The quest for leadership is first an inner question to discover who you are. But there
are no freeways to the future…. There’s only wilderness. To step out into the unknown
…we…discover that the most critical knowledge…turns out to be self-knowledge.
–James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner–
The collaborative leadership journey is an inside-out process. It usually starts with an event that causes the leader to stop and reflect on what is truly important in their lives. Self-reflection that leads to self-awareness than expands to a deeper understanding of who they are as a human being, what matters to them, and what difference they want to make in the world. This journey is not for the faint of heart. It is clearly not for everybody. If, however, you see the market, technological, and demographic realities of our digital age, this journey will prepare you for the rest of the 21st Century.
When considering this journey, a client once asked me “Is the view worth the climb? It sounds like a lot of work. What am I going to have to give up? What’s the payoff?” I hesitated to answer his question because he was already doing his work. He saw the need to invest time in himself. He saw that the assumptions he’d held about how to lead were being called into question by his Millennial workforce, and that he might have to change some of his behaviors. This journey is not about getting fixed or giving things up. It is about revealing who you are, your strengths, challenges, and the opportunities you have to make conscious choices you control. You actually discover your true, authentic self. You get to open up and go on what Peter Senge calls a journey of life-long learning. That is a view worth the climb.
Here are 5 additional benefits from this climb:
1. Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence: The journey not only increases self-awareness, but also provides the foundation for your self-esteem, your core sense of who you are as a person. This in turn builds your self-confidence which leads to more positive and collaborative relationships both at work and at home
2. Empathy and Self-Regulation: Because of the inside-out work and increased self-awareness, empathy toward others and the ability to self-regulate will be substantially increased
3. Clarity of Direction: This journey clarifies one’s personal vision and mission, why we are on this planet, and a strategy for realizing hopes and dreams
4. Humility: This journey provides a sense of calm and self-acceptance, which in turn provides inner peace, leading to a level of humility that empowers others. This journey also results in a fierce resolve to achieve one’s vision and mission through others, as well as persistence in the face of adversity
5. Personal Mastery: Making this a life-long journey of personal and professional growth and development is about achieving personal mastery, when you achieve the highest level of competence in the attributes, behaviors, and roles of collaborative leaders. It means coaching and mentoring others, and empowering them to be more collaborative. It is about service to others and helping to save the planet
The journey to becoming a collaborative leader is indeed about revealing who you are as a human being, your essence, your reason for being on this planet, your assumptions and beliefs about those you work with, your core values and ethics in the form of a moral compass, your behaviors, skills, personal history, life experiences, and all the things that go into making you who you are. We know that when you build a house in an earthquake zone, flood plain, along the coasts, or anywhere that may be affected by the forces of nature, you must build a solid foundation that can withstand those events. If you shortcut this process, use the wrong kind of cement, or do not prepare the foundation properly, when you build the house on top of it, it will crack. When the first extreme weather event comes, it can be more easily destroyed. The same is true for your leadership. A solid collaborative leadership foundation means you invest the time to identify and define your values and ethics, come to understand, appreciate, and embrace your past, your drivers and motivators, your skills and capacities, and behavioral feedback from others. It becomes very difficult to navigate the turbulence of our high speed, volatile, complex, and uncertain world without being grounded in this foundation.