Dr. Lalia Rach, Executive Managing Director, Strategic Services, at ALHI, is a successful consultant, educator and leader recognized for her ability as a pragmatic thinker. Her approach to issues of strategy and leadership development produces insightful and distinctive thinking advancing the ability of emerging and established executives. Her success as a consultant, keynote speaker and moderator is directly connected to her relatable honesty and practical and thoughtful information. She has published her first book on leadership, “Managing the Book on You: Rewriting Your Leadership Story.” The book will be available to order from Amazon August 11.
Why did you decide to write this book?
I have coached many executives over the past three decades, in mid- and senior-level positions in Fortune 500 corporations, family-owned businesses and everything in between. While the focus of my coaching is on assisting the professional in becoming a better leader, it became clear that it wasn't enough for the individual to improve and grow. They needed to actively change the out-of-date views and assumptions held about them by colleagues, bosses and team members.
You write that professional development for executives has been overlooked. Why is that?
As professionals our focus is on the tangible aspects of advancing our career—degrees, certificates, training, finding a mentor, etc. We actively work to demonstrate our subject matter expertise, that we have gotten better at being an accountant, sales manager or operator. We regularly inform bosses, peers and teams that we have achieved a higher understanding of a technique, etc. But as a leader, your subject matter knowledge takes second place to the intangibles that define you: are you more emotionally mature, a better listener, less inclined to jump to conclusions and more collaborative? How you communicate your growth and change in these intangible areas matters just as much, if not more, than your tangible advancement. Putting who you have become into proper focus for others is something many of us ignore and pay the price for doing so. Identifying what you were versus what you have become is vital if others are to view the entire professional.
Why is it important for executives to embark on a journey of self-awareness and professional development?
Both emotional maturity and subject matter expertise must be advanced in a coordinated fashion in an emerging leader’s journey. It is as an established leader that one must shift to greater emphasis on executive presence, verbal and written communication, and emotional evenness as people skills move to the forefront. We want to have leaders who inspire and develop us, who are even-keeled, thoughtful, perceptive, comfortable and focused, all intangible skills that must be honed during the leadership journey. We are all too aware of those individuals who have not advanced the intangible skills; we tend to group them in the bad leader category.
Whose leadership style do you admire?
All leaders are on a journey and so I find an element or two that generally resonates with me and perhaps all put together describes a complete style. I will give you four elements from four different people that I admire and seek to incorporate in my leadership style:
· Barbara Jordan, a lawyer, educator and politician who spoke with authority, eloquence and intelligence, and who always believed that we all could be better citizens. She made you want to listen to her, to accomplish what she suggested.
· My grandmother, Eulalia Rach, for her ability to create a successful business even though she only had a third-grade education. Her innate understanding of people, their wants and needs… well it was nothing short of amazing. I learned to trust my natural abilities through her example.
· Russell Wilson, the NFL quarterback who had and has a plan for achieving far beyond what the experts thought he could do both on the field and off. He was told he was too short to succeed in college and professional football and he used criticism as fuel for his fire. He demonstrates what I take to heart—no one else can determine who or what you are.
· I admire Naomi Levine, who as Senior Vice President for External Affairs at New York University never took no for an answer and accomplished what so many thought impossible including being the first person to set a $1 billion fund-raising goal for a university and achieving it. She set audacious goals that sparked those around her to do more. From this I saw how a leader’s belief could drive enormous and unheard-of success.
So not the textbook answer but every leader must have their own style, live it daily and explain it fully.
What’s the one thing a leader can do to be more effective?
Know your job! Not the subject matter expertise but the intangible elements surrounding culture and the development of those who report to you. Serving with consistent emotional intelligence, believing that it is not about you but on being a professional who is focused on building the value of those they work with as this is what will become tangible ROI. I call it being an accountable adult, a concept that doesn’t always resonate!
What do you mean when you say: ‘The way you tell your story can make all the difference for your career.’
Don’t let others define who you have become. Don’t wait to demonstrate how you have improved; tell and show people how you have advanced. If there is one constant in my book it is how to do this. While you cannot hang a certificate indicating you have earned recognition of improved listening skills, you can demonstrate it, indicate that you are working on this, find ways to help others “see” you differently.
What was a defining moment that changed the course of your life?
Never accepting the boundaries others attempted to put on me. I have always believed I could and should do and be what I wanted not what others expected. This is my choice and I made it early on when my mom wanted me to buy a cowgirl outfit for my fifth birthday and I refused saying it had to be a cowboy outfit cause how could I ride the range and fight outlaws? It made such sense to me that sidesaddle wouldn’t work. Why couldn’t I as a girl bring justice to the wild west even though it happened on my rocking horse in our living room?
What do you hope readers of your book will come away with?
It is best for me to again take a quote from my book: “This is your journey and so modify any idea you like within these pages. Focus on what resonates with you. Go on a quest to elevate an aspect of your behavior or being. Never be defined by others. Always manage your own book.” I want professionals to believe they can achieve more but to do so means you must ask more of yourself and not everyone wants to do that.
What have you learned about yourself going through the experience of writing a book?
What first popped into my head was how extremely stubborn I am but when I really think about it what that means is I have expectations for myself, and this was one of them. I am successful with or without writing this book, but I have a deep desire to be of service which can sound cheesy or inauthentic, but it is at the very core of my being. I learned things over the course of my work life I believe are translatable and relatable to others.
Is there a sequel?
Hopefully by next fall. Stay tuned!