The traditional view of leadership has been all about action and results. In other words, what leaders do gets all the attention. But we’ve found that the opposite is true. Successful leadership stems from who you are—from six individual qualities, or what we call “healthy roots”. It’s who you are that drives what you do, and ultimately, determines performance.
In today’s fast-changing, 24/7, global business world, understanding this different perspective on leadership is vital. That’s because many leaders today aren’t up to the job. They lack the healthy roots needed to meet all those disruptions and changes successfully. They simply aren’t sufficiently grounded.
What are the six roots of grounded leadership? They include:
1. Physical health. Leaders need stamina and resilience to meet the challenges they constantly face. And that requires having the physical wherewithal to keep going. What’s more, to be most effective, you need to understand the intricate intertwined relationship between mind and body, as well as develop your own long-term energy management system.
2. Emotional health. That requires optimism and the ability not to let upsets—or enthusiasms—get in your way. You need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and be able to bounce back from difficult circumstances.
3. Intellectual health. It entails a deep curiosity, an adaptive mindset that keeps you from getting stuck and an ability to analyze potentially contradictory information.
4. Social health. Strong personal connections form the foundation of every healthy organization. Without them, you can’t build trust or an overall commitment to goals. The most important element may be authenticity—having honesty and integrity in what you say and do. That also helps to build mutually beneficial relationships with everyone from customers to employees.
5. Vocational health. It involves tapping into a meaningful calling that reflects who you are and what you want to be. With vocational health, leaders can fulfill their highest potential through personal mastery, setting an example for others about the value of learning. It’s also vital for developing leadership potential in others. In fact, leaders without this healthy root have a harder time attracting and retaining talent.
6. Spiritual health. Healthy leaders serve a larger purpose, something that goes beyond meeting organizational goals. That’s important because it allows you to focus on bigger issues, avoiding more trivial matters, and to build a culture of trust.
Cultivating these roots lies in what we call the four channels of learning—seeing, thinking, feeling and acting. These are emotional and behavioral tools you already possess with which you can learn about yourself, those around you and your environment. Like the channels of a television or radio, each is a gateway to a larger, broader world.
How can you develop these channels? Let’s look at each one:
Seeing: This channel is about seeing yourself and others clearly and honestly.
Key steps: Removing the distortions from your perceptions requires both an internal and external reality check—looking within yourself and getting feedback from other people. Start by envisioning your ideal self and how close you come to it. At the same time, ask colleagues about how you are perceived. Then experiment with seeing yourself in a new light. And pay attention to the first thoughts that come to mind when you are asked a question. Do they betray an attitude—say, defensiveness or irritation—that you need to adjust?
Thinking: It involves having an open and curious mind—something that has a big impact on your ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, recognize new patterns and craft innovative solutions.
Key steps: Carve out time in your schedule for quiet reflection, but also engage in mental workouts, like puzzles or problems. Strengthen your ability to concentrate by gradually extending the amount of time you focus. At the same time, learn to brainstorm and use your imagination to solve problems.
Feeling: Of particular urgency is not allowing fear, anger, frustration or other negative emotions to affect your behavior and decisions.
Key steps: Face your fears—and talk about them. Also, practice saying, “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” more often. And try to understand the emotions of others.
Acting: It’s the expression of what you see, think and feel as revealed in your verbal and non-verbal communications, your decisions, and how you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis.
Ultimately, the healthier you are, the better you will perform. That is, these vital personal qualities have real bottom-line consequences. They allow leaders at any level of an organization to take the actions and make the decisions needed to succeed.