Joanna Howes

Leadership Coach


Joanna Howes

Joanna Howes is the founder and CEO of The Change Creators. She is an award-winning international coach, behavioural expert, and No 1 best-selling international author, specialising in leadership and team performance coaching.  Joanna’s passion is building future-ready leaders and teams by equipping them with the essential mindset, behaviors and skills they need to lead successfully into the future.

Becoming a successful leader – the work starts with you

The first thing I had to do to become a successful leader in the advertising industry and now running my own business was to learn how to lead myself.  That lightbulb moment of realising that I was in charge of my mind (and it wasn’t in charge of me) finally enabled me to take a breath, start to really enjoy being a leader and see a whole new level of impact.

Before this transformation happened, there were many things that were holding me back from standing in my full identity as a leader:

  1. Believing I wasn’t good enough as I didn’t go to university
  2. Being 100% introverted, keeping quiet and letting others take the limelight
  3. Indecision, as I would question if I was smart enough
  4. Thinking I didn’t fit in or belong
  5. Fear of failure

Some of these can still appear (because hey, I’m human) but they are now manageable.

If you are resonating with this, here are 4 key things you can do to stand in your identity and empower yourself as a leader:

1. Build your inner world and manage your internal board of directors

Look inside yourself. Begin to understand your emotions, what you are choosing to make things mean and what the voices in your head are really trying to say.

We spend so much time looking to other people for validation to believe we are good enough but the one person who really knows you is YOU.  The moment I could stand in front of the mirror and say ‘I am enough’ was life changing.

The first thing is to befriend the voices and recognise that their intention is to protect you. It may not feel like that sometimes, but they will say whatever it takes to stop you moving outside your comfort zone or do anything they feel that could make you unsafe.

When I started communicating with my thoughts to share I was okay and thanked them for showing up, they became quieter.  Now this may sound a bit strange, but I promise it really works. They are your own board of directors that you need to get to know and lead. Make sure they are clear on the direction you want to go and what you need from them.

2. Be the reflection you want to see in your team

Self-leadership is where it all begins, as if you cannot lead yourself how can you lead others?

Take a moment to think about your team – are you happy with what you see?  Your team is a direct reflection of your leadership.

If you are uncertain, indecisive, vague, or stressed then that is what will ripple through your team.

If you show up with energy, looking healthy and provide clarity, then your team’s performance will be very high.

Too many women burn themselves out trying to be all to everyone. They become a people pleaser, giving everyone their oxygen mask and forgetting about themselves.

You must walk your talk as a leader. If you tell people to switch off and not check emails at night and on holiday, then you need to be a role model and do the same. I have witnessed this very example break trust in an organisation. This shows the impact it has when a leader goes against what they say.

3. Be a kind leader

My first experience of having female leaders over 20 years ago was that they appeared very direct, aggressive and unapproachable.  This didn’t give me much hope of becoming a leader as I am kind, softly spoken and quite shy.

I have interviewed many female leaders on my podcast and a theme that has stood out recently is that kindness is not a weakness.

One of the leaders was told she would never make a leader as she was too kind.  She is now Chairperson of multiple organisations and one of the most highly respected leaders in her industry.

Remember, kindness is a strength and one a lot of women naturally have, so please lean into this as people want to follow kind people.

4. Choose faith over fear

All human beings have 3 universal fears:

  1. The fear of not belonging
  2. The fear of not being enough
  3. The fear of not being worthy

It doesn’t matter how senior you are, these fears still crop up.  Women can tend to dwell in fear a lot longer than men.  We allow it to consume our thoughts and our thoughts become our beliefs which then translate to the behaviours we exhibit.

If your beliefs are baked in fear, you will not be able to take the action needed and frustration will build up inside you. This is because you know you can do it, but you can’t work out why it’s not happening.

The only antidote to fear is faith.

A life changing book for me was ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers.  The simple question of asking ‘what is the worst that can happen?’ and if you can handle that, do it.

When you need to make big company transformations, become more visible in your industry and take a stand on something you believe in. Choosing faith is what will move you towards your goal.

Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

5. You will make mistakes

Just accept this now. The great Steve Jobs said “if you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough”.

To be a great leader you will inevitably make mistakes. The important thing is to understand that  it’s not about the mistake, it’s about how you choose to respond to it.

Taking responsibility is leadership. It is the responsibility of how you conduct yourself, see different perspectives and creating an environment where there is no such thing as failure, it’s actually feedback.

To grow and learn from mistakes and not to beat yourself and others up for making them.

To be okay that you are not expected to know everything or get it right all the time. Take this pressure off yourself now.

I want to finish by sharing a lovely quote from a very successful leader.

“Be confident and content in yourself as a leader. We try to emulate others that have been before us, but it’s okay to do things your own way and style.”

Jemima Monies – CCO McCann London

Wherever you are in your leadership journey, empowering yourself as leader is about giving yourself the care you need to be able to show up, having the curiosity to keep growing, and the courage to take the action to make the positive impact you want to make.

By recognising and being mindful of the 5 areas above they will move you in the right direction.