My Grade 11 daughter completed a comprehensive batch of tests this week, to guide her to choose a career that matches her aptitude, interests, personality and values. She is fortunate that at the young age of 16, she has greater self-awareness than some of the established business owners and executives I meet. In other words, she’s found her “True North.”
In my business and executive coaching programmes, I often recommend that people who are trying to find themselves on their leadership journey read Bill George’s book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership.
Authenticity is one of the keys to success in business. Your True North is the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It represents who you are as a human being at the deepest level. It is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life.
When you follow your internal compass, your leadership will be authentic, and people will naturally want to associate with you.
Bill George spoke to 125 leaders about their life stories and the challenges they had and the passion that developed to drive them forward. For example, Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, watched his father lose his job as a delivery driver because he broke his ankle. Schultz built a company that treated employees well, with solid health benefits.
Therefore, to become a great leader, you need to think about your life story. What is your driver, and where does it come from? Many great leaders experience a “crucible” – a signal event or challenging situation in their lives that set them on a clear path of purpose.
Leadership is not about appearance or style, it’s about the person inside. Developing yourself is like developing your potential as an athlete. We are born with gifts. However, we need to develop them.
The keys to developing your internal compass:
This is the foundation of developing your emotional intelligence. Without knowing yourself and who you truly are, it is difficult to know to what extent you are motivated by external symbols of success versus deeper accomplishments beyond your own benefit. You need to get feedback from colleagues, friends and family, and you need to make time for introspection. Leadership is a long journey into your soul.
Values and principles:
Only you can determine your values, and you will only know your values for certain when you are tested under pressure in life and are faced with making a decision between conflicting values. Until then, our values are just words and honourable intentions.
There is no such thing as having the perfect balance in life. What you need to strive for is to be the same person at work, home and in the community. You need to settle on the “you” that is the “authentic you” and stop adapting your behaviour in different environments.
Leadership can be lonely, and it is key to determine who we have around to support us. We all need someone in our life that we can be totally open and honest with, and who can give us honest feedback. For instance, a spouse, a mentor, a coach. Your support team helps keep you grounded.
Although reluctant to admit it, many leaders are motivated to achieve success by extrinsic motivators. They enjoy the feeling of success and status that comes with promotion and financial rewards. The key is not to reject extrinsic motivators such as money or fame or influence, but rather to balance these with deeper, internal goals. Intrinsic motivators are derived from within, from your sense of life, your True North.
Perhaps it is time to stop following the clock, and follow your compass. You don’t have to get to a certain point in your life by a certain time to be successful. Remember, by heading in the right direction and staying true to yourself, you are already a success.