Leadership has always been one of my driving forces. I think my interest in leadership comes from the influence of my given family, especially my mother, father(s,) and maternal grandmother. Some of the influence was not positive, but it all affected me, nonetheless. I am not going to delve into the whys and wherefores of my family related to leadership; that occurred in therapy in my early 30’s. I will discuss the practical applications of leadership, and how we all benefit from having leaders who inspire and develop us.
My definition of leadership is inspiring and developing others. Leadership is different from management, and both are important. Management is about controlling resources. Some people are great leaders and poor managers, some are great managers and poor leaders, and there are others who do not have qualities of leadership or management, and a few who have the qualities of both.
Both leadership and management can be expressed in organizational positions. If you are a company CEO, it is likely that you are a leader. This is not always true, of course, and the position itself does not a leader make. If you are a production manager, your job is more about management than leadership, although you may have qualities of both, and your job may need both from you. There are many variables that affect these definitions, and I am simplifying a complex subject for the purpose of this discussion.
Leadership and management occur as often in families as in companies. The most important people to children are their parents, assuming they are present. The importance of the parents to the children is true whether or not the influence is positive or negative. Parents have a leadership role, which includes inspiring the children to be their best selves and developing them. They also have a management role, which is involved in the (hopefully positive) control they exert over the children.
The philosophy of the title of this, Leading from the Inside Out, is that leadership is first of all an inside job. We must first lead ourselves before we lead anyone else. In fact, if there is dissonance in what we say and what we do, people judge us by our behavior, how we walk our talk, not how we talk our walk. For example, if I say to my children that I want them to be their best, yet I often belittle them, they are going to believe that my opinion of them is negative, which isn’t inspiring at all.
If leadership is first of all an inside job, what exactly does that mean? Let’s look within. How do we lead ourselves? How do we inspire ourselves? If we have habits that are not healthy, how do we inspire change within ourselves? How do we develop ourselves to be our best? Three examples are sleep, exercise, and nutrition. How are you doing with those three? Are you getting enough sleep, waking rested and able to be productive? Do you have a consistent exercise routine? How is your nutritional status? Have you gained the COVID 20 plus, or have you maintained a healthy weight and eating program? While the “inside job” involves more than these three, focusing on these three is a great start.
How are you developing yourself? Do you read? And by the way, reading in this context is not referring to reading emails! Reading journals or books, and/or listening to podcasts, are excellent ways to develop yourself. Someone famous (Malcolm Gladwell) has said that if we spend 10,000 hours in deliberate practice on any subject, we will be an expert in that subject. It does not take a math major to calculate that 10,000 hours of 8-hour days is 1250 days. Now that is not an insignificant amount of time, and not easy to do. But doing what is easy never made anyone an expert in anything. You may not need or want to be an expert, so 10,000 hours of reading is not necessary to develop yourself. But do you read at all? Or are you spending more time scrolling social media or watching TV?
Leadership, including Leading from the Inside Out, is a big subject, worthy of more time than is possible in a blog. But hopefully this is a good start. While we are indoors more during COVID, some of the best use of our time can be inspiring and developing ourselves. We are worth the effort.