My Words

All the World’s a Stage…

Shakespeare wrote “all the world’s a stage and men and women merely players.” In the world of leadership, the workplace provides the stage for us to perform as leaders, and too often we no longer recognize which is the act and which is us. In 1959, Erving Goffman called this dramatology and used it to explain the way individuals choose to present themselves to the world. Eventually, this idea became known as Impression Management, a behavior used to control the way a person is perceived by others (their image) in an effort to gain or maintain power, influence, or position.

I’ve heard one of my favorite authors, Jo Saxton, ask the question “Who were you before others told you who you were?” Great question, isn’t it? When we are caught in the grip of impression management, we are more concerned with portraying the right image and being seen with the right people than we are about finding value in our own identity. When we cannot separate other people’s impressions of us from our own self, we can tend to focus so hard on the view of others that we lose sight of ourselves. As a result, we strive harder to manage our image than to manage our leadership.

Leadership growth begins with recognizing yourself and all you bring to the leadership table. You already possess the desire to lead or you wouldn’t be reading this article. With each step into the leadership arena, your confidence grows. Be authentic in who you are and confident in what YOU have to offer. You will then be able to step boldly into YOUR leadership rather than remaining in the shadow of someone else’s.

Dr. Joy Karavedas

This article is an excerpt from my new book, From Striving to Thriving. Available now on Amazon. Click the link here to get your copy:

Use the Contact Me tab for information about speaking opportunities, organizational workshops, and/or individual coaching.

The WORD for 2021

For several years, I’ve had a practice of choosing a focus word for each year. Sometimes this word resonated deep within me, and other times it was purely practical.  The last several weeks I have been reading, researching, praying, listening, scrolling, and genuinely seeking a clear word for the upcoming year. My word for 2021 is…. wait for it…. RELATIONSHIP!

This word impressed upon me early, but I wasn’t sure it was right. After all, relationship isn’t the strong motivational word one typically associates with a focus word. However, as I ruminated longer and more deeply on the idea of relationship, it was abundantly clear that RELATIONSHIP is definitely an appropriate word for the year 2021. 

Humans are social animals.  We need relationship with other humans.   Unlike wild animals or machines or even artificial intelligence, human beings are actually enhanced by relationship.  We work harder, are more engaged, and are happier when in healthy, strong relationship with those around us. Whether in the workplace, in your personal life, or in your own soul, relationship helps human beings thrive. 

Relationship impacts all areas of our lives for better or worse.  Teams with good working relationships are more productive.  Focus on relationships with the people at work, and you will become a better leader. Families with strong personal relationships are stronger.  Focus on relationships with your spouse, children, parents, or other significant family members, and you will create a bond not easily broken. Author Heather Stillufsen said that walking with a friend can be great therapy. Focus on relationships with your friends and enhance your emotional health. Focus on relationship with your God and find the inner peace that may have been missing from your life.

Regardless of the setting, there are a few guiding principles to enhance any relationship:

Be Gracious – No one is perfect.  Give grace to mistakes.  Allow space for mistakes and misunderstanding.  You will want the same when you make a mistake.

Put in the Work –  Human beings are complex, which means relationships can be complicated.  Take the time and put in the work needed to grow your relationship.

Focus on the Present – Be present when present.  Turn off your phone, stop multi-tasking, pay attention to who is in front of you.  A strong relationship is worth your focus.

My word for 2021 is Relationship.  What’s your word?

An Optimistic Look at 2021

Many of us are excited to see 2020 in the rear view mirror.  It certainly has been a year like no other.  But how do we approach the upcoming year as an individual and as a leader?  The truth is that the world may not change simply because the calendar reflects a new year.  What does it mean to look forward with optimism in the midst of difficulty?

It is important to make the distinction between positivity and optimism.  Choosing positivity sounds positively wonderful. However, positivity is not the same as optimism, and the difference can impact your ability to lead – especially in times of crisis or change.  According to Simon Sinek, positivity is telling ourselves (and others) that everything is good, even if it isn’t.  Optimism, on the other hand, accepts reality as it is and looks forward to a brighter future” (Chio, 2020).  This is a subtle difference, but an important one.

Ignoring the negative in the name of positivity does not allow you to appropriately address the needs of a situation.  Dismissing the feelings that accompany a trying situation to focus on a “positive only” outlook can be disconcerting to those holding these concerns. 

Optimism is a mindset that intentionally chooses to move forward into the future in spite of the realities of the situation. 

Dr. Joy Karavedas

Rather than turning a blind eye to the difficulties of a situation, optimism examines the tough realities and chooses to move forward with the belief that you have the power to make change.

So, as we say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to 2021, let us explore all the good and the bad that was 2020.  Let us clearly understand the difficult year it has been – both professionally and personally.  Then, and only then, let us also move forward to achieve our goals and dreams in spite those difficulties.  

Chio. (2020). Simon sinek on the difference between optimism and positivity.

The Dangers of Complacent Leadership

Every day, I walk by an ugly green couch in our den.  It’s nearly 20 years old and should have been thrown away years ago.  Nevertheless, it still sits there in our den.  Why? Because my family will not let me get rid of it.   It may no longer be an attractive piece of furniture, but it is the most comfortable couch we own and the perfect place for a Sunday afternoon nap.

As I look at that old, ugly couch, I can’t help but think about how our leadership skills can be a little like that couch.  Sometimes, we have skills that are old and outdated.  We follow ideas that are no longer useful in today’s organizational culture.  Yet, we are reluctant to discard those skills and ideas because they are comfortable.  We know them well, and they fit.  Beware!

Comfort can lead to complacency and complacency can be dangerous to leadership.

Complacency lures us into a sense that everything is fine, making us unaware of pending problems or deficiencies.  Great leaders are incredibly aware of themselves and their teams.  They know their values and are intentional with their actions, proactive rather than reactive. Conscious, purposeful leadership is the opposite of comfortable, complacent leadership.   

Old couches may be comfortable, but old leadership skills are not.  Wake up your leadership with continued development.  Create a leadership library with books on pertinent leadership topics, attend workshops and conferences to understand current leadership development, and build a network of leaders to gather ideas and influence.   You will find that the new can feel just as comfortable as the old.

Naptime is over; wake up and lead!

Motivation in Motion

Leadership is not about position. Leadership is about a passion for making a difference.

Robin Sharma

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about motivation.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our teams are motivated and empowered to move forward to achieve both personal and organizational goals.  Great leaders work daily to keep their teams motivated and inspired.  But who inspires the leader?  How do leaders stay motivated enough to motivate others?

The truth is, all leaders get tired.  On occasion, my own motivation wanes and I just don’t feel inspirational today … or this week … or this month.  Continuously meeting the expectations of others both above and below on the organizational ladder can impact the expectations we have of ourselves.  As leaders, we often spend so much time inspiring others, we forget what inspires us.  These are the thoughts that led me to question the leader’s need for renewed motivation.

So I did what everybody does when they need an answer – I Googled it.  There are over 17,000 results for “how does a leader stay motivated?”  Apparently, I’m not the only leader who finds internal motivation to be challenging at times.  After reading a few articles (not all 17,000, I assure you), I noticed that a majority made the following suggestions: remember your “why,” ensure balance, and find a support system.  All of these suggestions had one thing in common; namely, increasing motivation requires a focus on others rather than self.

Motivation is an inward drive inspired by outward actions. 

When we take our eyes off ourselves and focus externally, we remember why we lead.  Remembering your values and purpose, considering others on the scales of the work-life balance, and accepting support from colleagues all provide an opportunity for leaders to re-focus eyes on a greater aim. Reflecting on motivation beyond the workplace provides the impetus for leaders to lean into leadership and fully move forward once again.   

Lessons from Calvin & Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes were speaking more truth than they realized.  Research has shown that many leaders arrive at their positions as a result of organizational need, rather than a planned, career trajectory (Garza & Eddy, 2008; Inman, 2007; Klein & Salk, 2013). My own experience agrees with the research, and I know a myriad of people who are given leadership roles or provided with leadership opportunities for which they had no desire or plan. Often, this results in a leader who lacks leadership preparation and is left to figure it out on the job.  Research and evidence are great, but …

You’re the leader – Now What?

It’s not too late.  You can plan your own leadership development.  While you may find yourself in this position randomly, leadership is learned through the day-to-day practice of leading.  With intentional focus on your own development, you can grow your leadership skills every day.  With a few specific and intentional practices, you will be able to focus on leading today while growing your leadership skills for tomorrow.

ASSESS Your Skill Set – Take an honest look at what you know … and what you don’t know.  Leaders must know themselves before they can lead others.  Spend time assessing your strengths and areas needing growth.  Seek help from a coach or someone who can help you identify what skills should still be developed to propel your leadership.

REFLECT on Your Leadership Style – Reflect on who you want to be as a leader and what authentic leadership looks like on you.  Write your thoughts down in a journal or a blog or just scraps of paper, but put them down somewhere.  Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper makes them more real which is the first step toward achieving your leadership goals.

MOVE into Your Leadership Role – Lean in and embrace the position you’ve been given.  Crawling, walking, and running are all movement.  You will not grow as a leader until you fully take on the role and move within it.  You are gifted or you wouldn’t be there, so reach for it and move into this leadership opportunity with all you have.

Growth is one of the best things about being human.  We are built to learn and develop.  You may not have planned this part of your leadership journey, but you have arrived here and there is so much to discover.   


Garza, R. & Eddy, P. (2008). In the middle: Career pathways of midlevel community college leaders. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 32, 793-811.

Inman, M. (2007). The journey to leadership: A study of how leader-academics in higher education learn to lead. University of Birmingham.

Klein, M. F., & Salk, R. J. (2013). Presidential succession planning: A qualitative study in private higher education. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 20(3), 335-345.

A View from My Window

There’s a world out there. Open a window, and it’s there.

Robin Williams

It’s May 2020 and unless you have been sleeping under a rock, you know that the world is in the midst of a pandemic that has people both fearful and excited, working from home and working harder than ever, confused.  I told myself I wasn’t going to write about this situation.  There are literally hundreds of articles about crisis management, leading during change, and working with new technologies.  But, I can write about what I know…. I know people and I know leadership.

A few weeks into the stay at home measures, a friend of mine suggested I take a look at a Facebook group called A View from My Window.  The entire social media content consists of pictures taken by people of their current views.  I’ve seen photos of Greek islands, Italian villas, and seaports in Croatia.  My scrolling has given me a view of Texas thunderstorms, tornadoes over the Great Plains, and even hospital rooms from the office of essential medical personnel  It’s been pure enjoyment and respite from the conflicting news reports and confusing data otherwise streaming in the media.

Some of the most interesting pictures are those that focus on a single subject – a beautiful red flower or a solitary tree in a field.  I’ve been thinking about the view from my leadership window.  Do I see the beauty in the individual or am I only looking at the wider angle?  We are called upon to be visionary leaders; however, sometimes the vision can block our view.  Vision is important to leadership, but a focus on the individual is critical to leading.

Do you see the team member whose home feels more like a prison than a workplace?  How about the office clown who is missing his audience?  A team is only as good as its players and players need a coach, especially when our plans have been altered and purpose obstructed.  There are a few things you can do to make sure your view is as clear as your vision.

Look Up – Look up from the reports, budgets and market analysis necessary to organizational success to invest in success of the human capital in front of you.

Look Deep – Look close at the players on your team and see them as individuals not only participants in a greater game.

Look Inside – Look inside and be clear about what you see.  Both vision and view must begin within the leader.

Take a look … what’s the view outside your window?

Career Goals!

You are never to old to dream a new dream.

C.S. Lewis

I would love to say I have achieved all my career goals, but I don’t believe leaders should lie.  As a matter of fact, this past year has been one that has required some deep soul searching about the direction my career has taken since I became Dr. Karavedas.  The truth is, the career doors did not fly open after I defended my dissertation.  In fact, after trying and applying, I’m in the same place I was before I became a doctor.

When a person finally achieves their dream, it is not unusual to think everything else will fall into place because the goal has been reached.  After all, hard work and effort should be recognized – right?  Unfortunately, the world isn’t always a party to our dreams and life doesn’t always turn out as expected.  Was it all wasted time and effort?  The answer is a resounding – NO!  Although external rewards may come, the reward of an achievement must be the achievement itself. 

It may take time to actually believe this to be true, and there may be a period of doubt, questions, and, perhaps, even a little self-pity.  Your future is still in the making and to make the most of that future, it is important to look inward and truly reflect on the value that exists in the achievement of the goal or dream. Rather than running head first onto the next thing, spend some time contemplating what you have achieved.  Ask yourself, what does it mean to you personally?  How does it impact your leadership?  Before worrying about where you may be headed next, reflect on who has helped you get where you are now, and do they know it

I have had to remind myself to slow down and take time to savor the moments that helped me become Dr. Karavedas.  I am learning to enjoy this time and lean into the satisfaction of this achievement.  This is only the first step toward so many more experiences, but there is no need to rush.  The next dream is out there waiting for me, and it doesn’t mind waiting just a little longer.

Manager – Leader – Coach: Who Are You?

The answer is all of the above.  Different situations call for different roles.  Leaders wear many hats and it is your responsibility to determine which hat to wear in each situation.  Let’s take a look at a few things that might help you understand the differences between leadership roles and help you choose your hats.

Manager – the Decision Maker

We’ve all seen the quotes “managers do things right and leaders do the right things” or “managers focus on things and leaders focus on people,” and there are many more just like those. In fact, I have my own take on this idea in my LinkedIn profile (feel free to check it out).  The truth is leaders sometimes manage and managers often lead.  When your team has a problem and needs a quick decision, they need someone who understands the system, has knowledge of the process, and can direct action quickly – a Manager. 

Leader – the Visionary

Leaders are able to see the future and take their teams into that future.  This doesn’t mean leaders must be the most creative or innovative members of their teams.  While creativity and innovation are valuable, the greatest visionary element is curiosity.  Visionary leaders ask questions like what is next? What could we do better?  They also have the innate ability to lead their teams in finding answers to those questions.

Coach – the Mentor

As the wife of a football coach, I know how much coaches pour into their players.  In an organizational setting, leaders serve as coaches to individual members of their teams, encouraging them to grow personally and professionally.  The coaching process leads individual team members into the discovery of their own strengths and guides them toward victory – achievement of their goals.

Leading people requires a variety of leadership skills with the ability to discern which skills are needed in different situations. Be bold, be brave, and step into those situations with skill and passion.  Remember, your people are counting on you.

“Leadership is not a position or title, it is an action and example.” Donald McGannon

The Danger of the Leadership Plateau

There are no limits.  There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  

Bruce Lee

The great leadership expert Bruce Lee was absolutely right – you must not stay in the plateau places.  The greatest danger of the plateau is that it simply feels so comfortable.   In fact, it feels so comfortable you may not even realize you have plateaued.  Leadership plateaus let us move into autopilot and relax into familiar patterns.  Moving from one situation to another, one decision to another, one person to another without the need to think about the next step.  Comfort isn’t wrong, and every leader needs a chance to rest into their leadership on occasion.  But remaining on a leadership plateau will never move you forward in leadership; nor does it provide the engaged leadership needed by those being led.

There are four things leaders must do when facing a leadership plateau:

EXAMINE yourself and your leadership – Recent research revealed that 86% of senior leaders found making time and space for reflection critical to their leadership success[1].  Intentionally setting aside time to reflect on leadership decisions creates better decision makers.  Examining important interactions and critical conversations changes the way we lead people.  Considering future leadership roles provides direction to leadership growth and development.  Personal examination increases understanding of one’s leadership strengths and characteristics, allowing leaders to lean into those strengths while working on areas needing growth.

EXPAND your network of professional relationships – Successful leaders maintain a broad network of professional relationships to enhance their leadership skills.  By intentionally building relationships with a variety of people, leaders gather experience and learning that is strategically designed to benefit their leadership growth. By sharing information and experiences, individuals learn from each other and develop personally and professionally.  If you find yourself regularly seeking leadership advice and coaching from the same person or group, you may want to expand your professional network.  Developing strategic relationships is important to continued leadership growth and prevents stagnation.

EXPLORE new opportunities to stretch your leadership – Complacency is the enemy of growth.  When we settle for what we know, we fail to grow.  Seeking stretch opportunities requires leaders to leave their comfort zone and risk failure.  This is scary as hell.  However, accepting these stretch opportunities develops new skills and insights that often cannot be learned in any other context.  An added benefit is that stretch assignments spark new excitement and interest in our leadership roles and create leaders who are more engaged.

We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change. 

Sheryl Sandberg

EXIT a bad situation – In some instances, the only way to move off the plateau is to actually move.   This may appear drastic, but sometimes removing oneself may be the only way to escape a bad situation, a bad leader, or a bad work culture.  Remaining with an organization that does not value you or your leadership will drag both down.  It’s not always possible to simply walk away from a position.  However, when the leadership plateau is the result of a toxic environment, every additional moment should be spent seeking the means to leave that environment. 

Leadership should never be boring.  Leadership should be moveable, changing, and exciting.  Leaders must take responsibility for their own leadership growth by intentionally engaging in the leadership development process.  Jumping off the plateau and heading out on the path of leadership makes you a better leader, and your leadership growth impacts everyone around you. 

[1] Karavedas, J. (2019). Becoming leaders: A phenomenological study of how mid-level leaders in Christian universities develop leadership skills.