Bringing Your Whole Self to Leadership

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November 16, 2015

I just finished training CCL’s flagship program, the Leadership Development Program – LDP at their global headquarters in Greensboro, NC with a talented training partner, Shirley Landry. This was Shirley’s last program at CCL before she departs for Norway to head up learning and development at Yara International ASA.

Shirley was a devoted colleague and outstanding leadership learning faciltator. Her departure brought home for me one of the core messages of LDP. Leadership is about your whole self.

CCL’s research from practicing leaders consistently supports the idea that leaders cannot separate themselves as leaders from who they are as people. Therefore, the idea that leadership includes how we serve our selves, our careers, our family and our community is an important one to sustain the focus of the entirety of our leadership.

Career – We spend so much time in this area that it tends to consume the vast amount of our daily and weekly focus. It’s easy to devote time and effort to career, particularly during the early stages of building, the 20s, 30s, and into our 40s. The fact that its so easy to devote attention to career is a partial testimony to the dissatisfaction so many have in marriage, family and life in general. We can become blinded to see that our lives around us are worth the effort.

Family – However you define it – be it spouse and children, parents or siblings or close friends – we humans were not meant to live in isolation. We are social creatures and need the support from and need to provide support to others. No matter your orientation on the depth and breadth of your personal relationships, nurturing the lives of others tends to be recognized a core human belief. For leaders this is doubly true; you were not meant to lead for your own purposes and benefit, you are there to lead and serve others.

Community – Related to the role of service as a leader, serving others in your broader community is another call of leadership. Robert F. Kennedy, in his 1966 speech to the students at the University of California at Berkeley challenged all of us to lead wherever we live. For some that means leading in your local community, at your church or civic organizations. For some that means leading in professional associations. Leadership is not simple addition – you and the ones you’re leading; it’s about the multiplication business: creating leaders who will effectively influence others to become leaders in their own right. You decide where, but by all means, lead not just yourself.

Self – We often leave leading our selves for last. You have all heard the aphorisms around taking care of self, sharpening your own saw, putting your own oxygen mask on first. When work and life consume us, we negatively impact our personal relationships (family and community service), potentially derail our careers, and often abuse our physical and mental conditions through inattention to healthy living. Exercise, enough sleep and healthy eating are the top three here. When was the last time you did an honest personal health audit? Put your own mask on first.

I’ll miss working with Shirley as a colleague and thought partner, and I thank her for helping me remember that my leadership is about my whole self.


BE BETTER NOW – A Leadership Call to Action – Take a moment right now to put your thoughts into action

  1. What is ONE ASPECT of your professional life that might benefit from more or different attention in this subject area (enhancing the impact you make on others)?
  1. What is ONE THING you could do TODAY that would move you more deliberately in this direction? The Behavior or action I could take (verb); I will…
  1. HOW will you ensure you are developing – WITH WHOM can you share this goal or add to your brain trust to hold yourself accountable?
  1. MAKE a 10 minute calendar appointment right now to check in with yourself on this topic next week (better yet – for each following week). Keep it practical – write brief notes on two questions only:
  • What clear steps did I take last week for my own development?
  • What will I focus on executing next week?

Need some thought partner time? – Call/email at 336.918.8415

Practical – Relevant – Immediately Useful