Leading from Within is a key concept in leadership. When you can’t lead yourself, how can you expect leading others successfully? Not.
Non-Americans be Warned
I’m not sure wether I would ever have non-Americans put this book high on their must-read list. These are the leadership insights of a U.S. Army Brigadier General, Retired. The implication is that there if a lot of reverence for the greatness of an army with almost sacrosanct veneration of all things military. For instance the word soldier is written with a capital letter throughout the book. As a Belgian: I don’t get it. Furthermore, I can safely assume that no peaceful country would ever get it. The impact it had on me was as if I got projected back to the dawn of European civilisation. It felt as if I was reading a story of a Spartan warleader or polemarchos.
The good thing about the approach is that it really forces you to see the person, not the political ideas an army general brings into the world. Especially not when the outcome of her actions are juxtaposed to my own belief system.
Most memorable Quote(s)
- “Humans (…) created the culture, therefore we have the power to change it“: As an inclusion coach and advisor, this is one I will take along in presentations. When companies turn to me to support them changing their culture, I am often wondering: “what makes it so difficult?” After all, the culture of a group is what the members bring into it. It’s the values they bring to the table that defines the culture they are living in. Often cultural transformation is not more than getting together and start talking and, especially, listening. Really listening. An than I realise: we were never taught to lead from within. We were never taught to be curious about the other.
Which leads us to the quote, it is true that all it takes to change a culture is the desire to change it.
- “leadership is the fusion of the heart and the mind“: this is the essence of leading from within: once heart and mind are aligned and bonded, nothing can throw a leader of guard. Therefore, leading is an act of compassion. Leading is done heart forward, with a mind set on possible future. When leading is done with the mind only, it becomes void, empty, cold, distant and (oftentimes) egotistic. Conversely, when only leading from the heart, there is no purpose, no forward movement. At that point, there is only warmth and a sense of drowning in emotion.
- “Courage is values in action“: My absolute favourite quote. Tattoo-worthy. When your values are aligned and you express them fully in the world, courage shows. A leader purposefully leading with compassion standing high on his values is a courageous leader. That person, that leader from within, will not yield, not fear.
Leading from Within
When thinking of leadership, we often think about the person in front pointing the way (at best) or telling you what to do (the worst). Far too often we forget that leading is so much bigger than being top-dog, alpha-female…
As a co-active leadership coach, I have seen all to often leaders trying to lead using all kind of models. However, leading starts with oneself. In order to lead others, one must be able to lead oneself. The keywords in leading from within are: Self-Acceptance and Self-Authority. The self-acceptance is the being side of co-active leadership. It is only when we are able to choose our own humanity with all of its brilliance and imperfection, that we can let go of trying to fix ourselves. As a leader you must be able to start from the idea that: “I am enough”.
Self-authority is the active part of the leader within. It points to living in accordance with one’s personal values. Bringing them to live and making them shine. Remember the quote: “courage is values in action”? That is it. That is the essence of self-authority as a leader.
Leadership Take-Aways (Tools)
- “WIN: What is Important Now“: This is a mindfulness practice. Every time you feel overwhelm coming up, or you don’t know what direction to go, this is your way out. Questioning yourself about what is important NOW, focusses you on what is real and present, not something far away. I am a procrastinator, my WINing thinking, gets me over the procrastination, every time again. My procrastination is rooted in overwhelm, focussing on the smallest step possible – the one that is really needed – propels me. There is a beautiful poem by David White that expresses this perfectly.
- “Personal Battle Rhythm (PBR)“: The practice of defining moments in time that things need to be done. The rhythm of writing articles for a newsletter, the quarterly revision of your strategy… everything has a rhythm. Finding your rhythm in business or in your personal life and elaborating it on paper, is a practice that keeps you focussed. Furthermore it serves as a container for the business you are running. Compare it to the beating of the drum on a galley.
- “My Leader Philosophy“: Every leader has one. Do you have one? The idea is to put in writing what you stand for, who you are as a leader. Your essence. Becky Halstead uses it as an introduction when assuming a new command, handing out every one her Leader Philosophy. Mine is short and sweet. The book, however, inspired me to turn it into a manifesto. Something I will be working on later. Curious about my Leader Philosophy? Here goes:
“I lead heart forward with compassionate curiosity to bring clarity, hope and purpose. I am an inclusive leader and make a stand for shaping the bravest legacies.”
- “Priorities Card“: The final piece to really start leading from within. The Priorities Card is a credit-card-like piece of paper, you carry along, with a brief overview of what you stand for: your values and the principles you adhere to. Whenever in doubt about your next move, take a peek, reflect and the answer will be in front of you.