Leadership is an inside job!


Kevin Cashman, a recognized pioneer in the field of CEO and executive development once said that, “The leader and the person is one….we lead from where we are.”

Many leaders and managers learn about what to do and how to do those things. But great leaders also learn how to be. They learn to connect with their authentic selves. It took me almost 20 years to form my leadership voice. I had to develop it, work through life experiences to find what I stand for and what brings the passion for leading every day.

Many people equate leadership with results and other metrics that gives a reflection of the bottom line, but the legacy of any business or company is what the leader leaves behind.  That’s what people like Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher and Bill Marriott have for their organizations.

In essence it’s about growing your leadership from the inside out. How you develop and grow on a day to day will set the tone for the “outside” leadership.

When you begin to work on your leadership from the inside out, you build a solid foundation of your character.  Lisa Petrilli, the Co-author of The Character-Based Leader tells us that we need to lead with character, “I believe that to be a leader of true character requires connection with, and acceptance of, our whole selves. It involves understanding who you are, within yourself, at your deepest and most personal level.”

When you look at successful leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi, they led from the inside out. They were not born leaders. They molded and grew their leadership through struggles and triumphs by connecting with who they are as people.

They were men of strong character. They lead their people through the most challenging times in history.  Helen Keller reminds us that “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

When we lead from the inside, we are forming our leadership. We connect to a bigger vision. A big dream. Our inner journey helps us create more clarity about who we are in the world and why we are here to serve.  We form values, purpose and a vision that will empower others to be successful.

The other aspect of leading from the inside out, is becoming aware of your authentic voice, your true self. Successful leaders are authentic by having an awareness of their strengths and vulnerabilities. It allows them to see a purpose beyond their own limitations and work toward contribution and service.In order to succeed in any endeavor, we have to learn how to lead ourselves first.

The toughest person you will ever lead will always be yourself.  Leading yourself means you are responsible for the results you intend to achieve. Successful leaders set the bar higher for themselves and hold themselves accountable to create trust in their organization.

Lastly, we need to look at our personal values. Personal leadership begins with a clearly defined values. Having real clarity about your personal values is essential to leading a life of passion and purpose. You need to connect to what’s really important in order to shape a meaningful journey. Understanding what’s important and what gives meaning to our lives will be the true compass to finding our purpose in the world.

Self-Mastery and Self-growth are the roots of great leadership. We can’t lead others before we can lead ourselves. Stephen Covey teaches us that, “The only thing that endures over time is the law of the farm: I must prepare the ground, put in seed, cultivate it, weed it, water it, then gradually nurture growth and development to full maturity.”

Now think about your own leadership. Is it growing from the inside out? What are you working on to develop your personal mastery as a leader?

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