This begins a new series of posts on leadership. I intend to discuss one trait in each post. These traits are something that I personally have found to be vital and differentiating between ordinary managers and good leaders. This isn’t based on any research but my own observations on building and leading teams over the last thirteen years and my own journey on the path to self discovery. I sincerely hope my reflections make you think about your own style of leadership. Good Luck!
#1 ‘Good leaders are deeply connected to themselves’
I asked myself – which leadership trait would be the most valuable. There are several. Good leaders are effective, persuasive, inspiring, hard-working and you can go on and on. However, if there is one trait that I have found to be consistent with great leaders, it is that they are deeply connected to themselves. What do I mean by this?
Most of us derive our sense of worth from our life situations. That is to say, we feel important or derive a sense of self worth based on our positions, our relationships, our possessions and how well we are regarded in our peer groups or close family. These are important. We are social animals and it would be wrong to say that the opinions of others do not matter at all. However, when we start taking life decisions and investing enormous amount of our daily energy in these external matters, we almost always lose a sense of who we are and what drives us. These ‘values’ of what vibes with us and what motivates us to get up and go to work daily is crucial. Not many of us truly understand this and have reflected on it. Most of us do things “because it must be done” or we are doing things “to get that promotion”. No! Do you do this because it resonates with a deep part of who you are? Can you live without doing this one bit? Great leaders don’t have a job – their lives are an expression of who they are. Their subject inspires them, so much, that the people around them are inspired (more of inspiration in a later post).
These leaders are deeply grounded in themselves and they have a good sense of what is right for them and what isn’t. They don’t show off these values. They know them intuitively and go about expressing it through the decisions they make. This is invaluable in today’s context. Why? Thanks to pervasive media, we are heavily influenced by ‘trends’. People jump onto trend bandwagons. Think of COVID economics or blockchain (a few years back) or perhaps climate change or sustainability earlier in the decade. These trends are short lived and I’ve seen it becoming the narrative for most people even in important positions. It’s not that trends per se are bad. It is the overwhelming focus on it that diverts leaders from real core issues. Good leaders on the other hand examine these trends and check if they fit into their own value system. If they do and it makes sense, they adopt it. If it doesn’t, then they drop it or they drop themselves out.
Knowing oneself doesn’t come easily in today’s crowded and noisy world. The world constantly distracts us and takes us away from ourselves. How do you go about knowing what your values are? Simple. Spend time alone. Spend at least a few hours each week in absolute aloneness (I didn’t say loneliness). Take long walks in nature (without your cell phone), sit on a chair on your balcony and stare into the sky, lie down on the grass or spend time at the beach – doing nothing. When we ‘do’ nothing, by and by our thoughts settle down and we connect to a deeper part of ourselves which is not the ceaseless story created by uninterrupted thoughts. And at this level, a deeper, much more intuitive knowledge comes about. This is a source of great strength and helps one makes decisions that one does not regret. Second, maintain a journal. Pause. Reflect. Write. This helps us see patterns in our thinking and we can often separate the noise from the signal. Therefore, start taking some time off for yourselves. Be still and connect to who you are.