Collaborative Leadership Blog

Empowering Our Best Selves

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind  looks at what happens     —-Kahlil Gibran

It’s a new year with new possibilities, if we choose to see it that way. We can choose hope over fear, possibility over self-imposed limitations, and create a new way of working with each other based upon sheer will. It may take that, because last year was a most difficult one indeed—worst stock market in 10 years; a trade war; lies, hate, incivility and corruption; corporate scandals; and a divisive election. Some have predicted an even greater challenge this year.

This prediction notwithstanding, perhaps it’s time to shift, as Gibran says, the attitude we bring to our lives. Personally, I found myself almost immobilized by all the negativity, and have written  about it in this column in the hopes of turning lemons into lemonade. I’ve seen those I love, and many I work with, struggling to find a way to cope with the hurt and pain they feel from the insults to our core values as human beings and citizens. Have we disempowered ourselves? Have we have allowed ourselves to be at the effect of events around us rather than at the cause of our own lives? I believe so.

In times like these, I say to my students: “Stand tall like an oak tree, with roots of principle, vision, and self-belief deep in the ground. Never let the storms of your life experience deter you from your dreams. Never ever quit. Always stay true to who you are.” Or as Gibran would say the way your mind  looks at what happens.  We can empower ourselves to be the best version of who we are if we make a conscious choice to do so. In this way, we can empower ourselves and those we work with to become their best selves so they can do their best work. 3 principles can guide us here:

  • Reflection: Taking the time to get clear about what we believe in, what our core principles are, and how we want to treat ourselves and others; this helps us remember our authentic self
  • Self-Empowerment: Requires self-awareness, a level of emotional intelligence, and a willingness to face the hard truths and great potentials in our lives, and in our relationships at work. If we are in denial, all bets are off
  • Conscious Choice: Requires us to understand that there are alternative views of reality, and that once we can see them, we can choose the path that reflects our authentic self

This type of leadership can come from anywhere in the organization. The results will be more positive work relationships, a work culture that is more hopeful, acts of gratitude and appreciation, and mutual re-empowerment. By standing tall like an oak tree, empowering ourselves, and consciously choosing a different way of being, we can transform the way we work. I wish everyone an empowering 2019.


*Dr. Edward Marshall is an Adjunct Professor in Management at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; ICF certified executive coach, Lifetime Top 15 Trust Thought Leader, and author of a forthcoming book: The New Age of Collaboration: Leadership for the 21st Century. You can contact him at or (919)265-9616