Start Within

I get asked a lot about my point of view of what makes an effective leader. My answer, through the clarifying lens of personal experience and sheer repetition is one I offer with deep personal conviction: great leaders start within. They know who they are and why they are who they are and they use that knowledge to manage their impact and effectiveness on those they lead. They have gone below the surface of their own experience, discovered their personal set of unpleasant unknowns, faced them, wrestled them and worked with them until they were no longer blindly held captive by their existence. They have done the internal work necessary to come to a penetrating understanding that everyone is fighting the same battle against the arrayed forces of unpleasant unknowns. This process makes them more human than otherwise and, as such, more thoughtful about the universality of the human condition. (Which means that if you are following them they are far more likely to be tuned into who you are, what you need and how to help you get it.)

What I must underline, though, is that what I am describing is a process, not an event. It is also never-ending. I know no one who has undertaken the courageous act of honest self-reflection and awareness who does not have to work on it with continual and consistent dedication. It’s damn hard work. And, once you find the freedom and peace that comes with acknowledging and more productively dealing with your own stuff, well, you would simply never go back.

What freedom begins to mean is our ability to reduce the number of outside agencies we bring to bear in helping us numb the parts of our existence we just don’t want to face or feel. It means that we can start to be with ourselves, just as we are, when before we would use anything and anybody to prevent us from having to do so.

And this is why I’ve included a hilariously disconcerting clip of Louis C.K. talking with Conan O’Brien. It may seem unrelated, but it’s not. Not at all, in fact. His brilliance is in his observation and understanding of the deep human fear of being alone and feeling sad and how, in this case, smartphones are among the most popular and efficient ways to prevent ourselves from facing that fear; how they are just another way to numb. It’s definitely worth your time.

The world is moving towards meaning. It’s inevitable. Will you start within and help lead us there?

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