Susan Marshall, founder and president of Backbone Institute LLC, speaks at the Leadership Breakfast on November 11, 2021.

“Leadership: Breaking Through the Toxicity” | Leadership Breakfast 11.11.2021

The atmosphere in Maranatha’s Dining Complex was warm despite the cold rain on the morning of November 11, 2021, as members of the community met with Maranatha faculty, staff, and students to hear Ms. Susan A. Marshall present “Leadership: Breaking Through the Toxicity.”  

Marshall is the founder and president of Backbone Institute, LLC. She has published several books and worked with hundreds of leaders across the globe helping them grow in their leadership skills.  

Marshall defined toxicity as anything harmful or destructive to happiness or welfare, such as an idea, emotion, etc. She asked, “How do we deal with people who have been trained to be emotional? How do we talk to people when they’re so wound up?” 

There are six forms of toxicity that Marshall worked through in her presentation: ignorance, arrogance, bias, deceit, competition, and willful rejection of truth.  

“Toxicity comes naturally,” Marshall shared, “as we are born ignorant and arrogant.” We develop bias as a by-product of our daily experience. Deceit is a condition of the mind and our natural self-centeredness puts us in competition with others. We refuse to accept the truth as it indicts us.  

As Marshall shared her story, her own struggle with toxicity was evident. “I was biased against a whole bunch of things because I was disappointed and angry,” she stated. Marshall had to work through being uncomfortable and inconvenienced in order to build what became Backbone Institute, LLC. 

Marshall stated that the antidote to toxicity is the transformation and renewal of the mind, citing Romans 12:2. She then walked through each form of toxicity, sharing how one could break through.  

Break Through Ignorance 

  • Read – widely and deeply.
  • Seek out other perspectives and learn others’ stories.  
  • Capture the “dots” – connect the dots and learn what to pay attention to in a world where information is constantly coming at us. 
  • Investigate your discomfort.  
  • Accept that your view is limited. 
  • Share your insights and listen to others’ insights. 

Break Through Arrogance  

  • Recognize your desire to elevate yourself. 
  • Ask, am I curious or judging?  
  • Create boundaries.  
  • Know when to separate yourself from arrogant exchanges.  
  • Keep track of circumstances and situations in which arrogance is at play (yours and others). Learn the power of silence.  
  • Matching the energy of the one opposing you doesn’t go well.  

Marshall encouraged the attendees to allow the hard conversations to include others’ opinions.  

“Arrogance is a strategy to keep people at bay,” she shared. 

Break Through Bias 

  • Seek alternative viewpoints.  
  • Consider things carefully.  
  • Keep fear at bay; you are not ever alone and you have the Greatest Power supporting and protecting you.  
  • Share your perspective with conviction and grace.  

Break Through Deceit  

  • Recognize when the father of lies takes over and wrestle with it.  
  • Be quick to listen; slow to reply. You don’t have to respond to everything. 
  • Find a trusted sounding board; be judicious, betrayal happens.  
  • Acknowledge stubbornness.  
  • Beware the tendency to want to be right; winning the argument may lead to greater toxicity. 

Break Through Competition  

  • Business is not a zero-sum game.  
  • Life is not a zero-sum game. 
  • Evaluate the concept that one who dies with the most toys wins.  
  • Examine your ideas about legacy.  
  • Choose the mark you want to leave on this world.  
  • Compete with class, hone your skills, and celebrate your victories as a means of broadening your influence. 

Break Through the Willful Rejection of Truth 

  • Willful rejection exists; daily.  
  • Pick your battles.  
  • Arguments tend to strengthen positions.  
  • Speak truth in love with grace. 
  • Accept that imperfection is part of everyday life.  
  • Be cheerful, be kind, and stand strong.  

In summary, Marshall challenged the audience to read, listen, observe the world around them, and record or journal their reactions to their daily lives. She encouraged those listening to renew their mind, engage with people, and cheerfully and kindly challenge others to renew their minds.   

“Leadership is a noble calling,” Marshall declared, “worth every ounce of your intellect and your heart.”  

The breakfast ended with an engaging question and answer time. Watch the presentation here