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The 40-Day Leadership Challenge

Aren’t there times when you wish you could yell “do over!” and start with a clean slate, like you did as a kid? The good news is, even though it might not be enough to simply declare the “do over,” it is possible to start again on a clean page. How? Take my 40-Day Leadership Challenge.

For Christians, the forty days before Easter are known as Lent, reflecting the forty days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert before his crucifixion and resurrection. During this time, many people make forty-day sacrifices like giving up sweets, eating in between meals, or video games; or making some extra effort like reading the Bible daily, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. The idea is that it should be a time of purification, after which you emerge as a better person and closer to God. But it strikes me that, at a deeper level, there is a universally valuable leadership challenge and lesson inherent in this kind of experience.

Everyone has some relationship, whether professional or personal, that could be improved. Maybe there’s someone who perpetually rubs you the wrong way. Or on a grander scale, maybe you need to project a more compelling leadership image you project for people to see you as a leader to admire. Fundamentally, relationships are made and broken by the communication patterns they promote, and it’s up to you to take the first step towards making these patterns healthier, more respectful and more productive, based on how you choose to communicate.

All you have to do is take that first step today, and then another one each day for the next 39 days. That’s your personal 40-Day Leadership Challenge. Pick something that is difficult enough so that you can’t do it mindlessly; it will require a conscious effort for it to be successful. The goal is that after 40 days, you will replace old, bad habits with positive new ones, which will not only make you a better person, but will improve the lives of others around you.

So where should you start? You might choose to “fast” from gossip or snarky comments, both in conversation and email. Hold your tongue instead of criticizing someone in public even when others do, or let the other person get the last word even when you want to add more.

Perhaps you have a tendency to be blunt, dramatic or insensitive in some contexts. If that’s the case, try committing to a 40-day diplomacy challenge. You could also abstain from exaggeration, swearing, or drama for 40 days, or opt to walk away from a conversation when you feel yourself starting to get heated – then be sure to follow up later when you feel more focused and composed.

On the flip side, maybe you try to avoid conflict at all costs. For you, the challenge could be committing to address problems rather than letting them fester and hoping they go away on their own.

If nothing else, try this: Simply make an effort to explicitly thank people for their efforts, big or small. You’ll be amazed at what a big impression such a small gesture can make. I promise you it won’t go unnoticed.

Remember: it doesn’t have to be 40 days of consecutive perfection; it’s about 40 days of conscious effort to be a better person, and a better leader. Even if you fall off the proverbial bandwagon occasionally, it’s okay! Try putting a dollar in a jar every time you realize you’ve broken your commitment, and after your 40 days, donate the money in the jar to charity. No matter how often you put money in the “oops” jar, you still get to call a “do over” the next day!

And the best part? It doesn’t matter which 40 days you choose, whether at the start of the new year, during your summer vacation or any other time. By the end of your 40 Day Leadership Challenge, others will feel the difference through smoother and more collaborative exchanges, and your new patterns should start to feel natural and replace the old ones. That’s the best way to build the foundation of a new kind of leadership that makes others want to follow suit.


Want to discuss your potential 40-Day Leadership Challenge? Email me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click to set up a 20-minute focus call with me personally.

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