All great leaders in history appear to have one thing in common. They led primarily out of who they were, even though we celebrate what they did. We might salute their courageous and decisive action, but this was predicated by a deep sense of purpose and firmly held values. Their leadership was a state of being.
It is because of this fundamental principle; that I vehemently believe leadership cannot be taught. In fact, I believe that ‘leadership training’ is entirely ineffective. I recently wrote about it being time to toss the leadership competencies, especially as we prepare our businesses and our lives for a Post-COVID world. Until we do so, we have little chance of finding and nurturing the great leadership potential that exists among us already.
I believe that to unlock our innate leadership potential, instead of learning competencies and traits, we need to consider the deeply existential question; What is our purpose and our reason for being? And in the same breath, do we know our values that we will simply not negotiate?
Grappling with these questions and the journey of self-discovery they ignite, is paramount to our being more effective leaders and living a more meaningful and happy life. As E.E Cummings once aptly wrote “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” And similarly, Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard said: “The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”
Today, as most of our convictions are turned inside out, and we find ourselves moving forwards into largely unknown territory on all fronts, I’m reminded of a message from a friend and legendary wildlife tracker, Renias Mhlongo. ‘I may not know where I’m going, but I know how I’m going to get there.’
We may not know where we are going, and, indeed, there is no map to guide us. However, do we know who we will be as we traverse the road ahead and how we will choose to live our lives?
We know that we have to be agile, open-minded and willing to adapt and grow. But do we know what we need to leave behind? Do we know what we will not do? And do we know what we want to preserve and take with us, as the world evolves into a new way of being and of doing.
British author and inspirational thought-leader, Simon Sinek recently shared this with his team: I’m not worried about what I do. I’m worried about why I do it. As human beings, we so often define ourselves by what we do. We spend our days as human doings. It takes great intention to find and connect to your reason for being. It is this ‘inner journey’ that is often neglected. The inner journey which focuses on finding your moral and spiritual compass, identifying your non-negotiable values, and deciding what it is that drives you from within.
When we designed our flagship leadership programme, Leading with Humanity, it was guided by the philosophy of immersive and experiential learning as a cornerstone of driving enduring personal development. The start of an inner pilgrimage. We believe this requires us to unhook ourselves from living within our prescribed boundaries and prevailing circles of certainty. Only when we open ourselves up to see our world from different angles, will we begin to discover who we truly are and what it means to be the ‘real me’.
With personal purpose comes assurance and the confidence to lead. This purpose-fuelled confidence will enable us to not only navigate unchartered territories, but to lead our companies, our families and our communities through them.
Some key questions to ask yourself today:
- Do you live your life as a human doing, driven by the external demands of your world? Or do you live your life as a human being, living authentically and able to be the real you in everything you do?
- Are you challenged in that your reason for being is under threat? Or is your reason for doing at risk?
When you better understand your why, you might just find that even when you don’t know what to do, you’ll know just what to do.
Authored by Pete Laburn, Founder of Lead with Humanity