“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
In this series, my goal is to help guide those who want to be leaders with the skills necessary to become one and not just know what the traits are. Courage is a difficult trait to develop because there is so much personally at stake. Knowing yourself is an important part of developing courage. In the quote by Sun Tzu above, knowing yourself and knowing the enemy becomes a double entendre because sometimes they are the same.
Leadership is not a position but a disposition. It is a desire to develop others who will lead and who can share a vision of success for developing others. Those leaders you know or the leadership qualities you seek come from people who have taken the time to reflect and study who they are. Leadership is almost always measured at critical junctures. At that juncture, the successful leader already knew themselves well enough to know what was at stake for them and others to make the decision they did. They had to know their strengths, weaknesses, values, plans, desires and the cost to them personally for each decision they make. The knowledge of who they are, not who the world thinks they are, allows them to move forward having their vision, with all the risks and rewards, clearly in sight.
When you think about someone you respect as a leader, does the word confidence come to mind? It should because leaders have the confidence of conviction, knowledge and purpose. For every decision they make or principle they share, they have spent an enormous amount of time developing that thought and how it will impact others. Others is the point of leadership.
Have you taken the time to get to know who you are? Have you ever taken stock of what you believe, what you value the most? Are your principles more important than what others think of you or the risk to your career? Unless you take the time to know yourself, how will you be able to lead others? Without knowing who you are, how can you develop and grow? What are principles and what are yours? Is this about you or those you lead? What is worth fighting for and why? Do you really believe what you say you do? Are you willing to pay the cost? How do you know?
Some people are uncomfortable knowing the truth. You will need to talk to others. This should include peers, mentors and subordinates. Most importantly, you need to talk to yourself. Have you spent time with yourself? Quiet reflection on you, your motivations, values and the things you know or believe will guide your continued development. People are often afraid of the quiet because they must look at who they really are, their vulnerabilities, doubts and insecurities. They will need to reflect on their failures, where they came from and where they want to go. If you want to lead you must know yourself to know the enemy.
Where you find yourself lacking, spend time developing yourself by reading, listening to those who have what you seek and honing your values and convictions. Developing the courage to lead means having the courage to know the real you. It is only after being knowledgeable and comfortable with you, that you can lead others. We need good leaders and we need you to fill that need. It is time for you to find out who you are so you can help others be the best they can.
You can read Chief Barfield’s first article in this “Creating Courage” Series here.