Heidi Dulebohn

A leader must be selective, and wisely decide when to show your vulnerability or “human side.”

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I remember watching the movie U-571, and thinking, wow. Harvey Keitel, who plays the seasoned Chief Klogh, personifies leadership during a life-and-death situation. He told the young Lieutenant, played by Matthew McConaughey, how to address his submarine crew after the captain’s battle loss to a German U-boat:

“Don’t you dare say what you said to the boys back there again, ‘I don’t know.’ Those three words will kill a crew, dead as a depth charge. You’re the skipper now, and the skipper always knows what to do, whether he does or not.”

The Lieutenant was unsure what to do after…


Never underestimate the power of soft skills to advance your leadership influence — and earn you strange local cakes

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Heidi Dulebohn

First published at https://www.get5.io/blog/being-soft-power-diplomacy-skills-leader

Many discount the power of soft skills because their impact is difficult to measure. I also think the word “soft” may have something to do with neglecting these valuable leadership tools. However, I’ve seen their power at work in my own career — the ability to communicate effectively in different milieus, for instance, has helped me to advance in many organizations — and it’s part of the reason I’m so passionate about helping others to hone their soft skills.

Soft skills such as cultural competence are necessary in our increasingly connected, global world.

Take soft diplomacy


Communication skills may suffer in a tension filled environment. That can be dangerous for leaders, especially in a work context.

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We are upside down right now. Political furor, pandemic fatigue, a poor economy, changed lives, and unknown futures have led us down a rocky road. At times, it feels like we’re navigating through a fog, stumbling over bumps, and tripping into holes as we search for a smoother route. Uncertainty often manifests as frustration, and it makes some of us more vocal, in-person, virtually, and through social media, as we try to sort through what’s happening, to find help, and simply, to cope.

Communication skills, however, are suffering in this tension filled environment. That can be dangerous in a work…


You’ll know EP when you see it, and if you want to use it’s power for yourself, expect your career to show tangible dividends.

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I was attending the national meeting for the American Medical Association Alliance, Confluence, a fitting title. There were hundreds of members from across the country, each of us Presidents-Elect for our local chapters, gathered one cold and dreary February afternoon at the posh Drake Hotel overlooking Lake Michigan in Chicago. I was excited to represent my group, and I was especially looking forward to the opening session, a luncheon to hear the National President welcome us.


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You wouldn’t know it by the well publicized problems companies seem to be having, but creating a diverse and inclusive culture has indisputable value. Myriad research shows that having a diverse workforce, where everyone feels valued, respected, and treated with dignity will not only increase your productivity and bottom line; it will help you recruit from a larger, global pool, retain top talent and improve your brand’s reputation.

Naturally, leaders want to create a genuinely diverse and inclusive culture where dignity, and respect are the rule and not the exception. So, why doesn’t every organization embody this type of culture…


Why is it so hard? And how can I do it with a little grace?

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I was fortunate to be part of a beautiful event recently, Belinda Chang’s Virtual Boozy Brunch. I spoke in a segment on “how to say no” and offered a step-by-step process to help individuals who are burdened by a habit of always saying “yes,” even when an opportunity doesn’t align with their “budget.”

In theory, saying “no” seems simple, right? But it’s not. It’s something many of us struggle with at one time or another. So, why is it so hard to say “no,” but so easy to say, “yes?”

If we look at the science behind it, we say…


You live and you learn — hard.

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We had a family friend, Mickey from Beaumont, Texas, whose mantra was, “Nobody said it was going to be easy,” and that’s the simple truth of it all. Nothing is easy, but everything you dream of is worth working hard to achieve. But when it comes to gender in the workplace, there are a few things I wish someone had told me when I started out.

People often ask me what it was like to be among the first female grain traders and grain elevator managers, and the question always puzzles me for a moment. …


Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs, but they do not have the right to endanger your health and well being.

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It is puzzling when something seemingly straightforward and benign to one person, can be menacing to others. I suppose a global pandemic can bring out the best and worst in us.

These days, “How do I talk to family and friends who are not exercising social distancing and are not always ‘masking-up?’” is a common question. Social codes give us the direction to be polite, respectfully curious, yet authentic to our values. Cling to them as you navigate personalities, feelings, and relationships.

The first response to this question that may come to mind is: “What is wrong with them?” But…


The digital age, and our need to communicate quickly in bits and bytes, has left our some of our most important, in-person social skills lagging.

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My version of heaven is a crowded room full of people I have never met before. Interestingly, the same scenario used to be my husband’s vision of hell. My fear is I won’t be able to talk to everyone in the room and hear their story. My husband feared that he would have to speak to someone he’s never met before and make small talk, but luckily those days are long gone.

The art of making small talk comes naturally to some people, like my Dad. There is a saying where I grew up, “You never met a stranger,” which…


Authenticity can help you to stand out and succeed in your career — if you hone your ability to read a room and adapt.

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It’s tough to be a square peg in a round hole, but how do you know you’re the square peg? Authentic leadership begins with a good sense of self, yet it straddles reasonable adaptation to stay faithful, and “fit” a situation.

Being authentic is fundamental to building your personal and professional success. For leaders in particular it would help if your authenticity enabled you to master social codes and to exude executive presence, both of which can help to advance your career. But to do that you must know something very important — who are you?

What’s your story?

Begin your journey to…

Heidi Dulebohn

Cracking Social Codes for Good| International Cultural Consultant | https://twitter.com/heididulebohn

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