Note: This is a guest post by David Casullo, author of the brand new book, Leading the High Energy Culture: What the Best CEOs Do to Create an Atmosphere Where Employees Flourish (McGraw Hill). This is based on the chapter of his book, The Importance of Introspection: Resonating Leadership Through Personal Truths and Values.
As leaders, we regularly analyze and assess the actions and behaviors of others.
Sometimes we do so consciously, and sometimes subconsciously.
It’s a natural and essential component of your role as leader.
However, just as others’ actions and behaviors are clues to what is meaningful and important to them, our actions and behaviors are clues for others about what is important to us. To be most effective as a leader, you must focus not only on the actions and behaviors of others but also on your own actions and behaviors.
Regular and purposeful introspection helps ensure that our actions and behaviors are consistent with our fundamental selves, our personal truths, and serves to bolster self-confidence and self-assurance and the vibrating frequency of our own energy.
It is important to periodically delve into the roots of your consciousness to try to understand the basis of your thinking, your feelings, your desires, your paradigms, and your biases. Given the importance of self-assurance to effective leadership, we tend to push reflection aside.
We don’t have time for it!
Yet from an organizational perspective, what could be more important than the leader’s periodic self-reflection to ensure that his thoughts, actions, and behaviors are consistent with his innermost beliefs and their associated biases?
In their book, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Non-sense, organizational management authors Pfeffer and Sutton share this perspective:
“Because leaders succumb to the same self-enhancement as everyone else, magnified by the adulation they receive, they have a tendency to lose their behavioral inhibitions and behave in destructive ways. They need to avoid this trap and maintain an attitude of wisdom and a healthy dose of modesty.”
The bottom line is that periodic introspection as a purposeful process is an important and necessary activity for us as leaders because it keeps us centered, energized, and balanced.
The Story of Your Life
The journey to define your personal truths, perhaps for the first time, begins today. This is easy in theory and difficult in practice, but why? Recent research on a learning theory called metacognition shows us why.
Metacognition is “knowing about knowing.” Incredibly, research shows that most people don’t really “know what they know.”
We all possess a locked treasure chest of experiences, but all too often we leave it locked. The ability to transfer knowledge in this way is like a muscle that we all have but that we don’t often work to strengthen. So one key to defining your personal truths is making you more aware of your past thoughts and behaviors, as this will help you tap into them as you adapt to new situations. This level of awareness and adaptability in our changing environments is very important to your development as a leader.
If you’re like most people, you simply may have forgotten how the stories of your life have shaped you as a person and as a leader. Your significant life stories, it turns out, will be enormously important to your success as a leader as we move through the process of clarifying your personal truths to create effective, high-energy leadership.
From Personal Stories to Personal Truths
Let’s focus on the connection from personal stories to personal truths. I don’t want to play a semantics game here, but there is an important reason why I differentiate between personal truths and values. The power of personal truths goes well beyond identifying them. They reside in your resolve to actively confirm them, commit to them, and act on them.
Many words become so overused that they ultimately lose their meaning. Integrity is a perfect example.
Kouzes and Posner’s research on this indicated that the word integrity could have 185 different definitions based on the responses they received when asking thousands of people to define the word. I believe values has suffered a similar fate, and thus I will use the term personal truths to represent the critical concept you will need to understand here.
Personal truths are similar to one of the many definitions of values. They are shaped by your experiences as well as by an innate force inside you. Personal truths is a good descriptor because they are just what the term implies — they are personal because they are uniquely yours, and they are truths because they are a fundamental part of who you are. Other people may have similar PTs, and, in fact, the high-energy culture is a direct result of common PTs, but first things first.
Once personal truths are defined and clarified, they give us the potential to create powerful energy within us and others. Just like the child being pushed on the swing, our personal truths are the force that amplifies the natural frequency of the vibrations inside us. When we act in concert with these truths, our personal and professional success surges higher and higher, like the arc of the swing. Defining and clarifying your personal truths as a leader is the precursor to the high-energy culture.
Becoming a great leader is a function of your own personal truths, and to know these truths you must make time to reflect on and understand them. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink emphasizes the significance of personal reflection. He believes in the importance of searching deep inside yourself to come to grips with your bottom-line, focused personal goal.
Pink cites Clare Boothe Luce, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress, who encouraged leaders to use one simple sentence to express their fundamental goal or to project forward the legacy they would like to leave.
What’s Your Sentence?
Luce encouraged leaders to continually search within themselves to answer the question, “What’s your sentence?” By phrasing her advice to focus on simplifying your personal goal into one simple sentence, Luce was simultaneously recommending that you simplify your life and refocus on what is really important — your personal truths.
Understanding our personal truths, really understanding them, is essential because they are the expression of our true selves. When we understand our personal truths, we liberate our fundamental energy and give ourselves the opportunity to amplify it. This amplified energy gives us increased power, which resonates throughout the organization.
About the Author
David Casullo is the author of Leading the High Energy Culture: What the Best CEOs Do to Create an Atmosphere Where Employees Flourish (McGraw Hill) and President at Bates Communications, a national consulting firm specializing in leadership communication skills and strategy.
His passion is developing leaders who have the courage and capability to change the world. His methods ensure that leaders remember what is important by helping clarify values and recommit to behaving consistently, in alignment, with the “who that you are.” He also has a proven process to clarify organizational values and communicate them effectively in a way that drives growth and top and bottom line results. David’s experience helping others has consistently been recognized as remarkable. His style is quickly engaging, refreshingly genuine, and one that promotes trustworthiness immediately. His experience as a successful business leader and entrepreneur give him credibility with executive leaders in the C-suite as well as with emerging leaders in key roles throughout organizations. Dave can be reached at dcasullo(at)bates-communications.com, or follow him on Twitter at @davidcasullo.