5 Ways A Leader Can Learn More About Themselves

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This is an excerpt from Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title by Rick Miller. For over 30 years, Rick served as a successful business executive in roles including President and/or CEO in a Fortune 10, a Fortune 30, a startup, and a nonprofit.

Do You Want to Be Chief?

Being Chief requires us to develop insight. It is as much about being as it is about being Chief. Insight is a key to increasing your confidence, effectiveness, and, since your power increases as you connect what you do to who you are, deepening your self-understanding through insight will deepen your power. Insight can come from the simplest experiences and from the places you least expect it. Always be on the lookout for gems of insight that can guide your path in life.

There are five ways a leader can learn more about themselves. Specifically, Chiefs choose to be:

  • Present
  • Still
  • Accepting
  • Generous
  • Grateful

Be Present: When you become totally aware and conscious, you can use all of your senses to learn everything possible in the current moment. Specifically, when you give 100 percent of your attention to the people you spend time with, you will find that your relationships become much more fulfilling.

 

“Insight is the understanding that comes from self-awareness. -Rick Miller

 

Be Still: Contrary to many Western cultural norms, perhaps our most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that comes with being still. To maintain inner balance, choose the tranquility and peace of stillness. In that peaceful state, you will develop the ability to trust and have confidence in your own voice.

 

“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen-that stillness becomes a radiance.” -Morgan Freeman

 

Be Accepting: When you choose to accept people and circumstances for who and what they are, you can escape the frustration of trying to change them. Try to take a nonjudgmental approach to people to open yourself to the potential of clarity and deeper relationships.

When you accept the past and remain receptive to circumstances and people, you can open yourself to the possibilities of learning from all situations and from every individual. When you accept your current reality with a certain degree of detachment, you will find that things come to you with a fraction of the effort otherwise required.

 

“The power to be Chief is a choice. It doesn’t come from a title-it’s a choice anyone can make.” -Rick Miller

 

How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade

career derailers

The Right and Wrong Stuff

Most people don’t realize how easy it is to derail a career or to lose a job. Adding to the problem is that it is possible that your career has stalled without your knowledge, an unexpected plateau because of something you don’t know about. Maybe it’s because you’ve been labeled impulsive or not seen as a team player.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to pause and assess where you are so you can get back on track.

Carter Cast knows this firsthand. In a terrific new book, The Right and Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade, Carter sheds light on what causes careers to derail and others to soar. His advice is practical and actionable. Carter is a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, a former CEO, and a venture capitalist. I recently asked him to share some of his perspective.

 

Korn Ferry Research: people who overstate their abilities in 360-degree assessments are 6.2 times more likely to derail than those with accurate self-awareness

 

Would you share your own story of career derailment?

Back when Bill Clinton was president and I was a marketing manager within PepsiCo’s Frito Lay division, I found myself sitting in my boss Mike’s office for my annual performance review. I worried as he started the preamble, which was along the lines of, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Mike didn’t bury the lead for long—soon he came right out and told me that senior management considered me unpromotable, which meant I was no longer on the fast track at Frito-Lay. He laid out a list of my offenses, littering his examples with words like “uncooperative,” “resistant to feedback from authority figures,” and “unmanageable.” He described my behavior in various situations, repeatedly pointing out times I circumnavigated the established processes and procedures and ignored the chain of command for the sake of expediency, or the times I quietly ignored his feedback and chose to do things my own way.

Thirty painful minutes later, as he was wrapping up, when Mike asked if I had anything to say for myself, I simply asked if I was being fired. (It sure felt like it.) He said, “No, but I don’t want you to work in my group any longer. You’ll need to look for another marketing position within the company.”

Eventually I found another boss and team to work with, but it was a humbling experience because as I talked to prospective bosses, I learned that I had a reputation problem. I was considered “difficult to manage.” I realized I lacked the self-awareness needed to change my behavior right away, so I went about doing so. I identified the circumstances that triggered my disruptive behavior (e.g. sitting in ponderous process meetings; being managed tightly by a very “participative” boss; being talked at by a verbose senior manager), and I steadily began to develop practical methods to better self-regulate and curb my tendency toward stupid, unnecessary insubordination. Over time, I was again considered to be a promotable employee, but it took a couple years to climb out of hole I’d dug for myself.

 

Career Fact: half to two-thirds of all managers will be fired, demoted, or plateau at some point.

 

Use Negative Feedback to Propel You Forward

Your story highlights negative feedback, and I was intrigued that you actually called your boss and had him give it to you again! How do you coach individuals to hear negative feedback and use it in the best way possible?

I must be a glutton for punishment. (I was a swimmer, so I’m fairly certain.) Yes, twenty years later, I called my old boss Mike to get some quotes for the book. And he gave them to me. Yikes. Even after all these years, when he spoke to me, about me circa 1995, I felt a wave of queasiness! Thirty-three year old Carter needed some tough love.

Lead Beyond the Ego

transpersonal leadership

When Leading Beyond the Ego crossed my desk, I couldn’t wait to see the author’s take on the subject. The lead author, John Knights, is the Chairman of LeaderShape Global and the book is the result of twenty years of research and experience supporting leaders in their personal and professional development. It builds on the importance of emotional intelligence as a foundation to demonstrate how the best leaders in the 21stcentury will lead beyond their ego and bring their values and purpose to full consciousness.

I recently spoke with John about his leadership researching and findings.

 

Become a Transpersonal Leader

For those who haven’t read your new book, tell us what is “Transpersonal Leadership”?

Transpersonal Leadership is an ongoing journey that embraces life-long development to become increasingly emotionally and spiritually intelligent. The transpersonal leader is robust and radical yet caring, authentic and ethical, seeking sustainable and continued performance enhancement for the organization they are involved in leading. Further a transpersonal leader can be at any level in an organization. And finally, they operate beyond their ego by bringing their values and decision-making processes to full-consciousness.

 

“Be Real: Beyond Ego – Radical, Ethical, Authentic Leadership.” -John Knights

 

Manage Your Brain

What is the value of neuroscience and how does it relate to leadership?

As we are seeing in the 21st century, neuroscience research helps us to understand how our brain works and how we can learn to rewire our own brains to behave differently. This is particularly important for leaders as, every time we allow our emotions to hijack us or to cause our true values to be ignored, we make mistakes which are amplified because these can impact many other people. We are born with brains that are fundamentally the same as in the stone-age, designed to focus on survival. Our brains are then rewired through our lives depending on our circumstances and experiences, basically serendipitously. As leaders we can learn to rewire our brains, not to change our personality but to manage it more effectively. We can become more aware, learn to manage our emotions more effectively, become more fully-conscious of our values, and learn to improve our judgement and decision-making – all by understanding how our brain works and proactively working on our behaviors through practice.

Copyright LeaderShapeGlobal. Used by Permission.

 

“Neuroscience provides ways to raise our emotional awareness and bring our values to full consciousness.” -John Knights

 

Increase Your Self-Awareness

How Increasing Rapport With Yourself Powers Your Leadership

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Increasing Rapport With Yourself

Building rapport with yourself is not often mentioned as a skill important to leadership, but it should be at the top of the list.

Christine Comaford is a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold five companies. She’s a columnist for Forbes, the bestselling author of SmartTribes and Rules for Renegades, and a leadership coach. Her latest book, Power Your Tribe: Create Resilient Teams in Turbulent Times shows you how to bring a tribe together to tackle challenges.

 

Know Who You Are 

Why is it important to increase rapport with yourself?

Knowing who we are, what makes us tick, what triggers us is essential in order to lead effectively. To do this we must become more emotionally intelligent. There are two aspects of emotional intelligence: 1) Personal Competence: where we understand what we’re feeling and how to regulate/navigate our emotions and 2) Social Competence: where we discern what others may be feeling and how to navigate their feelings. Personal Competence is a precursor to Social Competence. The greater the rapport we have with ourselves, the more we understand our feelings and can navigate them, the more we can respond to what is happening outside of us versus compulsively reacting. The greater the rapport we have with ourselves, the more curious and compassionate we can become with others and their, at times, challenging behaviors.

Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders

Tales from a Reluctant CEO

Maxine Harris and her partner Helen Bergman started a business and grew it to $35 million through trial and error and constant change. In her new book, Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders: Tales from a Reluctant CEO, Maxine shares lessons that can benefit all of us starting something new. She shares how they overcame obstacle after obstacle to succeed. I recently spoke with her about the lessons she shares in her new book.

 

When should a start-up start thinking about culture?

Culture is not really something that you think about when you first start a business. You might say, we want to be casual or formal, or we want to maintain an air of professionalism, but short of being doctrinaire, you can’t really control what organizational culture will become.  More than anything, culture evolves from the personalities of the founders. I happen to be very chatty and like to ask a lot of questions.  Some employees see that as friendly; others see it as intrusive.  When I push people to “think smart” and try to do things in better and more creative ways, some people see me as demanding and judgmental, others feel that I am encouraging and stimulating. In both cases, it is the employee who identifies culture based on how they interpret what is going on.

Culture is one of those things that exists in the eye of the beholder.  An employee, an outside consultant or a business colleague takes a step back and sees the unspoken rules and nuances of the organization.  Sometimes people are only aware of the organizational culture when they are asked what they like or don’t like about their jobs. When we asked people who were joining the organization what they were looking for in their selection of a job, we got a glimpse into the kind of culture in which they would feel most comfortable.  And while many said they were looking for an environment in which their opinions were valued and respected, others wanted a cultural milieu in which the boss would tell them what to do and they would have clear guidelines for performance.

Over the years, as Community Connections grew in size and diversified in its programs, culture changed. You could feel the difference. A business with three employees can’t help but be informal and casual.  But as we grew and increased our size to over 400 employees, it became impossible not to have some hierarchical structure. You can remember the names of three people, but when the size gets big, and leaders are rushing from one meeting to the next, it’s hard to be as friendly as you’d like to be.

 

“Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” –Thomas Wolfe

 

You wrote fairy tales for each chapter. That’s unusual in a business book. Why did you decide to do that?