Your 2 Leadership Levels


Your actions are connected to your core. There are two leadership levels that you should be aware of. The first level is the foundation, your core, your personal mission statement, your own ‘culture of one’ and ‘operating system’ or simply ‘you’. Call it the Ground Level. The second level is your everyday behaviour, your actions, based on your beliefs. This second level is about the ‘management of yourself ’. Call it the Surface Level, like the ocean surface.

Management, or execution, in a company is a consequence of the strategy, goals and culture of that company. Whether management and execution is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘bad’ or ‘good’, successful or not, depends on the frame of reference. In a company, hopefully, you just don’t react to whatever happens. If there is an opportunity (for example, to enter a new market) or an innovative idea (for example, to launch a new product) or an aggressive move from a competitor, you just don’t react and go ahead. You first ask yourself, ‘Is this in line with what our company wants to do and what we believe in?’

Here are some of the values in my ‘personal culture’:
– I always make my children my first priority.
– I proactively take on challenges and focus on the positive.
– I’m fair, honest and trustworthy in business, and try to make all parties winners.
– I know I have a big ego, but I will do my best to focus on others.

In ‘professional’ management of yourself, you should always be conscious of your own actions. Your actions should never be childish reactions to things people say and do. If someone bumps into you on the street and says, ‘Watch your step!’, it is easy to say instinctively, ‘Hey, it was you!’ That is a reaction. Pausing for a millisecond, deciding on your response, you might instead say, ‘Sorry.’ That is to act rather than react.

It takes a lot of training and practice to resist reactive behaviour. Ideally, you should be proactive, taking action based on your own belief system. For example, if I say that it’s good to have meetings in Other People’s Offices, it is based on my value that I want to focus on others. Calling a meeting in my office is to set the stage from my perspective, while strolling over and having a meeting in a col- league’s office would be to do it from someone else’s perspective, i.e. a little gesture to focus on others. So, it’s a proactive action, based on my own mission statement.

Just like the floors on a house, the second level (the Surface) is built on the first level (the Ground). As the surface and waves of the ocean are connected to the strong currents and floor below, your actions are (or ideally should be) a consequence of your belief system.

For example, reading a book about a number of leadership tools and guides, would be to offer just the surface of things. These tools are meaningless if they are not connected to your underlying values. Don’t adopt anything that you read, or anywhere else, without first checking that it is in line with your own mission statement. Sure, it’s great if a book can provide inspiration. But use it only if you truly think that your values support them. The personal culture that you are most comfortable with might just as well be to order people to your office whenever things go wrong because you believe that fear keeps people on their toes, and that, in turn, produces results in your world.

It is a good habit to have your two levels in the back of your head at all times. You can check your actions against your foundation to determine whether they are in line with your beliefs. If you take action that seems not to be grounded, ask yourself what happened.

Sometimes I choose to stir things up, taking on the Entrepreneur’s approach, disregarding the structure and organization in the company (Manager Lens) and the people around me (Leader Lens) to create a little chaos with new ideas. Hopefully, I know what I’m doing and where I am on the map. Sometimes it just goes wrong and I’m off track. Actions without foundation in your ‘operating system’ are just reactions to the actions of others, or plainly whimsical. Live at the Surface Level, but be sure about your Ground Level.