I made the conscious decision in my early thirties to understand who I really was, what I truly wanted, and initiated the ability to assess my genuine talents and shortcomings. I learned how to say “no” when it was in my best interest or that of others I cared about and/or wanted to serve. I mustered the courage to “unpeel the onion,” looking deep into my “shadow” self – with trusted and experienced support – facing injuries I’d unconsciously nursed that had impelled me. I started to become a happier, healthier, more honest and, thus, more effective person with others and myself.
I simultaneously discovered that I cannot control anyone else’s behavior but only my reaction to it, and even that takes enormous effort. It’s certainly not a one-shot-done act but instead, an ongoing odyssey I’ve been on for three-plus decades and I’m determined to continue for the rest of my life. I’ve finally accepted that it’s not possible to be perfect – just to be the best I can be, and to make time to take care of myself as well as serve others.
As the CEO of an international consulting firm and an affiliate of IMD Business School, I design and facilitate executive programs for leadership development, organizational change, strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, improved governance, and other activities that help institutions achieve their goals.
Not surprisingly – because I’m far less wounded and continue to heal myself at ever deeper levels – I can recognize the wounds that others carry when I interact with them in one of these programs and/or as an executive coach. I gently try to help them consider taking the same type of internal expedition to find their true selves, flaws and all. Obviously, some are more responsive than others.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve worked with people who hold the highest-level senior positions in enterprises from all sectors – multi-national corporations, heads of state, leaders of global non-profits, etc. I’ve observed that the ones who are able to admit that their organizations are dysfunctional and take the right action to fix them are the ones who are the most personally self-aware and honest. In business, as in all other areas of life, this is what distinguishes a great leader from someone who is simply in charge.
A great leader faces facts; willingly accepts both positive input and criticism from others; is willing and able to change, even take risks; doesn’t feel the need to take credit for everything good or find a scapegoat for everything bad; values stakeholders as much as shareholders; and understands that having power and authority is not the divine right of business kings, but the sublime privilege of those who know how to motivate cooperation, faith, sight of the big picture, and increased effort in others.
She/he knows how to recognize and sincerely praise and/or constructively correct the stakeholders in whom it is worth making an investment, and, clear out the “deadwood,” even when such decisions are difficult. A great leader knows how to manage time and effort; delegate; and inspire participation, unity, flexibility, and respect. He/she knows how to ask for help. A great leader knows how to turn the ship around. A poor leader goes down with the ship – often never knowing why it floundered.Download Article 1K Club