Listener: The single most motivating act we can do for those we lead is to listen. Seek to be described as a great listener. Prove your listening skills by summarizing what you hear before sharing your perspective, asking great questions and following up the next time you interact with them. This provides them with evidence that you are, in fact, listening.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Diane Egbers, Founder and CEO of Leadership Excelleration (LE) Consulting, a national leadership development firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Diane is an inspirational and dynamic executive coach, management consultant and facilitator who leverages the latest research and proven strategies to challenge leaders to reach their full potential. For the past 20 years, she has been engaging with Fortune 500 clients, major healthcare systems and government entities, while guiding her consulting team to offer transformative leadership development, organizational assessments and support for high performing teams. She is also author of The Ascending Leader, and founder and board chair of the teen suicide prevention non-profit, Grant Us Hope.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

What I’m in the middle of is actually both personal and professional. I’m in the midst of finishing a book, a how-to guide to help parents with kids in mental health crisis, called This is Real. This book-writing process has been a very personal journey for me, as it required me to go back and relive some tough times I had with my son who I lost when he was 15. So while this process has been difficult at times, it’s also been incredibly healing on a path to finding hope joy in my life again. I’m so ready to put this book out in the world to be a resource for other parents whose kids are struggling, so they don’t have to suffer as gravely as we have.

I also recently had an amazing experience traveling to Greece and Italy through the eyes of my Gen Z daughter. Experiences are important to her generation, and she arranged a variety of things for us to do from cooking in someone’s kitchen, to touring a 13th century village. It was so much more than vacation. It was a truly an enlightening experience. I am happy to say that I am reexamining my generational pre-disposition for “doing” and seeking to discover the Gen Z “zen” or magic of just “being” to find more joy in the here and now.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

By far and away it’s my brother who’s a CEO. He is such an extraordinary servant leader and just a good human being. I really admire him not only because he’s led successful companies, but even more so because he seeks to serve in every situation and does so much good. He has learned and lives in a way that it is not about what you have, but about the quality of time and experience with those you care about…

I’m also incredibly influenced by my clients who have built enduring greatness in their circles, such as a major hospital system changing the outcome for the kids they serve, or a business setting up a foundation to give back to the community. The leaders of these organizations were true to themselves through really tough times. And in the best of times, they did not lose sight of who they served, their mission and their teams. I get to watch extraordinary things happen every day in our work with physician leaders, academics, CEOs of companies, and more. I so enjoy being the person who helps leaders identify and conquer the challenges they face in this new reality of our working world.

Speaking of help from our friends, I’m also really inspired by a book I just read, and I think you will be too. It’s an extraordinary story about First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, who were two unlikely friends, and how they influenced each other at a pivotal moment in our history. It’s called The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. It is a story that celebrates the influence of key women leaders when the world needed it most. Love it!

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

Where do I begin! One big learning of mine is having a clear understanding of who is at the table, and who you need to influence, in order to preserve dignity and manage power and influence dynamics. One of my mistakes was when I lost sight of who the real client was, in my desire to empower leaders that report to the CEO. And therefore my CEO client was not fully prepared for the feedback they received from their board and executive team and became defensive.

Since learning that lesson, I now guide my C-level leaders to never go into a meeting about an important decision without connecting with and influencing all key stakeholders first. For CEOs who work with boards, that’s one of the most important influence strategies they have to learn. And they usually learn it by lacking influence a couple of times. What works is to meet with every board member in advance, if you’re going to get board members on board and individual executive reports with a big decision. Never take a chance when you’re in big moments. Proactively communicate, educate, and individually influence to succeed!

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

A decade ago, we did not fully expect leaders to lead culture, and especially not inclusive cultures, where everyone feels connected and belongs, whether they are in person or remote. This has been a revolution rather than an evolution. As a result, leaders often feel overwhelmed, disengaged and burned out.

The mindset and skill set required to lead a culture to be more engaged, aligned, collaborative, innovative and inclusive is a significant step up for leaders who report to C-level executives who have not necessarily modeled the way. Great cultures are led by intentional leaders who are committed to developing culture. I encourage leaders to seek professional development, learn inclusive practices, and embrace the mindsets and skill sets needed to lead in the new world of work. That’s the big shift.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

I have stopped equipping myself and other leaders to lead episodic change and have embraced AGILE leadership mindsets that help to build enduring capabilities in the face of more complexity, volatility, ambiguity, and technology advancements that continue to accelerate. Agile leadership mindsets help us to adapt to the continuous change that’s happening around us. It is letting go of more formal leadership practices while advocating for rapid cycle change and yet providing enough oversight to not have initiatives lack direction, lose momentum and devolve into chaos.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

This one is so easy. Deeply listening with compassion and being vulnerable with your own story, to help others see that it’s okay to share their own. This kind of practice certainly speaks to inclusive leadership. But more importantly, it’s the human element. We derive connection by sharing and receiving stories with others. It’s good for your team to see that you’re not perfect. Our stories make us relatable, and perfectly human. Listening with compassion is something AI can never replicate. It’s uniquely human.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

For leaders, it’s really looking within to understand why things feel so overwhelming. Get in touch with why the past seems better than the present. Often it’s because things are changing rapidly, and we feel overwhelmed by the pace and volume of change. Once in touch with the reason and identifying the real emotion, it is easier to help a leader start to let go of the past, embrace a learning mindset and explore new possibilities for the future.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

The first one is a classic book called, It’s the Manager by Gallup. It’s a really great reference book for those leading others for the first time. Then, notice what you naturally tend to do under stress, and resist the temptation to do it! For me, it was to isolate myself at the very time it would have been good to reach out to peers. Second, choose building relationships with team members, your manager, and develop a network of support. The results will come.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?

There are so many traits and so many answers. But because connection is so needed right now to reduce isolation, regain productivity and promote inclusion, I am going to focus on that specifically:

  • Servant: The best way to hot wire connection with those you lead is to be grateful for their contributions and in every interaction — begin with what you can do to support their success. An example is when you have a supportive team and you have contact with them throughout the day, start each conversation with what you can do to support them.
  • Listener: The single most motivating act we can do for those we lead is to listen. Seek to be described as a great listener. Prove your listening skills by summarizing what you hear before sharing your perspective, asking great questions and following up the next time you interact with them. This provides them with evidence that you are, in fact, listening.
  • Communicator: Mastering communication is an executive attribute that is highly sought after!

The person in the room (or on teams) who can synthesize what has been shared into the three or less priorities that require a decision and can enable action truly has mastered the art of communication in a way that results in people feeling valued and encouraged to stay connected.

  • Facilitator: A leader who can invite all to, manage differing perspectives and bring a group from mere consensus to a collaborative, win-win solution is going to have connected followers!
  • Connector: This leader has a gift for helping people see that they make a difference — sometimes that is to the team, the project, the mission, the vision or the customer. We all get up every day wanting to be noticed and to make a difference — this leader knows how to make others feel that they matter. People will follow this leader anywhere!

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then your masterpiece today may be different from mine. For me, it is the immense satisfaction I feel hearing from someone in my non-profit or management consulting practice who realizes their potential and their own gifts and talents based in part on the work we engage in together.

Just this morning, a client of mine who was interviewing for a leadership role, and she got the job! She received rave reviews in an area that would not have typically been a strength when we started our work together. She took a risk to be vulnerable in her interview, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. It’s so validating for me to watch those around me grow and learn to have the courage to embrace vulnerability. And today, that is my masterpiece.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

A few years ago, my answer would have been to leave it all on the field, to develop as many leaders as possible with Leadership Excelleration and to save as many lives as possible with Grant Us Hope. But the wisdom

I have since gained is to live in the moment and value quality of life over quantity of work. I was taught this lesson by the wonderful Gen Z people in my life who are so accepting and embrace the experiences here and now. I now strive to be more present with the people I care about, and not let time go by without letting them know how much I care about them. There’s always going to be more work to be done, but we only get so much time together. When we prioritize work over people, that’s what we sacrifice. We sacrifice those beautiful moments of just sitting and being and making memories with those we love.

So my answer is evolving, but being present matters more to my legacy, now.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

Please feel free to connect with me personally on Linkedin, check out our website at and follow Leadership Excelleration on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter as well.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!