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.
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.
#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:
- Knows you and has good values.
- Has courage to speak the truth.
- 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.
Thank you for sharing, Dan. A great reminder. All leadership begins with growing in our ability in self-leadership. How we “be” is more important that what we “do.”
Thanks Ken. Love the expression, “How we be…” The concept of self-leadership is the biggest challenge of leadership. One way to think about it is to always expect more from ourselves than we expect from others. Or, never ask anyone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
Leaders integrate their “being” with their “doing;” that’s their purpose in “becoming” leaders.
“The truth in what one says is in what one does.”
Influence on the greatest number for the greatest common good, not power for one’s own purpose(s).
That influence is quiet, but the greater power
Thanks Rurbane. Being … Doing … Becoming. One of the interesting aspects of growth is the interaction between being and doing. What we do impacts who we become. Who we become impacts what we do.
Great way to put it, Dan. Thx.
Towards Authentic Leadership
1. Know your core beliefs and values
2. Have alignment with what you think, say, and do
3. Develop courage to say what you think
4. Be open to feedback
Great Paul. Harry would say that your #1 requires self-reflection. Well, actually all your points require self-reflection. 🙂
So true everything stated above is factual. How we start, how we learn, how we grow. When we start, when we learn, when we grow. As we learn we grow, when we share others grow. we are only a minuet piece of the puzzle in the universe Remember others came before us leading the way, following others foot steps is not a bad bath, yet most importantly is making your path to make a difference, as the foot steps you followed may have not finished the journey.
Thanks Tim. I get a sense of humility when I read your comment. Don’t get too big for your britches.
It’s sobering but important to acknowledge. You’re a small part of a big picture.
For me–leadership starts with knowing what you truly believe and value. That takes reflection, trial and error learning, and fine tuning overtime.
Thanks Paul. The trial and error piece isn’t included in this post. I’m so glad you brought it up. Sometimes we take action and then realize… ooops, that doesn’t reflect what I believe.
Totally resonates with other great thought leaders. Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive talks about being yourself and thinking deeply about how you, as a leader, can contribute. Gino Wickman, founder of EOS and author of Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, is a passionate evangelist for the Clarity Break as being essential to being effective leader. Both very worthwhile leads. Your 168 is now on my reading list as well.
The quote: “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do.” reminded me of this mantra: Know the good, do the good, be the good. I am an elementary educator and some 20+ years ago we were developing a school-level curriculum for character education, and a wiser person than I, suggested that children first needed to ‘know the good’ – be explicitly taught what a value means, before they could ‘do the good’ – be encouraged and given opportunity to intentionally practice the value, with the hopeful outcome that they would then ‘be the good’ – internalize that value such that it defines who they are. That idea has stayed with me all these years and I have come back to it time and time again. Leadership, done well, is a matter of ‘being’ not ‘doing’. Lovely!
This is a great one. Interestingly, I typically respond after a few moments of reflection, however, this one made me sit and think for a bit longer. True reflection can be a difficult process when one is in a role of leadership and has as responsibility of leading others. Way too often do I find myself judging, adjusting and coaching without considering my own approach or mentality on the subject. When I step-back it’s easier to see my biases or preconceived notions toward a subject. I wholeheartedly agree that true reflection is something that has to be intentional and forced. Otherwise, we get caught in the motion of the day-to-day without ever stepping-back and reviewing our true perspectives. Great reminder!