If we would survey the leaders in our various Masonic organizations and ask the question posed in the picture “Do you want to be a better leader?” I am going to assume that 100% of the men you ask would say “Sure, You Bet!” Although I guess there could be one or two who might say “Nah, I think I’m doing OK” but I’m going to put them in the category of what John Maxwell calls Phase One of leadership growth and this he describes as; “I don’t know what I don’t know.”
So if almost all leaders would like to improve their leadership skills why don’t they? What’s holding them back?
Professor Richard L. Daft of Vanderbilt University published a book entitled “The Executive and the Elephant,” in which he explains that each of us has two selves that he calls our “inner executive” and our “inner elephant.” The inner executive is the self that is thoughtful, circumspect and rational and the other self, the inner elephant, is habit bound, impulsive, and emotion driven.
His book offers practical ways that leaders can begin to achieve inner excellence by recognizing the power of the inner elephant and work to overcome it thus avoiding behaviors such as procrastination, confrontation, overreacting, and criticizing. There are exercises in the book that will help you start leading yourself which of course is the first person a leader needs to learn how to lead.
If you want to be a better leader, then you need to begin to lead yourself. In Professor Daft’s book, there is a chapter titled “How to Start Leading Yourself.” Here are the areas covered:
- Engage Your Intention – visualize and verbalize your intention
- Follow Through on Your Intentions – write them down, set deadlines and design tangible mechanisms to ensure your follow-through.
- Calm Down to Speed Up – get connected, be near others who are calm and focused, work with a partner.
- Slow Down to Stop Your Reactions – Stop and think, stop interrupting, detach from your emotions and impose self-punishments.
Leading yourself is not easy. Just ask anyone on a diet when someone walks into the room with two dozen doughnuts. The urge to cave in to short term pleasure is immediate and very strong. This is your inner elephant. Without a plan and mechanisms to keep you on the plan the inner elephant does take over. So as someone asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, of course, is, “One bite at a time.”
So if you do want to be a better leader, recognize that there are some things you will need to change.
Albert Einstein said this: I must be willing to give up what I am, in order to become what I will be.