Have you ever worked for a leader who lacked integrity or was so tempted by greed, fame, or power that they either self-destructed…or worse, they took down an organization? I know I have. One of the strengths many introverts and other successful quiet leaders have is the strength of observation and discernment. You can see this type of situation forming and you notice the signs, especially in those in your immediate environment.
Studies show that the dopamine reward network is more active in the brains of extroverts than in the brains of introverts.
And yet everyone wants to be successful, so how do you ensure you aren’t pulled into the vortex or seduced by similar trappings of greed, fame, and power?
How do you make sure you lead to make a positive difference?
Staying committed to this compass ultimately leads to success with your reputation intact.
In order to lead authentically it is vital to understand who we are as leaders, why we are choosing to lead, and what our unique calling is.
Identifying who you are and what you want to be known for is key to having a leadership career that is based on your values as well as aligned with what is important to you.
What do you want to accomplish? What are your underlying principles and how do you stay on track? It’s not uncommon to see leaders go off-course – sometimes with disastrous consequences.
Read the news on any day of the week and you can find the headlines and stories about leaders who were tempted by greed, fame, and power.
Chances are high that they experienced cognitive dissonance along the way. What is cognitive dissonance?
Cognitive Dissonance is a term that describes a stressful condition caused by conflicting ideals, values, beliefs, or practices. Any situation where two or more opposing thoughts are causing you psychological discomfort.
People are generally motivated to maintain the harmony between beliefs and practices. When faced with an internal conflict of those ideas, our natural reaction is to try to reduce or eliminate it to prevent emotional discomfort.
There are basically three ways to reduce this stress if you decide not to remove yourself from the situation.
You can either change your attitude or belief (buy into the situation and align with it), acquire new information (try to dilute the potency of the conflict), or reduce the importance of the conflicting ideas (also known as justification).
I have seen many leaders derailed by failing to take a step back in order to identify their core values along with their own sense of true purpose and integrity. This is always a slippery slope.
While most people strive for success, it’s imperative to define success for yourself. Does your personal definition of success correlate with the definition of success in the environment where you are choosing to pursue it? Where do you work? What do you see happening around you?
Creating short-term shareholder value may provide power, fame, and fortune at the expense of long term sustainability.
Some leaders get caught up in measuring themselves by the net worth of their company and the net worth of themselves. They lose sight of how unsustainable results came to be. They later get snared by trying to maintain something that was destined to fail. They make poor decisions and take desperate measures that ultimately bring them down.
How do you ensure that you remain principle-centered and successful while avoiding these temptations and pitfalls?
First you must define your “why”. Why are you leading? Know this completely in order to stay grounded in why you do what you do. If you lead purely for financial gain, you may find yourself at risk here. Take some time to identify your “why”.
Second, surround yourself with a quality team of support who are willing to be honest with you no matter what.
These people care about you. These are not people who will just tell you what they think you want to hear. These are not people who will foster illusions or perpetuate an echo chamber for you to delude yourself from the reality and the impact of all your actions. These are people who will help you stay grounded and clear in core principles.
Ask yourself on a regular basis if you are aligned with your “true north” or your highest self. What is your legacy? How are you treating people? Are you achieving your results in a respectable and honorable way? Are you making a positive difference? Is it possible to achieve success where you are in an ethical manner? Can you make a positive difference?
If not, when and how will you exit? The sooner, the better. Most people who find themselves in trouble in business and organizations in our society know they need to make a change, but they don’t.
Be aware of corporate cultures and pay attention to what is happening around you.
The writing is usually on the wall from very early on. Listen to your instincts and choose wisely along the way. Your reputation, longevity, and success ultimately depend on it. If you find yourself off-track, pause, reflect, and course-correct. You’ll be glad you did.
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