Effective leaders pay as much attention to their 'To Be' list as their 'To Do' list

Hilary Star Foged

Over years of experiencing the challenges of leadership personally, through facilitating discussions and learning about leadership, and from my reading numerous articles and books on this popular topic, four ‘lived’ values have become central to my understanding of what is crucial to skilfully lead:  being authentically myself, humility, courage and being open to learn.  

These four values reflect our inner as well as our outer journey and are more about our ‘being’ than our ‘doing’. It’s not an either/or, but a recognition that who we are is clearly the most influential part of our leadership, and this then impacts on how we ‘do’ leadership.  As Anais Nin wrote, ‘We don’t see the world as it is, we see as we are’.  This doesn’t in any way suggest we minimise the development of our leadership skills (i.e. the things we do), but rather we acknowledge that who we are affects and influences how we behave as leaders. 
 

It’s not an either/or, but a recognition that who we are is clearly the most influential part of our leadership, and this then impacts on how we ‘do’ leadership.


For me personally, and at LEAD, our understanding of leadership development increasingly embraces growing our self-awareness of who we are and of how we impact others.  Leaders who recognise the importance of who they are, and how they behave towards the people they work with, essentially bring a greater potential for collaboration and healthy relationships in teams.  

Increasingly within the field of leadership development,  awareness is growing of how wellness is not only experienced in a physical sense but also emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, socially, occupationally and environmentally - as identified by research from the University of California (2014) which looks at Seven Dimensions of Wellness.  It is the integration of these seven dimensions that contributes to a wellness culture and leadership that is integrally about our ‘being’ as well as our ‘doing’.  

There is also a growing understanding of the values of stillness and mindfulness in leadership, providing opportunity to listen deeply, to read the signs, and to negotiate the changes, challenges and uncertainties we experience in our lives and organisations.  Dr Chellie Spiller’s book Wayfinding Leadership (written with John Panoho and Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr) explores these themes of ‘being’ in a profound way, reflecting the wisdom of how Pacific navigators utilised these skills in finding their way across the oceans.  
 

Who we are has a much greater impact on those around us than we often realise. 


At the February 2018 Not-for-Profit Conference, Spiller spoke of the need for people in leadership to have "deep humility, total commitment to your people, and commitment to train people to be better than yourself”. These are elements of who we are and bring an intention and purpose to empower others to be fully who they are, too.

In essence, who we are has a much greater impact on those around us than we often realise.  We can be so focussed on ‘doing’ -  tasks, skills, knowledge and achievement. Important as these practical, ‘hands on’ things are, ultimately what people remember most about leadership is our ‘being.’