuteChallenge.

Please subscribe! Listen to the entire podcast on iTunes, One Thing Series, and please rate and like (it helps). That’s our #review&reflect for Creativity. Take a look back to take a step forward. TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple and maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster. Please let us know how our leadership posts are working for you, what you are reading to improve yourself, and your thoughts on leadership and growth here on our blog and Twitter. Follow our #onethingseries podcast on iTunes and our #readthisseries on YouTube. Joe & T.J.
#readthisseries: 3 Books You Need to Read for Better Employee Engagement

#readthisseries: 3 Books You Need to Read for Better Employee Engagement


Don’t miss this vblog on books you need to read to lead better and grow faster. We recommend three titles that are must-reads on the topic of employee engagement. You can find our catalog of great leadership books at — click on #readthisseries.


Crowley, M.C. (2011). Lead from the heart: Tranformational leadership for the 21st century. Bloomington, IN: Balboa Press.

Gordon, J. (2010). Soup: A recipe to create a culture of greatness. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Pink, D. (2018). When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing. New York: Riverhead Books.

As always, please like, follow, and comment. If you have books that we should read and recommend, please let us know that as well.

Joe & T.J.


#onethingseries: Employee Engagement w/ Mark C. Crowley, @MarkCCrowley

#onethingseries: Employee Engagement w/ Mark C. Crowley, @MarkCCrowley

Mark C. Crowley

Don’t miss this leadership podcast with Mark Crowley.

Mark C. Crowley spent over 25 years in the dog-eat-dog world of financial services, an environment known for its heartlessness and “take no prisoners” attitude. Twice, he held national-level responsibilities – most recently as Senior Vice President-National Sales Manager for Investment Products at one of America’s largest financial institutions, where he was named “Leader of the Year.” After much success, Mark decided to leave the financial services world and devote himself to fully answering the question:

What happens inside of people that makes them fully committed to doing extraordinary work?”

His research led to the publication of his first book, Lead From The Heart, which we believe has a very powerful message.

Recognized globally as a workplace thought-leader, Mark is a regular leadership contributor to Fast Company Magazine and has been published in the Seattle Times, The Huffington Post, Reuters, CEO Magazine Great Britain, USA Today, and by the Great Place To Work Institute. He has interviewed CEOs and senior executives at innumerable high-performing companies (including Google, SAS, Gallup and the Cleveland Clinic) who are models for “managing the emotional side of work.” And his profound conclusion draws on new scientific research which shows that the human heart is a source of remarkable intelligence:

What people feel in their hearts has tremendous influence over their motivation and performance in the workplace. “The heart is the driving force of human achievement.”

His interview with TheSchoolHouse302 is enlightening as it challenges many conventional ideas about leadership. He provides practical ways for leaders to  effectively manage through care and high expectations for great employee engagement at work.

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  • Listen to Mark debunk the fears of “soft management” and how tactics like fear and intimidation simply don’t work effectively.
  • Mark talked about psychological safety and the importance of honoring people for who they are and how he follows the work of Harvard Professor, Amy Edmondsons.
  • He also discussed the power of “thank you.” Don’t miss what he says.
  • You definitely want to hear his thoughts on why we resist change when we know things aren’t working.
  • We were thrilled to hear him talk about the power of “knowing thyself.”
  • You have to hear how his thoughts on how people should lead and the wisdom he acquired over his years leading others.

Please follow, like, and comment; it really helps. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you. For more great leadership content, follow

Joe & T.J.

#onethingseries: Leadership & Motivation w/ Kaley Klemp

#onethingseries: Leadership & Motivation w/ Kaley Klemp

Kaley Klemp

Don’t miss this leadership podcast with Kaley Klemp.

Kaley Warner Klemp is a sought-after facilitator, speaker, and coach. She is an expert in small-group dynamics and leadership development. She leads “offsites” to help teams end drama, and, instead, communicate and interact in ways that achieve their strategic objectives—even in the face of challenging circumstances.

Kaley is an Enneagram specialist, helping organizations outperform their competitors by unlocking a deeper understanding of what motivates and drives people. A favorite with Young Presidents Organization (YPO) forums and chapters, Kaley has facilitated retreats for more than 300 member and spouse forums throughout the world. She is known for guiding groups to the next level of depth.

Kaley is the author of 13 Guidelines for Effective Teams and a co-author of The Drama-Free Office and The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. In addition to her study at the Gottman Institute, the Hendricks Institute, and Byron Katie’s School for The Work, she is a certified YPO Forum Facilitator, Enneagram Institute Teacher, TEDx Speaker, and Shadow Work Coach.

She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she earned a B.A. in International Relations and an M.A. in Sociology, with a focus on Organizational Behavior. Kaley is an avid athlete, spending time skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and practicing yoga. Kaley lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and daughter.

Her interview with TheSchoolHouse302 is fun and engaging. She provides tons of key takeaways for leaders, focusing on the topic of motivation but diving into much, much more.

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  • Listen to what she says about the difference between “content” and “context.” Don’t miss out on taking an Enneagram test; listen to what she says about it.
  • Let’s all follow Nate Klemp for mindfulness. And, don’t miss what she says about Oprah and Brene Brown.
  • She talks about our need to “create space.” Super important for leaders.
  • Listen to what she says about learning to balance the digital versus the human touch. Wow!
  • Don’t miss what she says about the value of having a coach. We all need one.
  • Her thinking around “possibilities” is evolving. Super cool to hear.

Action Step: Sign up for one of her courses here.

Please follow, like, and comment; it really helps. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you. For more great leadership content, follow

Joe & T.J.