3 Tips for Leading Well in 2020

I enjoyed the opportunity to hear Karith Foster speak recently.  If you haven’t had an opportunity to check her out, she is well worth it.  She combines humor and storytelling to make simple, but profound points about leading and living well. 

In her address, she talked about the ABCs necessary to be a leader in 2020. 

A. Ask for help & Ask for what you want.   

Asking for help may seem contrary to what leaders should do, but as I heard Brene Brown say in another keynote speech, asking for help is actually the best way to create trust.  As Karith said, no one totally knows what they are doing, and no one can do it all. The act of asking for help acknowledges this and gives people permission to also ask for help themselves. Seems to me like it creates a place for psychological safety to thrive. 

One thing my husband loves to say to me is, “I’m not a mind reader.” Of course, I love it when he says this to me, but there is truth in it.  We can’t expect people to read our minds (or our intent) so we can’t expect them to also know what we want and need. Letting people know what you want and need leads to a lack of confusion. When things are clear, things get done to the standard or expectations we have in our minds.  

One of the biggest sources of disappointment for people is when expectations aren’t met.  This usually comes not from a lack of desire to meet expectations, but from a lack of communication or clarity about the expectation.  You need to make your intent clear.  Taking this a step further, also explain the why behind the want or need.  This further clarifies expectations and helps people not make assumptions. 

B. Be Kind.

Speaking of intent, as Karith emphasized, we all need to take a deep breath and set our intention for kindness with both words and actions.  She emphasized 1) we never really know what someone is going through and 2) we never know what the ripple effect of one small act of kindness will be.

Most notably, she emphasized this has to include being kind to yourself.   It is rather difficult to be kind to others if we can’t first establish personal leadership and become kind to ourselves.  

C. Choose Community Over Clicks.

Karith emphasized that it is basic biology for us to be attracted to people who are like us because it gives us the least amount of opportunity for threats to arise, our brain tells us.

However, we need to recondition our brains to realize that creating exclusivity isn’t good for us as individuals and it isn’t good for workplaces.  Realizing that most of what divides us this day in age is surface stuff and realizing that being around people who are different from us increases our learning and therefore our value, we need to get out of our comfort zones and go to places where people that are different than us reside both physically and virtually. 


Overall, Karith emphasized that leaders are to model the behavior they want to see in others in order to impact the workplace.   By asking for help and for what we want, by being kind to ourselves and others, and by choosing community, especially with those who are different than us, we will move into 2020 positioned to lead by example. 

What are your key focus areas for leading well in 2020? 



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Mary Ila Ward