Living your Leadership®
The very fact that leadership is an art should discourage your becoming a mechanical leader. Leadership does not provide formulas, rules, or methods which will fit every situation. Leadership is an intangible quality which cannot be seen, felt, or measured except through its results. Moreover, you cannot predict the results with mathematical accuracy. If you have skill as a leader, however, you can predict results within the limits of your objectives. Air Force Manual (AFM) 35-15. Air Force Leadership, December 1948.
I had no idea what I was doing.
Standing there, in the Detachment 207 headquarters underneath the Busch Memorial Center at Saint Louis University, freshly graduated from high school. Excited to start my leadership journey, I just hoped to work hard and absorb as much as I could from those around me. I was convinced leadership success had mostly to do with pouring my heart and soul into my coursework, since that had been the measure of success in school. I didn't have a real plan for future growth. It was a major blind spot I didn’t realize I had until it lept into my consciousness right in that moment. Everyone needs a leadership development strategy; one that should start within.
Living your Leadership starts with self-leadership to discover, understand, and improve oneself. Then the focus moves to transformational and servant-leadership: empathetic and follower-centric practices that complete the progression of this focused leadership strategy. Living Your Leadership enables managers to grow in their leadership practice in a deliberate and structured fashion. I will demonstrate how to develop your leadership style to match authentic servant-leadership through individual discipline and critical reflection of character.
We strive to remain faithful to ourselves, maintain our integrity, and accept our people for who they are while recognizing both strengths and limitations. As you progress in Living your Leadership, you will cultivate a space where every person can be genuine, feel safe, and trust one another. Living your Leadership is something we practice not just with others but within ourselves as well.
As this book started to take shape, it became clear that it should first focus on self-knowledge as the foundation of leadership practice. Living your Leadership implies a thorough understanding of self and choices that grow from that understanding. Owning your journey starts with an acknowledgement of your own characteristics and values. From self-knowledge you can work toward an empathetic stance on leadership by shifting your focus onto others.
Dan Rockwell, one of the leadership gurus I greatly admire said it succinctly: “The first pressing challenge of leadership is focusing on the thing that matters most. People matter most. Nurture and develop you as much as you nurture and develop others.” We are morally obligated to recognize that we are all humans. We wake up, work and play, and go to bed each night. Despite our economic status, title, or popularity on this earth we are all one human family.
My leadership development started the day I arrived at orientation for Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Saint Louis University. As I looked around at the sophomores, juniors, and seniors, I was more than intimidated; I was scared. I knew I didn't have what they had: the ability to lead, to command respect, to fill the room with their presence. As I look back on it, those whom I feared were themselves still terribly young; just beginning their journeys as well.
It was, and still is, a joyous experience to be able to learn from them. What kind of books do they read? What meditative exercises do they practice? What are their philosophies on personal growth and team leadership? It can be truly amazing to connect and gain insight from other leaders.
Many of my leadership lessons came from my undergrad classroom professors: the Jesuits who instructed me in philosophy and the arts and sciences. I learned that growth begins with an intentional focus on the self. Growing as a person, maturing in wisdom and insight, learning about the connections between various academic fields and how theory relates to practice in so many areas was essential to my journey.
There is a wealth of readily accessible information available on self-help topics: quotes from famous people, pop psychology texts, free online courses, and more. I am more than happy to direct readers to other useful works by experts in their respective fields. Several of the topics discussed in this text are profound in their depth and impact and deserve to be explored further. As a lifelong learner, I hope that you engage with the material on a personal level.
Rather than manage we should strive to lead.
Transformational and Servant Leadership encourages leaders to inspire and cultivate their followers so they grow as people. Those followers are more likely to choose to become leaders, in turn, which inevitably benefits the entire organization. Individual leadership progress occurs when the needle moves from an internal to an external focus. Effective leadership must be built on personal integrity and character before a leader attempts to influence others.
Starting with the internal focus does not mean the leader has any greater significance or that caring for subordinates is secondary. Rather, you have to be whole and competent, capable of Self Leadership before you should engage in the awesome responsibility of leading others. Should these steps be taken out of order, or performed concurrently the result can be leadership built on a less than solid foundation. Starting the fight from a position of weakness is unwise, to paraphrase Sun Tzu.
Living your Leadership emanates from a place of altruism. It stems from a clear understanding of the self gained through critical reflection and fully manifests itself in servanthood.
Authenticity and trust are the keys to all relationships.
Through the act of becoming through self-knowledge, you can consciously encourage others to be genuine, in turn. This model is not the end-all-be-all; as Musashi tells us, there is more than one path to the mountain’s peak. Unless you persevere on your journey, you will not reach that peak, regardless of the path you take.
Leadership is the bedrock of organizational effectiveness; “One of the main reasons that the study of leadership development is absolutely necessary is that people with a strong sense of self lead lives that are both self-actualizing and self-transcending.” The journey to individual self-actualization and sincere authenticity is essential to Living your Leadership.
The United States Air Force and Kaiser Permanente, two distinctly different and successful organizations that depend on flexible and credible management, provided me with a unique and useful set of knowledge and experiences. As a director in the service-driven continuum of care at Kaiser Permanente, a premier healthcare delivery system, I lead through influence, supporting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable patients and their family members. The USAF, my previous place of employment, likewise functions at the highest level of efficiency based largely upon its ever-ready middle managers.