On the day I write this sentence the Huffington Post’s daily round up of the news summarises the situation in just three words: “World a mess”. That may have changed by the time you read this, but I doubt it.
A sample of the day’s headlines continues: “Death toll continues to rise in Gaza; Condemnation of Russia grows; Cop suspended over NYC chokehold death; TSA’s security fee doubles today on your airplane tickets.” On the day you read this sentence the specific headlines will be different, but the gist will likely be the same: the world is churning.
Meanwhile over at the Financial Times the company news is no less dramatic: Anglo-Swiss company Glencore Xstrata is being forced sell off its $5bn ‘Las Bambas’ Peruvian copper mine project to a Chinese consortium (as a condition of Chinese regulatory approval for Glencore’s acquisition of Xstrata); the CEO of global retailer Tesco is being replaced by the head of one of his own suppliers’ divisions (after yet another Tesco profits warning); politicians and workers’ leaders in Finland have reacted “with anger and bewilderment” as Microsoft announced it is cutting the Nokia handset business in half; a Swiss bank has purchased the full international private banking assets of an Israeli bank, while at the same time forcing a 12% pay cut on its own CEO; BMW faces strong criticism for introducing a “giant” new SUV at the same time as pushing for tough new green goals.
These tragedies and disasters, reorganisations and changing roles, the businesses starting up and closing down, jobs lost and increased workloads seem able to hit us unexpectedly at any time. Where they are happening is in the outside world. But where we experience them, where we feel them, is in the inner world of our imagination and emotions.
The people we work with – customers, suppliers, colleagues and employees – all have their pressures too. And when two pressured people meet it is no surprise if stressed communications lead to poor decisions and make a bad situation worse. In this way the churning, first outer then inner then outer again, feeds on itself and grows.
If we are going to show leadership and change this state of affairs, it makes sense to start with ourselves. After all, how can we expect to lead others if we can’t first lead ourselves?
Or think about it this way: if you’re on a plane and the oxygen masks drop down, every pre-flight safety check tells you exactly the same thing: “Put on your own oxygen mask and breathe normally before helping others with theirs.”
This book will give you the tools to put your own oxygen mask in place and address the inner leadership challenges you face. You will then be ready to help others with theirs.
Taken separately, each chapter addresses a specific issue: how to correct the mistaken assumptions we all sometimes make; how spot new opportunities, even in the middle of a crisis; how to create a vision that inspires you and others to do what is needed, no matter what is happening around you.
Taken together, the seven chapters of Inner Leadership provide an integrated framework and approach for improving your capabilities as an inspiring leader.
Finally, by the time you have finished this book, you will see how to create ‘antifragile’ leaders and organisations: people and firms with new energy, built around a strong set of purpose, values and behaviours, that not only cope with the stresses and strains of this time of churning, but actively use them to clarify what is important and improve their ability to achieve it.
This is inner leadership.
Getting There: Step by Step
This book builds over seven chapters that take you from whatever churning you might be experiencing now to a clear inspiring vision of what you want to build instead, and then prepare you for the implementation of that vision (which is outer leadership).
The first step along the journey is to centre and ground yourself. As a leader you may feel you are already good at this, in which case do skip ahead. But remember that other people around you might not find it so easy, so the material here may well be useful for them. The tools of this chapter will also prepare you in case you suddenly find yourself thrown into deeper water than you are used to.
The first chapter builds a stable foundation to set out from, and a solid base to return to if needed.
The second step is to make sense of the situation you are facing. Outer Leadership achieves this from an operational and strategic point of view, but Chapter 2 is about making sense from the point of view of our inner leader. It is about uncovering the unconscious emotional reactions that can cloud our judgment, and leveraging the power of our intuition to help us understand and find new solutions to the issues we face.
The third and fourth steps of inner leadership are then to realise that although we can’t always choose what happens to us we can choose how we respond. Chapter 3 shows how every challenge contains multiple opportunities, and shows how to identify these. Chapter 4 is about choosing the opportunity that is best for you.
Chapter 5 is about identifying what really matters to you: your purpose and your values. In a world that is churning all around us these provide a second solid platform: clarity on the direction you want to travel (your purpose) and how you want to do so (your values). This chapter frees you up to let go of what doesn’t matter to you and focus on what you truly care about, empowering you (and those around you) to get more done with less, more quickly, and with more enthusiasm.
The sixth step is to articulate your chosen way forward as an inspiring vision. As Steve Jobs said, “When you are working on something you really care about you don’t have to be pushed, the vision pulls you.” In Chapter 6 you learn how to combine insights from all the previous chapters to create your own inspiring vision.
Finally, Chapter 7 prepares you for the inner leadership challenges that will arise as you work to implement your vision. Understanding these will show you how to become antifragile.
In summary, the seven steps of inner leadership are:
- Centre and ground
- Make sense of the situation
- Find the opportunities that every challenge contains
- Choose the best opportunity for you
- Check it against your purpose and values
- Create an inspiring vision
- Prepare for implementation
Having completed all seven steps, the tools of Outer Leadership will then enable you to make your vision a reality.
This diagram shows the overall structure:
Measurement is an important part of every leader’s life, both for defining the objectives you are working towards and for calculating progress towards them.
The outcomes of inner leadership are more difficult to measure than others, but I don’t see why they should be any different. You need to know whether reading and applying this book is making a difference for you, and I want to ensure that it does. So I have defined a measurement system that we can both use to track the impact that the book is having.
Of course, as any parent with young children being tested in school knows, metrics are never the end point in themselves: they are only an approximation, an indicator of something more important. In the same way, good leadership is fundamentally unmeasurable; and yet we all know it when we see it.
Let’s remember this as we put a measurement system in place. It is an indicator, not an end in itself.
This book is about defining and achieving the skills of inner leadership. We can rate our competence at each one. Arranged in order, these abilities combine to form a ladder or staircase that enables us to climb from wherever we are now to an inspiring vision of whatever we want to create instead, and preparedness to create it.
At the lowest level (if some disaster has just happened) we might be experiencing extreme inner turmoil or ‘Churning’.
We can use the tools of Chapter 1 to move from there to becoming ‘Centred’ and then ‘Grounded’.
Chapter 2 helps us to make sense of the situation. It gives us a solid base from which to proceed. We can call the inner emotional state we experience here ‘Solid’.
Chapter 3 teaches us the skills we need to realise that every challenge is an opportunity. This makes us feel ‘Sure’ about moving forward. And then in Chapter 4 we choose the direction of the opportunity that suits us best. We become ‘Directed’.
In Chapters 5 and 6 we find our priorities and then create an inspiring vision. Our emotional states here shift to ‘Determined’ and then ‘Inspired’.
Chapter 7 brings us the competencies that make us ‘Ready’ to move to action and outer leadership.
All this is illustrated in the following diagram:
In this way the tools of inner leadership enable us to raise our inner emotional states from Churning, to Centred, Grounded, Solid, Sure, Directed, Determined, Inspired and then Ready to move to action. Once we can do this for ourselves then we can do it for others.
For each step we can rate our ability on a scale of 0-10. We will do this at the beginning and end of each chapter.
You might like to review this now. Do you see any of the stages as particular strengths or weaknesses for you? In which chapter do you expect to gain the most and least benefit?
This inner leadership half of The Churning has been designed so that each step on its own is small, simple and straightforward to take. Combined in this order they become a transformational staircase that anyone can climb.
On a scale of 0 to 10, how capable do you think you currently are at climbing each step of the staircase?
Making a note now will define a baseline that you can use later to assess the difference that the book has made for you. (If you have the Churning app or workbook you can make a record there.)
For the chapters where you think you are already strong, will you read them anyway to deepen your abilities or to find tools that may be useful for others in your life?
For the chapters where you are relatively weak, will you do the work in depth to “get it right first time”, or do you intend to move quickly through the whole book and then return with hindsight to the sections you realise are priorities for you?
Do you have an urgent need that is calling you to jump ahead and put a quick fix in place now? Or is it wiser to take the chapters in order and address the issue properly once you have done the groundwork?
The chapters of this book are designed to be read in any order. Each one forms a stand-alone module for addressing a set of the inner leadership issues that can arise during a time of churning.
For example, if you urgently need to create an inspiring vision you could jump straight to Chapter 6. If you want to find more opportunities to move forward from the situation you are in you could turn to Chapter 3. If you’re looking to live a purpose-driven life you could use Chapter 5 to identify your purpose, then Chapter 3 to identify ways to achieve that. And so on.
Each chapter builds on what has come before and adds depth to what comes after. So you will develop a more inspiring vision (Chapter 6) if you have first done the work of Chapters 3-5. You will develop deeper and longer lasting answers to Chapters 3-5 if you have done the work of Chapters 1 and 2. And you will find it easier to centre and ground (Chapter 1) once you have defined your purpose, values and vision (Chapters 5 and 6) and prepared for implementation (Chapter 7).
Inner leadership is a never-ending cycle of learning.
Unless you have a specific priority, the simplest place to start is probably Chapter 1.
You can download a free ebook here containing the Prologue and Introduction.
(The linked file contains both epub and kindle (.mobi) formats compressed into a zip file that will need to be unzipped before being added to your library.)