Leadership training is prevalent in companies today. Whether the training is classroom based, on-the-job or experiential, it tends to focus on the “what” of the job. However, leadership is so much more than learning the skills to perform within the outlined job description. I believe great leadership is, above all, knowing and leading from our true selves. When we are able to do this, the “what” of the job falls into place.
To lead from your true self, consider these questions:
What gets you up in the morning?
In other words, what motivates you? What is your life’s purpose? While you may never fully answer this question in your lifetime, you will undoubtedly recognize some of the elements of it. My former client, a young teacher, is a great example of understanding and then living your life’s purpose. She is so clear on her role in children’s lives that it shapes every conversation she has with them, every activity she chooses for them and every battle she engages in to ensure that they not only know that they are valuable and gifted humans, but that they respect that in everyone else.
What gets you up in the morning? Do your words and actions in the workplace align with your purpose? If not, ask yourself these questions: Are you clear on and fully aligned with your purpose? Are you in the right role or company? What else may be inhibiting you?
What are you great at?
We are all gifted with talents and strengths. These attributes are where we do our best work. They are the way in which our purpose is delivered. When I was laid off in 2013, I had been working in hospitality/human resources for 20 years. I really enjoyed my work and I also knew that leaving it provided me with an opportunity to consider how I could utilize my strengths more fully in the next phase of my life. This is how I got to this invigorating place of coaching and teaching. (In case you’re wondering, I say “invigorating” for a reason: When you are living “on purpose” and using your strengths, you feed your own energy as well as others’.)
Do you know what your strengths are? Do you feel a “zing” when you are using certain talents and abilities? If not, check in with what other people recognize as your strengths or take an assessment such as the Clifton Strengths Finder or VIA Character Strengths Survey.
What principles or beliefs guide your life?
Everyone has a set of values by which they live. These may have been adopted from your parents or others with great influence in your early life. Or you may have developed and refined them as you matured. One way or the other, your values drive your choices and behavior. Much like with your purpose and your strengths, living in a way that is congruent with your values can positively impact your own life and that of others.
One colleague of mine values service to others and his life choices reflect this. Not only does he run his for-profit business with a deep set of values, he has founded several that have improved the lives of under-served populations and he actively encourages others to do the same.
Can you identify your own values, beliefs and principles for living? If not, here are some questions that will give you clarity on what is most important to you: What drives you crazy? For instance, if overt prejudice makes you angry, you likely have a value around tolerance or inclusiveness. What do you spend your money on? How do you spend your free time? Your answers will give you a clue as to what your values are.
There are definite skills to being a great leader, but without clarity and congruity around your purpose, strengths and values, you may only be going through the motions of leadership. To be a strong, compelling and compassionate leader, bring your whole self to your leadership. The resulting energy, focus and heart will make all the difference.
Previously published on forbes.com