What they don't tell you when you get that promotion...
We often think of leadership as something that is given to us – as a job, a position, a role that gives us permission to lead others. In reality, merely getting the new office or job title rarely provides the secret sauce that creates instant authority and respect. When someone gets promoted or hired into a leadership role, they often focus on their areas of responsibility and the task at hand. But over time, they begin to wonder whether or not they are actually being effective as leaders.
Think of yourself at work, especially when you are new to the role. Do people listen to you? Are your suggestions being respected and followed? Do you get bogged down in itty bitty details? What is your level of stress? Are you always right? Are your team members honest with you about their mistakes and learning?
The answers to these questions aren’t found in your job description. It has nothing to do with being in technology, construction, education or finance, or even your title, but it does have something to do with YOU. What people respond to the most is the quality of your Inner Leadership.
Role-based vs. Inner Leadership
Role-based leadership is the job title and institutional authority that are granted to someone when they are introduced as a leader with a specific scope of responsibility. This leadership role can be given or taken away, and is generally defined by the organization's needs. The role may require certain abilities, but there is no guarantee that you have them.
Inner Leadership, on the other hand, is the domain of who you are as a human being and how you are showing up. It illustrates how you engage with others, and the level of inner authority and authenticity you bring to work. It’s about how much you trust yourself and others, your willingness to learn, find solutions and move forward. These are inner qualities that arise from within you which cannot be given or taken away. However, inner leadership can be actively cultivated and supported - or squashed.
Often we expect or hope the role will magically give us the leadership qualities we know we need. “If I had the title/role/degree I would feel confident” or “If I was the manager, people would listen to me!” While the role may provide a certain institutional authority, it rarely creates inner leadership. For that, we need to do inner work and develop internal, relational skills.
Over many years of leading, training, and coaching, we have distilled a list of the 8 most important elements of Inner Leadership. Focusing your attention on developing any of these areas will dramatically increase your effectiveness, regardless of your role or position.
The Essential Elements of Inner Leadership
1. Know Yourself
Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Own both.
Being transparent about both invites others to do the same, increases team cohesion and safety, enhances creativity and invites others to show up fully.
Understand the inside/outside principle and that people will react to your behavior, not your intention.
What we don’t see and own ends up negatively impacting others, our relationships, and our trustworthiness. What we don’t own and talk about, others will - especially in leadership.
2. Embody Authenticity & Integrity
Being authentic and real is compelling. Being in integrity is empowering. Focus on being trustworthy rather than evaluating others.
Do what you say you will do and take responsibility when you don’t.
Say yes, and follow through - or say no, with respect. Honor your agreements, honor other people, and honor your word.
3. Steer by Your Values
Know what you value, what’s truly important to you. Move from these values. Speak to these values. Make decisions based on these values.
Embody these values. It’s never enough to just name them - put them into action and let them guide you.
Stay connected to your intentions and be congruent. Know and acknowledge (at least to yourself), when you are not.
4. See the Best in Others
Remember that every outer behavior, no matter how destructive, is driven by a positive inner intention. Trust this, look for the best in others and ask questions that orient towards this intention.
Publicly see and name the strengths, positive intentions and values of other people. Appreciate each person’s contribution, both in terms of who they are and what they do. Teach your team to do this by how you model it.
5. Be Human, Not Perfect
Be real. Nobody was ever inspired by perfectionism. It hurts you and others. The more we try to be or look perfect, the further we get from leadership. Imperfect action leads to learning, and to iterative improvements.
People are inspired by courage and realness.
6. Do It Together
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Sharing your vision with others and leaning into them takes courage. Invite collaborative creativity within established goals and agreements.
Communicate your vision, engage people in where you are going. Embody your vision and move from that place.
7. Lead with Heart
Care about others. It makes your life better and their life better. Don’t be afraid to love and express appreciation. Be vulnerable.
When there is care, trust and openness, people go the distance for each other. Nobody pitches in because of your technical abilities - it’s because of human connection.
8. Step Up
See what’s needed. Name it. Put ideas out. Take risks. Make mistakes. PRACTICE. Confidence is built by doing, learning and growing through these things, not by waiting until you have what you think you need.
Don’t wait until you feel smart enough, have the right body, know enough, have read all the right books, have another degree, or find the perfect job. Leadership is never about those things.
You gain the confidence you need through stepping up.
Inner Leadership CAN be learned
Some of these Essential Elements may seem easy and accessible to you. Others will be more of a challenge. That is to be expected, since we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Inner Leadership can be learned and cultivated, just like any other human skill. It is a powerful journey of growth, and it begins with being honest with ourselves about our limitations.
While these capacities can certainly develop naturally with practice and intention, getting personal support and guidance make the process faster and more effective. Aurum’s Essentials of Self Leadership Training is a 4-day intensive designed to unleash our inner leader and take a quantum leap towards greater empowerment, clarity and presence. Individual coaching is also a great way to nurture the inner leadership qualities you want to develop.
Take it with you
The good news is that developing your inner leadership is an investment which pays back lifelong dividends. Even if you lose your job or change your role, these inner leadership skills come with you wherever you go-including into your family life, into parenting, friendships, romantic relationships and any creative project you take on.
Download the infographic HERE
Contact us to learn more about ways to support effective leadership for you and/or your team.
Devi and Deepika are co-founders of Aurum Leadership. With years of experience coaching leaders and facilitating transformative experiences, they brings deep insight, down-to-earth skills and humor to the task of learning how to be human.
Devi Cavitt Razo and Deepika Sheleff are co-founders of Aurum Leadership. They are also close friends who have dedicated their lives to creating powerful, honest, resilient relationships.