“What I want for my life now is for it to be simple, without secrets, I want to be who I really am with everyone, all the time.” — E. L. Doctorow, American novelist and editor
A leader may or may not be appointed to head a group or organization — to be put in charge. Whether formally in the role or not, a leader makes things happen. A leader takes action. A leader doesn’t say something must be done about this, a leader does something about it. Leadership is a verb, not a noun. Leadership is action, not a position. Leadership is defined by what we do, not the role we are in. We all need to be leaders, regardless of the roles we may be in.
Action is the outer expression of leadership. But leadership isn’t just what we do. It’s also something that we are, which then drives what we do. At The CLEMMER Group we’ve found that we can teach people many leadership actions. We can teach how to influence others, how to lead teams, confront issues, solve problems, and so on. We can teach leadership doing. But we can’t teach leadership being. That’s an inside job. It’s an unending journey of personal discovery and learning. We can guide, direct, and support becoming a leader, but we can’t give anyone a pre-set formula or key actions.
Some people are good leadership performers. They can “do their leadership thing” and put on very convincing acts. But in time, superficial leadership wears thin. We eventually see through to the real person. It’s not a pretty sight. Superficial leadership destroys trust and zaps energy. People feel manipulated. They often become cynical and suspicious. In this environment, ever stronger threats or incentives are needed to get others to “get with the program.”
The deepest and most lasting leadership comes from the inside out. It’s authentic. It’s real. It’s genuine. Author and consultant Robert Cooper made several trips to Tibet as part of his research on the inner side of leadership. He quotes a wise elder who became a mentor and guide, “It is from the heart.” He touched his palm to his chest. “In Tibet, we call it authentic presence. It means, literally, ‘field of power.’ When we live from here, from the inside, we can talk openly and honestly with each other, and say the things we deeply feel, even when it’s hard to say them. We hold ourselves, and each other, accountable to our best effort in all things. We search for our calling, for the path we are born to take.” Cooper goes on to reflect on the conclusions of his leadership studies, “In essence, it is a silent sphere of energy that emanates not only from the mind and physical form but from your heart — which conveys moment by moment, the emotional truth of who you really are, deep down, and what you stand for, care about, and believe… When you live from the depths of the heart, you walk your talk, heed your conscience, and don’t hesitate to take a stand. Your voice rings true and gets heard. It is through emotional depth that we begin, for example, to discover, and commit to, the unique potential which defies our destiny and leads us to the fulfillment of our larger purpose in life.”