While our growing interconnection enables many amazing opportunities for growth and enrichment, it also brings many risks and challenges that require us to think very differently about what we consider good leadership. Now, like never before, it really matters that we work on improving how we express leadership and how it manifests in our social, political, and financial institutions.
There is a growing need for us to ask ourselves new questions like: What sort of leadership is required to address the issues that extend beyond our own individual needs and experiences? What sort of leadership is needed when we think about ourselves as part of a whole system? Whether it involves tackling the desperate need for global organizations to address how we handle climate change and distribute natural resources, or how we create sustainable economic development that nurtures growth in trade and investment for all the world’s people, or even how we think about humanity’s actions extending beyond the physical boundaries of this planet as we continue to explore the wider universe, it is clear that a new relationship with leadership is required.
Over half the world’s population is now under the age of thirty, and 90% of those people live in developing countries. This fact alone means that we are forced to change our historical models of power, authority, and how we lead. It demonstrates the pace at which we will be required to readjust. In less than a generation, our world may be a very different place, and our current approach to leadership will most likely need to be very different as well.
So, while the coming generations will inherit many seemingly intractable problems of enormous scale and complexity, my hope lies with the increasing number of young people who want to make a real difference and create a different form of leadership. With all the challenges that global citizenship brings, there also have never been more opportunities to connect, cooperate, educate, and share ideas. There has never been a greater level of enthusiasm to interact and work together to create innovative solutions.
There is a strong and growing trend towards the importance of meaning and purpose in leadership. Many talented young people who typically become leaders and influencers want to do things that are meaningful. They want to contribute to something that is larger than themselves, create something that extends beyond their own personal gain. They want to feel like they are making a difference. And, of course, this is a need that is not just limited to emerging leaders. Professionally, since I work as a psychologist in the fields of leadership development and coaching, I have the privileged opportunity to support some incredibly talented and influential leaders in the corporate world. Many of them also crave a deeper sense of purpose in what they are doing.
Anyone interested in developing the capacity to lead needs to ponder, wrestle with, and come to a place of understanding about the three vital questions that Leading from the InsideOUT poses: Who am I? Why am I here? and Where am I going? These queries could be overlooked as being obvious or trite, but when placed in the context of taking up the mantle of leadership, they become profound. To have a meaningful sense of leadership identity, we must explore in detail who we think we are and why we think we are here. It cuts to the core of our beliefs about ourselves and our role in relation to others. Having leadership identity at the heart of the model demonstrates how important it is to continually work with these three questions, refining and developing our sense of identity as we grow and develop our capacity to truly become a leader.
The model for Leading from the InsideOUT describes seven capacities that serve as key factors for leadership development. In many texts on leadership development, the next step would be a series of tasks and guidelines for how you should do it. However, leadership doesn’t work very well as a recipe, and the inner leadership described in this book requires more from us. Leading from the InsideOUT is a refreshing change from the usual set of instructions. Instead, it provides an overview of each capacity and brings each section of the model to life with stories and case studies that urge the reader to reflect, to cultivate self-awareness, and to understand the impact their behaviour has on those around them. The result is an invitation to develop each capacity and a provocation to continue to work on oneself to express leadership from one’s deepest sense of self.
It’s often said that the Indo–European origin of the word leadership is leith, which means “to cross the threshold” or “to go forth and die.” While this does sound rather dramatic in today’s context, there is no doubt that anyone who has tried to take up the challenge of leadership will recognize that truly leading does require one to make a real and significant change. It demands that we cross a threshold and see ourselves differently. It requires discipline to work on oneself and create alignment between our inner and outer worlds. It requires us to engage in the adventure of taking a journey without certainty of the destination and to be secure in ourselves and in the values that guide us. In a sense, this does demand us to metaphorically “go forth and die.” We must take the older image or view of ourselves and work with it to birth a new identity, a new version from which we can engage differently with the challenges of leading.
I believe that everyone has potential for leadership, but many do not undertake the inner and outer work needed to develop the capacity to lead. This wonderful book provides a map to support people to begin and to pursue their leadership journey, to develop the knowledge, skills, and mind-set needed to take up the adventure of Leading from the InsideOUT.
–Dr. Andrew McDowell, Director, WYSE International, Senior Partner, TPC Leadership, April 2018, London, UK