by Nick Roud, Executive Coach and Founder of Nick Roud Coaching
What does it actually mean – is their a definitive guide to leadership and if so how might our emerging leaders take on the most important job of leading from the inside.
In my coaching work I do with successful CEOs, executives and emerging leaders one of the break through moments that our clients find is having the reality check that leadership starts with you, not with the organisation you lead, the people you serve, the shareholder price, it starts whole heartedly with how you lead yourself first.
We all have a path that we choose to walk and that path might well change quickly or slowly, it will be in many cases daunting, unknown, scary, uncomfortable, exciting, rewarding, frustrating (all the words you can imagine).
There is one common observation that as a coach I witness from successful leaders and that is the real importance of getting ok with being you. Great leaders around the world accept that certain things will and are out of their control, let’s take the last 3 years with Covid as an example. Not one of my clients had a global pandemic within their leadership development plans. But it happened – it is happening and over years to come other things will come and want to bite us on the arse to see if we really do have the clout to lead. Leadership is about being flexible enough to move with the times and not to be stuck on what happened yesterday!
I ask my clients at the very beginning , why do you lead?
It’s a very pointed question and one I tend to get that look that says – hey Nick, what are you doing asking me this question, I am a successful leader, I run a billion dollar business, my people love me, I am great!! And then they typically pause and sit back in the chair,
With that question I want to understand from my client what is really important to them and why they have chosen leadership as a profession.
Rarely do I hear the words, oh I do it for the money, the power, the kudos. Certain pockets of the world bring that behaviour into the room. More often than not it’s because someone else has seen something in that person, they believe that they would make a wonderful leader of people, of an organisation. It could be that they have timed things to perfection and it just so happens that he/she is in the right place at the right time. Other points that are shared with me is because I want to make a difference, I believe their is more that can be done.
In his book Legacy by James Kerr he shares stories about the national rugby team in New Zealand called the All Blacks. They have a very special approach to the honour of wearing the black shirt and that is to leave it better then when they were awarded it.
What a brilliant approach, how refreshing this is to hear – imagine for one little minute what would occur if ever leader reading this blog today was to take that approach – to leave my position better than when I was appointed into the role. It doesn’t take a rocket science to explain the huge positive shift that would bring to so many people.
Leading from the inside takes an enormous amount of humility, respect and above all courage that will allow you to be the leader you must be. Egos have to be left at the door and with that in mind how does a professional get to grips with this thought.
We all make decisions – leaders make thousands of decisions each day. We might for purpose of today’s leadership blog park for one moment that skills, abilities and capabilities have all been ticked off and also let’s park the industry, sector and country you live in. What we must explore is that inner-voice. The one that sits their, sometimes it comes out but most of the time you keep it pushed deep down inside you.
During our coaching work we have only a couple of rules one being nothing is left off the table, in our office (aka the 20ft shipping container) everything is discussed. It’s a safe place and I am not judging you.
It’s interesting that following a number of assessments that we do and results are debriefed their normally is a reflection point when clients say to me that they have not been the leader that they want to be, that they have been very much a leader that others want, expect and need. Sometimes the data we receive back is life changing, and as leaders mature they find piece that it is ok to be themselves. Now we don’t yet have any specific data on is their an age or time that this happens but I believe that with coaching this very much speeds up that. Rather than saying ‘I am 56 years old therefore I am now comfortable being who I am; that is not the case. I have witnessed coaching emerging leaders – they might be around the age of 24 that they already have no pre-determined view on leadership, they have actually been really ok in being themselves. Where we are taking this is their is no evidence that at the ager of (fill in the blank) you will awaken to find that it is ok being you!
Leading from the inside has no qualifications, no barriers to entry, no academic exam you must pass, no university, college or school you have to attend, no country of origin. It’s actually quit liberating when you get conformable with being you. How you show up is one of the most challenging aspects of a leader. Many of my clients sit with me and say – it’s ok being myself with you Nick. You allow me to just be myself! When I reflect on that for one nano-second I turn to my client and ask them who are you trying to impress? I don’t need to be impressed, I just want you to be you. A test I ask of my clients is – if you can be yourself with me, what is stopping you being yourself with your people? (let’s work on that shall we)!
When observing clients in meetings it’s interesting to witness the difference. I once had the pleasure of coaching a wonderful CEO in Wellington, she ran and led a large New Zealand business, it was in the spot light and had a lot of external pressure to perform on it. During our coaching work together I witnessed her calm, loving, caring nature in our one-on-ones. She led with all the right intentions, I sometimes asked her why are we working together you have everything a great leader needs. Then she invited me down from Auckland, to her offices, to shadow her for a few days, join her in meetings etc. What I witnessed was a brash, rude, intimidating and larger than life person. Who was this person I was observing. This was not the lady who had been in my office for the past three months (where had she gone). Following a day of observation meetings we grabbed some food before I needed to catch a flight back home. So what do you think Nick?
I asked her how she felt her approach, style was for said meetings. Oh that’s just me Nick doing my thing. Getting things done, telling people what needs to happen.
We (Sally – not her real name) I believe we have a huge problem and one that if we don’t get to grips with pretty quickly you will either be fired or soon you will turn up and have lost the room. Both of which would be a blessing.
The next day my phone rang and it was Sally, Nick I am keen to find out more of what you said, why do you think that.
As a coach I never judge – that’s not my approach, we use evidence based tools and my observations. Those observations are shared back to my clients warts and all! It may be my dyslexia brain that helps me to see things differently but as a coach I want only the very best for each and every client who engages with me and that will never change.
Sally – when we are together in my office I see a complete different person to that I saw yesterday, what am I missing? Her response was one I had observed many times before. Nick it’s what is expected, it’s the industry I am in, its how we behave and therefore it’s how I lead.
Interesting I said – are you happy?
No, I am not. And then the coaching work was able to commence.
When you are exploring, growing or considering a leadership position, can I encourage you to do one thing. Get to understand yourself, what makes you tick, what excites you, what frustrates you, what makes you uniquely you. Spend time exploring these important areas and to really take that a step forward develop your own Core Purpose. If you want to find out more about how to do that then let me know.
I hope you see with the above real life situation, many leaders are faced with leading in a certain way, because that’s what is expected, how it’s done around here. I say a polite rubbish to that. To be an effective leader – a lasting leader and a leader who is happy you must lead from within, it’s not a case of putting on that mask and heading to work, it’s about being ok with who you are, being confident that you are going to make mistakes and being really ok that it only really matters how you feel nobody else. Sure leadership is about bringing a group of people together – supporting them and growing them but if you are not leading yourself from the inside then your work has just got a whole lot harder my friend.
If you are interesting in leading from the inside and can relate to the above blog then I’d encourage you to get in touch. Why carrying on not being the leader you really could be!
Nick Roud is a Global Award Winning Executive Leadership Coach. He coaches successful CEOs, executives and emerging leaders. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Nicola and two children Louie (6) and Willow (4). You can find out more about his work and his business at nickroud.com