2 + 2 + 2

I took two major risks in the last year. One was choosing to do something completely different. The other was choosing not to do it anymore. Both choices were mine. What changed?

Two things and both have to do with this graphic.

First, I couldn't tell whether there was a boss, a leader, or neither. Second, I learned that the organization didn't want me to be a leader. I would've followed a leader or been one, but neither was an option.

The thing is I didn't really know that until long after I had moved on. Taking that risk without knowing for sure was difficult. Thankfully, I know now that it was the right risk.

It underscores two essential elements of leadership: empathy and communication. This week I had the opportunity to speak about my approach to leadership and I started there—with two fundamental building blocks.

Empathizing with others helps us understand what motivates people. What do you need or want from me, and why? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can we incentivize behavior or performance?

Communicating with others helps remove the element of uncertainty from the relationship so that both parties can work more effectively. What do you expect from me and vice versa? What will you allow me to attempt? How can I grow? What can't I do and is that prohibition significant enough to take me elsewhere?

Do these two things well and more people will take a risk on you.