Leadership from the Inside Out

Grow the Whole Person to Grow the Whole Leader

I first read Leadership From the Inside Out years ago. It is one of the books that helps build a foundation of knowledge for leaders. That’s why I was excited to see that it is now out in a new version with updated chapters, new case studies and stories, and even more practical exercises to help everyone achieve their leadership potential.

Author Kevin Cashman is the Global Leader of CEO & Executive Development at Korn Ferry. He has advised thousands of senior leaders across almost every industry.

We recently talked about his updated book and his leadership views.


“While spreadsheets are the language of management information, stories are the language of leadership inspiration.” -Kevin Cashman


You’re just out with a new version of Leadership From the Inside Out, a classic must-read in leadership circles. What prompted you to update it, and what’s new?

Well, thank you for endorsing it as a “must-read.”  It has been humbling and fulfilling to witness the success of each edition. Twenty years ago, when the first edition came out, it was one of the first books to deeply connect personal growth to leadership effectiveness using timeless, enduring principles of human development. We had been seeing how this “grow the whole person to grow the whole leader” approach resonated in our practice with CEOs, CEO successors and executives, but at that time, there was little or no research on these principles—authenticity, self-awareness, courage, character, purpose—and their impact on results. We did the second edition in 2008 to share new stories and case studies, but also to share some of the mounting research from independent sources that was catching up with what we were seeing in the trenches. For this third edition, we felt compelled to share more abundant recent research, including a study that directly connects top leader self-awareness with organizational financial performance, a study on the results of purpose-driven leadership’s significant impact on financial growth, and more. The book is still framed in areas of mastery, but we’ve added Story Mastery and Coaching Mastery, both taking leaders to deeper levels of awareness to enhance their influence and multiply it. We updated stories and case studies and added and revised exercises and practices to sharpen relevance. This third edition is an even deeper, integrative growth experience.


“The Character-driven leader tends to emphasize service over self.” -Kevin Cashman


Why Character is Central to Leadership

I’m a passionate believer in character, and your book was early to focus on this aspect of leadership. Would you comment on the centrality of character?

Leading in Character is foundational, or to use your word, “central” to Personal Mastery, which is the ongoing growth of authenticity, courage, and influence that has enduring value. It is at the heart of transformative impact and servant leadership. Both Character and Coping are present in most leadership situations. However, we need to ask ourselves, “Which one is my master, and which one is my servant?”  When we are self-aware and make Character the master of our leadership and Coping the servant, we move toward better relationships with team members, customers, employees, all our stakeholders and the greater marketplace. And, we create more sustainable value. As leaders, it is essential to learn how to build our awareness of when we are being guided by Character and when we are being pushed by Coping. One CEO we worked with in our Chief Executive Institute told us that learning how to pause to make sure that values are on the table and that she and her team were leading with character has really stayed with her and been significant. She developed a systematic process of asking her team for their expert opinions, probing them to explain how they came to that opinion and whatever concerns they had. She explained that when a problem or a crisis comes along “stepping through it is grounding and everyone has the same fact base. It encourages synthesis and congruence with values.” That’s leading with Character and Authenticity.


“Purpose elevates teams to move from short-term success to long-term significance.” -Kevin Cashman


Meditation and Leadership

Increase Your Resilience to Thrive in a Turbulent World


Increase Your Resilience

Most of us are surrounded by more stress than ever before. It often starts the minute we get up as our devices feed us headlines. Our jobs require instant and continued results, and yesterday’s accomplishments seem to be remembered less and less.

Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston’s new book, Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World, is a thoughtful and inspirational guide to thriving during stressful times. Type R’s use challenges to innovate and grow.

I recently spoke with Ama Marston about her research into resilience. Ama is an internationally recognized leadership expert who has worked on five continents with global leaders. She is also the founder and CEO of Marston Consulting.


“And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore.” -Barbara Kingsolver


You start your new book with a gripping account of a car accident that impacted your lives. How did this awful accident impact your life’s work and result in this book?

For my mother, the process of having to recover from sever injuries and learn to walk again ultimately shaped her path to becoming a psychotherapist and stress expert. I was three at the time, but the accident also forged an even stronger lifetime bond between the two of us.

Decades later that led us to support one another while each of us separately faced the financial crisis as business owners, the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, family and health crises, etc. Through ongoing conversations we supported one another and also sought to better understand the convergence of personal, professional, and global turbulence. These challenges were something we were facing ourselves, but that we were each seeing in our respective professions. This was occurring in corporations and in the halls of the United Nations. It was on the minds of our clients and colleagues, global leaders, and our friends and family. So, while it took decades for the impacts of our car accident to come full circle, in some respect it planted a seed for a lifetime of learning about Transformative Resilience together and ultimately collaborating and writing Type R.


“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” -Albert Einstein


Reframe Adversity

How to Forge Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change


From Breakdown to Breakthrough 

Business leaders often focus on profits and metrics, living in spreadsheets and analytics. But what drives these results is people and relationships. So often it’s the resilient relationships, those that are forged in uncertain and difficult times that make the difference.

Author Michael Papanek takes three decades of experience with clients ranging from Apple to Google and shares it in his new book, From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Forging Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change. His framework helps leaders develop the confidence to take these relationships to the next level. I recently asked him about his work.


“Resilience is a social phenomenon based on relationships, not an individual leadership attribute.” -Michael Papanek


Build Strong Relationships

What are the elements of a strong relationship?

A strong business relationship will have a number of attributes that set that relationship apart from others.  First, it must provide value to both parties, and it is “generative,” meaning the value together is more than any one person could create on their own: so that 1 + 1 = 3.  Strong relationships also create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.

One example of this is from the entertainment world, where the band the Grateful Dead was famous for their long relationship with their very loyal fans (which continues today, long after the passing of their leader Jerry Garcia).  In addition to music, the band created value in other key ways for the fans, such as supporting a community of fans (the “Dead Heads”) as well as creating an ‘outside the concert’ experience, and even income for some fans (by selling items at the shows).

Finally, a strong relationship contributes to key strategies or needs of each party.  Relationships that do not create value this way may be categorized as superficial and easily ended. If you are ever not sure if the business relationship is really strong, that is the time to discuss it. Do not wait until you are surprised by a change.


“Strong relationships create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.” -Michael Papanek


How often do our relationships hit that sweet spot between strong, flexible and fair?

Reach: A Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone


You may know him from his writing for the Harvard Business Review or from his features in The New York Times or The Economist. Andy Molinsky, PhD is a professor of psychology and organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School. He is the author of Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence.

Since I have long been interested in helping people push past what’s comfortable, I found his new book particularly intriguing. After reading it, I am sure that you will find his work as actionable as I have. I spoke with Andy recently about his new book.


“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch


5 Roadblocks that Keep You in Your Comfort Zone

What keeps people safely ensconced inside their comfort zones?

I’ve found five specific reasons, and I call them psychological roadblocks or barriers.  The first is the Authenticity Challenge:  It’s the idea that acting outside your comfort zone can feel fake, foreign, and false.  The second is the Competence Challenge:  In addition to feeling inauthentic, you can also feel like you don’t have the ability to be successful in a situation outside your comfort zone.  The third roadblock is what I call the Resentment Challenge: Even if people logically know that they need to change their behavior to be effective in a new situation, they may feel resentful or frustrated about having to stretch beyond where they’re comfortable. Roadblock #4 is the Likeability Challenge:  One of the greatest worries people feel when stretching outside their comfort zones is whether people will like this new version of themselves.  Finally, Roadblock #5 is the Morality Challenge:  In certain instances, people can have legitimate concerns about the morality of the behavior they’re about to perform.  Of course people don’t necessarily experience each of these roadblocks each time they attempt to act outside their comfort zones.  However, even one or two roadblocks can be enough to keep people fully ensconced within their comfort zones.


Do most people know which one is their challenge?

When we’re afraid of something, we often just feel “worried” or “fearful.” And not really knowing or understanding where the discomfort actually comes from just compounds the problem.  But what I find is that when people can apply this framework of psychological roadblocks to their lives, they have a much clearer way to make sense of their experience – and that gives them a sense of control over something that previously felt confusing or overwhelming.


“The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.” -Karen Salmansohn


Stop the Cycle of Avoidance 

The vicious cycle of avoidance is one we’ve all participated in or watched to varying degrees. What’s the best way to stop the cycle and get back on the right path?

So many of us encounter this trap:  We avoid something outside our comfort zone – and feel quite relieved.  But then the next time around, it’s just that much harder.  To stop the cycle, you have to have a deep sense of purpose that the “pain” is worth the “gain” – that whatever it is you’re contemplating outside your comfort zone will contribute to your career or personal development — or enable you to help others and make a difference.  And what’s critical is that this source of conviction is authentic and meaningful to you.  When you have conviction and motivation, you’ll have the power to say yes when every bone in your body is aching to say no.


12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact


What’s different about the most remarkable leaders?

How can I have a bigger impact?


How Small Acts Can Equal Big Impact

Author and serial entrepreneur G. Shawn Hunter is the founder of Mindscaling. His latest book, Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact, argues that it’s the simple things, when done extraordinarily well, that make a great leader.

Shawn and I talked about his book and how it’s not always the most extraordinary, sweeping actions that make the biggest impact.


“The greatest leaders cheer us on when we try something new.” -Shawn Hunter


I love this philosophy because all of us can make just a few adjustments and improve our leadership today.


Do One Thing At A Time

G. Shawn HunterYou advocate that small, incremental choices can lead to a big impact. In your research for this book, what one small choice have you noticed in the most successful leaders?

I would say the one thing that successful people do is that they do one thing at a time. That might sound small and trifling, but, honestly, the way successful people get things done, or have meaningful conversations, is to do only that one thing. They turn off their phone when talking to people. They turn off email. They schedule time for writing and reading. They block off time for exercise and reflection. It sounds small, but it adds up.


Successful people do one thing at a time.


Is it possible to teach self-confidence? What are some ways to increase it?

The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence. Nothing makes you feel confident like being prepared. There is also a type of self-questioning that can be quite helpful. Instead of repeating the mantra, “Yes, I can do this!” to build self-confidence, try asking yourself if you have the capabilities to achieve what you are envisioning. If you ask specific questions of yourself, you will be forced to answer to your weaknesses and reconcile them.


“The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence.” -Shawn Hunter


Build Your Resilience

You talk about building resilience through challenge. Do challenges make the leader, or does the leader seek out challenges?

From what I understand through studying flow states, it’s a self-reinforcing paradigm, but only if you get the challenge part right. As your readers may know, flow states occur when the level of challenge presented meets (or slightly exceeds) your skill level. In that state we can become hyper-aware and hyper-focused. We also accelerate our learning. Once we feel that state, we often seek out those experiences which create flow states. There are people who can actually get addicted to inducing this type of state. They’re called Type T people, also known as adrenaline junkies.


Pronoia: believing the world is conspiring for your success.


Develop Persistent Curiosity

Persistence. I love the story of your daughter and how she ended up with a rare poster of Taylor Swift. What are some ways to develop persistent curiosity in everything we do?SmallActs-front (1)

Good question! The great physicist Richard Feynman once described how you can spot a real expert versus a phony. Look for three little words, “I don’t know.” The phony will have all the answers, while the experts will be willing to admit what they don’t know. Real experts are relentlessly curious, even assertively curious – that is, they will demand explanations for things that many others simply accept as rules.

Here’s an interesting fact about people who describe themselves as curious. These people are also assertive. Curious people are decision-makers. They are influencers. They often say they have direct influence over the outcome of decisions and change. If you think of the people in your company and community who consistently drive change, I bet you will be thinking of inquisitive people – people willing to ask the hard questions.


“Creating confidence is the result of applied effort and work.” -Shawn Hunter


Take a Break (even if you’re busy!)

You advocate the counterintuitive advice of taking breaks when we’re busy. Why is taking a break so important? How do you get a type-A, driven leader to follow this practice?

All-nighters don’t scale. Period. In some corners of business, we have created a work environment in which it’s cool to brag about how many hours we work, and how little sleep we get, and how many deliverables we accomplish. I worked in a company once that mandated a rapid response time to every incoming message. When you create an environment which requires people to constantly monitor correspondence over email and text, the next thing they do is constantly initiate messages.

Studies demonstrate what we already know intuitively. That is, our intellectual and productivity capacity diminishes rapidly when we are sleep deprived and when we are distracted. To answer your question, organizations and leaders should reward people who deliver meaningful, thoughtful contributions, not who puts out the highest volume of email noise.

12 Intentional Behaviors for Big Impact

1: Believe in yourself.

2: Build confidence.

3: Introduce challenge.

4: Express gratitude.

5: Fuel curiosity.

6: Grant autonomy.

7: Strive for authenticity.

8: Be fully present.

9: Inspire others.

10. Clarify roles.

11. Defy convention.

12. Take a break.

Defy Convention

Of the 12 critical competencies, is there one that more leaders struggle with than others?