As I adjourn an emerging leaders forum for high potential employees, I’m reminded that the traditional notion of leadership as top-down is no longer valid. The 21st century is calling for a new brand of leadership, one that is holistic in nature and summons from within. The call is for a deeper level of self-awareness and self-discovery than traditional leadership concepts enabled. This type of leadership is a bottom-up shared approach that emphasizes internal qualities rather than external status. It’s what I refer to as inner leadership.
Inner leadership is a learned set of capabilities born out of strong commitment and passion to an idea or cause. It capitalizes on the whole person by integrating authentic leadership qualities into all aspects of life. The assumption of inner leadership is that we all have talents and contributions that are needed to foster organizational success. Since we all share in the responsibility of creating a better society, leading others begins with leading oneself. While you may not be able to influence change from the top of your organization, you do have the innate ability to identify creative ways to drive change from behind or from the middle, which can be especially effective during times of transition and transformation.
Be-Attitudes of Inner Leadership
Regardless of your current professional status, you can become a strong and impactful leader and initiate powerful change in your organization and community by creating an environment where you are fully utilized. The following be-attitudes can help you take the initiative to lead from within.
Be passionate. Passion provides an internal spark to get you moving and an internal flame to keep you going. It engages mind, body and spirit in pursuing possibilities by having the innate belief that people want to work together to create the best future imaginable.
Be authentic. Grounding yourself in truth means knowing who and why you are. You understand and can articulate your purpose, gifts, talents, vision, values and beliefs. You also recognize your strengths and shortcomings, and are not afraid to admit either.
Be adaptable. Our natural preferences are to maintain the status quo, but today’s complex issues require the ability to readily adapt to changing conditions. Sharpen your adaptability skills by: (1) engaging curiosity; (2) inviting and accepting diverse perspectives; (3) anticipating change; and (4) creating value-added solutions.
Be credible. Credibility is the cornerstone of effective leadership. When you are credible you demonstrate personal integrity by being honest and consistent in thought, speech and action and following through on your commitments.
Be ethical. Selfish ambition disconnects us from others. Ethical behavior enhances the well-being of everyone because it stems from positive motives and emotions such as love, compassion, and generosity. Setting the standard as an effective leader means keeping your actions above reproach.
Be an expert. Knowledge is a leader’s greatest resource. Become an expert in your field by immersing yourself in the chosen subject matter through reading, thought-provoking dialogue and conference/workshop attendance.
Be open. Actively listen to and understand others’ point of view, even if it conflicts with your own. While you may have great ideas, other perspectives do exist; so don’t hesitate to leverage diverse points of view to achieve more extraordinary results.
Be facilitative. The art of leadership hinges on the ability to enable others to succeed. In helping others we help ourselves. Rather than hoarding your knowledge and skills, seek ways to create win/win situations by turning competition into collaboration.
Be big-picture focused. Focus on the overall job to be done, rather than your individual role in completing tasks. Create a vision for yourself and think strategically about concepts and ideas that you can use to enhance your job and performance. This way, you’re better prepared to anticipate and capitalize on change.
Be a prudent risk-taker. Risk taking involves a willingness to advocate unconventional positions, take a new approach, or tackle challenging problems without obvious solutions. Taking calculated risks is a great way to stimulate creativity and innovation. It also obligates you to take full responsibility for failures and successes.
Be positive. Harness the power of optimism by making a positive commitment to yourself to: (1) stay focused on what really matters; (2) view change as an opportunity for personal and professional growth; (3) assume that others have the best intentions; (4) look for the value in every situation; and (5) modify your self-talk, because you are what you think.
Inner leadership is a critical skill to be developed, but it allows you to tap into your internal sources of freedom and power to move boulders, create change and enjoy long-term success. In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Until Next Time,