What’s In Your Leadership Toolbox? 3 Essential Tools To Build Your Team

What’s In Your Leadership Toolbox? 3 Essential Tools To Build Your Team

I moved into a new place last week and had ordered some new furniture with assembly required. The first couple of items were easy and quick. I knocked them out with minimal effort. The last item was a lateral file cabinet, and you can probably imagine how many pieces it came in. In fact, apparently daunted, the delivery person left it on my landing. It was so heavy I had to take the pieces out of the boxes and carry them in separately. Well, with that many pieces, came a large instruction book with a lot of screws and bolts. A LOT OF SCREWS AND BOLTS!

Now, this blog could be about whether or not assembling furniture is in my zone of genius (The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks), as one friend questioned. And while it is in my zone of excellence (The Big Leap, Hendricks) because I am really good at it, and usually pretty fast, I will readily admit there were likely better things I could have spent my time on. With that confession, I really wanted it done so I could finish getting my new space all set up and everything put away. With that outcome in mind, I dove in!

Everything was going quite smoothly and it was starting to take shape. (I am a whiz with those little L-shaped wrenches). I was feeling confident, and figured I would easily finish it that evening when IT happened. I moved on to Step 14 and opened the bag of screws that now required an actual screwdriver. There were a lot of screws – 40 to be exact. I got out my big and small Phillips head screwdrivers and went to work. But wait! This was different. There was just a tiny pilot hole, and I was expected to screw these in by hand. What the what? They were not easy.

Well, me being me, I persevered through the first six screws for the first half of step 14. I looked at the remaining pile of 34 screws and literally said, “Screw it! I know there is a better, much faster way to do this.” I didn’t have the right tool in my toolbox in that moment, so I did what I believe was the smart thing. I stopped and walked away. The next day, I went to the hardware store and picked up a cordless screwdriver. With that tool, I had all the screws in and assembly done in no time. It’s amazing what having the right tools will save in time, money, frustration, exertion, etc.

As I was contemplating this, I realized the same idea applies to being a leader and having the right tools in our leadership toolbox. That’s only part of the equation though – it’s about remembering the tool is there and pulling it out to use instead of relying on old, worn-out tools that no longer serve us. It’s also about constantly looking to upgrade the tools in our toolbox. A cordless screwdriver is much more convenient and useful than a hand-driven screwdriver. However, there was a time when that was life-changing information.

There are three essential tools necessary in every leader’s toolbox, whether you are leading yourself, your team at home, or your team at the office.


I believe this is our most important leadership tool. As we become more aware of ourselves including our patterns, our programming, our thoughts, our behaviors, and our actions, we start to realize how they impact our and others’ outcomes. Then, we too, can save time, money, frustration, exertion, just like I did with my cordless screwdriver. The biggest challenge is that we are oblivious to our blind spots, and the only way to increase our self-awareness is to actively seek new insights about ourselves. For most people that is very uncomfortable. Yet, the growth and freedom that are possible is worth the discomfort if you truly want to become a phenomenal leader.


Another essential leadership tool is compassion, both for self and others. From a leadership perspective, compassion is the understanding that everyone has things happening in their lives that we don’t know about, and it’s important to check in with someone before jumping to conclusions. Often, when people don’t meet our expectations, we create a story about what’s going on with them. That story rarely resembles the truth. When we come from a place of compassion, we are willing to ask ourselves “What else could it be?” Instead of reacting from a place of expectation, we inquire and respond from a place of understanding. As a leader, practicing SELF-compassion and not berating ourselves when we don’t meet our own expectations, is the place to start. As we become more aware of when we do it to ourselves, we will be more aware of how we are treating others.


This is one that seems to be missing from a lot of toolboxes. I know it was missing from mine for many years. People believe business is serious. High5 believes enthusiasm is serious for business. It’s the act of showing excitement, AND it’s contagious. When there’s enthusiasm in the workplace (or at home), more work gets done and positive employee engagement skyrockets. At the end of your life, you’ll realize that most of the things you were so concerned about didn’t matter. So, what would be different in your life, and in the lives of those around you, if you pulled enthusiasm out of your toolbox more often and made it a good thing to have fun? I encourage you to pull out this tool TODAY and find out.

While I have all three of these tools in my toolbox, I am constantly searching for the next iteration of each one so I will get to that next level. I am clear that leadership is a practice, and we must constantly polish the tools we have and keep adding new ones to get better at it. We deserve that, and the people around us deserve that.

What would be possible for you if your leadership tools got an upgrade? What would it be worth to you if your results improved, your relationships got better and you enjoyed your life more? If you are ready to find out, let’s talk. You can reach me at barb@high5leadership.com.