Lessons from our interview with Sonia McDonald
“Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” – Sonia McDonald
In her book Leadership Attitude, executive coach and CEO of Leadership HQ Sonia McDonald offers lessons on finding the courage to become inspirational, noticeable, “follow-able”, and likeable.
Leadership is not a title. It’s an attitude. If you don’t see yourself as a leader, you are not one. Attitude matters. Attitude reflects leadership.
Focus on strengths not weaknesses. 99% of leaders say they want to work on their weaknesses, but Sonia suggests they focus on their strengths. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) in your brain will then show you more strengths, in the same way that it will notice all the BMWs when you buy a BMW.
Presence requires you to be present. Don’t walk into a meeting and plop down with a phone. Connect with people. Be alive to the room. Don’t lead only by email or SMS.
Squash the ANTS – Automatic negative thoughts – in 4 steps. 1. Look for positives. You need to identify positive thoughts to substitute for negative ones to then focus on. 2. Identify your triggers. What certain events, places or people trigger negative thoughts? 3. Learn to relax. Remain calm when you encounter a trigger and consciously replace a negative thought with a positive one. 4. Preparing for the trigger. For example, spend 10 minutes prior to a speech using positive affirmations.
Vulnerability in leadership is okay. I’m a big fan of academic Brene Brown’s work. We can all hurt, we can all be sad. We can all be angry. We all have stuff going on in our lives. It’s okay to make a mistake. It’s okay to say that we failed.
Tips for her younger self from Sonia:
Start learning leadership now. Read books on leadership.
Learn and open yourself to who you truly are. This discovery journey never ends.
The best leaders own their story. It doesn’t define you, but makes you who you are.
Surround yourself with empowering people. Get rid of people who put holes in your rowboat.
When you fail, channel it. It’s okay to be angry, disappointed, or pi**ed off, says Sonia, but let it go. Reframe it. Will it matter next week or next year? Relabel it. That sucked, but maybe I could learn something. Feel the failure. Name the feeling and feel it. Then change, accept, or move away from the situation.
Meet up with mentors. Sonia thanks 13 mentors in her book, and still speaks on a weekly basis with 2 or 3 of them, with a coffee catch up once every 1-2 months. She makes sure she adds value to the meetings to ensure it’s a two-way thing.
GREAT EIGHT (8 get to know you questions) with Sonia
Recommended book: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be, and what’s the name of the book title? Brene Brown and Simon Sinek, Start with Vulnerability
What a great piece of advice you could share? Believe in yourself. Own who you are. Don’t compare yourself with others. Just truly love and be compassionate to yourself.
What’s been your lowest moment and how did you recover? When my daughter tried to commit suicide due to bullying at school. Recovery? It’s an ongoing journey.
How do you relax? I love going to the park, going to the beach, and op shopping (thrift store shopping). I’m about to host a bohemian tea party for my daughter, so I’m finding treasures.
What’s a fun fact about you that’s not widely known? I used to be a triathlete. I almost always came last but I gave it a go.
What’s the secret to success? Mindset. Staying focused on purpose even when you get your knocks. I set my Reticular Activating System (RAS) every day. Surround yourself with great people who also want your success.What’s a prediction for 2025? Leadership HQ is going to open more offices and have more associates launching more programmes. I’m keen to write more books.
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Academic and TED talk sensation Brené Brown, mentioned in this interview, is visiting Australia for The Growth Faculty in 2019. For information and tickets, click here.