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Exceptional Leadership Starts with Yourself

posted Apr 18, 2013, 7:20 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 1, 2013, 5:29 PM ]

“In order to have courage, you must do the inner-work necessary to know who you are.” 
Howard Behar, former President, Starbucks.

I invite you to join me on a brief virtual exercise. First, make a list in your mind of the characteristics of an exceptional leader. 

Now, create a corresponding list of the characteristics you would assign to an ineffective leader.

You likely came up with something along the lines of the following characteristics:

Exceptional Leader: Clear vision, Influential, Great Communicator, Empowering, Humble, Connected, Inspiring, Supportive…

Ineffective Leader: Domineering, Inconsistent, Manipulative, Disconnected, Inaccessible, Egocentric…

Now consider for yourself what type of leader you are personally. Likely, as difficult as it may be to admit, you have visited both lists.

In reality, we are all capable of being either type of leader.

An exceptional leader is someone who is aware of when they are not at their best, and is able to shift back to lead from a higher place. They “consciously” lead.

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

Not exactly. Unsurprisingly, it is under conditions of stress and uncertainty, and the associated current of fear that these moments are charged with, that we find ourselves at the most risk of exhibiting negative leadership traits. And for good reason.

Fear has the ability to short-circuit our brain and limit our ability to access the neo-cortex, the area of the brain capable of higher-level processes such as empathy, compassion and wise decision-making.

Overcoming this automatic reaction to stress requires awareness and significant courage – the type of courage that, per Howard Behar, only comes from knowing yourself and knowing your values. This knowledge requires doing your own inner-work.

How well do you know yourself? What are your personal values?

Living from a set of personal, family and business values provides the stable platform from which you can effectively lead. Integrated into a mindfulness practice, it provides the awareness that enables you to recognize when fear has allowed you to stray from the course; as well as the courage and strength to bring yourself back on track.

Exceptional leadership requires a commitment to knowing and living your values. It requires integrating them into both your home and work life, and being fully you.

As Howard Behar would say, it requires wearing One Hat.

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