Change Their Perspective and Change Their Life: An Excerpt from Steffan's Book

Discover this concrete example of how to unleash the leaders around you, to enhance your team's leadership potential and team development.

Steffan Surdek
May 13, 2024
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This blog post is an excerpt from my book, The Way of the Co-Creative Leader. Full of insights, knowledge and real-life stories from my years of organizational leadership coaching, the book is a deep dive into co-creative leadership and the five key skills it entails.

This excerpt is at the end of Chapter 10: How to Unleash the Leaders Around You. This chapter digs deeper into the second skill of a co-creative leader: unleashing the leaders around you. Dormant leaders are those people with untapped leadership potential on your team. In this excerpt, I will teach you some concrete ideas about how to awaken them and set them free.

Get your copy of the book, available for purchase on FriesenPress and

Change Their Perspective and Change Their Life

When you work with dormant leaders on your team, start by doing some perspective-taking and -seeking to better understand how they see the world.

When you work with dormant leaders, it helps to understand how they perceive certain situations. Remember that our life experiences and our values taint how we interpret what happens around us.

Here is one of my favorite coaching stories to help illustrate this point:

I was working with a small IT department, helping the team transform the way they worked together. The director was giving me some background information on her employees, and she told me about Richard, a software developer.

She saw a lot of potential leadership in Richard, but she felt that he was holding back. He was the proverbial dormant leader.

One afternoon, I took a moment to go speak with Richard in his office. I was curious to see how he perceived his role in the department.

"Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me this afternoon. I am going around and talking with people on the team to see how they feel things are going."

"No problem, Steffan. What would you like to talk about?"

"I was wondering about how you like your work here. What is working well? What is not?"

"The biggest thing for me is that it feels like people do not want me to use my brain here. To be honest, a monkey could probably do my job. So I do what I need to do and call it a day."

That kind of took me a bit by surprise, so I dug in more.

"Wow, that is the first time I heard a software developer describe their job in this way! Can you tell me more? Why do you feel that way?"

"The way things work here is that the business analyst is the one doing all the work. They give so much detail in the instructions that I am merely making the code changes they have in their document. I have no space to think or be creative."

"Did you talk about this with anyone?"

Not really. It is just the way things are here. It is never going to change."

"I hear you saying this, and I cannot help but be curious about something. When I look at you, I see someone very experienced. Someone that can be a leader here. At the same time, it feels to me like you do not want that for some reason."

"You know, I could probably do more. I did more in other places I worked, but what would it change for me here? More effort and more energy but not a higher salary or a better role to go with it. So tell me, why should I do more?"

"I guess it is all in how you look at it. From my point of view, it means more fun at work. It means getting more satisfaction from my job. It means making an impact. When I do that, the rest does not quite matter as much. It seems to just happen."

"I am not sure about that, to be honest. I think it will get better soon enough, though."

"Why is that?"

"Jennifer, the business analyst I work with, is taking her maternity leave for a year, and I will be taking her place. I will have more creativity in her role."

"Oh, that is great! I am happy for you, Richard! Tell me something...who will you be working with as a business analyst?"

"I will be working with Corey and Tanya."

*Based on what you told me earlier, I am curious about something. Knowing how you feel about business analysts and the work they give developers, what win you do differently so Corey and Tanya would not describe working with you in the same way?"

The look on Richard's face at that moment was priceless.

He felt powerless as a developer, and now he was going to be powerful as a business analyst. To steal a phrase from the Spider-Man comics, with great power comes great responsibility.

Our conversation changed how he perceived the situation. Rather than repeating what Jennifer and every other business analyst were doing, he could see the possibility of transforming that role in the department.

Allowing him to see this possibility helped him to step into his leadership in the workplace. It gave him the power to step up, experiment, and try something different. Just as our conversation unleashed the leader in him, it potentially unleashed the developers he went on to work with as well.

How can you help your employees or colleagues see things from a different perspective? How can you do some perspective-coordinating to help them approach things more constructively?

The trick is helping people go from feeling powerless to powerful. By understanding what leads them to see things the way they do, you can change their limiting beliefs.

Are you ready to elevate your leadership to the next level?

If you're looking to transform your team's dynamics, enhance collaboration, or reduce conversational debt, I'm here to guide you. With over a decade of experience in leadership coaching, I've dedicated my career to helping executives and management teams unlock their full potential. My approach is centered around the concept of Co-Creative Leadership, focusing on fostering a culture of collaboration and action-oriented learning.

Contact me for a consultation, visit our Coaching page to learn more about my services, and check out my Speaking page to explore how I can inspire your audience with one of my talks.