Chapter 1




What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson


Leadership in a New Light

Imagine you’re the captain of a sailing ship in the early nineteenth century. Your ship carries its cargo deep in its hold, well protected from the elements by solid wood decking. Your crew also lives below these decks. In fact, when crewmembers are not on duty, they are likely to be below decks eating, sleeping, or repairing gear and clothing.

The weather-resistant deck is intended to protect the cargo but in the same manner can be punishing for the crew. They live in nearly inhuman conditions—constant motion, cramped quarters, rancid food, and merciless gloom. As captain, your quarters are only slightly more habitable.

And then you hear about a simple invention that would make living on these stout sailing vessels more bearable for everyone–you hear about a specially cast piece of glass that is inserted into the solid decking: a deck prism.

This deck prism is an angular chunk of glass that is designed to multiply the quantity of sunlight that passes through it. This piece of glass is inserted into a small opening in the deck, and even though it is only a few inches in diameter, it both magnifies and redirects the sunlight into the more poorly lit areas of a ship.

You have suddenly made the interior of your ship much more habitable. Your crew will be healthier living in more natural light; they will likely be happier and more productive. And you will not need as many open flame lanterns. You have just increased your odds of delivering your cargo more safely and with a more able-bodied crew. And since shipping is your business, this small invention just lowered your costs and boosted your profits.

A shipwright must install these deck prisms in specific locations. The aim is to create the best illumination below decks while avoiding installation near any gear or particularly dirty locations on deck that might block or limit the sunlight. While some of these prisms were made from inferior glass, you seek out an excellent quality casting that is essential to creating a prism that allows the crew living below deck to benefit from its intended purpose.

Once you found the best prisms, simply installing a deck prism isn’t sufficient to insure illuminated quarters. After you direct your purser to purchase quality prisms, you need to instruct your carpenter to install them where they can do their best work, and then assign crew to maintain and clean them for ongoing effectiveness. Remember, as captain, you’re the one in charge of caring for your vessel.

The function of leadership is similar to that of the glass prism. Leaders must have the appropriate internal composition and characteristics in order to fulfill their duty. Then they must inhabit the place in an organization where they can be most effective. Moreover, leaders must constantly hone and maintain their skills to effectively guide their organizations and the people they lead.

This book focuses on the qualities that constitute a leader; in other words the development of a leader’s components—their capacity to lead.

21st Century Leaders

Many leaders already possess effective leadership attributes. That’s probably how they became a leader in the first place. But as we venture into the next century of highly complex global enterprises, our organizations will need leaders not only to be talented but to be consciously evolved as well. Such leaders will need to not only be highly skilled but also possess outstanding personal maturity. They will need to be enlightened.

Enlightened leading begins with leaders who accept that neither their title nor their position will guarantee that people will follow them. Though technical skills are necessary, they’re not sufficient for becoming a leader. Leaders must also guide their personnel with a specific kind of humility. And this is an immensely difficult task given that they must fulfill their organization’s objectives using the combined efforts of many other people.

Stakeholders expect leaders to know where they are going and to know how to navigate the uncertainties that will inevitably arise. These twenty-first century leaders need to be able to balance two forces at once: the expectations placed on them by their superiors or board of directors and the reality that they often don’t know what to do because neither they nor their organization have ever before encountered the situation they face.

Ronald Heifetz, Founding Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, describes leadership this way. “The adaptive demands of our societies require leadership that takes responsibility without waiting for revelation or request. One may lead perhaps with no more than a question in hand.”1

For leaders to stand in this ambiguity, they must first be committed to rigorous self-examination. We have so often seen how a person who is thrust into a leadership position either becomes overwhelmed by its responsibilities and withdraws from the demands or assumes that along with the position comes the permission to act like a tyrant executive they saw on television.

How does a person begin the deep process of examining their leadership potential? It starts by looking inward and by developing one’s capacities to lead before acting outwardly.

Capacity for Leading

In InsideOUT, capacity refers to one’s potential or suitability to contain or to hold something. When we say that someone has leadership potential we are implying capacity. It’s as if we can see something inside the future leader that they have not yet recognized in themselves.

What do we sense when we say that someone has potential? We’re talking about the presence of forces that could evolve into actuality. You see, the word potential feels exciting, but it has no texture. It’s enticing but lacks specifics. It’s a tease to tell someone they have potential without giving them the keys to your insight.

In this book, I’ve attempted to describe those keys, those whiffs of future possibility, and the clues that led us to say that a person has leadership potential. When we look into that person’s future, we are seeing their latent capacities to lead.

But, we cannot have leading without following. We cannot have capacities for leading without related capacities for following. When we aim to develop and expand our leadership capacities, we are engaging in an ancient, and unspoken, agreement, between those who will lead and those who will follow. This means that people who aspire to lead are entering into a web of complex relationships that requires self-awareness, respect of other, and organizational savvy.

In my executive development practice, the most challenging situations I’ve seen are those in which management has promoted a successful individual contributor without an introduction to, a modeling of, and a coaching process for the required leadership capabilities. I’ve worked with many people who were already good at their profession or trade before they became leaders but are now thrust into a complicated role without adequate preparation. Most organizations seem to assume that the natural career progression for a person who has mastered a task is to place them in charge of others. This promotion certainly addresses employees’ expectations for periodic wage increases and career opportunities. Yet too many of those promoted are not prepared for their new supervisory job. In fact, it seems most organizations have little patience for insuring that these upwardly mobile employees are prepared for their new responsibilities.

As the authors of The Leadership Pipeline point out: “Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this transition is that first-time managers are responsible for getting work done through others rather than on their own.”2

Here then is the first breakdown in leadership development. As a society, we place a greater value on acquiring degrees or experience in business, technology, or science than we do on preparing people for leadership. We expect people to spend years acquiring an education and considerable experience in order to become a professional in their area of expertise. Yet, as a culture, we do not expect the same from a leader. If we are to correct this deficit, we must all learn how to make effective leaders.

By definition, leaders are those who relate in some way with other people. People are the substance of a leader’s work. No amount of education or experience in accounting or marketing, pharmacology or fluid dynamics will equip an individual for leading people. Leading is a social enterprise. So why don’t we expect our leaders to be thoroughly schooled in the social sciences—psychology, sociology, anthropology, or other humanities—before they receive their leadership assignments? We have CEOs leading major organizations employing thousands of people and answering to huge numbers of stakeholders and yet their primary qualification is expertise in the technical or operational “product” of the organization. Many examples come to mind: the tech wunderkind who leads a multi-billion dollar enterprise, or the scientist who becomes CEO of a large biotech business, or even the engineer who is at the helm of a multinational industrial manufacturing company.

Even without this extended and specific preparation for leadership, we still somehow manage to have some individuals who do a pretty good job directing their organizations. They guide their employees in an identified direction and clearly have the ability to direct their staff who contribute graciously to the endeavor. Their staff stretch themselves to deliver on their leader’s commitments while at the same time maintaining the high standards needed by those inside and outside the organization. These teams display a cooperative and collaborative spirit that not only results in the organization’s success but in the joy and fulfillment of individual team members.

What makes the difference between the leaders who are doing a pretty good job and those many who struggle to adapt to a leadership role? It seems like some have magic while others don’t.

What is this secret ingredient? What is this fundamental difference?

Leadership Capacities

Even though some of us strap various wings and other flight contraptions onto ourselves so we can fly through the air and feel nothing beneath our feet, we do not become birds. Likewise, assigning an employee to a leadership role, or even attaching leadership skills onto an employee, does not inherently make that person a leader. It’s necessary for those who would become skillful leaders to first possess these seven capacities.


  • Identity, the Capacity for Self-Mastery, equips the leader with self-management and self-direction and is at the core of a leader’s constellation of capacities. Each of the other leadership capacities grows out of self-mastery.
  • Insight, the Capacity for Connection, links the leader to others.
  • Integrity, the Capacity for Transparency, supplies the leader with impeccable social currency.
  • Inspiration, the Capacity for Innovation, fuels the leader to be a source of creation.
  • Intelligence, the Capacity for Perception, engages the leader in multiple ways of knowing.
  • Initiative, the Capacity for Action, infuses the leader with sustained energy.
  • Influence, the Capacity for Replication, assures that the leader generates successors.

The content in each capacity begins like a seed and then expands in volume and in characteristics.

Expanding Capacities

The following map charts the course for becoming an InsideOUT leader. Each leadership capacity will be explained in the following chapters along with a drawing of that capacity. You’ll use it to navigate through your development and to chart your progress. Notice how each capacity develops through five stages as it expands from the center outward. You’ll begin your explorations at the center, with Identity—Capacity for Self-Mastery. Then you’ll examine each of the other capacities in greater detail.

Individuals who seek to become leaders will undergo a transformation. Like the seed that a gardener plants in the soil, you will experience the first two stages of each capacity internally, entirely within your own consciousness and invisible to others. This process begins deep within your core and just like a germinating seed, the earliest work on a leadership capacity is a very private affair, but it’s definitely not a passive process.

Once the seed sprouts, as you’ll see in the third stage, growth occurs in direct response to the gardener’s diligent efforts to provide a healthy environment for the plant by amending the soil, removing weeds, providing plenty of sunshine and water, and keeping the pests away from the tender sprouts. Similarly, a new leader must cultivate each stage of their leadership development.

As you move outward on the map, you’ll come to stages four and five. And you’ll discover that what began as an internal effort to comprehend and to shape each capacity gradually becomes external and affects other team members within your organization and eventually within the communities you and your organization touch. Each stage of development within a capacity encompasses and transcends the attributes and capabilities of the previous stages in that capacity. In this way, each capacity develops exponentially.

1.big wheel

Additionally, as you deliberately attend to your personal and professional development within a specific capacity, every other capacity is simultaneously affected and evolves as well. In other words, as you’re awakening, all the other capacities for leadership become aroused. Development of one capacity stimulates the development in each of the other capacities, creating a “rising tide lifts all boats” effect. This parallel benefit occurs because you are focusing your attention and effort on self-improvement and on being responsible in your interactions.

At first, this process of becoming a leader might sound self-centered. In a way, it is because we expect our leaders to possess a centered self. However, becoming a leader is not only a very personal experience, it is also a deliberate social phenomenon. InsideOUT leaders are people on fire, and their influence is felt on their teams, in their organizations, in their marketplace, and into their communities. Just as the ship’s deck prism illuminated the crew’s quarters, InsideOUT leaders ensure that followers have an illuminated path.

Options for How to Read This Book

Here are some options for how you might want to read the following chapters so you can quickly gain the most from the material in a way that works best for you given your style, your current situation, and your immediate inclinations.

Option 1: You’re ready to dive in and you want to explore it all. Go for it.

Option 2: You don’t have time to read the entire book right now. You’re eager to check out the main premise and to view the architecture of the capacities. In that case, this chapter should be sufficient.

Option 3: You’ve allocated the time as long as the material fits you. We’ve identified some typical issues below to help you to determine which chapter might speak to your immediate concerns. In this way, you can triage your leadership challenges.

  • How can I maintain a steady course instead of feeling pulled in different directions and often away from what I really want to do? I like change and new challenges, but my career feels scattered and not grounded to something fundamental.
    • Start with Identity (page 15).
  • I’m struggling with the people. I like the position I have now, but I just don’t get why some members of my team act the way they do. In fact, I’m irritated at some of them and would prefer they resigned.
    • Read Insight (page 39), especially the later stages.
  • I get feedback that I’m too abrupt and bossy. Even though I’m the boss, I don’t want to expose my organization to negative media or a summons from lawyers because I mess up. What should I do? I’m tired of tiptoeing around.
    • After you read the chapter on Identity (page 15), check out Integrity (page 65).
  • How can I fire up the team and keep them excited about our work? Some days it’s difficult to maintain my energy, and it seems like some team members keep running out of gas.
    • Dive into the chapter on Inspiration (page 87), then go back to Identity (page 15), followed by Insight (page 39) and Influence (page 195).
  • I’m beginning to feel like I’m burning out. I’m good at what I do, but some days, I would just like to open up a small coffee shop and say good-bye to all the regulatory hassles and headaches in our industry.
    • Start at Identity (page 15), but then go to the chapter on Intelligence (page 127) to explore other ways of navigating your interests.
  • My time is never my own. I don’t know if I have a time-management problem or if I’m just in the wrong position. I feel pulled in a thousand directions. I’m constantly summoned by someone to do something or to go somewhere. How can I regain ownership of my days?
    • Begin with the chapter on Initiative (page 163). Then read Identity (page 15). After those two chapters just see what section appeals to you and dive in.
  • How can I keep the good ones? We’re not getting as many young recruits coming into our industry as we did just five years ago. We are also not retaining managers who want to stay and grow their own skill sets. It seems like all they care about is the highest paying position wherever they can find it.
    • Start with chapter 8, Influence (page 195), then read Identity (page 15).

Now it’s time for you to dive in and prepare to stretch yourself. Many years ago, a wise person told me that my life would take on the shape and texture of the people I would meet and the books I would read. My wish for you is that this book will remain a companion with you on your journey and will form some of the texture of your future leading.

Now it’s time for you to dive in and prepare to stretch yourself. Many years ago, a wise person told me that my life would take on the shape and texture of the people I would meet and the books I would read. My wish for you is that this book will remain a companion with you on your journey and will form some of the texture of your future leading.

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