Leadership Is An Inside-Out Process
As leaders, many of us make a critical error as we undertake our leadership journeys. We assume that we are ready to lead other professionals because we possess a tangible symbol of leadership:
-a specialized degree framed and hanging in our office,
-a certain title,
-a place on the org chart,
-a corner office,
-an enviable salary,
-myriad job responsibilities.
We leaders, as motivated or well-meaning as we might be, forget one critical fact:
We must first be able to lead OURSELVES before we can effectively lead other people.
Awareness of our teammates, what makes them tick and what drives them, can only come after we engage in some deep reflection.
We must learn and be comfortable with three things:
-what helps us succeed,
-what motivates us,
-our own strengths and weaknesses as leaders.
Until we really like ourselves and feel comfortable in our own skin, it is almost impossible for us to effectively lead others.
Wise leaders realize that self-awareness must precede everything else. As we engage in this process of self-reflection, we gain a sense of inner peace. We become grounded. Gaining this sense of calm about who we are is often difficult.
For excellent leaders, facing a tremendous challenge is part of an inside-out growth process that we have seen replicated many times in movies like “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars.”
As leaders, we face up to an enormous responsibility that builds unknown resiliency and strength. In the process, we come face to face with ourselves and with our “demons.”
We confront episodes from our past which we have not dealt with or not outgrown, episodes which produce self-doubt and fear of failure.
In our inside-out exploration, we cross a threshold, taking a risk in moving from the known to the unknown. In doing so, we frequently face a series of increasingly difficult hurdles
Only by living through trials, by experiencing a series of increasingly responsible challenges, can we transform our knowledge into wisdom.
At this stage, after facing an abyss and rising from it, having achieved true self-knowledge by successfully addressing unresolved issues from our past, can we become grounded, at peace with who we are and maintain a greater sense of self-acceptance.
Leaders who consciously embrace this inner journey return to the place they started bearing a special gift.
That gift is enhanced capacity as a human being and as a leader with new knowledge and skills, compassion for people and a commitment to the growth of others.
T.S. Eliot wrote, “We must never cease from exploring. And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we began, and to know that place for the first time.”
That often-painful journey is the crux of the inside-out leadership path, resulting in growth and fulfillment.
With an enhanced ability to lead ourselves, we can ably and nobly lead other people, creating a ripple effect for both our own organizations and for the teammates we lead.