I was recently in a coaching conversation with an incredibly, talented leader in the Asia Pacific region. During the course of our conversation, I asked what factors had contributed to her 16-year career success at Cisco. Her responses were at the front and center of why anyone should choose to be a leader:
Meaningful Growth is When We Grow Together
“…It isn’t enough if I just think of myself and my own growth. My desire has never been to just grow myself. I’ve always been intentional about growing together…”
This should be one of the most obvious motives to earn the privilege of leading but I still come across leaders who lead because of the power of title. Because of societal or cultural pressure. Because of belief systems that endorse the title of “leader” in a business card. Because any other would just not be good enough.
I cannot do everything by myself
“…I am not afraid of teaching everyone, everything I know. From my team members to my peers to all the stakeholders in my career. Because I cannot do everything by myself…”
What really moved me was her courage and purpose. She saw leadership as a world of mutual obligations and responsibilities and the initiative began with her. She became a role model, teacher, and steward of this culture change. What a courageous way of leading! Instead of living in the shadow of insecurity and adopting a scarcity mindset, she was choosing to lead with an abundance mindset.
Shared Understanding of Excellence
“…When team members are culturally fit and they’re willing to grow with the team, I will find ways to empower them. If they’re NOT a great fit and don’t have the shared understanding of excellence, they need to find someplace else where they could thrive and succeed…”
Setting clear expectations on what’s acceptable and what’s completely non-negotiable, she had been able to hone and develop great talent around her.
Leadership of Being vs. Doing
Our discussion reminded me of leadership sessions I have facilitated over the years. Many leadership skills can be taught and developed. Through role-modeling, immersive experience, coaching, observation, and training. Fluency comes from practice. And while practice may not make you perfect (because this is leadership), it definitely helps create permanence, as my leader often reiterates. This is a continuum. Some are already there and looking to sustain those skills. For some others, it is work in progress.
Leadership of Being, on the other hand, quite simply is. It is either present. Or it isn’t. There is no grey here. Your being informs the doing. It is the guiding principle to the congruence of thought, speech, action, and reflection. And no, it doesn’t automatically translate to a symphony of perfections. It doesn’t exclude human frailties or inconsistencies. Instead, it comes from a place of mindfulness, courage, and willingness to confront, discover, and examine the truths for what they are.
Anitha Aswath is an HR Consultant and Strengths Coach of Leader Success in the Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area at Cisco. She has the unique privilege of meeting Cisco clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of their teams.