Five Ways To Leave The Leadership Comfort Zone

pic for leadership comfort zone

At different points in our professional and personal journeys, we can hit a brick wall and feel so unfulfilled. We may be at the end of the rope while working on a project or we may be experiencing a sense of isolation as a solo entrepreneur. It may seem that everyone around us is moving forward while we are tethered to the same workload or types of opportunities coming our way. This happens to all of us and can actually build if we don’t choose to make a change.

Working with many managers and collaborating with influential leaders, I understand these feelings of discomfort and frustration. Here are some great strategies to propel you into a more positive mindset and they all involve leaving the leadership comfort zone.


Before we can address our need to change things up, we have to acknowledge that something is not working as well as it could. I recently asked a manager these questions:

  • What is at the center of your frustration?
  • If you could change the team direction or choices, what would it look like?
  • What is within your control and what is not?
  • How do your personal values align with your workplace values?


I begin many of my leadership presentations, by asking the attendees to think about a great leader in their life. Then we talk about what behaviors or attitudes that make that individual a role model for them. A fascinating discussion usually follows as each person comes to realize what leadership means to them. By reflecting on the meaningful leaders in our lives, we can identify the leadership behaviors that are important to us. If you want to learn more about how to use this activity for yourself or your team, just download it here.


Sometimes words need to be supported by images to help us discover our leadership change. Step out of your comfort zone using pictures that you either download or draw or photograph that help you visualize how the change may look. Put them up on a flip chart or whiteboard or bulletin board. Just find a place that is easy to see and can be a reminder of your next steps.


No leader is an island. No leader needs to stand alone. When we are feeling confusion, there is nothing more comforting than to speak to someone we trust or admire about our situation. Sometimes just sharing our thoughts out loud makes them real and empowers us to take action. This may be a perfect time to find a mentor who can guide us with their perspective as well as present us with possible alternatives. Some questions we might want to ask them are:

  • How would you handle my decision?
  • Have you ever been in my shoes and what did you do?
  • Where else might I turn for direction?
  • What do you see as my risks and my true benefits in choosing a certain direction?


After we have looked inside and turned to those around us, it is time to make a concrete plan. List the next steps with deadlines, breaking them down into more manageable pieces if necessary. Make sure that each of the actions folds into your leadership vision of what type of leader you want to be. Push out of that comfort zone and empower yourself to make the changes for a more satisfying leadership path.

How have you left your leadership comfort zone? What actions have worked for you?

8 thoughts on “Five Ways To Leave The Leadership Comfort Zone

  1. This is such an important topic, Terri!

    Too often, we refuse to move beyond what is comfortable and predictable. We will not allow ourselves to become vulnerable because we are afraid of failure. That is merely the ego talking because it always likes to be right.

    I love your suggestions…I think questions can be one of the most effective way of clarifying what you are thinking. A good mentor who asks probing questions can bring to light a lot of what is keeping us from moving forward…

  2. Great advice here, Terri! In my workshops I’ve often had leaders create collages to encapsulate their leadership style and their vision for the team. It takes them out of their everyday where it may be difficult to find words to articulate it, and taps into a new way of thinking. Afterwards, displayed at their desk, it’s a great reminder of their commitments to themselves and others.

    Also, I love that you encourage people to ask a question. Oftentimes, our isolation is self-imposed but help is there when we need it most – we just have to ask!

    As always, I appreciate your straightforward and proven techniques. Will definitely share!

    ~ Alli

  3. What a great addition to the conversation LaRae! Yes, being vulnerable can feel scary and none of us wants to feel like a failure if things don’t work out with the risks we take. But deep inside we know that if we don’t venture out of our typical routines and space, we will not grow our leadership.

    Sometimes by putting one small new idea into our responsibilities we can ignite a new, more fulfilling direction.

    Thanks LaRae!

  4. Leadership collages are a wonderful way to visualize where we want to go and what we want to stand for! I love the idea of using visuals as images oftentimes epitomize more of our real feelings and attitudes than words.

    Empowering questions help each of us look inwards and reflect on what is most important and fascinating. The key of course is to ask meaningful questions as opposed to judging and blaming type questions.

    Thanks Alli for your fantastic insights!

  5. Excellent! Your post reminds me of so many of the stories in our Energized Leaders Book. I gave away a few copies to my MBAs as a “prize” this week, and they were jazzed to hear our story.

  6. I agree Karin that our Energize Your Leadership book has some powerful ways to help leaders leave their comfort zone. The first step in the process of launching a change is recognizing the need for a new direction. That can often mean feeling uncomfortable initially with all the unfamiliar and different choices.

    Thanks Karin and your MBA students are very lucky to have you as their valiant instructor!

  7. Ahh Comfort Zones! One of my favorite topics!!! Being able to talk about it, and visualize help so much!

    Have you ever noticed that sometimes it is easier to do the seemingly big things, insead of the seemingly little ones?

    For me that translates into moving across the world into a culture that is drastically different. A huge scary move that I embraced fully! …But cooking something new for the first time – ugh!

  8. It is true,that sometimes it is more manageable to embrace a bigger change than get caught up in some smaller steps. When I see managers encountering frustration with a particular issue or person, I try to remind them that there are many other ways to approach a new direction. If one decision isn’t working out then don’t beat yourself up, but pivot, and try an alternative path.

    I am sure you have become an extremely creative cook at this point!! Love some of those new recipes!

    Thanks Chery!

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