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Live Your Truth

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”

– Elvis Presley

I lost my grandmother, Helen J. Kozma, a few years back and she was the most generous woman I've ever known. To give you a glimpse into the type of woman she was, on her 90th birthday just a few short months before she died of cancer, she called each of us to her bedside and gave US gifts for HER birthday!

Grandma Helen or Gigi, as she was known, was from very humble beginnings and worked in earnest with my grandfather to make a wonderful life for their two daughters, my mom Barbara and my aunt Diane. Grandma Helen valued family above anything else. How can I attest to that? By how she lived and acted, simply put she lived her truth. When I was in college Grandma Helen sent me a handwritten letter each month with $50 in spending money during my first two years and increased it to $100 for my last year. The letters were scrawled in her perfect cursive and after she wrote something cute she would write (smile). I loved getting her letters, not only because of the spending money but because of her notes telling me all that was going on in her life while I was at school.

Grandma Helen loved to read and it was at her house on a weekend when I read my first novel. I was so excited that I actually read a "chapter book" by myself. The book was Lillies of the Field and I remember the sense of accomplishment that I felt that day. She and I sat near each other that weekend in silence as we were both whisked away to different places because of the books we read. I could always count on Grandma Helen to have a book with her wherever she went. I believe I got my voracious appetite for reading from her.

My grandmother was also known for her gift-giving. If Grandma Helen knew you were "into" something she would scour every thrift store and pick up little things for you. When my husband joined the family and she knew he was into was on! We have more golf chachkas in our home than you can imagine (smile). She loved to give gifts even more than receiving them. She would spend all year buying Christmas presents for her beloveds and then she would watch each of us open every single present and if we missed one she knew. She was never late with a birthday card and her gifts were always very thoughtful.

So, why am I writing about my grandmother this week? Am I being sentimental? Maybe. Of course, I miss her dearly and feel so blessed that my children had a relationship with her. They coined the name Gigi and she had a special relationship with them. When my grandmother died she had 8 great-grandchildren!

Grandma Helen was the matriarch of our family, you guessed it she was a leader. In watching her throughout my life and learning from her I realized that when you are a leader what you DO speaks more loudly than what you SAY. In leadership, it is important that you are authentic and live your truth like my grandmother did. “Fake it until you make it” is not a good mantra for a leader. When you become the leader of an organization you are signing up for a 24/7 job. Every incident, action, and decision that happens during your tenure will be associated with you. Your values are evident in the way you act, not by what you say.

The organization that you lead becomes your family of sorts. The decisions you make will impact each person that the organization serves just like my grandmother's actions impacted her family. When my grandmother sent me spending money for college her message wasn't just here is some cash and a little note. No, my grandmothers' actions said: "I am proud of you for going to college and I want to help make it a bit less challenging for you when you are away."

So when you are taking action, be sure you think about what you truly value and act accordingly. As a leader, if you are not your authentic self you will not be able to reach the goals you have for your organization or yourself. You will not garner the respect or support of your peers or those who report to you. It is incumbent upon you to ensure that you project what you value because people will be able to tell what you value by your actions.

What do you value? What do you think your colleagues would say that you value? Is there alignment or misalignment? Take a few minutes to ponder those questions, you might be surprised by your answers.

For more on how realizing your values will make you a stronger leader download a FREE copy of my book here:

In love and friendship,


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