Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Owning Your Brilliance - Tenet 2: Unwavering Integrity

This week we continue our exploration of the seven tenets of Owning Your Brilliance by taking a closer look at the second tenet:  Demonstrate Unwavering Integrity. For many of us the concept of “Owning Your Brilliance” has scores of impediments.  We are often discouraged by criticism from others or their failure to recognize or appreciate all that we have to offer and become proverbial shrinking violets.  We sacrifice our best efforts and simply go through the motions in hope of fitting the norms and expectations set for us, to obtain the approval of spouses, bosses and the significant others in our lives.  Unfortunately this denial of our own innate desire to share the best that we have to offer with others in an authentic committed way ultimately compromises our ability to lead with integrity.  For the purposes of this conversation, we will define leadership as:

LEADERSHIP—the act or instance of guiding people or resources to a higher level of productivity than would have been possible on their own, for the greater purpose of the business or community in which they reside.

Great leaders operate from a unique yet extremely disciplined perspective—ANYTHING LESS THAN EXCELLENCE IS UNACCEPTABLE AND WE ARE ALL CAPABLE OF EXCELLENCE.  You cannot consistently achieve excellence without integrity.  Integrity must be demonstrated in every aspect of your life and always shines brightest in the manner in which you treat People, Develop Solutions, and Take Initiative.

New gurus of business disciplines have emerged to redefine the tenets of leadership, for future generations.  In the book, “Good to Great!” by Jim Collins we are introduced to a new leadership paradigm called Level 5 Leadership.  This new paradigm encourages us to seek out those leaders who are able to consistently exhibit a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.  An interesting choice of standards to be sure however through his exhaustive research Collins is able to prove that leaders who consistently demonstrate these leadership characteristics, actually manage to move beyond being merely an effective leader to the pinnacle of greatness in leadership hierarchy.

Too often our integrity is relative to societal or cultural norms and expectations which frequently changes when met with skepticism or opposition.  True integrity requires that you demonstrate sound reasoning ability and unshakable character in the face of adversity.  Great leaders work extremely hard to develop their expertise around the following principles:

Conducting yourself with integrity is more than ‘walking your talk’ or delivering what you say that you’ll deliver.  It also requires that you refuse to compromise your ethical values and professional standards, in order to achieve a successful outcome.  It requires you to consistently operate from a set of core values that govern your leadership thought and decision making process at all times.

Leadership Styles
One of the greatest leadership models available in the marketplace today is Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II construct.  As it helps us understand the necessity of a leader developing the ability to assess their staff’s level of competency, commitment and confidence toward a particular task and their flexing your leadership styles to provide them the level of leadership they need most in that particular work situation.  Leaders should be able to flex to a Directing, Coaching, Supporting or Delegating mode as staff progresses in their level of proficiency.  The following diagram provides you with an overview of Situational Leadership’s its key concepts:


Walter Nistorenko will be our role model for this week’s OYB tenet: Demonstrating Unwavering Integrity.  Walter is a visionary leader who remains true to his core values whether serving others in his role as CFO, Pastor of Abundant Life Church, Professor at a Christian College or as husband and father.  Following is an excerpt from an interview we recently conducted with Walter to find out exactly how he maintains his integrity and the impact it has on his life and those around him.

Willie Mae Veasy
President & CEO
Walter Nistorenko
Lead Pastor

WMV: Hello Walter it is a pleasure to meet with you today to discuss the benefits of Demonstrating Unwavering Integrity and the impact it has on your life and in the lives of those you lead and serve. We so appreciate you finding room in your busy schedule to share your insights on the importance of Integrity.

Walter:  Thank you; it is my pleasure to be able to share my views with you on integrity.  I so enjoy talking about these concepts especially as it relates to business because integrity is the soul of good business. 

WMV: Depending on who you talk to integrity means something different to various people.  Can you tell us what integrity in leadership means to you?

Walter:  I consider integrity as something that is whole, complete and uncompromising.  It is a complex value system that governs a person’s sense of purpose and activities in their life.  For a person to truly be a good leader there must be no inconsistencies or incongruencies in their leadership behavior, in public or at home.

WMV:  When I look at your bio I see that you have worked or served organizations that often have differing standards and values.  How are the value systems different in a Church from a school or one of the corporations you work for?
Walter:  The values of organizations may differ but my personal values and standards remain the same regardless of where I might serve or lead.  Daniel is an excellent biblical example of a man holding a leadership position in a government whose values were totally different from his and yet he was extremely effective as a leader and he also managed to remain true to his belief system, without compromising.  John Maxwell is a great modern day example of that same type of integrity in leadership.  I believe the bigger question tends to center around the importance of understanding and respecting the culture of an organization.

WMV: Really?  And why is that?

Walter: Because Organizational culture is so critical and a good leader needs to spend time discovering the unique aspects that influences each organization before they attempt to lead it.  Every organization has its own way of behaving, responding and thinking; they all have different norms and behaviors.   You have to understand the history of an organization in order to ultimately influence it.  Those unique aspects of the organization must be honored and adhered to in asmuch as they are not in direct conflict with your personal core values.

WMV: In addition to being a CFO, professor and Pastor you are also a Husband and Father.  What challenges does that role present for you in the area of integrity?

Walter:  If you are living a life of integrity in a holistic sense, you take that standard with you in every aspect of your life; personal and professional.  It would be hypocritical of me not to express and demonstrate those values, even more so at home than what I make available to the rest of the world.  Ultimately, my greatest legacy to this world will be the family I leave behind and if my wife and children can’t trust my word and depend on my actions to be in concert with everything I say I am then they will see a lack of integrity.  My children learn what love, truth and honesty is from me by not just by what I say but by what I do and how I treat them, their mother and others. It is a high standard.

WMV: How has dealing with these differing leadership expectations stretched or challenged your integrity?

Walter:  A person in a leadership role needs to be clear about the intent of why they’re interested in being a leader. It should never be for selfish ambition or to control others but to serve and lead people to a higher level of excellence.

WMV: Have you ever been in a situation as a leader in which you were expected to compromise or relax your standards? If so, how did you deal with it and maintain your integrity?

Walter:  Yes, I had a situation as a CFO in which I discovered some mishandling of funds.  Keep in mind that the leader is ultimately responsible for the health and welfare of the entire organization.  No matter how fond you are off people or important a role they may play in an organization, procedures must be followed to insure complete compliance with governing regulations and adherence to fiduciary responsibilities.  To waver on this point is unacceptable.  As much as I disliked having to terminate the employee responsible, I had no other choice.  And while, I did it with as much respect and compassion as possible, they had to be held accountable for their actions.  Many of the problems we are facing today are the result of a lack of integrity in leadership.  We have all seen what happens when you turn a blind eye to matters such as this, you end up with Enron, Bernie Madoff and a whole host of other problems that no organization or people group should be forced to suffer through for the sake of greed and selfishness.

WMV: What guidance or advice can you offer someone new in a leadership role that might be overwhelmed by the political aspects of the job to such a degree that they are concerned that it is beginning to compromise their integrity?

Walter:  You must begin with the mindset that you are going into that role to fulfill a critical and important need to further the mission of the organization. Being properly trained and equipped for the job is essential in further securing your comfortability in the role. If you understand these components of your role; you will be less anxious when political issues are introduced to the mix.  Spend time understanding the key players in the organization and be emotionally intelligent enough to understand the need to gain buy in; without compromising your integrity.  You really need to be able to distinguish between the people who are truly interested in the success of the overall organization and those who are just interest in promoting themselves.

WMV:  Walter, as always it was a pleasure speaking with you and we greatly appreciate you so candidly sharing your insights and experience. To learn more about how Walter manages to maintain unwavering integrity across cultures, faiths and business industries, visit him at

If you have found the information and recommendations contained in this blog helpful and are interested in learning more about “Owning Your Brilliance,” consider attending one of our upcoming Professional Development workshop series by clicking on the following link.

In the meantime, we encourage you to make a conscience choice to Empower Yourself each and every day of your life by working on building up each of the eight key components of empowerment outlined in this blog.

Respectfully submitted for your thoughtful consideration,
Willie Mae Veasy
President and CEO
Covenant Business Concepts LLC

“Excellence isn’t a: race, age, or gender. Excellence is an Uncompromising commitment to deliver the very best because nothing else will do!”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Owning Your Brilliance - Tenet 1: Empowering Yourself

As you know, we launched our blog around the topic of “Owning Your Brilliance,” which focused on following a simple process for proactively managing your professional development.  (To review the original blog click here).  It challenged us to be courageous in the face of uncertainty and learn how to honor the seven tenets of Owning Your Brilliance: Empower Yourself, Develop Unwavering Integrity, Become Multi-Faceted, Be the Difference, Develop Financial Literacy, Become Politically Savvy and Pace Yourself.  This week we will take a deeper dive into the Empower Yourself tenet.

One of the best-kept secrets about empowerment is that it isn’t something that someone gives you or allows you to achieve; rather it is a personal conviction made by the courageous and selfless.  It is the first true step toward leadership that a person can take; for how can we lead others until we’ve learned to empower ourselves?   

Unfortunately, empowerment is one of those terms in the English language that ignites endless debate, hope, and discord. While many agree it emerged during an era in which select groups were systematically marginalized, the term empowerment has since come to mean the difference between living an “Authentic Dynamic Life” vs. a life of “Quiet Desperation.”  For the purpose of our conversation today, we will define empowerment as:

EMPOWERMENT—the ability to understand one’s intrinsic value in a given situation and contribute your skills, ability, and/or intellectual capital in such a way that it significantly improves the overall outcome of the process in which you are engaged, while meeting your personal need for effectance.

As Americans, we are fortunate to have a constitution that empowers us with certain inalienable rights.  These unique endowments ensure that every citizen of this great country enjoy the pursuit of happiness and ensures that they are able to make positive contributions to the well being of our society.  So if this is true, then why is it that so many people in our society still wait for someone else to point the way to empowerment?  Some say it is a psychological issue, others believe it is a gap in education, while still others argue it is a sociological reality that exist between “the Haves" and the "Have Not’s.”  Since the truth often lies somewhere in the middle let’s take a slightly more holistic approach to understanding this elusive concept.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
It was Abraham Maslow ('s_hierarchy_of_needs) who first presented the theory of human beings possessing a complex hierarchy of needs and an innate desire to achieve a higher level of self-fulfillment once their basic needs were met.  The following diagram illustrates the various levels he believed humans progress through:

Interestingly enough studies show that only 10% of people ever reach the Self-Actualization level.  How accurately do you believe these phases represent your current level of development? 
I am sure many would agree that the topic of empowerment is an extremely touchy subject at this moment in our history because so many of us have experienced significant job and financial loss, in the last decade.  One might say to broach this subject could easily seem insensitive and delusional.  How can we empower ourselves if there are no jobs and continued instability in the marketplace? Not to mention that those of us who are fortunate enough to have a job secretly believe the only way to remain employed is to keep your head down and walk on eggshells, in hopes not to draw any undue attention to themselves.  If this sounds familiar, we recommend that your first step toward empowering yourself be realizing that you are so much more than the money you have, the position you hold or the debt you owe.

Empowerment like most things in life is really a process that enables people to fully access either personal or collective power, authority and influence, for the overall benefit of the community in which they are engaged.  The following factors shape the business communities in which we thrive:

In order to fully leverage the benefits of empowering yourself, you must actively honor the realities of the business community in which you reside as diagram here.

And then work on developing each one of the following key components of empowerment in your personal life:

You might remember that when we originally released this blog and its seven tenets for “Owning Your Brilliance,” we also associated each tenant to a rising star that personified each tenet.  Chris Findley was our role model for “Empowering Yourself” simply because of all he has accomplished in such a short time.  Following is an excerpt from an interview we recently conducted with Chris to find out exactly how he goes about building a dynamic career for himself and his high profile clients.

WMV: Hello Chris it is a pleasure to meet with you today to discuss the distinctive and empowering aspects of the IAMCHRISFINDLEY brand.  We so appreciate you finding room in your busy schedule to share your insights on the importance of Empowering Yourself. 

CF:  Thank you for inviting me.  It is my pleasure to be here and have an opportunity to discuss the necessity of empowering yourself to succeed.  It is a topic near and dear to my heart.  In fact, it is what the iamchrisfindley brand is all about.

WMV:  Really, Chris and why are you so passionate about the topic of empowerment? 

CF:  Because I believe that every human being has something great and special to offer this world and it is in all our best interest to encourage, inspire and empower ourselves and others to make sure that happens.

WMV:  How is it that you have been able to start and run your own branding firm and lead one of the largest graphic companies in New York City, The Graphic Express LLC, at such a young age when other people are struggling just trying to find and keep a job?   

CF:   I would have to credit my drive, personality and determination for that.  Running a business is not for everyone so if having a 9 to 5 gig is your thing, then I say great.  However, I have always had the desire to build something from scratch and do my own thing.  What makes me particularly blessed in this instance is that I realized these desires at an early stage in my life and then acted upon it.

WMV:  The word empowerment means a lot of things to a lot of different people, what does it mean to you?

CF: Empowerment can take so many different forms and expressions.  You can empower yourself mentally, physically, financially, spiritually etc. however I really think that it is about keeping yourself in a positive state of mind so that you can be the best you can be in whatever endeavor that you are engaged in.  Empowerment is a daily thing that inspires growth in the best athletes, moms, business people, celebrities etc.  It is not something you can limit to a particular class or status of people.

WMV:  What were the greatest obstacles you faced in starting your business?

CF: Realizing I could do anything that I put my mind to.  Ultimately, the hardest part is the internal battle.  It is much easier when you have the confidence in your ability and then the commitment to execute on your ideas.  I have always had the confidence however when you begin to match it with commitment and action and then you begin to see it take shape, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.

WMV:  What can be overwhelming?

CF:  When you are confronted with your own brilliance in the manner in which you intend to make it available in the world. 

WMV: What do you want your legacy to ultimately be?

CF:  I am extremely passionate about the legacy I am creating.  While I do not have every aspect of it mapped out as yet, ultimately I want to leave this earth knowing that I invested my energies and expertise in helping others promote and build their brands through the use of cutting edge Social Media Marketing strategies and techniques made available to them through my firm, The Graphic Express LLC.  I also have philanthropic aspiration to help build schools and communities, absolutely but ultimately I want to know that because I lived and was invested in the lives of the people around me everyone grew and benefited.  Not just me and mine but we all flourished and thrived because of the chrisfindleybrand.

WMV: Chris you work with many high profile people and celebrities and I know you are not a person to name drop so I will not ask you to however, I would like to understand how you are able to maintain your integrity and convictions in the midst of all the affluence and power that you are exposed to.  How do you keep it from compromising the essence of who you are as a person? 

CF:  The only person I really consider a celebrity is God.  He is the only one I worship or idolize.  I truly believe that everyone’s valuable it is just that some people have more fortune and fame than others; but every single person matters.  And I believe my clients appreciate that about me. 

WMV: Chris as always, it was a pleasure speaking with you and I so appreciate you allowing us to catch a glimpse of empowerment in action in such a self-direct and dynamic young professional as yourself.  To learn more about the extraordinary things Chris does to “Own His Brilliance” and empower himself for success, visit him at:

If you have found the information and recommendations contained in this blog helpful and are interested in learning more about “Owning Your Brilliance,” consider attending one of our upcoming Professional Development workshop series by clicking on the following link:

In the meantime, we encourage you to make a conscience choice to Empower Yourself each and every day of your life by working on building up each of the eight key components of empowerment outlined in this blog.
Respectfully submitted for your thoughtful consideration,

Willie Mae Veasy
President and CEO
Covenant Business Concepts LLC