To Lead, Remember to Breathe

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What do you do, have done all your life, that people are constantly asking you to do?

This is the question I found myself asking several of my leadership clients this last week. I don’t know why. Maybe there has been a recent rush of blog posts or news articles on personal development? Then again, maybe it is coming from me? Whatever the reasons, this week’s subject has centered on personal development, and taking leadership of one’s self.

The ROKC™ Method provides a framework for understanding why a business exists thus providing clarity for leaders to better influence outcomes.

However, it would be myopic of us to assume that such a model exists in a vacuum. It does not. It is actually the mirror image of personal development. The ROKC view of business is based on the organization owning and/or controlling an asset that provides customers with a competitive advantage. That is, the benefit of the product/service resides in reducing the risk of achieving an uncertain outcome for the customer. Something similar can be stated about each individual. Every person has a particular asset–an individual quality, talent, or faculty–which can be used to provide their community with a competitive advantage. If this sounds familiar to some readers, I wouldn’t be surprised. This idea provides the framework for the hero myth, which is very strong in Western culture, as seen in works from The Odyssey, in ancient Greece, to the Star Wars trilogy, in the 1980s, to the recent animated movie How to Train Your Dragon 2 and so on.

In a previous article, Easily Moving into the Leadership Role, I suggested that the people who assume a leadership role do so because they have mastered an “x-factor” that allows them to be recognized for that particular attribute and the benefit this attribute provides the community. This makes sense for the very simple reason that those supporting the leader must know what they are supporting. After all, a leader is someone who can help others see a less uncertain world, which inspires them to take collective action to make this world a reality.

Perhaps the following story will help to illustrate my point. I work with a brilliant young man who has an encyclopedic understanding of IT, and has risen to a leadership role but cannot manage to go beyond that particular level. In fact he is beginning to lose ground. For years, all his attention has been focused on the technology. He went to one of the finest engineering schools, got an MBA, worked for very large companies in different countries, managed very complex projects–you get the idea. When he came to me, he was convinced that it was his knowledge of all these different technologies that had brought him his success and by learning the newest, most cutting edge ones, he would be able to move up the ladder to a greater leadership role. After several months of our working together, he began to understand that there are many people who have the same education as he but do not reach his leadership level; and, that there are people who don’t know half of what he knows and yet they hold higher leadership roles. So, the key to achieving a better position within his organization is not to be found only in a mastery of technology, but must also lie elsewhere. There must be something he is doing with the information he has amassed that is different from what those around him are doing. But what is it? We started down the path of discovering his x-factor by asking the question above:

What do you do and have done all your life that people are constantly asking you to do for them?

And we found it! He is all about integrity. In everything he does – be it professional or personal – he wants to understand the integrity of the system. “Integrity” in its multiple senses: regarding honesty and moral character, as well as soundness, wholeness; whether this be the wholeness of a community, or the perfect condition of a piece of machinery. Thus, this search for integrity focuses on the people with whom he surrounds himself, as well as the systems with which he works. He is very interested in his own personal integrity, which is what drives him to spend hours learning about all the cutting edge technologies. Upon reflection, he realized that he has been obsessed with understanding the integrity of people, places, and things since a very young age. Likewise, he was surprised to learn that this is not a driving force for everyone in the world. (We all assume the rest of the world is a reflection of our self. No harm there.) When we applied his x-factor to his employment history we saw a pattern emerge in which the value he brought to his community was the result of his ability to see the integrity, or lack thereof, in an IT rollout and correct it. He can now move forward firmly rooted in the knowledge that what he brings to the party is integrity.

Another client, a woman, who has her own marketing business, went through a similar process in our discussions, and discovered that her x-factor is discerning limitations. For someone else, his x-factor is understanding why things are the way they are. And yet another, it is a love of language that drives most of her life. In all these cases, the x-factor is natural and easy for them to do, requiring very little effort; it’s as easy as breathing.

But here is the rub. All of them reached a point at which they felt blocked because their worldview, largely shaped by the culture, sees leaders only as those individuals with a certain wisdom acquired from years of study or from life’s experiences. To be more exact, a person lacking this kind of wisdom cannot become a legitimate community leader. By shifting the focus from a skill set to individual qualities expressed through that skill set we are able to break through this limiting paradigm to unlock the true source of their leadership skills and put them back on a path contributing to their community.

This opens up a whole bunch of other exciting areas of discussion like religion, mindfulness, self-awareness, political structures, economics, privacy policies, and so on, so I think this is a good place to stop. However, if you are interested in keeping the conversation going please use the comment section below or contact us through LinkedIn or via our website www.returnonkeycomponent.com.


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