The following is adapted from The Power of a Graceful Leader.
So you want to be a more graceful leader. But…why exactly?
This may seem like a silly question. Of course all leaders want to improve. If learning graceful leadership is a part of that, then why wouldn’t you want to go for it?
However, establishing your “why” may be more crucial than you think. Different why’s will lead you down different paths of action.
- “Because my boss said to do it” will take you down one road.
- “I want to be ready for my next position” will take you down another.
- “I want to be more fulfilled” will take you down yet another.
But which path is yours, and how can you find out? Here are a few ways to find your “why” so you can find your “how.”
Finding Your “Why”
Everyone has a different why, and everyone uncovers it in a different way. While true, that’s not very helpful, is it?
That’s exactly why I created my second gratitude journal, which is about aligning who you are and what you do. This is a crucial element to establishing your unique why.
The things you are grateful for are very telling, so gratitude can be a great path to your purpose. Having a gratitude practice takes you right into your heart center. By discovering what you are grateful for, you can craft a personal mission statement.
My why is to create safe spaces for souls to show up. It took me many years, with a lot of starts and stops, for me to uncover that why, but the path ultimately came through gratitude. I discovered through my gratitude practice that it’s very important to me to find groups of like-minded people chasing the same thing together.
When I can’t find a group like I need, I create my own. In this way, my why and how intertwine in perfect synchrony, one supporting the other.
Finding Your “How”
Once you unearth your why, you will feel a craving to figure out your how—what path to take.
Your how will be dependent upon your why. In my case, my job was to discover, “How can I create safe spaces? What does that look like to other people?” To do that, I started with a lot of learning. I did assessments. I hired coaches. I read a mountain of books. I participated in mastermind groups. I went to retreats. And I leaned on support groups of peers. With each new resource, I learned more and more.
Just as we each have our own unique why, we each have our own how. Your how is an intimate thing that you will weave together for yourself. Assessments, coaches, books, mastermind groups, retreats, and support groups offer different benefits. Personally, I found a combination of all of them to be most effective.
Some things will; some things won’t. You must find those psychologies and methodologies that speak to you and then personalize them so that you can attain a living, breathing expression of the teaching.
Ultimately, assessments are a way to understand yourself. They can give you the words that help you describe yourself and even reveal things you didn’t previously realize. Some of the assessments I’ve found helpful are StrengthsFinder, the Five Love Languages, 360-degree feedback, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Gene Keys, and even astrology and numerology. As an added benefit, many of these mentioned assessments have communities to help facilitate the learning and lead you to tribes of people on a similar path.
Coaching is about guiding. A coach is someone who is able to ask the right question, at the right time, in the right way. Coaches have a multitude of tools you don’t have, simply because this is what they do for a living. They help to lead you to the resources and experiences you need to progress. While a coach will guide you, you are the one who must ultimately do the work and follow through.
I have an extensive library. I have books on self-help, spirituality, performance, Six Sigma, process improvement, astrology, how to manifest your dreams, and so much more. I love books. They are the gateway to new worlds, new ways of thinking, and they allow us to challenge our belief systems in a safe and comfortable way. Books open up new possibilities, and who can’t use more possibility in their life?
As you learn about yourself with assessments, coaches, and books, you come up with a theory—a hypothesis about yourself and how you want to move yourself into the future. A lot of theories and ideas will sound great in your head, and then, when you speak life into them or try to put them into action or some kind of framework, they dissolve. Theories need to be tested. Support communities are a great place to do that. They give you a safe place to practice your theories, acting as a litmus test.
Retreats are an immersive experience—an incubator of rapid learning. A retreat could be a day, days, a week, or a month. The amount of time does not matter. There are also any number of retreats that focus on a variety of teachings. The defining feature is simply that you are there for a specific experience. If a retreat interests you, don’t be held back out of fear that you don’t know enough or won’t fit in with the other participants. Beginners and experts alike can benefit from the same retreat.
You may be drawn to some resources more than others. That’s okay. You do not need to have the same how as me. Instead, leverage the available resources in the way that makes sense with your why. Also, hang out with other people uncovering their why and how. It is one of the most inspiring and supportive places to be.
A Natural Path To Grace
In the book Find Your Why, Simon Sinek says, “If we want to feel an undying passion for our work, if we want to feel we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves, we all need to know our WHY.”
You will know when you’ve found your why through your intuition. It will simply feel right. It will leverage more of your strengths than weaknesses, and it will inspire you. Additionally, when you start to share it with others, it will feel right to them as well. There will be a resonance, an echoing that comes back, reinforcing that your why is true to you.
Once you find your own deep, inner why, your how will flow naturally from it. If your why is the energy, the how is the output of that energy. Once you identify both of these clearly, your path to graceful leadership will begin to emerge naturally.
For more advice on graceful leadership, you can find The Power of a Graceful Leader on Amazon.
Alexsys Thompson offers this body of work as a testament to her own leadership journey, as well as the journey of hundreds of other leaders. For Alexsys, the tipping point came when she established her gratitude practice and spent a decade refining it. Today, developing a gratitude practice is a key element of her work as a board-certified executive coach. Alexsys also serves as adjunct staff for The Center for Creative Leadership and is a member of the Forbes Coaching Council. She authored The Trybal Gratitude Journals, curated a collection of short stories called Gratitude 540, and is building a retreat center in Vermont that will be a “safe space for souls to show up.”