Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am.
I asked, Jim Kouzes, bestselling author of, The Leadership Challenge, why he left the Tom Peter’s Company. He said,
“I just wanted to be me.”
It was February of 1983 when Tom Peters, Jim Kouzes, and Barry Posner connected at a business conference. Peter’s spoke on excellent organizations. Kouzes and Posner spoke on excellent management. They began a relationship that led to Jim becoming the President, CEO, and Chairman of the Tom Peters Company (1988 to 1999).
During our conversation, Kouzes recalled meeting Regis McKenna, first marketing consultant hired by Steve Jobs.
McKenna’s business card read, “Regis McKenna – Himself.” Jim said, “I want to be that.”
Jim Kouzes came to a place where
he wanted to sing his own song.
Along with his inner search, life tipped in early 2000. Jim’s first wife died. “It was a time to ask what’s next.”
Jim said, “When I was young, I wanted to change the world so I joined the Peace Corps. After two years, I realized it was too big a bite. I set out to change the country (USA). I joined the war on poverty. After a while, I realized that was too big a bite so I got into organizational development. But, that was too big, too. Eventually, I started working with leaders.”
“Ultimately, I decided to just be me
and work on myself.” Jim Kouzes.
I laughed at Jim’s narrowing progression and said, “It seems like you’re changing the world, now.”
“In the end we realized that leadership development
is self-development.” Kouzes and Posner.
How can leaders help others become themselves?
We learn early on in life that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t change others. Rather we must change ourselves.
Here we learn that to change the world does not necessarily require you to change yourself, but rather, to be yourself.
I am the original me. Great post Dan!
Thank you Redge.
Your comment is poetic. “To change the world does not necessarily require you to change yourself, but rather, to be yourself.” Love it.
That will go in my quote file. In many ways living into this is what I believe the work of midlife is. Love it, Redge.
Thank you Holly. It is indeed a midlife awakening for me. I enjoyed reading “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and am pleasantly reminded by Dan’s post what it means to be me.
I think it mostly takes courage. You have to want for other people what they want for themselves.
For fourteen years I owned a business. I had wonderful co-workers. At first it was hard to watch talented and capable people who I considered my friends, eventually move on to other endeavors.
Eventually I learned to be proud of the fact that they had passed through my business. If you truly care about someone, you simply have to want for them what they want for themselves.
I was only a part of their path. I wanted to be a good part of their path. It takes courage and maturity to get to this place.
It helped me that I have an entrepreneurial spirit myself. Even if I happen to be working for someone else, I always have some new thing I’m working on or doing on the side. The blogging world is full of people like us.
If I’m entrepreneurial, I have to understand and admire that same spirit in others.
Thank you Dauna.
I see how being you impacts how you deal with others. Nicely said. Thanks for being a regular contributor.
A shared journey is such an honor, if even for a only few moments!
wow, dauna, i’m going to think about that notion of wanting to be a good part of someone’s journey
I met Jim when he was working with Tom Peters and understand his need to be himself. Tom is an huge character and while it is great developmentally to work for a great teacher like him, at some point one needs to graduate. I would say Jim has done just fine as a graduate!
Thank you John.
YOu were up early this morning. Always a pleasure.
Your contribution helps flesh out this post!
Like my morning coffee, reading the words of this blog, helps me be me…a work forever in progress. Today’s words add merit and in some way validate my conviction as a student of Edwin Friedman’s emphasis on self differentiation, “leadership with an “inward focus”, i.e., the nature,presence, and style of the leader and its associated positive impact on an organization.(sorry for the run on sentence!) Maybe my business card would say, Chief Me Officer….!
Thank you Philip.
It’s a pleasure to be part of your morning. The goal of these short posts is to give leaders/managers something think about and perhaps a bit of encouragement.
Thanks for adding to this conversation.
Wow. I have been thinking along these lines for awhile now. Thank you for sharing.
One of my favourite quotes is by E.E. Cummings. “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”
The greatest gift anyone can give another person is permission to be themselves. It’s not that anyone should need permission to be who they are, but it makes life easier when they have it. I think that sometimes, with all the best of intentions, we try to mould people into who we think they should be or could be. It’s absolutely vital we see and believe in the potential of others and then provide an environment where they can figure out who “me” is and work to that “me” the best it can be.
Thank you Laurie.
Your comment resonates with me. Love the E.E. Cummings quote. I think everyone in leadership knows that many others want to mold us into their image of us.
Thanks for your e.e.cummings quote. I love it. I will be my quote for the day.
You’re welcome Dauna!
I discovered it a few years ago when my daughter was going through those very challenging early teen years.
Glad you enjoyed it as well.
The kiss up response might be to have them read LF every day. From Jim’s observations, hone down to specific, individual skills, traits, talents that the person wants to develop and find venues to apply those chops. Be modeling that for yourself of course too. And, as always, unconditional positive regard fits here as well– when inquiring, directing, listening, coaching and/or mentoring.
And if you don’t currently view yourself as someone who does help others become themselves, might want to look in that mirror again.
Thank you Doc.
LOL… I’ll take the kiss up response… 🙂
Your contribution today makes me think about the power of letting people test their “chops” as an opportunity to learn about themselves.
One of the benefits of my conversation with Jim is new found clarity and appreciation for the power of helping others become who they are.
Thanks for this Dan. Incidentally I am reading ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ (Yes, call me late) … it just reinforces what you have highlighted in this post.
Thank you Ben.
Happy journeying. 🙂
Great book Ben, enjoy!
Thanks for all the wisdom shared here.
Thank you Holly.
I appreciate your kind word.
This is so wonderful!
I once saw this:
In all eternity – from the beginning of morning and till the end of time -there will never by someone like you. There never has been and there never will be born a new “you”. This is your time.
If no one is you then the chanse is lost for ever!
What a horrible waste!
Thank you Anne.
You help me appreciate “this is your time” in new ways. Powerful.
There are many skills and characteristics that go into making someone a leader. While all leaders and potential leaders have them; none of us has them in equal measure, nor in the same proportions. For me, helping others become leaders means encouraging them to build on those talents and abilities that are their strengths, and helping them improve on those areas that need development.
Thank you Scott.
I appreciate your contribution today. I believe in the strength-based focus.
When Jim Kouzes is asked if leaders are born or made he replies, “I never met a leader who wasn’t born.” Obviously he believes leadership can be learned.
Jim Kouzes (and Barry Posner) have had great influence here at EMC Insurance. We adopted “The Leadership Challenge” and its Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership a number of years ago as a perfect fit for expressing our company’s guiding beliefs. I have had the good fortune of helping lead two groups in studying and applying the lessons in their book. (And I’m living proof that leaders are made . . . and, of course, born.)
I have recently been awakening to this same truth. I look forward to discovering the unique and original outcomes as I learn to spend the rest of my life as utterly, completely and joyfully MYSELF!!!
Great idea Connie. I will do the same! Let’s wish each other good luck on this jurney! Regards from Anne-Siri
Dan, great topic and great contributions from readers. I have found that part of influencing others to be themselves is to be genuinely interested in knowing their “who.” The other part of that is creating a safe place for that to happen, and to encourage that to happen. I once asked a coachee, “What does the organization miss when you shut down?” Her answer was perfect. “They miss my unique contribution and the value of what I know and have experienced.” Helping people see that value in themselves encourages them to take more risk for the benefit of everyone.
“How can leaders help others become themselves?”
By not hiring them if you intend to change them.
There is, from my point of view, only one problem, to see beyond appearence and indentify the strong and weak points. I don’t think there is a general way of doing this thing. For every individual there is a certain strategy. One may be helped to see himself in a confort zone, another beyond that space. One must be approched gently, another must be well shaked.
Great insight or intuition is the key.
I think as leaders, the most important thing you need to be is’yourself’. A ‘fake’ will always be a fake and you can be sure your secret WILL find you out. If an organization/promotion, or a goal you’ve set, requires you to be something your not, then it’s ‘not; the job for you. Thanks Dan