By Ron Miles, PCC

Thousands of books have been written about leadership. In a recent 10 year period 17,800 management journal articles were written about leadership. However, for many people, the first question is not, “How do I become an effective leader?”, but,” Who am I and what do I do with my life and career?”

In Mastering Leadership, Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, offer six leadership practices to become more effective in leadership. Using the first four, I’ve paraphrased them to make them more applicable to your immediate question of “who am I and what do I do”.

PRACTICE 1: DISCERNING PURPOSE
Life is purposeful. “First and foremost, find out what it is you’re about and be that” – Bennis, 1989.

PRACTICE 2: DISTILLING VISION
Life is the ongoing discipline of translating purpose into a vision.

PRACTICE 3: KNOWING YOUR DOUBTS AND FEARS
Transforming your purpose to a vision, will challenge how you think and act, perhaps in ways that are not supported by your current set of beliefs. It will require you to look internally, into the parts of yourself that are not yet ready to embody your vision – that are too small, too scared, too reactive, too controlling, to cautious, etc.

PRACTICE 4: ENGAGE IN AUTHENTIC, COURAGEOUS DIALOGUE

There is no safe way to be great. And there is no great way to be safe. Transformation requires courage. The courage required is not the courage required on the battlefield. You do not risk life and death, although it may feel that way at times. Mostly, the courage required is the courage to tell the truth, and most importantly to yourself.

 

So equipped with this information, what do you do?

PRACTICE 1: DISCERNING PURPOSE

Start by keeping a journal. The purpose is not so much to capture the events of the day, but to focus on your likes and dislikes. What are you passionate about? What gives you energy? What are you attracted to? What don’t you like? What zaps your energy? Practice paying attention to what your life is trying to tell you about whom you are and what you are here to be.

Create a list of MUSTS – the deepest and highest aspirations for your life. Capture your thoughts as they come. Don’t get caught up in the significance or lack of, or if it’s impossible or trivial; write it. On a regular basis review what you’ve written and refine it as you move forward. With this practice and with patience you will be able to formalize what you want your life to be.

As an example, you’ve come to realize you enjoy technical fields and have a keen interest in renewable energy. But, you didn’t complete college and you can’t afford to quit your job.

PRACTICE 2: DISTILLING VISION

Having established your purpose, what you want your life to be about, it must be transformed in to a vision. Again, using your journal, start writing about what you want your future to look like. Make it specific enough to set your direction, drive you action and guide you on how to make decisions.

Continuing our example, your vision is to get your college degree in engineering and get a job in the renewable energy sector. Your vision becomes to complete this in three years. It’s specific, sets your direction, drives your action and guides you on how to make decisions.

PRACTICE 3: KNOWING YOUR DOUBTS AND FEARS

As you begin to set your direction, the status quo of who you are and how you live is immediately challenged. Suddenly your current set of beliefs that are too small, too scared, too reactive, too controlling, to cautious, etc. don’t align.

In our example what’s going on inside – excited, energized, scared, self doubt, insecure, foolish, regret, etc. For some the journey begins, for you the only word to describe it is STUCK! Faced with the unknown, you linger in your safe world.

PRACTICE 4: ENGAGE IN AUTHENTIC, COURAGEOUS DIALOGUE

To move forward requires courage. You must start with authentic, courageous dialogue with yourself. Go back to your journal and start laying out your action plan. Pay particular attention to your emotions and feelings. Name them, i.e. I’m not smart enough (fear), how will I pay my bills (anxiety), etc, and write them down.

Then start the internal search, where are you stuck, what in your belief system have you made a truth, that isn’t.  For example the fear that you are not smart enough. The truth, you didn’t drop out of college because of grades, it was based on a need to work, the need for income.

The practice is to identify, confront, and change. It won’t always easy but it’s the only way.

 

In future articles we’ll address how to change our beliefs and behavior