Marjorie, a Director of Sales in a Fortune 100 company, was given the opportunity to work with an executive coach. This invitation to work with a coach came after her 360 report, which indicated various areas of improvement that needed her attention. Her bosses and direct reports indicated that Marjorie’s communication left a lot to be desired. She was pushy, demanding, controversial, and expected too much for too little in return, from those whom she served.

Her reply to this invitation? “Only if I can work on those issues that will ensure I get my bonus this year.” Interestingly enough, none of the issues required to get a bonus was on the list of “needs improvement.” In other words; Marjorie wasn’t interested in working on the skills that would make her a better director to those to whom she served. She wasn’t interested in cultivating her leadership skills; she was only interested in getting her bonus.

Boy oh Boy!!!

I wonder what Marjorie would think if she read this about herself? I wonder what she expects of all of those who work with her in regard to issues of integrity that come with employment, positions and responsibility.

I believe that for most of us, there is an underlying expectation that every individual we work with will show up fulfilling their job titles and more; that, when they agree to do a job, there is a sincere commitment to fulfill the requirements in the best possible way. We expect this of others, however, as a leader, and we are all leaders, do we actually fulfill our own expectations?

There are all sorts of leaders and each one steps into leadership to fulfill some aspect of their context of who they should be and how they should be within their own personal belief system. This is a really important statement. Though I come into a leadership position to fulfill a particular role within the organization I bring with me my own personal belief structure that will dictate what I do and how I do my job. I might be asking myself these questions: What am I in this job for; what can I get away with; how much power can I wield to get people to do what I want? Or, I may ask different questions: In what way can I inspire talent and cooperation in my department? In what way is my communication being effective? Am I really listening or am I just paying lip-service to speed things along? What questions are you asking?

The Essence of Leadership

“There go my people so I must follow, for I am their leader.” There’s something about this quote that I resonate with. I ask myself – What qualities of leadership are embedded in these words that have it be so powerful? The qualities that come to my mind are open, trust, respect, honor, allowing, engaged connection, humility. Can people really lead from these qualities? Don’t they have to be pushy, egotistical, forceful, arrogant and condescending, like Marjorie?

Who do you know leads from these qualities? Who do you follow, and who do you trust as a leader? What qualities of leadership do you value?

These are important questions to ask because according to recent studies, there are a lot of people in the corporate world who aren’t following their leader because their leaders aren’t giving a damn about their followers. Because there is a lack of acknowledgment, recognition, incentives, people are at their desks, yet they aren’t doing their work and they aren’t volunteering to take on more projects. And, the need for stress management trainers is on the rise. Something isn’t working!

If each of us perceives ourselves as leaders, how do you lead? In a course I gave at a head office in Silicon Valley, nine directors voluntarily attended. They were given the opportunity to distinguish the difference between leading from their essence and leading from survival strategies. The essences of who they were being as leaders were qualities such as those above; open, available, inspiring, etc. However, they realized that most often they lead from a different set of qualities. These qualities reflected what I call their survival strategies; ways of being that they think they need to use in order to have things turn out the way they should. When we listed how they lead, most often they were coming from their survival strategies which included words we don’t like to call ourselves but we certainly notice in others; and the talk around the office certainly can make reference to them. Each of these Directors was courageous enough to come up with their own list of survival strategies for themselves. Here are just a few of the juicy qualities that showed up: Control-freak, nicey-nice, pushy, dictator, aggressive, knucklehead, chaotic, crazy-making.

By distinguishing the strategies they most often used during the course of a day as a leader, each of them realized that what they wanted from their direct reports was impossible to attain. Because of how they were being they limited the potential and the outcome of their teams and their departments. During one of our group session, Julia, the CFO of this organization remarked, “By being a chaotic, crazy-making, controlling, nicey-nice, it’s impossible for my team to find their own voice and trust that I’ll support them. It’s also impossible for them to move forward on projects because I always step in and control where I have no business. Man, this way of working in not effective for getting the job done.”

By identifying the qualities of being that worked and didn’t work, each leader took it upon herself to step into integrity and find that shifts and changes seemed to occur almost like magic, just by being in alignment with their own truth and vision of what leadership means to them. As they practiced being in integrity, other directors and teams requested that they too get the training that allowed these shifts to occur.

Finding your true essential voice of leadership provides a model of integrity that is irresistible for those around you. What is it that will inspire you enough to step into leadership in this way? Notice what’s working and what’s not working and whenever possible have a thinking partner – a coach to support you. Enjoy discovering the full potential of your leadership.

Author of Self-Empowerment 101