The 'L' Word

By Foong Suet Ling|23-02-2021 | 7 Min Read
Everybody wants to look for the right one, nobody wants to look at themselves first.

"It's not you, it's me."

How often do we hear this during break-ups and lines in cliche rom coms? 

Cliches are cliches for a reason - there is much truth and wisdom in this one-liner. I say this for two reasons: 

  1. When we are in a relationship (or not), it's easier to go into a mode of making assumptions of the other party when things go wrong (or right) versus reflecting on what we have done.
  2. It's easier to hold ourselves accountable instead of the other person. 


Because of this, this line is relevant not just to failed romances, but the millions of unhappily employed people and business owners the world over.

If you think about it, dating is a lot like leadership – we are encouraged to make mistakes, take chances, and somewhere at the end of the pain, we’ll find the ‘right one’. The right company. The right boss. The right salary. If you’re the conservative sort, then even the right wing.

For him, the 'L' stands for "Leave my country".

We constantly strive to find the perfect match. I've heard so many leaders talk about how it's difficult to find the right talent, and at the same time which employee hasn’t ever thought: "Why can't my leader be more like Obama?". 

Here’s a thought 

Instead of expecting the other person to be the right team member or leader, what if we began by BEING the right leader or team member? As you can see, it can be a vicious cycle if all of us just sit idly and wait for the next person to have a surge of inspiration and willpower to transform themselves.

The world would be a better place if everyone just focused on ONE task – be a better version of themselves.

This concurs with The Circles of Concern and Influence. Too often, we seem to look outward to assess our leadership capabilities, but just like finding love, sometimes it's important to first look inward and identify traits that make us better lovers - I mean leaders.   

In conjunction with the month of love, here's some L.O.V.E.-ly tips on how to be the right one for your career and followers.

L - Lead with Authenticity

Leaders who share unique wisdom from lived experiences give a proper embodiment of what you hope to inspire in others.


Some may think others do not notice this, but how authentic you are when it comes to leading can easily show in your words and especially actions. Think about successful world leaders, their followers get behind their ideas when they are authentic. Take Martin Luther King, he fought for civil rights and stayed true to his goal. 

Leaders who share unique wisdom from lived experiences give a proper embodiment of what you hope to inspire in others. Search within yourself - what are your treasured core values? Use those to amplify how you act and lead. Nothing is more liberating than being able to turn people's lives around with the values and principles that you hold

In a relationship, if you are not true to yourself and your partner, the journey will not last long. Imagine how exhausting it would be to say certain things then act differently. You lose sight of what you  preach. This will definitely create a slew of confusing key messages and damage people's (and your partner's) confidence in you. Being authentic translates to minimal to zero second guesses when it comes to working together, as your team can rest assured that what they see in you as a leader is what they will get. 

O - Observe with Care

A true leader is someone who does this with a lot of care to ensure they are able to provide real time feedback.


Sometimes, being a leader means you have to put in the extra hours not just to lead but also observe your people and how they work on the sidelines. A true leader is someone who does this with a lot of care to ensure they are able to provide real time feedback – whether positive or constructive – to ensure any unproductive behavior can be corrected in a timely fashion. 

This also applies to shifting moods or a change in work dynamics in a team. A good leader is able to uncover truths behind roadblocks that occur either in a team or a person's work performance. Some things are left unspoken and if you can pick it up skillfully, you can proactively orchestrate some interventions to counter potential bumps along the way.

A good partner can  similarly detect even small changes if they put on their observatory lens once in a while to ensure issues get ironed out before they fester. This may not seem like a crucial step but having communication break down can spawn multiple issues which lead to even more time spent resolving them. 

V - Visioning with Impact

A vision is like a sign at the front gate of an amusement park showcasing what kind of rides you are getting on.


One of the traits of being a good leader is to be able to create a vision or a mission with substantial impact. I like how this article describes a vision as a North Star that points everyone in the company towards the right direction. This feels like one of the main priorities as we are still  mid-season of this series called The Covid-19 Pandemic. 

It's not easy to be unshaken by things that are happening around us but having a powerful vision can makes a huge difference. Having an impactful vision can tell a story and draw your audience / followers in even before the ‘battle’ starts. 

For example, our vision in Leaderonomics is to Grow People into Leaders, Build Communities of Love, and Transform the Nation. So even when the going gets tough, we hold on to the vision statement dearly and constantly remind ourselves of the greater good that will come from our perseverance and hard work. 

We are wired to think ‘what's in it for me’ and to have a prediction of what could possibly transpire from the journey taken. As a leader, this will help your team foreshadow the journey ahead anchored by a solid vision that will bring impact not only to end users but also to their own lives. 

A vision is like a sign at the front gate of an amusement park showcasing what kind of rides you are getting on. You can use it to decide if you are on board or not. 

E = Empower with Empathy

If everyone only does what they are told, the culture of innovation dies.


Nothing beats the feeling of autonomy given by a leader to another as this is a testimony of trust at its best. Just like in relationships, being able to showcase your trust by empowering them to make certain changes, take an unbeaten path, or even make mistakes along the way could go a long way. An empowering leader can give team members a safe space to fail and with failures come progress and growth. If everyone only does what they are told, the culture of innovation dies.

Why empower with empathy? If you are purely empowering without understanding the person's current capacity and potential to grow, things might go haywire. Just like how you won't entrust and empower a chemist to write an annual financial report for stakeholders. That's an extreme example but given the current work demands as job cuts increases, there's an increasing need to exercise empowerment so performance doesn’t get bottle-necked. 

Perhaps you can also empower your partner to take charge once in a while rather than being the one always making the dinner reservations or crafting thoughtful gifts during anniversaries.  

In summary

Being the right leader from within instead of waiting for it to happen by relying on external forces is a safer bet. By choosing to be the right leader, you will ultimately attract people with qualities and values that resonate with yours. 

Just like how everyone talks about "Oh I'll find the right one some day", why don't you put all your energy and focus into making yourself the right one? 

Lover or a leader, potayto, potahto. Good things will follow.

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Suet Ling is currently Head of People & Culture at Leaderonomics. She sees her role as a catalyst to helping people explore their hidden potential. In her free time, she enjoys indulging in Kdramas and traveling. Suet also wrote a book called 'To All the Single Ladies' to help us all see that to find the right one, we must first be the right one.
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