Your way of being as a leader

What defines your way of being as a leader? What do you bring when you show up and let yourself be truly seen? What openings does it create around you?

Steffan Surdek
June 2, 2013
Your way of being

I have this story that I carry along with me about being an achiever type person that very much knows how to DO but does not know how to BE. The concept of having a “way of being” felt like something that was way of reach to me until very recently.

I went to Toronto this week and gave a talk about how I look at Agile software development teams through the lens of Tribal Leadership. The challenge of this talk is that I am essentially giving team leaders a way of labeling people on their teams. Despite my best efforts to manage this, participants often come tell me after the talk about people on their teams that are really “Stage Three” or really “Stage Two”.

This week was no different, between the sessions I gave, I had the most amazing conversation with two attendees of my talk. They started by telling me how much they enjoyed the talk and how it fed their lunchtime conversation and how they started analyzing members of their team through this lens.

The conversation took an interesting turn when I asked one of them what he was planning to do with this new information. It is all nice and dandy to try to identify the stages of people on your team but the real question is: As a leader, how will you help your team move to a different stage now that you know what you think you know?

We spoke about the distinction between leadership and management and how it is through your actions that your team decides you are worthy of leadership. We also discussed how giving someone permission also implies the right to revoke that permission. We decided that it is your way of being as a leader that drives how long you remain one of the leaders.

Through this conversation, I had a very important breakthrough: I actually have a way of being, at least as a leader and I may actually know more about this stuff than my story led me to believe.

I lead from a deceivingly simple principle: Doing the right things for the right reasons. Sometimes, doing the right thing, even for the best of reasons is one of the hardest things you will ever do. The beautiful thing about using this principle is the space it creates because anyone can challenge me on my decisions decision if it is not the right thing or if my reasons suck. That principle along with everything else it implies, guides my way of being as a leader and it helps clarify the reason behind my actions. I am constantly aware of this principle in back of my head.

This led me to wonder if our “way of being”…

  • … is simply becoming aware and bringing mindfulness to who we are, how we act and what we do?
  • … is also about our intent and purpose?
  • … is also about how we live our lives deeply rooted in our values?
  • … is simply being who we really truly are and bringing a certain level of self-love, compassion and understanding to it all?

The other distinction I would make is the one I made in the title of this post. There is a key difference for me between “Your way of being a leader” and “Your way of being as a leader”.

When you give someone “your way of being a leader”, you are providing them with recipes and shortcuts. This is akin to giving them a list of things they should do that could potentially make them a leader but reality is they may not be there yet or may think they are but their team does not feel the same way.

On the flip side, when you talk to someone about “your way of being as a leader”, you are talking about how you actually embody that role. These are the things at your core (values, actions, behaviors, noble cause) that created the opening for the team to decide to give you the permission to lead them.

To wrap up my story, my quest these last few months was to discover how to be… What did that mean exactly to BE? This was really a great mystery to me and it turns out I had the answer right there in front of me all along. I started noticing in the last few months different aspects of my way of being when I actually show up fully present for others. The quality of the connection to others as well as the richness and depth of the conversations that started becoming more available to me and the other person. The other aspect I noticed is how my way of being calms and inspires the people surrounding me.

What defines your way of being as a leader? What do you bring when you show up and let yourself be truly seen? What openings does it create around you?