A Leadership Reflection at a Time of Transition

By: Sean McDonald

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Sean McDonald, President of MOR Associates. Sean may be reached at sean@morassociates.com or on LinkedIn.]
I recently took on a new role. Reflecting on one’s leadership is an ongoing task, with some spots along the way requiring a deeper look. Like you, my leadership has taken shape over time, informed by my leadership journey. I’ve watched, learned, and tried things that have provided leadership lessons and approaches that form who I am as a leader, who I am as a person. As I prepared for this new role, and this Tuesday Reading, I kept coming back to how heavily influenced my current leadership is by the diverse perspectives and experiences of the MOR team as well as the inspiring courage and initiative of the leaders we have the opportunity to serve. I am the person I am because of these connections and the influence being part of these communities has had on me. In a word, I am brought to the traditional Southern African philosophy, Ubuntu. Its rough translation, “I am, because we are.”
I am grateful to be part of these two communities, their influence on me, and appreciate that my reflection landed on this selfless, cooperative based philosophy.  As I think further about why this came to be, I can see how my beliefs and practices over the past ten years have led in this direction. I will share three of my beliefs and practices that rise above the top, for your potential benefit:

  • Think community first, be welcoming and trusting
  • Stay reactively open and proactively curious
  • Focus on other people’s passions and strengths

In a cause-and-effect relationship, who we become as leaders is a direct effect of causes: the choices and actions we make on a day-to-day basis.
Like many of you who have also changed roles, I am stepping into a role that was previously held by someone else. This can create a wide array of assumptions and grand expectations of all kinds. Trying to replace that person and meet all of those assumptions and expectations can quickly create imposter syndrome.  During my time at MOR, I have thought about this topic both with clients and for myself. I decided and have been practicing three things:

  • Embrace your own strengths - It is far easier to rely on the strengths we bring than try to pretend to be someone else. Know what you bring, embrace and lead with that.
  • It is okay to not know – As I witness thousands of leaders, the ones I have been most impressed with are the ones willing to admit when they don’t know the answers. They are confident, and also willing to show vulnerability. They do have vision, and through hard questions can engage others in that path forward.
  • Create your own relationships – Be curious, reach out, and establish your own relationships, learn more about what others bring. This becomes a solid starting point for collectively supporting the evolution needed to meet the needs of the future.

I am excited about the future. I know I am not alone and we have a plan (more on that in a future Tuesday Reading).  I look forward to walking the journey ahead with you. I am, because we are, and we are, because of you.
Leaderly Yours,
Sean McDonald
President, MOR Associates


This Week's Survey

Where will focus benefit you most as you reflect on your current leadership?


From Last Week
Last Week as we reflected on MOR’s evolution over these past 40 years, we asked which of some of our top lessons learned resonated most:
  • 51% said relationships matter more than we realize.
  • 18% said culture eats strategy for breakfast.
  • 15% said practices can lead to sustainable changes in behavior.
  • 9% said there are times when we need to reinvent.
  • 7% said the answer is in the room.
The lessons that resonate with us most during our leadership journeys are those which most help us navigate our individual paths within our organizations.  While the specifics of these journeys are unique to each of us, the themes such as those listed above resonate broadly because of how universally timeless they are across so many situations.  Identified by over half of us as first among those lessons is the importance of relationships.  Leadership is an inherently relational process that involves others.  To create our own relationships we must be intentional in finding opportunities to initiate, inquire, invest, and influence so that we can build toward the results of the future.


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