In my latest trashy regency romance, the heroine Rose is breaking off her engagement to Piers, and she proclaims: “I’ve come to know myself and my capabilities. I’m resilient. While you were out there making treaties, I quietly declared my own independence. I am the sovereign nation of Rose now. And there will be no terms of surrender!”
Rose has figured it out, she’s become the leader of her own life. Effective leadership doesn’t start with managing people; the beginning of leadership starts taking ownership of your life. This means knowing who you are, and what you can offer back to the world. As a former executive and mentor today, I guide those I work with to find their centered, stable place from which to live and lead. This begins with deep self-awareness, the foundation of my new book, Fully Human. The self-discovery I ask you to do sweeps in both your intrinsic motivations, as well how you’re wired. As I grew in leadership, I found I was relying much more on inner principles than outer circumstances. Author, scholar and contemplative Thomas Merton calls this inner place our “point of pure truth”.
What is your point of pure truth? Said another way, what are your principles which connect you to the world? Only you can define those. From that place of knowing, you can begin to stand with others …to lead them, and be worthy of their trust. In 2018 NYT business columnist Adam Bryant retired from writing his Sunday column Corner Office, where he covered interviews with leaders. Over ten years he’d penned over 5 million words. In his last column, he said that if he had to rank the most important quality of leadership that shone in those interviews, it would be trustworthiness. Self-awareness helps us stay grounded in the best of who we are, which is where we can most readily build trust.
Being a leader of your own life means being true to yourself. If we want kids, what do our lives look like after them? My friend Ebony, a hair stylist, told me that after she’d had her son and was in the recovery room-the recovery room- she got her phone and called her boss. “Roman, put me on the schedule!” she told him. “But Ebony, we’ve just posted your son’s weight on our break room board.” “No matter, I’m coming back!” Ebony, like me, knows her wiring is such that she’s a better mom to her kids because of her career.
Being the leader of our own lives helps us to become emotionally fit. We tend to our physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions. We need our social tribes who tell us the truth. We need our retreats periodically to sit in the quiet and get a recharge. Our bodies crave some movement, which could be in yoga or a hard gym workout. A fit leader has a strong body, an agile mind and a grounded inner life. Once we lead ourselves, we can then lead others.