Leadership from the Inside Out

Summary Written by Fonda Na’Desh
"We lead by virtue of who we are… The leader and the person are the same. As we learn to master our growth as a person, we will be on the path to mastery of Leadership From the Inside Out."

- Leadership from the Inside Out, page 22

The Big Idea

Who you are is how you lead

"Leadership is not simply something we do. It comes from a deeper reality within us; it comes from our values, principles, life experiences, and essence. Leadership is a process, an intimate expression of who we are. It is our whole person in action."- Leadership from the Inside Out, page 22

It is difficult, if not impossible, to separate the leader from the person. Just as Kabat-Zinn offered in Wherever You Go, There You Are, so to is whoever we are is how we will lead. No matter how hard we try to turn on the current top leadership traits, all that we are will manifest in our leadership. Yet, the problem is not that the leader and the person are the same, the issue is that many of us do not really know who we are; many are not leading with awareness. The questions then become:

  • If we are not aware of, for example, our strengths, weaknesses, values, or purpose, do we understand the impact of our leadership?
  • Are we using our full potential to make a difference?
  • Are we the leader we think we are?
  • How effective is our leadership?

Leadership From the Inside Out offers guidance in developing our awareness, discovering our purpose, and increasing our leadership effectiveness with the seven mastery pathways: personal, purpose, change, interpersonal, being, resilience, and action. The following are two of the stepping-stones to move toward growing as a leader by growing as a person.

Insight #1

Leading with awareness and authenticity

"One of the ways to take this journey to a more integrate, complete understanding of ourselves is to explore deeply our personal belief system… Beliefs literally create our reality; they are the lenses or filters through with we interpret the world."- Leadership from the Inside Out, page 38

Many people have two sets of beliefs: conscious beliefs, beliefs of which are aware, and shadow beliefs, beliefs that are hidden and underneath the surface. Cashman offers that everyone has shadow beliefs; if we think we do not have them, a shadow belief may be blocking our view. Shadow beliefs are mainly a problem when we fail to acknowledge and deal with them. They start to limit our potential and our effectiveness. Cashman provided examples to determine if a shadow belief is at play. The following are two examples:

  • If we constantly receive feedback that is inconsistent with our self-view
  • If we emotionally overreact to situations

Revealing our beliefs start with discovery. Ask the following questions:

  • What do I believe about myself?
  • What do I believe about other people?
  • What do I believe is my impact or influence on others?

Commit to clarifying the conscious and shadow beliefs. Start to pay attention to how your beliefs may have a positive or a negative impact on you. Reinforce the beliefs that are positive, provide opportunities, and are motivating. Finally, as Cashman suggests, remind yourself of the Personal Mastery mantra: “As you believe, so shall you lead”.

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Insight #2

Leading on purpose

"When we look at the lives of highly effective people and value creating organizations, often there is a common theme. Their reason for being is clearer to them. This connection, sense of meaning, love for what they do often drive their success."- Leadership from the Inside Out, page 720

If we are going to “consciously make a difference” or try to understand our reason for being, we need to understand our core purpose. “Core purpose is the high performance intersection where our talents and our values come together”.

In order to determine our core purpose we first need to discover our core talents (the gifts we have to make an impact), and our core values (deeply held belief that influence and motivate our actions). To identify core talents, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What can people count on me for?
  • When I am working with others and we are most energized and engaged, I am contributing ___?
  • When I am making a difference, my prominent talents are ____?

To discover your core values, reflect on the following questions:

  • What has your life taught you about what is precious and valuable?
  • What is worth risking your life for?
  • ____ gives me the greatest meaning in life and work.

Once we reveal our core talents and core values, we can start to discover our core purpose, our true north. Cashman says that “with purpose, managers become leaders”. Discovering our core talent and our core purpose may require more reflection than the questions presented, yet they offer a start. The journey has just begun.

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Kevin Cashman

Kevin Cashman is recognized as one of the pioneering thought leaders in leadership development and executive coaching and is regarded as one of the world’s premier CEO coaches. Leadership Excellence magazine has named him one of the Top 10 Thought Leaders for several years. For more than thirty years, he has advised senior executives and senior teams in more than sixty countries.

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