Leadership is an inside job. Before you can lead people outwardly, you have to lead yourself inwardly. Leadership starts with internal goodness. Goodness is not some pie-in-the-sky philosophical concept. It's not some prudish, goody-two-shoes standard of stilted perfection. Goodness is practical. When you're good, people trust you. They know you won't cheat them, or violate their confidences, or mistreat them. They know you'll consider their interests, listen deeply and share generously, and be respectful. Your goodness is the single most important determinant of whether followers will trust your leadership, and trust is crucial to good leadership. When people trust you, they'll work harder on your behalf, they'll have a higher tolerance for your idiosyncrasies, they'll be loyal to you, and, most importantly, they'll act with integrity too. Trust begets trust, and when you act with goodness it becomes an invitation for others to act with theirs, mutually strengthening the trust between you.
Most of us think we're good people, but we also tend to be more forgiving of ourselves when our goodness is compromised. How would you stack up, for example, against the concept of cash register honesty? Imagine driving to work tomorrow morning and stopping to get some coffee on the way. If, after driving a mile down the road, you realize that the cashier inadvertently gave you ten dollars too much in change, would you turn around and drive back? What if turning around meant that you'd be a little late for a meeting? What if the meeting was with your boss? What if the cashier had been a little snotty to you?
It's hard to be good if you haven't defined the values that make up your goodness. Being good means living congruently with your values, and doing that requires actually knowing what your values are. Thus, it's a good idea for all leaders, new and seasoned, to take stock of what they
stand for and against:
* Which values do you hold most dear?
* Which values are nonnegotiable and define a boundary that you will always uphold?
* Which values do you think you most embody?
* Which values do you lack or most need to develop?
* Are you living and working in alignment with your values? How do you know?
When you live in congruence with a clear set of values, your motives, words, and actions come to embody your personal integrity. We know a good leader when we see one. There's a certain consistency, fairness, and reasonability in her behavior. We have her full presence when we engage with her. She treats us as a fellow human being, even when she is rungs above us on the organizational ladder. We never feel small around her. We aren't afraid to approach her or ask her a question. We know she respects us and herself. When we move into a leadership role, we we refer back to the model she set- how she carried herself, how she weighed and made decisions, and how she treated us and others. We hope to be as good as her someday.
If you want to be a good leader, start by being a good person.
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