Radical self-inquiry is how we learn to become more of ourselves, more like ourselves, more authentic. More human. And better humans are better leaders.
This is what great leaders do. Great leaders look unflinchingly in the mirror and transform untamed hungers and unruly compulsions into moments of self-compassion and understanding. In doing so, they create the spaces for each of us to do the same, turning our organizations into places of growth and self-actualization. They infuse the profanity of work with the sacred duty of work: the opportunities to lead, to grow into their whole selves while nurturing others, encouraging them to do the same.
There are no concrete steps to becoming a great leader but here is how to start:
1. Asking yourself the hard questions.
The first step toward becoming a leader is learning to lead yourself. We are so accustomed to searching for people or things to blame for the way that we feel. We are not so accustomed to looking inward. Few of us ever stop to wonder why we feel the way that we do and where those feelings really stem from.
The point of looking inward is not to put blame or shame upon ourselves. It’s simpler than that. Looking inward allows us to understand why we feel the way that we do. It’s much easier to believe that life happens to us instead of believing that we have control over our lives.
We may not have absolute control over everything that happens, but we do have total control over how we react to those things. We can look inward and understand why we react the way we do, and then we can choose to act differently (or not).
2. Being okay with not having all of the right answers.
The second step toward becoming a leader is comprehending that it’s okay to not have the answers.
In fact, there are no given answers. Many of my clients ask me to give them some kind of tactical strategy for solving problems. They want quick and tangible answers to figuring out how to lead, but those solutions do not exist. A strategy for always having the right answer does not exist and it doesn’t have to.
3. Stop listening to what society tells you.
Society teaches us to act and think a certain way, to follow a specific ideal. We believe that if we can fit this mold, we will become successful. We do this while pushing away our own authenticity. We forget who we are and what governs us and trade it for an imagined stereotype.
Great leaders go back to the drawing board. They sit back with the knowledge that they have strengths to bring to the table. They remember that they have morals, values, and steady core beliefs that are worth more than a contrived image of what successful leadership is supposed to look like.
These leaders remember that they have self-worth and that worth is not tied to having all the answers and solving all the problems. Knowing yourself means having the courage to draw on personal strengths despite expectations. The steps toward becoming a leader are never-ending because we are always evolving, always growing, always learning.
But none of that can happen without radical self-inquiry. In my book,Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up, I reveal why self-inquiry is critical to professional success and healthy relationships in all realms of life. Leaders must be willing to turn inward, to determine where decisions and emotions stem from, and to recognize the control that they have over actions and reactions. They must also be willing to let go of the notion that there is one way to lead. The only true way to lead is from within.
Originally published on Quora.