Where Leadership Starts – The Surprising Practice You Can Begin Today

Nine years ago I had 3 conversations in thirty days that challenged my perspective and shifted my thinking. Yesterday, I reconnected with one of those people.

Three conversations:

The first conversation was with Medal of Freedom recipient Francis Hesselbein. Her definition of leadership still freaks me out. “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do.” The second conversation was with the CEO of Southwest Airlines during 9/11.

I asked Jim Parker, “What’s the most frequent advice you give leaders?” The first thing Jim said was, “Be Yourself.” At the time I was completely underwhelmed.

The third conversation, with Harry Kraemer, helped me make sense of the previous two. (Harry is former Chairman and CEO of Baxter International Inc., a multi-billion-dollar global healthcare company.)

Where leadership starts:

Harry is like a one-string banjo. After 9 years, he’s still harping on self-reflection. “Everything in leadership starts with self-reflection.”

“If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself? If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? And if you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”

Hesselbein’s definition and Parker’s most frequent advice come together – in practical terms – with Kraemer’s passion for self-reflection.


Self-reflection practices:

#1. One-pager once a week.

Slow down and write a one page self-reflection.

Harry asks his students to write a one-page self-reflection once a week during their 10-week course at Kellogg. Typically it begins with shallow reflections, but eventually topics like purpose and meaning emerge.

Journaling enriches self-reflection.

#2. Invite people to participate.

We discover who we are, not in isolation, but connection. Isolation leads to self-deception.

Go to lunch with someone who:

  1. Knows you and has good values.
  2. Has courage to speak the truth.
  3. Helps you explore whether your life – in practice – reflects your values.

How to include others in self-reflection: https://bit.ly/34zHSG0 (2:04)

What attitudes and practices lead toward authentic leadership? Away from authentic leadership?

Purchase, “Your 168: Finding Purpose and Satisfaction in a Values-Based Life”

All book royalties from, “Your 168,” support One Acre Fund.