Listen. Sweat. Create. Be kind. Give. This is my personal mantra. Several years ago I thought carefully about picking words to define my best self. These are the words I chose. They represent the things important to me and serve as a day to day reminder of how I want to live. Create is the easy one. Engaging in anything creative makes me happy. Sweat is easy too. Physical activity and pushing myself a little keeps me sane, healthy, happy. Be kind is pretty easy but sometimes I prefer smart ass over kind. But yes, it’s better to be kind. Listen. It’s more of a personal challenge. Listening is not my best thing. I used to tend toward talking over or interrupting people but I’ve worked on it. I still can be an impatient listener with a wandering mind, but I’m so much better than I used to be. Give. I knew a man whose life was defined by helping people. It could be building something, moving something, fixing something or whatever. He liked helping. I like helping but unlike him, it’s not always the first thing I think to offer. I have to remind myself sometimes, “Oh! You can help here.”

Writing a leadership mantra is obviously different from a personal mantra. I could carry over some of my personal mantras as a leadership mantra but not all. I may continue to tweak it, but I’m leaning toward Listen. Create. Be kind. Have courage. Give. (less certain about give…give space…give wisdom…) Is teach better?

Listen: to my team, to each employee who makes us who we are, happy or unhappy. Their words have value and can make us better.

Create: opportunities for growth, new ideas, mission expansions, possibilities.

Be kind: again, obvious and mostly easy but a really important reminder when all I want to do is be snarky

Have courage: to speak truth, to be wrong and apologize, to take risks

Give (or teach?): of my time and experience

LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE #9: WRITE YOUR LEADERSHIP MANTRA.

Here’s how:

Think about what is most important to you as a leader. What defines your best leadership self? Write down those words.

Be specific. Words like “be good to people”, “solid decision maker”, “don’t yell or curse” are helpful but need to be focused. “Be good to people” might become “respect”, “solid decision maker” might become “be wise”, “don’t yell or curse” might become “inspire”.

Keep it brief. Don’t write a mantra you can’t remember easily.

Your mantra should be almost like a meditation for the work day. Words to remind you what it means to lead as your best self.


I would love, love, love to read your mantras! Please share.

Writer and metal smith/jewelry maker, Donna has lived happily as a mother, friend, creative, and nonprofit leader in Nashville, TN for more than 30 years. She is additionally committed to her cats, rock climbing, gardening and power tools. She believes that people are good, kindness is essential and artists should rule the world. Find her at BensonStreetStudio.com.
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Writer and metal smith/jewelry maker, Donna has lived happily as a mother, friend, creative, and nonprofit leader in Nashville, TN for more than 30 years. She is additionally committed to her cats, rock climbing, gardening and power tools. She believes that people are good, kindness is essential and artists should rule the world. Find her at BensonStreetStudio.com.

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