Leadership Tips for C-Suite & Board Executives: Best Things I Did to Enhance My Leadership Skills In 2022, In Preparation for 2023 (These May Surprise You!)

I have strategized and drawn up my 2023 new year’s resolutions for the last three weeks. I take these very seriously—like a business plan. I look at each area of my life, and with rigorous honesty, I map out all areas, including family, physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, business, and finance. I also define the best things I did in the year ending. I wanted to publicly share some of the leadership tips and initiatives that I believe were the best decisions I made for growth in 2022. I hope they help you, and feel free to share yours!

Certifications – Board & Leadership

I had been searching for two years to find a mentor for the board work I do with my clients. When I began reading Mark Pfister’s board newsletter in 2021, I realized each tip, article, and strategy was superior in content and logic to anything else I had read. I wanted to meet him and talk with him—which I eventually did. He was even more inspirational and amazing as a board consultant/subject matter expert than I could have fathomed. I appreciated his no-nonsense approach and his high degree of emotional intelligence.

Subsequently, I completed his International Board Director Competency Certification course—which was hard but very energizing and informative. If you are striving to be the best board member you can be and are seeking your first or second board seat, this course will give you detailed expertise on how to be an exemplary board member and help you continue to develop your overall leadership skills.

I also completed a women’s leadership course, obtaining a second certification: The International Mindfulness Intelligence® Leadership Excellence Designation (MQLE.D), through the Inner Business Institute. This course was facilitated by Linda Bjork, who leads the Inner Business Institute and is the Founder of Mindfulness Intelligence® and author of the popular leadership book “Inner Business – Training Your Mind for Leadership Success.” I found Linda highly intelligent and entirely inspiring, and the course curriculum was filled with mindfulness principles that often aligned with neuroscience topics (a study I am personally fascinated by). You can check out her course here.

Both courses strengthened my leadership coaching and subject matter expertise skills. They also inspired me to look closely at my strengths and weaknesses, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness intelligence. It’s hard to adequately describe how these two courses transformed me, but I can share that the transformation was profound and ongoing. I am glad I resolved that little nagging feeling inside me that I had to do this work for myself and my clients. My main takeaway from both courses is: Emotional intelligence is the key to it ALL.

Gone Fishing

Yup, I did more fishing. Not enough, but I did more fly fishing than I did in 2021! There are two types of people—those who are brilliant at taking time off and those who work too hard. I am in the latter camp. I used to wear it like a badge, and I was secretly proud of my drive. As I have gotten older, I have realized that there is no honor in working myself to death. In fact, the harder and longer we work, the less effective we are (brain science stuff here). There are plenty of books, studies, and articles out there that make a strong argument for working in short stints, taking adequate time off (breaks) each day, week, month, and year, and batching our activities. All these save time and lower stress. In my case, I get grouchy and tired when I’m overworked, and I can’t be fully engaged and present with my clients. I began scheduling time off and prioritizing fly fishing for a day or a couple of hours in the morning. I made time for myself a priority. Yes, I count—I matter. I run only a small company, but I have several people and many clients who depend on me, and I tend to put their needs before mine. I think this quality is honorable, but I have learned I also need to make time for my own needs so I can be who others need me to be for them. Good leaders recognize and act on this.

I also realized that taking time off is a habit for me. If I don’t do it, I seem to forget how. I can’t relax. I didn’t want to be “that person,” but the older we get, the less we can hide those things about ourselves.

Read Amazing Books

I love audible.com. I listen to books while driving and walking. I found some incredible books last year that inspired me, made me think, and helped me grow. Here are my top picks:

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy: This book gives a clear and simple blueprint for making positive improvements in life. I loved it. I applied many of the tips, and the author’s stories inspired me. The best one for me is writing down 3 things I am grateful for each day. It has a profound effect on how we perceive life and what we focus on. Essentially, more neuroscience.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown: In this book, the author—a shame researcher—explores having the courage to be vulnerable in all areas of life. Brené is funny, and her book is filled with relatable stories. I have listened to it twice.

The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die by John Izzo: John and his team interview over 200 participants aged 60+ to discuss what they were most proud of in life, their biggest regrets, and their biggest life lessons. Wow. I only wish I had read this book 30 years ago. The insight was fascinating! The biggest overall regret? Not taking more risks.

The Earned Life by Marshall Goldsmith: Known as one of the top business thinkers in the world and (word on the street) the top executive coach in the world, Marshall maps out a solution to that thing we all do from time to time, which is chase the feeling of I will be happy when… In this book, Marshall shows us how to define and line up our values and principals with the choices we make. LOVED IT.

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield: I wish I had not pre-judged this amazing man’s body of work. All those Chicken Soup for the Soul books led me to believe this author would be too fluffy for my taste. But I was wrong—so wrong! This book has been around for a decade and lays out a clear plan to achieve your goals and uplevel your life. I just loved it.

I Failed

Yes, failing was one of my biggest successes in 2022. It had been 20 years since I lived in Nashville, running my executive recruiting firm while writing and plugging songs for Universal Music on the side. I didn’t play out live a lot when I lived there; I was too shy and intimidated. Now, in my 50s, I decided to embrace one of my biggest fears: performing live. The first time I went on stage, I was so scared and nervous. I knew it was going to be bad, and it was. For the next six months, I continued to force myself up on stage, and each performance was also… bad. I visibly trembled, dropped chords, forgot lyrics, laughed at myself a lot, felt sorry for myself, and got through it all.

I reset my expectations for myself, from trying to be good to just having the courage to show up. I stopped caring how I sounded or what it all looked like to the audience. It was way too soon for that. Now, after a year of practice, I finally feel at least comfortable getting on stage with other musicians. I have learned so much and have been humbled by other musicians’ support of me as I grow. I stepped WAY outside of my comfort zone and what it did for me internally and for my confidence is hard to put into words. Even though this doesn’t seem like a leadership goal, embracing my fears and letting go of worrying about “being bad” was a huge vehicle for growth for me in 2022.

My takeaway for 2022: Learning and growing was so much fun I will be pursuing another certification and focusing on a whole new set of goals for 2023. I’ve come to understand that investing in mindfulness, self-reflection and striving to increase my emotional intelligence affects every area of my life and it is critical when you coach leaders as I am grateful and humbled to do.

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of CEOresumewriter.com and Maryelizabethbradford.com and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

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