What does mastery of leadership mean to you? To many people it is mastery of something: mastery of the skill to be a dynamic influencer; mastery of strategic planning and visioning; mastery of consistent achievements and results. Instead of being an ongoing, internal growth process, mastery is usually seen as mastery of something outside of ourselves. When you think about it, it’s no wonder our ideas about mastery and leadership tend to be externalized. Our training, development, and educational systems focus on learning about things, not the nature of things. We learn what to think, now how to think. We learn what to do, now how to be. We learn what to achieve, not how to achieve. We focus on what and rarely ask why. We fill up the container of knowledge but rarely consider comprehending it or applying it more effectively.
In organizations, this external pattern continues. As leaders we receive recognition for our external mastery. Revenue, profit, new product breakthroughs, cost savings, and market share are only some of the measures of our external competencies. Few would question the value of achieving and measuring external results. This isn’t the real issue. The core questions are: Where do the external results come from? Is focusing on external achievement the sole source of greater accomplishment? Could it be that our single-minded focus on external results is causing us to miss the underlying dynamics supporting sustainable peak performance?
An Inside Out Leadership Definition
Our definitions of leadership also tend to be externalized. Most descriptions of leadership focus on the outer manifestations (i.e., performance, achievement, power, drive, etc.) instead of getting to the foundational principles of leadership itself. Leadership from the inside out takes a different view. We cannot split off the person from the leader. The leader and the person are one. We lead by virtue of who we are.
We decided to do a deep, comprehensive examination of the most effective leaders we had assessed, advised, and developed over last thirty years to discern leadership patterns. Our research premise was, “What is foundational to the most effective, results-producing leaders? What supports their various competencies or styles on the surface?” Three essential patterns became clear …