What it Really Means to Lead from the Inside Out

This month we’re exploring “Inside Out” leadership, the idea that in order for us as leaders to truly transform, we must start by focusing on what’s inside ourselves.

The first step toward being an “Inside Out” leader is to recognize that the foundation of transformation is a healthy understanding of the connection between our beliefs and behaviors.

To illustrate this, let’s explore the concept of someone, let’s call him Mark, going on a diet for the sake of slimming down for his son’s wedding. Perhaps Mark downloaded a program he saw advertised on Facebook; it has more than 1,000 five-star reviews and boasts instant access to nutritious recipes and a three-step approach to community-based exercise.

Let’s say Mark jumps right in, follows the three-step exercise approach, incorporates healthier meals into his family’s rotation and sees improvements in his stamina and his waistline. Once his son’s wedding comes and goes, however, the weight he’s managed to keep off for three to four months starts to slowly come back. Mark doesn’t “have time” for the community-based exercises anymore. And the recipes just aren’t as appealing as they were before. Eventually, Mark finds himself feeling sluggish and not quite as trim as he was just a few months earlier.

What we see in this example is that Mark did something that many of us do: he eagerly adopted a set of behaviors but didn’t take the time to address his core beliefs. Our friend Mark earnestly followed someone’s directions (“make these recipes,” “exercise this way”) in order to achieve what would be a temporary result at best.

What matters to us with the “Inside Out” leader is: what beliefs did Mark hold about health and wellness before his son’s wedding was put on the calendar? It’s not surprising that Mark might struggle to maintain his newfound energy and weight loss; he had adopted behaviors that didn’t align with any core beliefs.

That’s where our team of coaches would want to deep dive with Mark, but of course, not just in matters of exercise, but in all areas that affect a leader’s ability to grow and thrive.

Identify Where You Want To Improve, Then Ask for Help

We believe that the most effective leadership shows up when we are intentionally improving every day. Over the years, we’ve discovered that the best leaders understand the necessary balance between the behaviors they adopt and the beliefs that must first exist to uphold them.

This is not an easy mindset we’re inviting leaders to embrace. But it’s been instrumental in helping leaders transform the way they live their lives, take care of their relationships and lead organizations to greater levels of success.

Knowing where you want to improve is always the first step. But identifying beliefs that might get in the way of that goal? That’s deep, often uncomfortable work that’s easy to shrug off or label as “superfluous.”

This is why we don’t recommend approaching this work alone. Without someone guiding you through this process of deciphering beliefs from behaviors, it’s easy for anyone to get lost in the process, throw their hands up and consider the exercise a loss.

Nothing could be further from the truth, though. This is work that gets at the heart of what separates regular leaders from the very best leaders. If you were to sit down with one of our executive coaches, here are some questions he or she might ask you:

  1. What motivates you at your core?

  2. What historically has stood in the way of achieving your goals?

  3. What do you believe about yourself and the value you bring to the world?

  4. What do you believe about the people around you and their contributions to your life and success?

If you’d like to continue unpacking your leadership from the inside out, schedule time to talk with us and see coaching is the next right step for you.

You can also take our Living Forward Assessment to see where you’re doing well and identify areas where you may want to invest more time and focus.


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