#305 from Innovative
Leader Volume 6, Number 11
Cashman is CEO of LeaderSource and the Executive to Leader
Institute, an executive coaching consultancy in Minneapolis, Minn.
(phone 612-375-9277; email firstname.lastname@example.org).
This article is based on his forthcoming book, Leadership
from the Inside Out (Executive Excellence, Provo, Utah, Spring
our success as leaders is measured by the degree to which we’ve
mastered the external environment and delivered results in the
form of revenues, profits, new product breakthroughs, cost
savings, or market share increases.
of course, are important. But
trying to define leadership by its external manifestations misses
the core question: What
is the essence of
that underlies external success and achievement?
After 20 years of
wrestling with this question, I’ve come to this simple yet
profound realization. Leadership
is not simply something
we do. It comes from
somewhere inside us. Leadership
is a process, an intimate expression of who we are.
It’s our being in action.
At its deepest level, leadership
is authentic self-expression that creates value.
leadership from this essential vantage point, we can see there are
three core principles to guide us:
How deep and
broad is our self-expression?
How much value
are we creating?
The foundation of
leadership is authenticity. How do we go about expressing
ourselves more authentically?
I constantly challenge clients to ask, “Where is my
leadership coming from?” Do
our actions originate from deep within ourselves, or are they
coming from a more superficial, limited place?
Is our leadership arising from our character,
the essence of who we are? Or
is it only coming from our persona,
the external personality we’ve created to cope with life
working with an executive who believed, because he was at the top
of the organization, he must always have all the answers, and that
if he revealed any limitations others would perceive him as weak
or inadequate. Eventually,
in his need to always be “right,” he made several errors and
brought his organization to a crisis.
With our coaching, he used the crisis to break from his old
pattern. He faced up
to his troops, acknowledged his mistakes, and asked for their
help. His co-workers
were shocked, but they rushed to his support and enthusiastically
resolved the crisis.
Commenting on his
experience, he said, “I thought my power was in being right,
but now I understand my power was in being real.”
expand their competencies from simply getting results to
authentically adding value through synergy.
One of our clients, Jack, was an incredibly gifted
executive; his talent and intelligence were apparent in everything
he did. At early stages of his career his cognitive and
intellectual skills helped him to excel in many challenging,
complex assignments. As
his achievements advanced, Jack started to believe his own
“press” and internalized the belief that he was the person who
“made things happen.” Gradually
his relationships became strained and he couldn’t understand
To help Jack
break through his self-limiting view, we asked him to outline key
events in his life over the past two weeks by focusing on the
people who had made each event possible.
It didn’t take him long to recognize the web of
interdependence that was supporting his success.
He became aware of initiatives for which he had taken
credit and for which he now needed to acknowledge others.
He was beginning to genuinely bridge personal power with
synergy power to enhance his contribution.
One of the most
crucial development challenges for most leaders is moving from
authentic self-expression to effectiveness by applying their
personal power to create value.
As the chairman of a technology services firm shared with
me, “Leadership is not about sitting in your office and dreaming
up strategy—it’s about touching the organization through
personal presence and relationship.”
authentic leaders, I would suggest there are Five Touchstones that are crucial to building the essential
interpersonal bridge of leadership.
Touchstone One: Know
thyself,” appears in the writings of Ovid, Cicero, and Socrates,
in the sayings of the Seven Sages of Greece, on the entrance to
the temple of Apollo, in Christian writings and in Eastern texts.
Chaucer, Browning, Pope, Montainge, de Saint-Exupéry, and
Lao Tzu all express variations of the precept. Ralph Waldo
Emerson, Abraham Maslow, Warren Bennis and Stephen Covey have
carried on the tradition.
If we want to be
more effective with others, we first need to become more effective
with ourselves. Instead
of focusing on finding the right partner (in business or
friendships) seek to be the
right partner. Commit
to authentically getting to know your total self.
Practice being what you wish others to become.
Touchstone Two: Listen
authentically is centered in the principle of psychological
influence others, we must first be open to their influence.
Authentic listening is about being generous—listening
with a giving attitude that seeks to bring forth the contribution
in someone, versus
our limiting assessments, opinions and judgments.
Authentic listening is about being open to the purpose and
learning coming to us through the other person.
listening creates the platform for true synergy and team
open to valuing and attending to different perspectives from
diverse sources results in a more complete understanding of issues
and more effective decisions. Authentic listening is the soul of synergy.
Touchstone Three: Express
expression is a delicate subject for many leaders. I rarely meet leaders who admit readily that they lack some
degree of integrity. I
also rarely meet leaders who have complete integrity in all parts
of their lives. Integrity
goes far beyond telling the truth.
Integrity means total congruence between who we are and
what we do. It’s a
formidable goal and most of us will spend our lifetime on the path
to getting there. How
often have we held back something that we feel is important
because we’re fearful of expressing it?
How often have we expressed something in a slightly more
favorable light? How
often have we protected someone from what we consider a tough
message? How often
have we feigned modesty for something we were really proud of?
expression is the true voice of the leader.
We speak from our character and it creates trust, synergy
and connection with everyone around us.
Authentic expression is not
about refining our presentation style—it’s deeper than that.
Some of the most authentic leaders I know stumble around a
bit in their delivery, but the words come right from their hearts
and experience. You
feel their conviction and the integral connection of who they are
and what they say. Expressing
authentically is about straight talk that creates value.
It’s about sharing your real thoughts and feelings in a
manner that opens up possibilities.
Touchstone Four: Appreciate
As leaders we
tend to do too much and appreciate too little. Love is an extreme case of appreciation.
However, we’ve banned the “L” word from business.
That’s in spite of the fact that the “L” word is the
substance that unifies teams, builds cultures, fosters commitment
and bonds people in an organization.
In lieu of this
cultural taboo, let’s use the word “appreciation.”
Appreciation is one type of self-expression that creates
value. It energizes
people and makes people want to exceed their goals and perceived
limits. Criticism, on
the other hand, may get short-term results but usually doesn’t
add long-term value. What it does add is fear and insecurity.
Touchstone Five: Serve
leader is not judged by how well he or she leads, but by how well
he or she serves. We
serve our organization. We
serve our people. We
serve our customers. We
serve our marketplace. We
serve our community. We
serve our family. We
serve our relationships.
As leaders, when
we move from control to service, we acknowledge that we’re not
the sole origin of achievement.
This shift is an emotional and spiritual breakthrough.
Life flows through us and we simply play our role.
Our real job is to serve all the constituencies in our life
and, in the process, to appreciate genuinely the fact the only
through our interdependence with others do we create value.
to the lifelong process of authentically growing as a person in
order to grow as a leader. Leaders
who stay connected to each of these five touchstones of
authenticity not only enhance their own effectiveness as leaders,
but improve all aspects of their lives.