Leaders are built, not born. And leading yourself is the most important life skill to develop. Your focus and energy creates your life. Never give up on what you truly care about!
We live today in a world where little is certain, change is fast, and development dynamics are getting ever more complex. A large part of living in today’s complexity is dealing with unintended consequences.
Recently a friend told me:” I feel like I should live my life, but it feels more like my life is living me”. I asked: “What do you want? What is your dream?” The answer was:” I don’t know anymore.”
After this conversation, I reflected for a
while about “the luxury problems” we deal with when our safety is granted, and
comfortable existence secured. But aiming for the next level is our human
Hannah Arendt, American philosopher and political theorist, has this beautiful question: “Who are you when you are with no one but yourself?”
Knowing who we are at the deepest level is the first step to building a strong identity, which brings both stability and direction. This is the basis for leading authentically both ourselves and others.
Leaders are built, not born. And leading yourself is the most important life skill to develop. Leadership goes far beyond managerial competency, technical knowledge, and functional skills. Real leaders have the drive to create – to bring something they truly care about into being.
The most important skills to build are:
1. Flexible mind with genuine curiosity and inclusion of different perspectives
2. Emotional intelligence and self-awareness, knowing who you are and what is your aim
3. Strong, empathic interpersonal relationships seeking and appreciating diversity of thought, letting go of the need for certainty, and listening and thinking from a place of not knowing
What we all need is continuous "software" upgrade, continuous development, blissful maturity.
In the 1970s, Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan developed his Theory of Adult Development, which outlines five stages of mind’s maturity:
- Stage 1: Impulsive mind - early childhood
- Stage 2: Imperial mind - adolescence; 6% of the adult population
- Stage 3: Socialized mind - 58% of the adult population
- Stage 4: Self-authoring mind - 35% of the adult population
- Stage 5: Self-transforming mind - 1% of the adult population
In Stage 3, external sources shape our sense of self and understanding of the world. For example, we take too much personal responsibility for how other people experience us and we look for external validation to derive our sense of self. For many people, social maturity seems to stop here like my friend who forgot his dream.
In Stage 4, we can define who we are, and not be defined by other people, our relationships or the environment. You know who you are and have developed an internal sense of direction and the capacity to create and follow your own course. You can take responsibility for your own inner states, emotions and realize that you are always changing. These are the leaders we look up to.
In Stage 5 one’s sense of self is not tied to
particular identities or roles but is constantly evolving through the
exploration and interactions with others. You continuously expand who you are
reinventing your identity according to changing circumstances in your life. You
integrate multiple ideologies and can understand things from many different
perspectives. These are really, really free people indulged in serenity.
“Any intelligent fool can make things more complex. It takes a touch of
genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” — Ernst F.