I just bought Kouzes’ & Posner’s latest book, Learning Leadership (Wiley). I have written in this space previously that they, along with other leadership experts, tell us that leadership is something that can be learned, that we are all born with the ability to lead and that we are already leading in one capacity or another. In Learning Leadership they tell this old First Nations parable:
One evening, an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, false-pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The grandfather replied, “The one you feed”. (p.36, 37)
The Buddha said something very similar: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become”.
In my coaching practice I have found that one of the three top things that surfaces with most clients is personal values1: finding out who you are at the core, what your beliefs are. I am constantly amazed (although by now I shouldn’t be) how many people have never done any work on their personal core values. This is even more important for leaders as they grow into their roles and have discovered that they want to become better at what they do. The values exercise I take them through leads them on a journey of discovery of what challenges them, excites them, motivates them and encourages them. This journey of self-awareness takes them to a place where they can determine “what wolf to feed”.
The other outcome of this journey of self-awareness is that it allows us to see our real potential, and what lies inside of us. From a leadership perspective, the question that arises is, “what kind of leader can I become?” There is potential for leadership in all of us — we only need a situation to arise to allow it to happen and we become an unassuming leader. Taken further we recognize that people are looking to us for leadership. We can either accept or reject it. We “become what we think”.
The picture at the top of this post encapsulates this perfectly for me. When we look at ourselves what do we see? De we see great potential? Can we see qualities that are still hidden but ready to emerge? What is just below the surface, but ready to pounce out? It’s not what you see, it’s how you believe in yourself.
- In next week’s post I will write about the top three things that consistently surface in my coaching engagements with clients.
John Whitehead, coaches’ individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
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