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Leaders can only lead others when they can lead themselves

I’ve been setting aside a pile of blog posts, particularly on leadership, that I’m now ready to write.  There’s so much written on leadership, it’s rather daunting to know what to read, or who to read. We can never go wrong with Drucker or Mintzberg or those published with Harvard (you all know by now what a groupie I am of the Harvard Business Review — is there a support group for us?) In fact, HBR has just put out their “10 most read leadership articles” – if you read nothing else, do check these articles out.  Even to scan.

But I always like to ask senior executives what has made a difference for them in their leadership approaches.  A friend who has been a senior executive for the past decade, & who has dealt successfully with unbelievably challenging situations (I say successfully because, #1, he’s still employed &, believe me, the organization he works for doesn’t tolerate incompetence, and #2, employees he works with – LEADS – like & respect him. )  He suggested I read “The Inward Journey of Leadership,” in the Journal of Surgical Research, April 2006. After some digging – & paying – I found it.  And now, I pass his suggestion on to any of you who are in a leadership position (even if that means you have 1 person looking to you for leadership), or are considering moving into a team leadership, project leadership or functional leadership role.

Written by a surgeon who heads up a surgery department, it is very relevant for those in the information profession who have been successful in their profession & then move into management & leadership roles.  Souba talks sincerely and passionately about the challenges facing the health care system — we in the information sector must talk sincerely and passionately about the challenges facing libraries & information services.   And then he describes the four practices or habits needed for that inward journey for leaders:

1. Tell your life story — if only to yourself; “The stories leaders tell about themselves are important vehicles by which they convey to others who they are, their values and convictions, and w=by which they attempt to justify their leadership of the group and their right to represent the organization and its values. ” Yep.

2. Know yourself – knowing the “lens” through which we see the world is critical for us to be aware of & understand the lens through while other people see the world.  “As our self-awareness increases, we improve our ability to receive feedback and to listen generously.  Transformation becomes possible.” Amen, Dr. Souba – Amen.

3. Acknowledge & deal with your own inauthenticity – come on, we all have it at times. It’s really hard to be honest, truthful or authentic all the time.  It’s doable, but it’s tough, & takes courage. And it takes courage to confront it & correct it. Yet nothing impacts people’s trust in you faster than when they sense that your honesty is compromised, and that you aren’t admitting it or wrestling with it.

4. Get in touch with your own spirituality – as Souba says, since spirituality is your understanding of what purpose life has & what they feel the world is about, everyone has spirituality.  “Spirituality has to do with how we experience ourselves in relation to what we designate as the source of ultimate power and meaning in life and how we live out this relationship.” Souba says for “great leaders….spirituality becomes the foundation upon with they hammer out their values and ideals; it shapes their character, informs their choices, and crystallizes their commitments.” Wow. That says it. Values…..character…..choices…..crystallizes commitments.  The elements of leadership.

Leaders can only lead others when they can lead themselves.

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