Wisdom for the Road – From Nobody to Somebody

Wisdom for the Road - From Nobody to Somebody

Growing up in my family, I felt like a nobody, not a somebody. You may have too!

In our family, we were three children – whose names all began with a "J." My parents thought it was cute, 'the three J's'. As we learned over time, our collective name became a way for our parents not to have to deal with the challenge of individuality, conflict, and differences. They didn't have to deal with who got the most, or the least, who was the best or the worst. When you label your three kids as one, all the surface conflicts disappear, and life is perfect!

Striving for Perfection

So in our family, striving for perfect became our mantra. We were the perfect kids, the perfect home, and the perfect family. On the outside we were the loving family that everyone admired. We dressed well, expressed ourselves well, and did well in school. We were nice and agreeable, and were role models for others. On the outside we were perfect – on the inside we were children trying to become some-bodies and finding it very difficult to figure out how. The rewards for being the same were much bigger than those for being different.

Being Different

So I rebelled. When my parents said white, I said black. When they said don't smoke until you are 18, I started smoking at 14 and quit at 18. Wherever there was a rule, I felt I had to break it. When your parents have the idea that consensus is always good, and means agreement and questioning authority is all bad – the underlying meta-messages they are sending to their children are that being different is not good, having a different perspective is not allowed and if you disagree with someone you lose their love.


Being perfect and same on the outside and different on the inside gets lonely. At the age of 14 I started writing my first book. It was called "No Man is an I-Land" – and I was going to write my way into being the somebody I wanted to be. But at 14 I only had 1½ pages of ideas inside of me to put down on paper – I was just starting my lifelong journey of personal awareness, leadership and discovery – and had a dream and desire but little know-how for expressing it.

Wisdom for the Road

So I've spent my whole life trying to understand what it means to be a somebody, and how to enable each somebody to thrive in a world of amazing and incredible other some-bodies – and to feel good about being different and special. The wisdom behind this relates to every part of who we are as human beings – from our cells all the way up to the systems and communities we live in.
What I have found, and am still finding, this precious learning is the vital wisdom behind life itself – when we allow our somebody to emerge and not be afraid of our own voice, and our own special talents, we emerge as teachers and as wisdom-givers to everyone we know. When we all learn to hold this wisdom in our hearts, and minds and conversations – we become the best some-bodies we can ever be – and we do it together.

Practices for the Workplace

  1. Look for the uniqueness in every employee, friend, colleague or family member.
  2. Pay attention to how each person has a unique fingerprint, footprint and mark – their own special DNA.
  3. Look for opportunities to create conversations with employees about their aspirations – aspire means to breathe – and when we aspire with others, we breathe life into our dreams.
  4. Ask employees "what do you think?"
  5. Perceive and acknowledge their unique perspectives as different ways of seeing the world, not as "wrong ways."
  6. View conflicts as opportunities for expand the conversation to a bigger frame of reference.
  7. Listen non-judgmentally.

Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:

Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization – winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose

Contact: 212-307-4386

Leadership Integrity

By Deborah Garand and Judith E. Glaser | Leadership Excellence
Published January 2009

Let's now raise the bar.

Of the top 20 characteristics of admired leaders, integrity is selected first 90 percent of the time. Integrity means an uncompromising adherence to a code of values and ethics. Integrity asks you to reach higher. Integrity is about honor and about “doing good over feeling good.” Integrity speaks to our ethical fiber, and our sense of what is right for a company, society, and humanity—not just what is right for me, the individual.

Integrity challenges you to make sacrifices and to do the “right” thing when, in fact, it may stand in your way of greater wealth, jeopardize your status, or risk your career. Integrity requires humility. Humble leaders know that everyone has a different approach, value system, and reason for doing what they do. Integrity seeks to understand all perspectives, and weigh consequences before making a decision.

Companies succeed or fail based upon the integrity of its leaders and employees. Integrity is the basis for trust—the gauge through which we read and commit to action.

Hardwire Integrity into the Culture

You can hardwire integrity into the culture in three ways:

Conversations. Leaders must first have a conversation with themselves, asking themselves the hard questions of personal accountability, grounded in truthfulness to oneself and all others involved. Many executives become imbued with self-importance, narcissism, or over-evaluation of attributes or achievements. If we lead through our actions, our conversations must ensure that we “walk the talk.” We will then inspire others through our own example. We will care less about the preservation of self-image, impressive “bottom-lines,” pleasing the “street,” and looking good in the eyes of others.

If we believe that we “walk into our words,” what are those words? If you listed them today, would they reflect the highest tenets of leadership? There is power in leaders who adhere to their values. You feel that power in the conviction of their words and actions. They trust themselves. Through personal strength and courage, trust is grounded within the self-assured knowledge of their ability to adhere to their convictions. No one is given the right to impute this leader’s integrity.

Leaders also need to expand conversations across all boundaries and seek honest perspectives concerning how we live integrity through corporate responsibility, accountability, and leadership direction.

Transparency. Transparency—being free of all pretense and deceit—paves the way to open dialogue based upon trust in management and in the information. Good business is predicated on solid principles. Businesses are comprised of many interconnected departments, each dependent upon the flow, accuracy, and transparency of disseminated information. Transparency is essential when you are setting a new course or desiring to improve productivity and profitability. One decision made by “shaving truth” or blatant deceit begins small and then snowballs. As more decisions are made based on the dishonest approach, the snowball gains speed and mass until it becomes unmanageable and systems begin to fail. Transparency keeps us honest.

Candor. Candor means a disposition to open-mindedness—a freedom from bias, prejudice, and malice. Candor enables us to listen receptively to other perspectives while engaging in interactive dialogue. Dynamic leaders appreciate the contribution of others. They leave their egos behind, harnessing the power of being secure within themselves while promoting innovation, collaboration, and a heightened sense of “team.” Transparency affords the trust, and candor fosters openness.

By adhering to a personal code of honor, leaders can raise the bar for themselves and for others.

ACTION: Lead with integrity.