• drlesliehughes

What is the LEAD Zone?

Updated: Jul 1



Let's talk about our egos for a minute. Our egos are all the beliefs of what we are—our personality, talents, our abilities. Our egos are our sense of self, an important part of our identity. But here's the thing: the mental construct of our “self” is artificial. It's not objective in the slightest because we can build and reinforce our identities through the thoughts we have. Thoughts such as "I'm bad at math" or "I'm a great mother" shape what we believe about ourselves.


And our egos just loooove to listen to fear. In fact, they often seem to thrive on fear, stress, and anxiety. That's because we all share a deep-rooted, inherent need for "enough-ness". That need is exactly how fear preys on the choices we make. Fear whispers that there isn't enough for us; that we're not enough. That's probably why fear seems to always buzz around our egos like a fruit fly trying to land in our Rosé. There is a natural attraction between fear and our sweet, delicate egos.


The fear of failure has killed more dreams than all other fears combined.

The fear of failure is especially insidious because it often prevents us from even trying in the first place, literally guaranteeing failure. Even though fear lives largely in our imagination, we still allow it to shape our patterns of behavior.


We let fear write our story for us. Or, at the very least, we allow fear to possess a prominent seat at the writer's table of our lives. And the thing is, fear is actually a damn good thriller writer. When fear writes the story for us, it's a masterful twisted tale that cleverly disguises the impacts of our choices from us. We don't see how the little things add up until the third act plot twist, and by then it's too late. It's so subtle, too. Maybe we're afraid to look foolish or perhaps we're scared to try something new. Or maybe... it's that sometimes we just fear disappointment itself.


We think we've got all the windows and doors locked, but somehow fear creeps in anyway. And it disorients our judgement. Fear is what makes us run up the stairs instead of out the front door in our personal horror movies.

Fear keeps us from achieving our full potential as leaders.

The Comfort Zone

Given our propensity for attracting fear, it comes as no surprise that many of us like to hang out in the cozy little space we've built for ourselves known as the "comfort zone". I like to think of the comfort zone as the sacred space where we bask in the rays of our illusion of control.


The phrase was coined by management thinker Judith Bardwick (1991):

“The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”

Most of us try pretty hard to protect our comfort zones. We've knitted together patterns of thought and behavior that lead to very specific and very reliable outcomes that keep our comfort zones safe and intact. They are the things we think and do that produce low-risk outcomes in our lives.


The Nests We Weave

I like to think of these patterns as the nests we weave around our comfort zones. They're like nests because they're complicated and sometimes messy. Beliefs, behavior and impact are woven together in many different ways based on the unique and layered experiences we've had. And these nests contain a mixture of the bad with the good, just as long as it's familiar.


They're built with the lessons we've learned along the way that shape how we've come to think about ourselves and others (beliefs), our actions, reactions and responses (behavior), and the influence of our actions on ourselves and others (impact). Our impact has an effect on our experiences, specifically our success.

Our nests may be the only part of the success equation we actually have any control over.

Our nests are constructed of:

  • our good and bad beliefs about ourselves and others,

  • our healthy and harmful behaviors and habits, and

  • the impact on ourselves and others as a result of our actions


The LEAD Zone

Why do we build these nests? Because of the big ol' presence lurking right outside our comfort zones. That, my friends, is the "fear zone". And it determines how much we can expand.

Great leaders aren't exempt from feeling fear. LEAD is a roadmap for leaders who find themselves with the need to expand outside of their comfort zones. It's a strategy that can be applied right now, at any stage in the leadership journey. LEAD helps us reclaim our power to change patterns of belief and behavior that hold us back. In other words, it helps us get out of our own way and commit to our success.

LEARN - great leaders get curious.
EVOLVE - great leaders adapt as they learn.
ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE - great leaders are accountable.
DO - great leaders have the courage to act, even when it's difficult.

To LEAD is to create a zone of performance outside of the comfort zone. In order to do that, beliefs, behavior, and impact must expand. Curiosity and courage lead the way when the fear zone feels strong.

Four LEAD Zone Questions To Guide Expansion:

  1. What lessons am I learning about myself or others?

  2. How do I adapt or adjust for the outcome I desire?

  3. How will I remain accountable to my commitments?

  4. What impact will I have?

The LEAD zone demands that we build bigger, better nests in order to grow.



I invite you to take up more space.