How to Elevate Your Leadership in Surprising Ways

I saw a breathtaking thing of beauty in an executive coaching session.

I asked a client, I’ll call him Carl, to take a courageous step and he did. His courage and humility were remarkable.

The conversation went something like this.

“Who on your staff is really good in the area you’re developing?” Carl mentioned a manager. I’ll call him Harry.

I asked, “Do you trust Harry?” He replied that he did.

Would it be OK if we invite Harry to our meeting. Perhaps he will have a suggestion. A few moments later, Harry tapped on the door.

I explained that Carl was working on a specific skill where Harry excelled. I said, “I realize you aren’t prepared for this. Let’s just see what happens.”

Harry confessed that he felt a bit on the spot, but he was game. That’s when my client asked the question we had prepared.

“I’m working on something that you’re really good at. I wonder if you have a suggestion of how I could connect with staff today. I’m looking for a small suggestion. I’ll do whatever you suggest.”

Harry was taken back, but it only took a few seconds for something to come to mind. He made a specific suggestion. My client said he would do it.

I asked Harry how he might be supportive of his boss.


  1. Someone on your staff excels at things where you’re weak. It’s easy for them to suggest behaviors that elevate your leadership.
  2. Seek input from people you trust and respect.
  3. The suggestions of others are easy to ignore.
  4. Give alternative perspectives a chance. It’s useful to make a commitment to do whatever small thing is suggested. 
  5. It takes courage and humility to follow the advice of someone who sees things different from you.

What hinders leaders who aspire to get to the next level?

How might leaders take their leadership to the next level?

After notes:

The names are fictitious. Details are intentionally obscure.

My client is highly skilled, confident, and successful.

I’m not suggesting you adopt this approach. I wasn’t sure if my client would approve. When I brought this up, I was sure to make it easy to reject the idea.

The person we invited into our meeting was aware of our coaching engagement. We had previous conversations. He respects his boss and is committed to his success.