This article is inspired by a chapter from Sylvia Becker’s book, Instant Insights on . . . 12 Leadership Powers for Successful Women.

Most leaders believe everyone is constantly expecting their judgment, and wants – or fears! – to hear their opinion.

What if there is a way more powerful way to lead?

When we look at something, our senses transport the incoming data to our brain. There, it gets compared with old memories, assessed against values, mixed with emotions, mulled over with some judgment and checked to determine if it is dangerous or pleasant for us. At the very end we come out with some kind of very personal opinion about what we saw or experienced, yet think it is the correct objective representation of the external reality. As philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti said so wisely:

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”

If you want to become a powerful leader, you have to train yourself in that ability.

Why? Our individual opinions:

• separate us from others,
• trigger emotions
• cause conflict
• create drama
• fix attention
• make clear analytical thinking and
complex decisions nearly impossible

Rumpelstiltskin, the German fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, gives a powerful mystical example. In it a farmer’s daughter makes a deal with a gnome who has the power to turn straw into gold so she can win the prince. The gnome expects her to pay with her first-born child. When he comes for his payment, she begs him to leave the child with her. He offers: if she figures out his secret name in three days, the child stays. One of her servants watches the gnome in a forest dancing around a fire singing, “How great that no one knows my name is Rumpelstiltskin!” When the gnome returns, the young queen says “Rumpelstiltskin.” He becomes so angry that he tears himself apart and disappears forever.

The point? When we are able to give things their name, their simple label without any story or drama – what I define as “acknowledgement” – we have power over them!

“Acknowledgment” in this context doesn’t mean to give compliments or to make things more positive than they are! It means simply going through your day by observing what is going on, without making more out of it or embellishing things with drama to make yourself more interesting in others’ eyes. When you make a mistake, simply acknowledge it, clean up, and move on. When you see someone else making a mistake, label it simply as it is, don’t add any blame or guilt or shame-inducing judgment!

Watch how much more energy you have at your disposal when your life becomes drama-free with the power of acknowledgment!

Watch how your company’s culture changes when, as a leader, you create a drama-free work environment for everyone.


1. Know: The highest form of human intelligence is observation without judgment.

2. Trust: Tell it like it is, and all drama evaporates.

3. Lead: By acknowledging everything and everyone just as they are.

About Your Columnist

Sylvia Becker-Hill is a featured columnist for Women Lead, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers the topic of women’s empowerment. An award-winning executive coach on both sides of the Atlantic since 1997, she is also a published author and executive speaker. Sylvia is the founder of Über Women International Inc., a global empowerment company on a mission to turn more professional women into powerful leaders shaping the world.

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