How Do You Feed Your Good and Bad Dogs?
The main competition is always yourself. You are the one you’re competing with for the great leadership of yourself. It’s about winning over your own shortcomings, weaknesses, bad behaviour – and your insecurities. And it’s about living up to your own values, focusing on all that makes you great, and learning every day how you can be better.
I can easily write a list of the things that I think of as my own bad self-leadership:
– Sending a stupid email when I know I shouldn’t
– Telling people what to do, instead of listening
– Being unfair to someone who deserved better
– Losing my temper with my children
– Wanting revenge for something someone did to me
– Reacting to others’ bad behaviour
– Sleeping too little when I need to recharge
– Not giving honest and direct feedback
I can also identify when I do things well, and what makes me a better leader:
– Physical training, with 50% sporting days per month
– Doing yoga and practising to be present and focused
– Turning out great results thanks to a team that I supported
– Showing compassion and empathy for a colleague
– Sending a thank-you note after a nice lunch
– Accepting things as they are
– Being proactive and choosing my own actions
– Praising people who deserve it
In Robin Sharma’s book The Leader Who Had No Title, there is a wonderful story. A student admires a wise elder for his achievements and his strength of character, then asks him if he ever had weak thoughts. The elder replies: ‘Of course, I have weak thoughts and my ego tries to pull me off track every single day. This happens because I’m a human being. But I also have my authentic side, which is my essential nature and all I really am. That part of me creates the noble and brave thoughts – and keeps me on track to become my greatest self. So it is almost as if I have two dogs inside me: a good dog that wants to lead me to where I dream of going, and that dog that tries to take me off my ideal path.’
‘So which one wins?’ asks the student.
‘That’s easy,’ replies the elder. ‘The one I feed the most.’
Write down what you think is good self-leadership, and what you know and consider to be bad self-leadership.
You are in control of who is leading you, your good side or your other side. The truth is that you are never leading others, you are only truly leading yourself. You can only truly control yourself, since it is your behaviour, interpretations and responses that are the true core of your leadership. Think about it.
You always lead yourself first, by deciding on your course of action. For example, your boss tells you that the company is re-organizing and that your job will change in a way you are not happy with. How do you lead yourself? Do you come to the conclusion that the world is unfair and that it sucks to be a victim of stupid arseholes? Or do you tell yourself that even though things look bad, this could be an opportunity after all: you could negotiate with your boss, look for other roles in the organization, or find a way to make the changes to your job work for you? You decide, you are in charge.
You never really lead anyone other than yourself. When leading, you first decide on your own actions and thoughts, your awareness, and that will then influence others, directly or indirectly. Even if your leader- ship style is simply to tell people what to do and give orders, punishing and rewarding your team accordingly, you still have to lead yourself into that way of thinking and then act upon it.
So, who are you and what values guide you? Just as a company has (or should have) a guiding culture, what is your own ‘operating system’ and set of core values?