“Man is so made that if he is told often enough that he is a fool he believes it. By telling himself so often enough he convinces himself, because when he is alone he carries on an inner dialogue with himself which is important to keep under proper control.”
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Leadership integrity is about alignment. Integrity aligns what you know with who you are and what you do. When you lead at your best, the connection between the three aspects of your leadership conveys authenticity. Consistent alignment over time builds trust and credibility. It defines your character.
If you have ever taken your car in for an alignment check, then you know that time on the road can slowly take a toll. The daily grind of your responsibilities can have the same effect. Alignment takes work and a great deal of the work takes place on the inside. It requires self-leadership. In particular, you must be willing to monitor the inner dialogue that takes place every day. In order to sharpen your self-leadership you must be willing to overcome three challenges.
Challenge #1 – It’s easier to look around than to look within.
It’s impossible to predict how many messages will come your way this week. Suffice it to say, there will be more information than you can possibly process. Some of the messages are critical. Some of what comes your way will just be noise. The potential for distraction is greater than ever. The overwhelming volume of information can cloud your judgment. Beware the tendency to be so caught up with what is happening on the outside that you forget to pay attention to what’s happening on the inside. Anchor yourself with a few things that you know to be true. Without an intentional focus on your internal messaging you will lack the ability to check your alignment. It’s not easy to quiet yourself and turn inward. You may become so distracted by what you don’t know that what you do know loses potency. Without an internal alignment check up, your leadership will suffer.
Challenge #2 – It’s easier to think about the negative than the positive.
Don’t ask me why. It’s a frustration that I have witnessed in leaders at all levels and I have experienced it myself. The negative becomes amplified. The positive gets lost in the noise. The first step is to recognize how easily your mind can gravitate toward negative thoughts and stay there. It’s the proverbial rewind of thoughts that play over and over in your head. It’s imperative to take inventory of your thoughts and check them for validity. Negative thoughts about your identity or your worth can be especially damaging. Don’t allow the negative to define who you are. Reject what is false and dwell on what is true.
Challenge #3 – It’s easier to be busy than it is to be intentional.
When it comes to leadership, “doing” grabs the headlines. Most leaders are addicted to activity. Nobody gets paid a bonus for monitoring his or her thoughts. However, if you are serious about enriching your leadership legacy, you must invest in practices that will enhance your authenticity, credibility and trust. Execution is essential. But, busyness at the expense of self-leadership is detrimental. You don’t have to sacrifice metrics that measure performance to pay attention to your character development. Intentional movement requires perspective. Take a long view and look for meaning that is deeper than the normal flurry of activity this week. Remember, what you do is a prime indicator of what is most important to you.
Remember, integrity requires alignment of three aspects of your leadership: what you know, who you are, and what you do. Take time to look within, focus on the positive and become more intentional with your time. Before you lead others, learn to lead yourself.