October 20, 2021

Leaders Are Made When New Paths Are Made by Yvonne Thompson

Yvonne Thompson

I want to thank guest blogger Yvonne Thompson for this post on those inspiring leaders in our lives who blaze new trails and set new trends.  We certainly need them these days!

Leaders Are Made When New Paths Are Made

By: Yvonne Thompson

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This quote by Harold R. McAlindon, author, speaker, and CEO more clearly defines what a leader does than any I have seen.   Here’s why. . .

When thinking about leading and leaders, I can’t help but think of those who blaze new trails and set new trends.  Not all leaders fit this mold; many remind us of a flag on a pole.  They stand above us waving, making sure we stay on course and remember who we are and where we are going.  We need those, too.  Without those, I think the work of the trailblazers would all be lost as we might once again lose our way when the going gets rough.

Leadership Arises

Then there are those leaders that don’t think of themselves as leaders, they just do what they do.  They are either appointed leaders by their peers or labeled a leader by their superiors.  I know this is true from one of my own personal experiences with leadership.

Prior to working independently, supporting clients as a virtual assistant, I worked for several years as a telecom project manager for a major financial institution.   I had recently started work in the voice telecom department when the company started some acquisitions.  These acquisitions had voice technology systems that needed to be quickly immersed into our larger systems. Unfortunately, there was no process in place for how to best absorb these new systems.

No one wanted the assignment as there was so much uncertainty as to the impact on one’s career if it failed.  You see, there was no manual to follow, no proven procedure.  Being the new kid on the block, unaware of the political perils involved, the project was assigned to me.

Realizing that I did not understand how to complete the entire project, I knew there were some team members available who understood how to complete other parts.  The project needed a plan and a team.   So I built a team of both internal and external members.  Then we developed a project plan, with input from the entire team.

We broke the process down into three phases: preparation, implementation, follow-up.  We worked together following a precise project plan.  There were problems, issues, misfires. But we did it…successfully…several times for several acquisitions.  There were missteps along the way, but we learned from them, and improved each time.

A Leader is Born

By the end of the project, we realized we had a workable system.  So I documented the entire process, all three phases, preparation, implementation, and follow-up.    There was little recognition for what we did, except for our internal satisfaction, knowing we succeeded.

Then the company began the biggest acquisition yet…one with the most at stake and the most visibility.  Anyone on this project was bound for a huge raise with a comparable promotion. So I presented the process we designed from the smaller acquisitions and asked for the assignment.

Ultimately, the assignment was given to another co-worker, one with much less experience on this type of project, but more political favor in the organization.  However, they armed her with a written copy of the process designed by me and the team I worked with previously.

Initially, I was furious and felt slighted.  But my manager’s response was “You should be proud. You took the lead.  This is your process.”  My manager immediately promoted me to Assistant Vice President without my having to work on the project.

That was years ago, but it was when I learned that a leader is sometimes the one who dives in, gets dirty, and makes a new way; not always the one out front that shines the brightest.

About Author Yvonne Thompson:

Yvonne has a broad background covering a wide range of experience that includes project management, public relations, and writing. She spent over 16 years as a telecom project manager with Bank of America and finished her career there as a Vice President.

In 2002, after leaving Bank of America, Yvonne started her own business as a Virtual Assistant and Project Manager, YTVP, (Yvonne Thompson, Virtual Partner at www.ytvp.com) where she specializes in blogging support. She presently combines that with her position as staff editor at New Media Entertainment (NME).

Are You A Leader Who Truly Wants to Inspire Others? Embody Your Vision through the Power of Story

I want to than Annie Hart for this great post today.  Great work Annie!

60848-55Storytelling, definition by Annie Hart
An effective and congruent communication that embodies your commitment, your beliefs, your values and your vision.

This is part of a series on the use of storytelling in leadership.  Leaders need to inspire and motivate others.  They need to help people get along, collaborate and go where they haven’t been before.  Nothing does this more effectively than the power of story.

Although the word story means many things to me, for the purposes of leadership, I’m going to give it the above definition, so that it will show you exactly how you create connection through story.  To illustrate this effectively, I need to tell you a story.

Several years ago I was giving a presentation to a small family business that was not my typical client.  One of the owners was a private client of mine who really benefited from my work and she wanted me to do some consulting for them.  But I was pretty sure that the rest of the company wouldn’t see me as a natural fit and might not want to hire me.

So what did I do?  The first step to building a connection is to get inside someone else’s story to find out how they think, believe and act.  To do this I asked myself the question, What goes on inside of their world? This is how you discover the daily problems, frustrations and mindsets of whomever you want to communicate with. minds

The key to this is to do it from the mindset of sharing and the intention to build connection.  When you begin by relating to our common human problems, then we start on the same page.

In business the number one priority is often the famous ‘bottom line’.  But the key to a sustainable business is actually not the bottom line at all.  People are the most important commodity of any successful venture.

As a leader, relationships should be of prime importance.  If not then everything else will go downhill.  The bottom line of is not and can never be number one,.  Taking care of people comes first.

So by the time I went to give my presentation, I had already put myself in the mindset of the people that I was speaking to.  I walked into a group of people that looked harried, distracted and uninterested, but I was prepared for this.  So I started by telling them their own story.

I introduced myself briefly and then told them that I would be right back, and I walked out of the room.  I returned minutes later, rushing in with a briefcase spilling papers and frantically talking on a cell phone.

speechlessI began my presentation all over again, but this time I was speaking at breakneck speed.  “Hi I’m Annie Hart and I’m here to….” But imagine this with words flying at 500 miles an hour!

When I looked up they were speechless.  Maybe dumbfounded is a better word.  I paused and looked at them carefully.  I asked, “What was that like for you?’

“That’s exactly like our daily lives!” they said. They couldn’t believe that I got them.  I said, “How did it feel to experience me that way?”  They unanimously said, “It was awful, very stressful and anxiety producing.” Exactly. Exactly like their daily lives.

This dramatic enactment of their everyday way of being, opened up a discussion of trust and openness, whereas just moments before they had considered me a complete stranger.  So how did they accept me so quickly?

I used the power of story, THEIR STORY, to speak their language.

The key to rapport and building connection is to think about others.  Ask yourself, what do they need?  What are they going through?  What are their daily lives like?

It’s not how can I get them to do what I want?  It’s how can I understand who they are? This is one of the key skills a leader can have.

Each of you in your own way is  a leader.  Start today to think how you can get inside the story of others, so that people will want to follow you where ever you go.

And if you’re wondering if I got hired?  The answer is yes, and continued to tell stories and build rapport for an entire year.  Storytelling is a key to building trust and credibility through creating connection.


Annie Hart brings energy and enthusiasm to everything she does. Some say she’s unstoppable but we’ve actually seen her stop at a red light on occasion.

She has spent her lifetime traveling around the world, gathering great stories, meeting and studying with wonderful mentors and ignoring as many rules as she possibly can!

Annie has brought her work to the fields of Business, Education, Healthcare, Non-Profit, Youth at Risk & Community Organizations.

Her Training and Certification includes NLP Trainer, Eriksonian Hypnotherapy Trainer, Expressive Arts Training, Non-violent communication, ISVOR Dilts Leadership Training and is a Book Yourself Solid Certified Marketing Coach.

Annie has developed several bodies of original work including a Heartwork Communication Model, Stories From the Heart of the Cosmos and her current work Retreat 42, a retreat in daily life to help get bigger projects off the ground.

Annie’s personal ethic is to embody the principles of human kindness, generosity and collaboration as a basic business model.

She  is passionate about yoga, enjoys drinking good tea and lives in beautiful Chestnut Hill, PA with her little dog Miss Sweetie. Her goal is to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way and to be a kind, happy and loving person.