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This Is Day One

Making Leadership a Daily Choice

Eight years-ago I weighed over 300 pounds, was going without treatment for my bipolar II disorder and had not yet acknowledged by alcohol addiction. Each of those challenges was multiplied by a toxic environment at work that had left me burnt-out, sick, and dangerously depressed. Certainly not the ideal situation for someone charged with running one of Canada’s most dynamic university leadership programs.

But then a social experiment focused on aligning personal values and behaviour emerged as part of the program. It has evolved into what I call “Day One Leadership”: an approach predicated on the reality that while you’re not always in control of what you have to do everyday, you’re always in control of who you are. Giving yourself evidence you’re exercising that control brings higher levels of self-worth and diminishes feelings of helplessness in your life—but few people have a plan to generate that evidence

When I finally entered recovery for my alcohol addiction I learned a key concept: if you don’t want to have a drink for the rest of your life, you must choose not to have a drink today. Then you must treat every day of the rest of your life as if it’s Day One of your recovery. That’s how you ensure you stay committed to any essential beneficial behaviour—by re-embracing the commitment, humility, and forgiveness inherent in each Day One.

When you determine the daily behaviours necessary to close the gap between the person you want to be and how you are actually behaving – you’ve determined what your Day One needs to look like. Those behaviours won’t be the only things you do each day, but they do need to be a non-negotiable part of each day.

In my new book, This is Day One: A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters, I lay out how to surface your personal leadership values and embed them into your life and work as non-negotiable daily behaviours. These behaviours are driven by carefully-created daily questions tied to your key values. Here are six you could put into action today (on Day One) that build better leaders and organizations:

· IMPACT – What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?

· COURAGE – What have a tried today that I thought might not work, but I tried it anyway?

· GROWTH – What did I do today to make it more likely someone would learn something?

· EMPOWERMENT – What have I done today to make it more likely someone else will reach a goal?

· CLASS – How did I elevate instead of escalate today?

· SELF-RESPECT What did I do today to be good to myself?

Tell yourself, “This is Day One” and embrace these six questions as a “leadership test” you must pass to earn your next “Day One” on this planet: three out of six must be answered each day. Making that commitment to my personal questions has helped me lose 100 pounds, effectively manage my mental health, maintain my sobriety, and build a successful business. More importantly, it’s given me reasons to feel satisfaction and happiness, even on days I fail.

Approaching each day as if it’s Day One – with a set of non-negotiable behaviours driven by the values you hope will define you–provides you with a roadmap through uncertainty: even if you don’t know what the future holds, you’re executing a daily strategy to be the type of person you want to be when it arrives. It provides you evidence that you do have control over who you are even on the days where everything beyond your control personally and professionally blows up in your face. It’s an approach that ensures you live up to the things you claim to stand for, and provide a source of strength in a world that can sometimes make you feel helpless.

You can order Drew’s book here.

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