Leadership is every bit an inward process as much as it is an outward process.

I’ve been lucky in my career. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some of the best Directors and Vice Presidents in several major technology companies. Listening to what kept them up at night, taught me a lot.

What I found was this: Every good leader sets aside time for self-reflection.

The best leaders were the hardest on themselves, never blamed the team and took the fall even if it meant losing their job. They saw leadership as more than a job, but a labor of mind and heart, constantly pulling performance even out of the biggest pessimist on the team. The pessimist wasn’t an obstacle. They were a challenge.

Lead from Within

All of the top leaders I met had one thing in common. They asked why.

Such as:

  • My team isn’t performing. Why is that?
  • My team isn’t being honest with me, yet I sense there is disharmony. Why is that?
  • My concern is I am feared and not respected. Why is that?
  • Perhaps I am not taken seriously. Why is that?

Lead from WithinLeading from within is the hardest trait a leader can develop. It forces to look at an external situation and ask carefully what you did (or didn’t do) as a leader caused the unwanted outcome.

Here are three ways to lead from within for maximum return from you team:

1) Be as loyal to them as you want them to be towards you

Ah, loyalty. Long gone since 911 and the Great Recession. Seems like it went out with the Rubik Cube in the 1980’s. Loyalty isn’t built over night. IT’s something that is developed over time through consistency and trust. If you build it deep enough, your team will tell you when things are about to go wrong or when they feel your demands are unreasonable. During a time when headhunters can find talent at the click of a button on LinkedIn, locking down your team with loyalty may actually prevent them from moving to a competitor.

2) Be Fair

No, this isn’t a subjective term. Being fair means having a set of rules the team agrees to and abides by  – without fail. It means treating your team like people, not machines programmed to set out for your objective. Being fair also means that as the leader, you are open to feedback, showing the team they have a say in what happens. Over time what you’ll find is people will feel safe. Just don’t flinch when they tell you how it really is.

3) Reflect and understand your blind spots

No leader is one size fits all, just like teams are not built from one personality. Consider knowing your blind spots. Take an evaluation like Myers Briggs or a Kolbe instrument that will tell you your unique strengths and limitations. The limitations will surface under high stress, so know that. Your leadership style is distinct because you are different. Consider how you delegate, how you listen, how you train and teach, how the team supports you and responds to you.

Being a reflective and flexible leader makes you powerful. The greatest leaders can look inward and shift what they are saying or doing, rather than being stuck and blaming others. While this takes practices, it’s by far the greatest thing you can master: yourself.

Lead from Within