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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Terranova

My Leadership Story


My leadership story, the origin of Terranova Consulting

I wish I could tell you my leadership story is one of a meteoric rise to success, filled with potential and fulfillment.

I wish I could tell you leadership came naturally and every professional opportunity ended with positive outcomes.

I wish I could tell you I fully understood what an awesome responsibility leadership when I first became one.

I wish I could tell you I was a great leader, but the truth is, I made just about every mistake in the book.

So how did I become a successful coach after a difficult leadership journey from struggling to thriving?

By becoming the coach I wish I had
when I was first starting out.


 

Most people venture into professional coaching through one of two avenues. They are either retired, accomplished leaders eager to share the wisdom of their experiences with others or academics with a doctorate in Organizational Psychology. I, however, represent a unique third option - a battle-scarred leader who stumbled, tripped, and fought an uphill battle to achieve leadership success. Far from being an organizational savant, my early ventures in leadership made me a posterchild for ineffective ways lead. After years of humility, introspection, and education, I learned a thing or two about what it truly takes to be a successful leader, capable of nurturing both results and relationships simultaneously.


This is the story of my unlikely journey from a novice leader to a leadership teacher and the origins of my unwavering passion for becoming the coach I wish I had during the early stages of my career.


Just a Little Hustle

Just before my 26th birthday, I was appointed as the Corporate Operations Director for a medium-sized health and wellness company. As in most organizations, my talent for shouldering responsibility and delivering a robust bottom line was rewarded with a series of promotions that elevated me from a location manager to corporate officer in under two years. Suddenly, I found myself responsible not only for achieving financial results bus also a growing team of individuals I was expected to lead successfully. Promotions often bring the assumption that if you can deliver results, you must know how to lead people - I'm here to tell you, nothing could be further from the truth.



Houston We Have a Problem

In my early days of authority, I attempted to navigate my role using a command-and-control style of leadership that I had picked up from who-know-where, and it yielded the poor results that typically accompany such rigidity in leadership. At the time, I equated compliance with competence and enforced complicated accountability systems that deteriorated the professional relationships I depended on. Micromanagement, inflexibility, and frustration were so synonymous with my leadership that I, along with my 5'1" frame, earned the nickname "Napoleon." If only I had understood then what I do now - a leader's success is largely determined by the quality of their professional partnerships.


Spinning Wheels

With no guidance, mentorship, or coaching on what I was doing wrong, I was left to interpret negative feedback and make adjust on my own. Naively, I believed that systems and processes were the keys to organizational salvation, so couldn't find the delicate balance between achieving results and fostering strong professional relationships at the same time. My frustration mounted, negative feedback continued to come, and I felt I lost with no source of guidance on how to get it right. As it turns out, my experience is not that uncommon.

  • How many leaders begin their careers brimming with hope and determination, only to discover they've hit a roadblock of ineffectiveness too soon?

  • How many are praised for their accomplishments while simultaneously criticized for their shortcomings?

  • How many leaders are aware they're not getting something right but lack the wisdom and insight needed to rectify the situation?

The simple answer is too many. Too many leaders painfully recognize a gap in their leadership skills but lack the guidance to bridge their current abilities with expectations. While many high-potential professionals are trained to deliver results over the course of their careers, far too few receive the necessary education to nurture their leadership potential.



Beginning to See the Light

Twelve years and two companies later, I was found myself sitting in a huge industry trade show in Los Angeles. invited to a massive industry tradeshow in Los Angeles. The moment that altered the course of my professional life was during a keynote address that awakened my passion for redefining leadership to meet new expectations.


I realized that a profound transformation had occurred in organizational culture during the decade since I had entered the workforce. The era of purely professional interactions had evolved, making room for discussions about personal well-being. Businesses had shifted from being solely profit-driven entities to conscious capitalistic organizations with strong moral and ethical commitments. We now demand more from our leaders than mere goal achievement; we expect them to join us in nurturing all aspects of our professional potential. In essence, leadership expectations had moved from managing outcomes to inspiring people, and those who know how to build robust professional relationships will be the ones to thrive in the next generation.


That was the pivotal moment when the light bulb illuminated in my mind. I realized that if I wanted to flourish as a leader, I had to adapt my style to align with the rising leadership demands for empathy, connection, and development. The speaker on that stage was the first to provide the insight I needed to become a better leader.


A Growth Mindset

I became captivated by the intersection of human behavior and work, and I delved into a relentless pursuit of knowledge through books, podcasts, classes, and seminars on leadership. I consumed information voraciously, honed my skills, and applied my lessons at work. I channeled my talents for strategic planning, organization, and clear communication in entirely new ways. I learned to invest just as much energy in nurturing strong relationships as I did in achieving successful outcomes.


The resulting enhancement in the quality of my partnerships led to collective achievements that exceeded what was possible under my previous command-and-control leadership style. My teams grew stronger, the results spoke for themselves, and I experienced a level of professional satisfaction I could not have envisioned a dozen years earlier. I finally grasped how to create meaningful organizational value and enjoyed the fulfillment that comes from nurturing potential in others. Coaching and mentoring my team to achieve career success eventually replaced the satisfaction of exceeding revenue targets as the most rewarding aspect of my job.


Nothing compared to the experience of sitting across from someone, uncovering what truly matters to them, and providing the support and insight necessary to design a meaningful professional life.


I began to reflect on my leadership journey and wondered how different it would have been if I had started with the knowledge I now possessed. I grew frustrated with the awareness that leadership wisdom was out there, yet organizations were not prioritizing leadership training to effectively guide a new generation. I started to dream about supporting leaders like me who were struggling to evolve their skills to meet evolving leadership expectations, longing to have a bigger impact on the way we work.



Returning With the Elixir

In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell discusses the final step in any hero's story: returning with what you've learned to help others. My long leadership journey taught me to leverage my strengths, recognize my pitfalls, and develop diverse approaches to address organizational challenges. However, reaching the point of achievement was a challenging process of trial and error. I knew there had to be a better way to master leadership, and the best way to show appreciation for the valuable insights I had gained was to share them with others.

I went back to school, earning my master's degree twice, became a trained and accredited coach, and launched my own executive consulting firm. Today, I work with leaders worldwide, helping them support, cultivate, and express their unique leadership values in the organizations they serve. I prepare them for the expanding array of skills required to yield both results and strong professional relationships, helping them become the heroes in their own lives.

Along this journey, I remind myself that the best teachers are not those who have done everything flawlessly, but those who have navigated treacherous terrain, taken wrong turns, and made mistakes. My early leadership challenges fueled my desire to find a better way, and the education, wisdom, and experience I've accumulated are what I share with those on a similar quest for leadership mastery. I am honored to have a partnership role with those dedicated to serving through leadership and humbled by the commitment of like-minded individuals who challenge themselves to succeed for the betterment of the organizations they serve. Leaders possess extraordinary power to positively impact the lives of others, and I couldn't be more grateful to play even a small role in nurturing that potential.


 


Heroes Never Walk Alone

Of the heroes in my life, no one has had a greater impact on the person I have become than my mother. She has taught me about the power of strong relationships and offered unconditional support through every challenge in my life. I wouldn't be who I am today without her.
Lisa Landers and Kate Brewer, my leadership partners in crime and my work BFFs - I would still be "Napoleon" if you did not remind me to get over myself and loosen up. I am lucky to have your friendship and support for all these years.
My beautiful and courageous daughter who is proof in my life that sometimes, leaders are born.
Heidi and Dave Castellani for believing in my potential before I did. I am eternally grateful to you.
Simon Sinek for creating a spark, inspiring me with a truly amazing keynote address and serving as the turning point in my leadership story. I hope to shake your hand someday.
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