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Three Things Every Leader Needs to Know….and Why They Matter

Let’s start with why knowing these three things is so important. These are three things that:

  • Separate good leaders from mediocre or poor leaders.
  • Provide guidance and direction, even in the most turbulent times or the most troubling situations.
  • Allow a leader to have flexibility, enabling them to adapt to changing situations without compromising what is most important.
  • Enable a leader to show up and do their work with integrity, efficiency, and energy.

The three things are already within every single person reading this piece. Yet, I dare say that most of those reading could not name them, even though they possess them.

At Evergreen Leadership, we call the sum of these three things your “inner core.” You might think of them as a combination of your inner GPS, the engine that powers you, and the gas that fuels you.

What are the three things that make up your inner core? 

It sounds simple, and on some level, it is. Simple as in profound. Simple as in essential. Simple as in elemental.

Yet sometimes, the most simple things are the most elusive. This is why the first step is truly to know what your unique inner core is (and not what you or others think it should be). The second and more difficult step is to lean into them every day. For it is when your leadership is grounded in your values, using your unique strengths, and fueled by your passion that you step into a higher level of leadership. 

For you see, leadership starts as an inside job. What is inside always spills outside, whether you want it to or not. Your inner core is your foundation. Like with a house, things fall apart when it is built on a shaky foundation. Build on a solid foundation, and it stands the test of time, wind, and weather.

Your First Task is to Know What They Are

Let me share a few ideas on how you might do the work to unearth the three elements of your personal inner cores. It is a bit trickier than you might think but well worth the introspection and thought to do.

Your Values

Values are the innermost part of your inner core. And it is the part that can be the most difficult to pin down for several reasons. It takes reflection and thought to define our true values. It takes testing our purported values against the lens of our daily actions. And it takes some brutal honesty with ourselves as we look in that mirror.

The reality is that we very seldom spend any deep thought on exploring what we truly value most. When asked, we might spout off a list of values that sound good – like family, faith, health, or integrity. Yet, the real test of values is what we do every single day. 

The true test of your values is where you spend your time, money, and energy. 

Start with a list of what you believe your values are, and then do an audit.

How do you stack up?

Your Strengths

When you know your strengths, you can lean into them. Yet if you are like the majority of us, if asked, you could provide a very long list of your deficiencies and a very short list of your strengths. 

Turn that around. Know your strengths. Use your strengths. The more you use them with intention, the more you can discern what they truly are.

Notice the skills you are using when you are most “at yourself” and also getting great results. What comes easily to you? 

What can you do that others struggle doing?

Your Passions

The outermost portion of your inner core is your passions. Passions are the fuel, providing energy and momentum for your leadership. Passions are the things that “fire you up,” that put a spring in your step, that you look forward to doing. 

Energy is your clue to your true passions. 

Notice what drains your energy and what fuels you. 

What taps into a deep inner drive?

Once you can name them, your life’s work is to live into them.

The more your leadership is congruent with your inner core, the better the leadership you offer to others.

Here’s why:

  • When your effort and actions are in alignment with your innermost values, you lead with congruence and integrity. Others know what you stand for, and most importantly, you do too. 
  • When you work to your strengths, you are more capable, more productive, more focused, and more likely to get good outcomes. 
  • Passionate leaders ignite energy and enthusiasm. Dispassionate leaders spark nothing in themselves or others. Working with dispassionate leaders is drudgery, not delight.

It is not selfish to live by our values, focus on our strengths, and do the work that taps into our passions. Operating from our inner core unleashes the unique contribution to the world that only we can deliver. It provides the highest likelihood that our leadership will engage with others to make a positive contribution.

Let me sum it up this way.

We each have a set of deeply ingrained values that are uniquely ours. We each have a set of strengths that no one else can rival. And each of us has passions that light us up and make us come alive.

  • When you live aligned with your values, you are following your true north and will have a sense of purpose and stability, no matter how chaotic the situation is

  • The more you recognize and use your strengths, the more productive you are and the more work shifts from duty and drudgery to delight.

  • The more time you spend doing things you are passionate about, the greater the life force and positive energy in your life.

This work is up to you, not others. It is the work of your lifetime to discern your core values, unique strengths, and specific passions. And once you know what your inner core is, your next step is to find ways to manifest them in your life.

When you do, you’ll find all those things you’ve been searching for. You will find inner stability because you operate out of your “true north” or core values. You’ll enjoy your work more as you play to your strengths (and get better results as a bonus). The energy of your passions will fuel you. 

Put the three together, and you’ll be a better person, a better leader, and a better community member.  

For those of you with whom poetry resonates, I’m ending this piece with a beautiful piece written by a friend and colleague, Emily Bopp:

Authentic 

Literally means

“Coming from the author”

Genuine

Original

Not false or copied

Real

 

Becoming

Literally means

“Coming into being”

Approaching

Moving

Not static or fixed

Emerging

 

Learn to embrace your authentic self

For yourself

Authoring, daily, your original beauty

Becoming, gradually, your genuine grace

Interested in finding and using your inner core?

I’m offering a three-week course called Foundations of Leadership in both January and May, where I’ll guide you through the process of identifying and using your Inner Core. You’ll join me live (virtually) and also be able to deepen your self-awareness through a Catalyst DiSC self-assessment. 

Foundations of Leadership is affordable, live instruction delivered via Zoom. You’ll join a cohort of other leaders and be able, if you want, to earn a badge and “prove” that you’ve done the work in this course. 

Want to learn more?

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