One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
There’s quite a lot of talk these days about the importance of knowing your “leadership philosophy”. What are your core values? Your guiding principles? Your beliefs? Your purpose? Incredibly important stuff. And yet a “philosophy” alone, in my humble opinion, falls short. How many people do you know who believe one thing and yet behave contrary to their beliefs?
How many people do you know who believe one thing and yet behave contrary to their beliefs?
It’s easy to believe in positive reinforcement – until someone’s not hitting their numbers. It’s admirable to believe in open communication – until you have to say something that’s uncomfortable. It’s one thing to believe that all people are worthy of respect and dignity, and yet quite another thing to champion respect and dignity for all.
To believe requires nothing of you. You can sit and believe. And believe. And believe. And that changes nothing. There is no impact.
To believe requires nothing of you. You can sit and believe and that changes nothing.
To actually champion requires you to put yourself out there. To fight for what’s right. To question. To look deeply. To seek alternatives. To bring people together. To bridge differences. To explore. To intervene. To shake things up. To push ahead. To shatter perspectives. To heal. To poke holes. To lighten up. To celebrate. To tolerate. To expand. To forgive. To invite. To act. It requires you to act. You cannot champion from the sidelines. You cannot champion without taking action.
Excavating your leadership philosophy is a critical first step – it is the process that allows you to get clear about your thinking and begin the process of uncovering internal need – the thing that drives you. But powerful leadership requires more than understanding yourself. It requires not just identifying, but committing to the authentic, constructive actions that fall out of internal need. Which takes something.
In the theatre world, the thing that gives an actor a sense of presence – that intangible magic that makes you hang on every word and completely believe that a character is real – is the actor’s commitment to two things: honesty and action.
Honesty: Actors (or rather good actors) are relentless truth seekers. They are continually challenged to understand themselves – to tell themselves the truth about their deepest motivations, greatest fears, and driving needs – and about how honestly they’re showing up. They own when they’re not being real. They own, when they’ve made a bad choice. They don’t hide it – they own it. They stay curious about themselves – recognizing that understanding is always evolving. They’re honest with themselves.
They’re also honest in their interactions with others. They reach inside and, with great courage, have the vulnerability to take down their mask and allow themselves to be seen. Really seen. Honestly.
How honest are you with yourself about yourself? How honestly do you allow yourself to show up with others?
Action: A good actor is always focused on doing what it takes to overcome the obstacles in their path and achieve what their character wants most – what we call their Super Objective. A Super Objective is active – and it’s communicated in active language. To champion. To build up. To engage. To rally. Active verbs that set you on an active path and require action. You cannot achieve a Super Objective by simply believing or thinking – you must DO. Actors who are too much in their head or who are just saying the words but not committed 100% to the actions they’re taking, are boring to watch – they have no presence (and thus they’re typically unemployed). Leaders, whose words and beliefs aren’t manifesting themselves in consistent and constructive action, aren’t trusted. The people around them hold their best effort back. They don’t put themselves on the line. They won’t be honest. They’re not loyal. They keep their passion, energy, excitement, ideas, and commitment locked away inside.
Are your actions truly consistent with your words and beliefs?
A clear leadership philosophy is a good start but you’ve got to get it out of your head and have it show up in your actions or it does you no good. The people you lead need you to be and bring your best real self – what I call brave – to your leadership game. You are here to make an active difference.
As I asked in my recent Tedx talk, what is the impact you are here to have? What’s YOUR “Super Objective”?
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