Lots of David’s career has been spent helping people figure out what to ‘do’ as a leader and who they ‘are’ as a leader, yet he still sees too much focus on the ‘do’ elements in lots of stuff he reads.
Who are you? No, I mean who are you really? Who are you as a leader? What do you bring to the party? What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want people you’ve experienced in your career to describe you? These types of questions have often played havoc with my mind. It’s only every now and again, when I get the time and the inclination to do some proper self-reflection, that I get anywhere near answering them properly. It’s fair to say that my answers have changed over time and will continue to change if I keep up the discipline of putting the time aside to do my self-reflection justice. As it happens, the end of the year might be a good time to do that for us all as we contemplate what we’ve learned from the craziness of the last 12 months and how we feel about the uncertainty of the next 12 months.
To quote from the Tao of Leadership by John Heider, “Great leadership is about doing less and being more.” As we approach 2021, how can we focus on being more as a leader and who we are in this context? To give us time, a good place to start might be on the ‘doing less’ element of this quote. I have been a habitual list-maker in the past. My ‘To Do’ lists have always helped me focus and given me a sense of satisfaction as I’ve ticked off the items on the lists. But a recent revelation (which came in a discussion with Chris Cook, gold medal-winning British swimmer) is that I might actually be better off making a ‘Not To Do’ list. A list of things I am definitely going to stop doing altogether, or not do in the short term, to free up the space to grapple with the question about who I really am as a leader.
This grapple will definitely be an ‘inside out’ experience in the sense that who I am as a leader could be a combination of many factors such as feelings, beliefs, fears, hopes, values and attitudes. In fact, I suspect there’s a whole cast of characters at play; vying with each other to be the ‘star of the show’. Characters that I need to make decisions about. I suspect you have your own cast of characters whose combined efforts define who you are as a leader. If that’s true, then join me in 2021 and start to do less so you can figure out how to be more of who you really are as a leader and which of your cast you want to be the stars of your show.