Know-Self the Real Foundation of Leadership

For many years I did not really know myself. I sought out big challenges and did whatever was necessary to achieve them. I measured my self-worth by the competitive ranking of my accomplishments. In consulting I believed in putting the client first and was very hard on the people who worked for me. I expected them to do whatever it took to exceed our clients’ expectations.

A decade ago, during a development course, I visualized my own funeral.  This exercise was a real eye opener for me.  People found me so difficult to get along with that this undermined our relationship and my influence.  I realized that while I deeply cared about people, I was not living these values. When the exercise was over I was glad to have the opportunity to shift toward living my values. 

In 2000 Fast Company magazine named Michael Ray “The Most Creative Man in Silicon Valley. “ For more than 20 years he had taught a course at Stanford Business School called Personal Creativity in Business. In that course students learn to know themselves deeply and live from the their deepest values and passions.   According to internet entrepreneur, Jeffrey Skoll, “the course has changed a lot of lives.”

Taking Action:  Knowing yourself is fundamental for every leader and aspiring leader. You can start with a Know-Self evaluation by reflecting on your:

  • Deepest values.
  • Highest aspirations.
  • Greatest strengths.
  • Who you are at your best.
  • Dysfunctional patterns they get in your way.
  • How you shift from dysfunctional pattern to being at your best.

I also recommend you reflect on your own funeral.   Envision that you die tomorrow and are able to witness your own funeral. Everyone you know including your family, friends, and everyone in your social and professional networks attend.  Each person speaks about you.

  • What did they say?
  • How did you impact them?
  • Did you invest your life in what mattered most to you?
  1. Know-Self –  Is the first step toward Leading Yourself.   The next two steps are listed here.
  2. Ideal-Self – Envision who you want to become including mindsets, behaviors and skills (see The 7 Characteristics x 4 Levels of Leadership Excellence)
  3. Grow-Self – the actions you take to grow toward your Ideal-Self; these include:
    • Real-time awareness of whether you are at your best through Watch-Self 
    • Acting at your best more and more of the time through Best-Self– 
    • 90 day Next-Self development focus that includes disciplined practice and peer coaching. 

Posted by David Sherman

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