3 Steps Toward Being a Better Leader in 2009

In a recent blog post I wrote:

An economic world turned upside down makes it easier to take a fresh look. This can open the door to making changes that will benefit you and the most important people in your life, now and in the long run….The crisis, in other words, can make it easier to experiment with new mental models or attitudes about your career and how it fits with your life’s purpose, and it can serve as a catalyst for your own reinvention, as a leader in all parts of your life.

A useful investment, then, especially at the beginning of a new year, is to take some time to clarify what’s most important to you as a leader, as you see it now and in the future. In my book I refer to this as being real. It’s is a necessary component of your foundation as you cultivate your leadership identity and advance your leadership capacity to the next level. Here are a few exercises (adapted from the book) that can help. There’s no risk in trying them!

1. Look back at where you have come from.

Think back over your personal history and identify the four or five most important events or episodes in your life, the moments that have defined who you are today. Tell the story of these events, in chronological order. For each one, briefly describe the impact the event had on your values and on your direction in life.

2. Define your personal leadership vision.

A statement of your personal leadership vision provides a focus for your long-term and short-term actions. It’s expected that you will revise it over time. It will be of most use if your vision is a compelling image of an achievable future, a story or picture that inspires. Describe the kind of leader you want to become, including the most important goals you have for the contributions you want to make to the world – your legacy — by writing a short history of your future (your life and career) between now and 2025. What will you be doing in 2025 and what impact will you be having?

3. Take the four-way view

This exercise gives you an understanding of how you are focusing your attention on your four life domains today. It shows how you manage the allocation of your time and energy–the amount of attention you pay to various people and projects in your life–and so helps you assess whether you’re actually doing what you care about doing. Complete this chart.

In the first column, distribute the percentages (100% divided across the four domains) based on how important you think each area of your life is, at this point in your life (it is understood that these percentages vary over time). In the second column, distribute the percentages to indicate how much time and energy you actually spend in each area. In the third column, indicate how satisfied you are with how things are going in each domain by circling or bolding a number from 1 to 10, where “1” = “not at all satisfied” and “10” = “fully satisfied.”  In the bottom cell of the third column, circle the number that best represents how satisfied you are with life in general.  In the far right column, circle the number that best represents how well you are performing in each domain, and overall (bottom cell), according to the average evaluation of the people who know you best in each part of your life; for the Self domain, indicate how well you are meeting your own goals for your mental and physical health and your spiritual growth.  Now, the fun part: Reflect on what’s important to you, how you focus your time and energy, how satisfied you are in each of the four areas and overall, and how well you performing in all the different parts.

These exercises are designed to help you clarify what matters most to you, to enhance your authenticity as a leader in all parts of your life.  After you’ve completed them, you might want to share what you wrote and thought about with a friend, colleague, or family member – and learn more from their comments and questions.  Finally, with whatever insights you’ve gleaned from these exercises and conversations, consider the following question:  What are you going to do in 2009 to improve your performance as a leader?  

2 Responses to “3 Steps Toward Being a Better Leader in 2009”

  1. Dan McCarthy says:

    Stew –
    Congratulations, Great Leadership has listed your book, Total Leadership, as one of the Best Leadership and Management Books of 2008!

  2. Lisa Fischer says:

    Hello Stewart,

    I’m currently reading your book and LOVE it! I’ve recommended it to so many friends and co-workers that want to discover the truth about the the things that truly matter in their lives, set goals to find the balance they need, and start making plans to live a better life! I’ve taken the four way view and identified that my career is the only area in my life that is not in sync with who I am. I feel like I’m leading two different lives. I no longer want to work for corporate america in a job that I am not mentally and spiritually connected with. I want to do something that I am truly passionate about and that is health & wellness. I’ve been going to school in an effort to work towards making a new career for myself, I’m a certified holistic health counselor and I take a similar approach with my clients in identifying where they are with their current health (diet, career, relationships and spirituality). Personally, I just can’t make the jump because the health counseling isn’t generating enough income and I have high expenses (house, support a family of 4, etc.) which is making me a slave to my corporate job. I feel totally stuck. What do you suggest in a case like this? Is there an opportunity to get involved with what you are doing? Where are you located? I truly admire what you are doing.

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