Knowing Yourself First, Part I

There is no magical formula to leadership, but one thing that many leadership “models” or courses will encourage is to know yourself first. One of my favorite leadership books is “The Leadership Challenge” by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. This popular executive leadership process is based on 30 years of research and millions of users of its Five Practices Model. The first of these practices is “Model the Way.” I can see why it’s first.

Kouzes and Posner explain, “What we found in our investigation of admired leadership qualities is that more than anything, people want leaders who are credible. Credibility is the foundation of leadership. Above all else we must be able to believe in our leaders. We must believe that their word can be trusted, that they’ll do what they say, that they’re personally excited and enthusiastic about the direction in which we’re headed, and that they have the knowledge and skill to lead. If you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message.”

In simpler terms, people with credibility walk the talk, say what they mean and mean what they say and consistently display integrity. Bottom line is, credible leaders know themselves well and hold steadfast to their personal values. We are going to identify your values as the first step toward “Model the Way.”

1. To get started, go into Outlook, iCal or whatever calendar program you use and block off 15 minutes this week.

2. During your 15 minutes, I want you to spend five minutes typing responses to each of the following two statements. Try to keep typing that entire time and don’t judge or start editing what you’re writing. If you’re more comfortable with handwriting, please do so.

• “I believe…..”

• “My ideal life looks like….”

3. The last five minutes, pull out key words or statements that articulate your values. You can highlight them, type or write them separately, whatever works.

4. Sit with that document for a few days and come back to it until you’re confident it expresses who you are. We’ll get to sharing those values later.

5. Finally, be on the lookout this week for others expressing their values, either overtly or subtly. It will help in your own process to observe others’ values in action (something you can add to last week’s “listening” blog post). How do you feel about those values? Hopefully inspired. Because that’s what our goal is for your values!

To keep going with this process, take a peek at Knowing Yourself Part II and III.

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