As a leader, you can and should expect to be questioned, not just on the decisions you are making and why you are making them, but also on your very character. If you don’t want to be blindsided by someone else’s opinions, then you must take the time to analyze, and yes, question, your own character. The only way I know how to do that is through genuine introspection.
Introspection plays a vital role in being an outstanding and deeply authentic leader, because we can not be great leaders without high levels of emotional intelligence. However, real EQ is a result of self-knowledge first. The challenge is that too few leaders take the time to be introspective and too few bother to ask themselves the sometimes uncomfortable and revealing questions that will allow them to actually know their own "truth.”
We live in a highly-reflective world, meaning that it's very easy to see yourself in the images and ideas of others. It takes sincere courage to stop, be alone and ask yourself the questions that will likely make you uncomfortable. However, authentic and influential leaders are the ones who have taken the time to get to know themselves.
Authentic leaders believe in their own power to achieve their dreams, because they know which dreams are their own and which are societally (or otherwise) imposed. They know who they are and what they believe and just as important know that nothing, including their beliefs, is permanent.
They know these things because the authentic leader is an evolving leader, a growing human being and a self-questioning individual. So what are the top 11 questions authentic, self-aware leaders ask themselves?
Before you jump in, I have to extend a warning. If you take the time to answer these questions honestly and deeply, your life and your leadership will change. Only read on if you truly want to become an authentic and influential leader. You’ve been warned!
1. Who are you without your accolades?
When you identify yourself and others by job, title or achievements, it’s all well and good when you are at the top. But when those externals are removed, it can really suck the air out of your lungs and leave you feeling worthless. So who are you, really?
2. What matters most to you?
If you don’t answer this question honestly, you are in grave danger of falling from grace when you hit a “fumble point,” that moment where a leader is under a great amount of pressure to do something that internally feels wrong. If you don’t know what truly matters most, you will “fumble” with your truth. Such a “fumble” has been the downfall of many a great leader.
3. What would you fight for with your dying breath?
As you go deeper, you realize these questions build on each other. When we know who we are without the accolades, when we know what truly matters most, then we realize that a lot of what we seem to have been fighting for is irrelevant. However, it also reveals what is truly worth fighting for -- and what we would truly want to fight for.
4. What would be the hardest thing (physical) for you to give up?
Leadership comes with pressure. Pressure brings stress, and with that comes the need to relieve some of that stress. All too often we look externally for stress relievers. However, most stress relievers are quick fixes (alcohol, drugs, excessive exercise, spending, etc.) that have a high long-term cost, including addiction.
5. What is it that you use to fervently believe that you now see was completely misguided?
The emotionally intelligent leader is an evolving leader. To recognize what it is that we used to believe and now see as misguided gives us a rare form of objectivity about what we presently believe.
6. In the quiet moments, who or what do you secretly blame for your struggles or failures?
This is a tricky question because we all know the right answer is to say “I am responsible for my own life.” However, this question is about what we “secretly” feel and believe. Answering this question honestly -- and without self-judgment -- allows us to see what we may still need to clear to continue evolving as a leader.
7. If you died tomorrow what would those who didn't like you say about you?
This question helps us stay aware of our unconscious emotional drivers. Often, as strong and together as we can seem, we still have an unconscious fear-based driver behind our actions. This question allows that unconscious driver to surface into our conscious awareness.
8. What painful situation are you now most grateful for?
The emotionally intelligent leader understands and embraces the belief that nothing has any meaning beyond the meaning we give it. Answering this question can create both a healthy reframing of a situation and the certainty that you are in charge of your own life and your response to it.
9. If you died tomorrow what would you want your legacy to be?
It’s easy for anyone in a leadership position to become focused on outcomes achieved and goals met. The highly emotionally intelligent leader realizes that what really matters is more about the difference we have made than the tick marks on a list of accomplishments. By answering this question we make sure that our goals are aligned with who we are at the core of our being.
10. Is that presently your legacy?
To paraphrase the great leader, Yoda, “Yes or no. There is no maybe.”
11. If not, what are you going to do about it within the next 24 hours?
If yes, then what evidence is there of your legacy? What evidence is there that this is your legacy? How would others recognize this as your legacy? If, no, then what you will do about it in the next 24 hours will hold you as an emotionally intelligent leader accountable for your actions.
To be an authentic leader requires high levels of emotional intelligence, and that takes the courage to ask yourself the tough questions. Stay curious, my friends.
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