Do YOU ever get stuck in rut? You know…when you feel you are on auto pilot at work and at home? I think we all have moments like that and it is important to recognise them and find motivation.

Over the years I realise that I have four go-to ways that consistently refocus me…re-energise me….and get me back on track!

  1. Embrace a change of scene
  2. Read an Inspiring Book
  3. Listen to Upbeat/Motivating Music
  4. Focus less on yourself and more on others

Take this work trip that I didn’t necessarily want to go on and I was in a bit of a funk… I reluctantly booked the trip for the conference because I had too much going on to be spending a week out of the office right now.

Even though I knew a change of scene was probably in order I found myself denying it and making up excuses for all the reasons I couldn’t go. So I just had to remind myself that “the way I was working wasn’t working” so find a way to get the most out of it.

Recognising that I would need some support for the long trip and days ahead, I ordered a book that my former executive coach from London had recommended to me. It is called Inside the Leader’s Mind by Liz Mellon and highlights how leaders have the capability to think differently. I made the commitment to myself that by the time I landed back at home I would finish the book.

I also recognise that if I had to choose one thing that I believe “feeds my soul”, grounds me and keeps me motivated—I would have to say that it is music. Listening to music (all kinds of music) helps me to think differently about things, changes my mood, brings me up when I am down, gives me the courage to go on, or humbles me.

I also need to confess that I become obsessive over a song and need to “wear it out” by playing it over and over again. They are all different genres and they often go with a time in my life or an event. For example, my trip to India was ‘Fields of Gold’ by Sting—I played it over and over again the afternoon we drove to the Taj Mahal.

For this particular trip, my daughter was playing “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band in the days before I left. I can’t explain how these songs get stuck in my head, but that was the chosen one for this trip and I found myself humming, and needing to “wear it out”.

As part of the conference activities, we golf. The 16th hole was the women’s longest drive and I stepped up, sang a little “Chicken Fried” and crushed it—long and straight up the middle. As it turns out—this was enough to win women’s longest drive on that hole and I got a $100 Amex card. It felt cool.

That Friday I boarded the plane, book in hand, “Chicken Fried” on the iPhone and ready for the six hour-ride home.  As I devoured the book, what I really appreciated was that leadership isn’t so much about specific behaviours it is about how leaders have the ability to think about things differently.

The five ways she highlights are:

  1. Leaders are able to operate without a safety net. They ultimately know they are on their own—making decisions and stepping out in front leaving everything on the line
  2. Leaders are comfortable in discomfort.
  3. Leaders have a solid core—the book talks about the leader’s soul.
  4. Leaders take the approach that this is “their watch”. That they are in charge of ensuring that there is success on their watch and that they leave a place in better shape than they found it.
  5. Leaders are the Enterprise. They embrace the values of the organisation and they feel they live it every day.

I have to say that # 3 on the list—on “Solid Core”, really resonated with me. It talked about “Your inner compass”, “Do you have an internal sense of the right thing to do?”, “Are you authentic?”, “Do you show Humility?” These traits are really important and are very meaningful to me. The other line that stuck with me was “You’ve made it—you have nothing left to prove – now be generous with what you have learnt”.

I asked the young soldier next to me how long he was going home for. He said he was headed back for 10 days—he was getting married. They were going to have a more traditional wedding later in the year just before he got deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months. He was a sniper and was preparing to head into the eye of the storm. He was young, humble, hardworking and full of hope of what was ahead of him.

I told him about how I had been in Hawaii for meetings and how I had played golf the day before. I told him about how I had hit the longest drive and won a prize. I reached into my purse and gave him the $100 gift card and told him that it was my wedding gift to him and his lovely bride. He was stunned and said he couldn’t accept it. I told him “of course you can—it was found money and it was my pleasure to kick off his wedding week with good karma”. He was unbelievably grateful and I was grateful for “Chicken Fried”, the ability to hit the ball long and straight, and for having the sense to do the right thing.

I had a new sense of purpose after that trip and went back to work re-energised. The funk and rut had cleared!

So the answer to the question “What Makes Leaders Think Differently?” I would argue that a change of scene, a good book, a song that inspires you and focusing less on you and more on others is a good start.


  • Marcia (Marcie) White

    YOU make a Difference

    Every day, Marcie strives to bring passion, high energy and a “get ‘er done” attitude to all that she does. A lifelong learner with 24+ years’ experience in various industry verticals related to Information Technology and Consulting, Marcie applies her genuine desire to get to know others, her innovative marketing approaches as well as her, technical, analytical and engineering qualifications to all that she does. Marcie holds a Bachelor of Science degree and certificate of Applied Science from Acadia University as well as a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering degree from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Jonathan and two daughters Katie (21) and Emily (18). In her spare time she enjoys writing a blog sharing stories from her leadership journey with each submission challenging the reader with “Leadership Questions of the Week” and the concept that YOU make a difference!