“In the event of cabin decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head and breathe normally. If you are travelling with a child or someone who needs assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.”

If you are like me, I suspect that you have heard this announcement so many times that you barely give it a second thought. Last week though I was struck by how it is a brilliant metaphor for one of my core leadership principles.

Leadership is about others, but it starts with us.

I believe that great leadership must begin with an understanding of its fundamental principles. The alternative is the overly familiar leadership by numbers approach where we follow a four-step model or a six-steps-to-success-formula, with limited success.

When we fully understand the fundamental principles of leadership however, we can apply them in any manner of ways that feel natural and congruent for us.

Leadership is about others, but it starts with us.

This principle is multi-faceted, but for now I’ll focus on just one aspect. If we are to truly be of service to our customers, those we have the privilege to lead and to our organisation then we must invest sufficient time to work on ourselves. This is not just about business focussed learning though; it also includes our physical, mental and emotional well being.

Over the last five years I have developed the Personal Leadership Success System that has been a genuine game-changer for many of my leadership mentoring clients, and myself. This system has created transformational changes in terms of balance, energy, focus and effectiveness to name just a few of the benefits.

Part of this system is an annual process of reviewing my core values and getting clear on how they will guide my actions in real terms. Having gained clarity on my core values I then develop a set of Guiding Principles; what my friends, family, colleagues and clients can expect from me, as I live my values, on a day-to-day basis.

Having studied many of the most successful people (looking at the broadest definition of success) in different arenas, I have found that they share a number of common traits. One of these commonalities is some form of journaling or regular personal reflection. It is also clear that all great leaders are very self-aware.

But why does this matter?

Because better awareness leads to better behaviours, which leads to better relationships, which leads to better decisions and outcomes.

Integrity, Growth & Development

In order to truly be of service and provide some transformational leadership insights, I’m going to share two of my core values and guiding principles.

Integrity and Growth & Development are amongst my six personal values. Reviewing these in December last year lead to the creation of one of my ten Guiding Principles;

It is not enough to practice what I preach. I will always strive to ensure that I am living what I preach.

Anything less than this would be dishonest and incongruent. What’s more, I would be cheating those that I have the privilege to lead, coach and mentor.

But this isn’t just a principle for me; I encourage you to reflect on it deeply too.

We know from Kouzes and Posner’s 30 plus years of research that the number one thing that people look for in an admired leader is honesty. We also know that honesty is not just about whether we tell the truth and do not tell lies – this should be a given.

Honesty is also about congruence. Do your actions match your words, or to put it another way…do you live what you preach?

As you go through this week I encourage you with great respect to reflect deeply on the following questions:

  • Do you tell your team to look after themselves whilst failing to eat well and get sufficient exercise yourself?
  • Do you tell people to go home and sit at your desk until 7pm?
  • Do you tell your team to switch off over the weekend and send them emails on a Sunday afternoon?
  • Do you tell people to not look at their emails on holiday but respond to theirs whilst lying on a sun-lounger?

Is the actual message you are giving one of do as I say, not as I do?

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