Strengths and The Inner Game of Leadership

My coaching practice focuses on ‘who you are as a leader’ vs ‘what you do as a leader’. There are many talented consultants, workshops and webcasts that are completely focused on ‘what you do as a leader’ – focused on the bottom line.

In my 16 years of coaching leaders I’ve found that, while you may be great at the bottom line, often you may end up feeling empty or restless or hungry for more. At the heart of the matter, most successful leaders like yourself have a desire to inspire others and to seek meaning and purpose in your work and your relationships. Where do you turn to find such direction or answers?

If this feels like you, congratulations! You have realized the initial step – recognizing that you want more for yourself and your leadership. Now what? Over the next few weeks I will be taking a look at the Inner Game of Leadership and the role strengths intelligence plays in sharpening your Inner Game.

You cannot master the outer game of leadership without inner proficiencies. Click To Tweet

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The most challenging part of growing brilliant leaders who will thrive in 21st century business is coaching the inner game of leadership. To lead effectively, today’s leaders must adapt to rapidly changing demands, continually growing character strengths that bolster their functional capacities.

All successful, effective leaders learn to master the C-suite competencies:
Setting strategic direction
Communicating an inspiring mission
Understanding financial data
Planning and coordinating resources
Ensuring that processes, systems and people achieve results

While most leadership development efforts focus on these responsibilities, they are ultimately insufficient. Great leaders must address the inner game of leadership. As a leader, who are you?

In my coaching practice I often find that leaders, directed through feedback and performance reviews, tend toward the more technical competencies – mentioning things like finances, strategy, or processes rather than any “soft skills.”


What Is the Inner Game?

The inner game consists of character traits like honesty, passion, vision, risk-taking, compassion, courage, authenticity, collaboration, self-awareness, humility, intuition and wisdom. This lengthy list may seem like a tall order for training and development, but the inner game of leadership consists of the core values for authentic leadership.

The “inner game” concept became popular 15 to 20 years ago. Sports coach and consultant Tim Gallwey coined the term in The Inner Game of Golf, The Inner Game of Tennis and The Inner Game of Work. His ideas have proved to be timeless.


Reflection and Inner Exploring Required

The results that you produce in the outer world are driven by what goes on in your inner world – your head. The mental models you create for yourself are based on your own limited experiences, often-erroneous beliefs and even fears. We don’t know what we don’t know, so it is hard to think beyond the boundaries of our current realities or current culture.

When you learn to broaden your thinking by improving your inner game, you transform your behaviors and the exponentially expanded results you are able to achieve. Knowing your strengths and developing your strengths intelligence significantly assures these results.

A fear of failure, for example, interferes with your ability to take risks. You may wait until you have enough data to assure certainty. But in today’s business world, waiting for certainty may mean missing the boat. When you avoid risk and play it too safe, you fall victim to missed opportunities. What strengths do you have that you can apply to these fears or mitigate your weaknesses?

Effective leaders come to know themselves deeply. Knowing yourself and others allows you to lean into confident vulnerability when weighing the risks and deciding when to act, despite ambiguity and uncertainty. Your level of self-awareness allows you to master the inner and outer worlds.

You cannot master the outer game of leadership without inner proficiencies. The inner game has more to do with character, strengths, values, courage and conviction than with competencies. It is the ability to know what needs to be deployed and when you need to act when situations are complex, volatile and ambiguous.

This is the “right stuff” of leadership:
Self-knowledge (strengths)
Social intelligence
Solid grounding in personal values

How secure is your inner game? Are you actively engaged in a process to deeply know yourself? Have you engaged a coach to help you identify and develop your character strengths? I would love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.


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