5 lessons of the 'Being' of Leadership

The doing part of leadership is the ‘form’ leadership takes: setting goals, accomplishing, taking action, communicating, etc. It is the answer to the ‘How?’ question.

The being part of leadership is the ‘essence’ that leadership is: Holding the space for open conversations, insightful, self aware, not afraid to fail, transforming, etc. It is the answer to the ‘Why?’ question.

It’s my experience that the more grounded and spacious one is within their being, the more effective the doing becomes.

In a recent talk I gave I presented the top 5 lessons of the ‘being’ part of leadership. Basing it on the work of Wiley Souba, I compare it to four pillars and the foundation those pillars are built upon.

Credit: Four Pillars by Bram Masselink Credit: Four Pillars by Bram Masselink

The foundation of the pillars must be your values. I believe that everyone, when faced with difficult decisions, should base their decision on their values. You will never make a wrong decision if you do this.

Here’s an exercise that talks about the value of values and helps you define yours: //find-your-values/.

The first of the four pillars is Self-awareness. This is about having the knowledge or comprehension of a situation. It is being conscious to how our behavior impacts others.

As Souba says, “Our mental models are not so much views and beliefs that we hold tightly as they are views and beliefs that tightly hold us.” Being self-aware helps us be conscious of what views and beliefs we must change in order to be an authentic leader.

The second pillar is commitment. This is the state of being dedicated to a cause or activity. This is being loyal and faithful to that which is bigger than ourselves. Leaders must be committed to something in the future that is bigger than themselves. A bigger game, if you will. This defines one’s purpose. Per Souba, “If we are committed, we will act.”

The next pillar is authenticity. The word “authentic" comes from the Greek word ‘authentes’ meaning one acting on one’s own authority. For me, this means that we are the only ones who give us the permission to truly be ourselves and show up fully as who we are. Nietzsche reminds us, "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

The last pillar is integrity. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and is the state of being whole and undivided. It means to honor your word and in honoring your word, you are whole. Keep your promises and do what you say you will do.

There is a great song called “Strangers in the Night.” It ends with ‘Do-Be-Do-Be-Do’ and this is the refrain that all good leaders dance to. It’s the dance between essence (being) and form (doing). It’s a dance we all must learn.

First, get the being right, then the doing will follow.


BTW, here’s my drawing of these 5 lessons with you as the roof over the House of Being. Don’t judge my drawing capabilities. Being left handed doesn’t help when you are using these easel pads.  myvaluesdrawing

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