The fundamental challenge in developing leaders, whether you are developing yourself as a leader or developing others as leaders is that there are so many perspectives and opinions on what a leader actually is and what they actually do. Some perspectives proclaim that leaders should have this quality or that quality, or that great leaders always do this or never do that. And these perspectives and opinions are usually offered with a numbered list of all it takes to be a leader. All you have to do is do these three things or these seven things. Or say these words or just use this body language and as if by magic, you are now a leader.
Although all these perspectives on leadership may seem quite different, all leadership development programs share a common perspective, and that common perspective is that leadership is an object, a thing, that can be obtained and possessed. The reality is, however, that developing leaders, whether you are a leader or follower, and we are all leaders and followers, is fundamentally about one quality. But a lot of people find really challenging to work with this particular quality and so they try to avoid engaging with it or simply attempt to ignore it and just leave its potential lying dormant.
Engaging with this one quality is also usually avoided by most other leadership programs and initiatives, which work from the outside-in by prescribing an idealised set of qualities that every leader should possess. The one quality, however, that really matters to a leader, the one quality that every great leader possesses, is an understanding of their inner power and how to work with it as it dynamically flows across the boundaries between their inner and outer worlds. Rather than engaging with these boundaries and the powerful tensions that will invariably be encountered along them, it can sometimes seem far easier to disconnect from your inner power and simply wait for others to give you power, to empower you, usually in the form of some awarded level of status.
To connect with your inner power and work with it most effectively, however, you really need to take an inside-out approach rather than a prescriptive outside-in perspective. Outside-in leadership perspectives often confuse power with control and often conflate them as if they were the same quality but power and control are quite different. In the work that I do with you, I define power as ‘the capacity to fulfil a need’, whereas control is defined as ‘the ability to decide an outcome’. Instead of connecting with their sense of inner power, many would-be leaders spend most of their time attempting to control situations by trying to maximise certainty through micromanaging outcomes.
The fundamental value in connecting with your inner power is that understanding needs and how to fulfill them gives you the capacity to work in unknown and unfamiliar areas where the outcome is not so certain, where all the big opportunities are, and where the greatest potential is for creating lasting value. By developing a healthy and free-flowing connection to your sense of inner power, you can consistently use it to purposefully navigate unknown and unfamiliar challenges. And as you do so, you often realise that what you’re actually doing is connecting your followers with their own sense of inner power. And that is how great leaders develop, as an individual who can empower others by connecting them to their own sense of inner power.