My latest bestselling book ‘Great Leadership Starts with You’ is a roadmap for leaders who want to be great.
Great leaders lead from within. Leading from within is about driving transformational change with compassion for the needs and perspective of others. It begins with the personal transformation of the leader through mindfulness and personal wellbeing. But it does not stop there. Leading from within is also about the ability to inspire change in others, to foster stronger relationships and design innovative and sustainable solutions for the organisation’s future. Leading from within debunks the conventional ‘carrot and stick’ method to compel people to change. It calls for leading through a deeper understanding of change and a compassion for the needs and perspectives of others.
My personal story. How I discovered my inner greatness
I was fifteen when I came to Australia. My Asian parents were embarrassed by my failures in school at home and believed that a foreign land may have better opportunities for me to succeed. I was still a child at the time. I had never left home on my own before. All of a sudden I was traveling thousands of miles to a new country with a foreign tongue and an unknown culture. I was petrified.
The early years of my life in Australia were troubled. It culminated with me causing further embarrassment to my family back home in Hong Kong by dropping out of high school. So, how did I go from high school dropout to successful leadership coach and business strategist? My journey through self-discovery and success is well-documented in my book. In this article, I am sharing some of these stories. I want to share with you what I’ve learned and how I got to where I am today. I hope that by reading this article, you will be inspired to discover your inner potential and be the great leader you want to be!
1. Mindfulness and self-transformation
Mindfulness is the state of being where you are conscious of yourself. It is a powerful tool to declutter your mind. Just like your home or work station, if you leave things lying around everywhere you won’t be able to find things when you need them. Your mind is the same. If you are preoccupied with negative thoughts, you can’t go beyond your anger, disillusionment or regret. In this state of mind, you find it hard to be optimistic and the decisions you make are influenced by your negativity.
Mindfulness calms your mind. It helps you declutter the negative thoughts and recenter yourself.
When you start with a clean slate, you ‘see’ things clearer and can rationalise a situation to make better decisions.
Mindful leadership requires four elements; focus, clarity, creativity and compassion. Focus allows you to concentrate better and therefore make better leadership decisions. Clarity gives you a clearer picture of what is going on and prevents you from making bias or emotional decisions. Creativity gives you the space to live, breathe and be congruent with your authentic self. Compassion helps you develop empathy and make decisions that are conscious of the people whose lives may be affected by the actions you take.
Meditation is a good way to practice mindfulness. So, are healthy habits and exercise. Take time off your busy schedule as a leader to occasionally enjoy the fresh air and smell the roses. Your mind will be in a better place if you do.
Mindfulness was the beginning of my personal journey to greatness. Practicing mindfulness helped me overcome the negative energies that were preventing me from achieving my leadership goals. Before I discovered mindfulness, I was filled with self-doubt. Whenever I did something great, my mind would try to trick me by telling me that I didn’t deserve it. That I only made it because I got lucky and not because I had the skill or ability. Sometimes our minds are our biggest bullies. If we keep listening to the bully we will never achieve anything. Mindfulness helps us shut the bully out and recognise our own potential for greatness. When we start believing in ourselves, we can achieve anything.
2. Self awareness and leading from within
If you do not possess self-awareness, you cannot lead from within. Self-awareness means you can see yourself in relation to your environment and your true authentic self. It is the ability to reflect on why you think, feel or act in a certain way.
When you have a deep understanding of who you are, you can accept both your strengths and weaknesses. Life is not just a bed of roses. It has both good and bad. Sometimes the bad can overwhelm us and we lose our self-belief. Self-awareness helps you accept the bad as part of life. Instead of letting it get you down, you take steps to be better.
Did you know I jumped off a building to conquer my fear of heights? I told myself that my fear of heights was irrational. Of course, I did not do something silly like just walking off a ledge. I conquered my fear by taking decisive action. I went to a professional. I was secured to a harness. I jumped and I am no longer paralysed by fear every time I looked down from a height.
Once you develop self-awareness, you learn to conquer your fears and become a better leader. Maybe your weakness is jumping to conclusions. If you know that is your weakness, you learn to check yourself before you say or do something. You make a conscious effort to investigate and to reflect before you act.
A self-aware leader is also acutely aware that others are impacted by his words or actions. Self-awareness grows compassion and empathy. You think twice before you act or do something because you know it can have a profound impact on others. Self-aware leaders do not speak carelessly because they know the words they say can influence how others feel and behave. Let’s say you have an employee who is a star performer suddenly starts underperforming. Do you get angry? Or do you take the time to investigate and understand why he or she is behaving in this manner? When you know the reason behind their behaviour, you can take action to help them.
Self-awareness comes with compassion. Leaders who lead from within are appreciative of the effort their people put into their work. They see compliments as a strength not a weakness because they know that by showing their gratitude and appreciation, they are helping their teams become better. When staff knows that their leader is genuine in his or her interest in their success, they work harder and are happier in their roles.
Self aware leaders are confident leaders. They are comfortable in their own abilities and have no problem sharing the limelight with their teams. Leading from within means you are not threatened by the successes of your team. Instead, you celebrate this success and encourage and support them to achieve even greater things.
When you are deeply aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you are more adaptable. Adaptability is a key trait of successful leading from within. In today’s business environment, change is constant. A leader who is set in his or her way cannot survive in this environment. Adaptable leaders know how to make decisions to pivot the company out of difficult situations.
3. Communication and leading from within
Great leaders are great communicators. Technology has become a large component of our everyday life whether it’s at home or in the office. The more automated we become, the more human connection we lose, the more we need the ability to communicate effectively.
A leader who knows how to lead from within can articulate meaning. Effective communication helps the leader explain organisational values and goals to the people. The leader knows how to motivate the people to work towards a common goal by aligning every individual’s personal goals with the organisation’s.
Effective leaders understand the importance of communication in times of crises. The recent pandemic proved that leaders have to be ready for any emergency. The pandemic caused worldwide disruption to conventional ways of working. Remote working from home where employees are physically separated from their managers demands the leader to have superior communication skills to keep staff engaged and productive.
Leading from within empowers the leader with the skill to communicate with heart. Leaders who know how to lead from within are mindful about their staff’s feelings and reactions when they give feedback. They also encourage their people to give feedback. When you have the ability to lead from within, you do not view feedback as a threat on your leadership abilities or an attack on your person. When you give constructive feedback you encourage the recipients to also do the same when the roles are reversed.
The ability to communicate effectively helps you build strong relationships with your people. With relationship comes trust and mutual respect.
Leading from within is about leading from the heart. As a leader, I am grateful for my successes and have made it my mission to help others find success. I believe that the more I can give back to others the more success I will attract into my life. That’s what true leadership is about.
If you are keen to learn how to become an even greater leader, read my bestselling book on the topic titled ‘Great Leadership Starts with You’. Click this link and grab your copy now: https://youwantgroup.com/great-leadership-book/
Iris Du is a leadership strategist and human behaviour expert who thrives on helping individuals, leaders and businesses achieve the success they deserve. Drawing on leadership, attraction and manifestation strategies, Iris works with organisations to help them leverage their natural talent to create highly engaged and high-performing leaders and teams.