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SupaThink: Being SUPA

For those of you who know me, you have heard the word "SUPA" a lot – maybe even more often than you wish. It is my usual "Austrian-accent-response" to the question how you are. It is a misspelled expression of positivism, enjoyment and appreciation – however, it has a much deeper meaning for me. It has become a synonym for my leadership brand and the key aspects in leadership I value the most. SUPA stands for Strengths, Uniqueness, Purpose and Authenticity:

  • Strengths: As leaders we must continuously learn, develop and improve. Core competence and skills are nonnegotiable and table stakes; however, it is imperative to push beyond these core strengths. I think it is critical to not only focus on what fits our beliefs but challenge the status quo and expose ourselves to topics and learnings which may go against our own "expertise" and set of ways. Fostering a continuous learning and expanding mindset creates confidence to work on the most difficult challenges. What is most important for me however, is the need to connect your individual appetite for learning and development to your team and the broader organization. A continuous learning culture multiplies and compounds individual strengths and can generate enormous value and impact.

  • Uniqueness: I always try to encourage everyone to work on their brand, finding ways to stand out and make a difference, because a focus on differentiation and uniqueness creates resiliency, change readiness and fosters innovation. Everyone has the potential to bring their better self to a team or organization. However, I have sometimes observed a reluctance to do just that. It may be due to personal insecurities, competitiveness or political pressures, whatever the reason, people tend to protect instead to transcend their uniqueness and capabilities to the broader organization. Strong leaders encourage their teams to be vulnerable and supportive of each other as well as contribute to the creation of a broader organizational uniqueness which can lead to a lasting competitive advantage.

  • Purpose: The creation of a higher purpose is one of the most important features in leadership. Purpose not only provides a sense of direction or north star, it also establishes a sense of meaning and fulfillment. I strongly believe however that purpose is not set from the top but rather created from within. In an increasingly uncertain, complex and volatile world, leaders must connect team's capabilities and passions to an overall and broader betterment as well as service emerging needs, address increasing change and respond to new trends. That higher purpose is created jointly, by understanding the context and different perspectives and leveraging diversity of thoughts, capabilities and backgrounds. Great leaders lift folks up and unleash their energies to help shape the purpose and foster an understanding that there is always a "natural" gap between intended purpose and actual realities. In servitude to purpose, these leaders encourage teams to find a path forward and develop a can-do mindset to see the opportunities in every challenge.

  • Authenticity: Authenticity is one of the clearest manifestations of someone's core values. As leaders we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to bring out our better self. We should be transparent about who we are, how we think, how we approach our work and how we lead – and most importantly, that we all are "work in progress". We should be humble, respectful and extremely interested in other's views and perspectives. Our authentic core must be grounded in ethics, character and integrity. Critically, our authentic self must connect with the team. We need to understand their authentic selves, foster genuine connections and establish an inclusive and open-minded culture.

SUPA is on a journey and certainly will continue to evolve. Focusing on one's strengths, uniqueness, purpose and authenticity and connecting those to a broader team and context can create enormous amount of value and benefits beyond yourself, team and organization – and maybe even contribute to making the world a better place. It has been some time since I posted a blog. Things have been busy – but that is an excuse – more to come in the near future. Promise! In the meantime, next time anyone asks you how you are, you know the response. 😊

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