So many stories of leaders losing it all have to do with personal integrity. Senior leaders at executive levels have incredibly high expectations placed on them and also access to the kinds of resources you need to level up your performance when results start slipping. But when who you say you are is exposed as being not so true in certain areas of your life, it’s really difficult for leaders to maintain the credibility needed to lead at a high level. Leaders will rarely get fired for a one time drop in performance, but leaders will often get fired for a single revelation related to personal integrity. As much as leadership development is focused on skill and effectiveness, you as a leader also need to pay attention to your inner self. Leading others at the expense of leading yourself well will always end in disaster. Let’s look at how we can be intentional as a leader in every area of our life using a tool we call Circles of Influence.
Circles of influence is essentially the concept that how you show up in different areas of your life requires the same level of intentionality. Leaders who pay attention only to leading their team while neglecting how they are leading their family will end up with a successful business but a much more difficult reality in their marriage and with their kids, relationships which matter so much more than any organizational success. Taking time to reflect on your level of intentionality in each circle of influence will allow you to recognize where you are succeeding and where you have some work to do, clarify where you need to take some action, and with the help of a coach or mentor you can create a plan to move forward. Remember the goal is integrity – wholeness – across every circle of influence. Who we say we are publicly matches who we are privately. The way people speak about our influence in one circle matches the way people experience our leadership in another.
To help understand this concept, imagine the circles of influence through this diagram:
It’s important to start by asking the question, “How am I leading myself?” Senior leaders can often neglect self-leadership, to the detriment of every other area of their life. Leading yourself first is crucial before you can be the most effective at leading others. Again, if you are an A+ liberating leader for your team and organization but failing miserably with your family and leading yourself, the cost is your personal integrity. If you don’t pay attention to the gap, it will grow increasingly wider and the chasm between who you want to be, who you say you are, and who you actually are will lead to a disintegration of your whole life. Integrity is the goal, disintegration is the unfortunate outcome when you lack intentionality in every circle of influence.
Using the language of support/challenge from the previous tool, consider each circle of influence from this diagram. Take a moment and go over again what kind of leader you tend to be for each circle: liberating, insulating, dominating, abdicating. Begin at the centre of the circles and work your way outward. If it’s helpful, write or colour-code the different circles of influence to match your current reality. For example, if I dominate myself, abdicate in my family, dominate my team, insulate my organization, and liberate my community, the diagram might look like this:
Seeing your level of integrity across each circle of influence in your life, reflect and consider what you are observing.
- What’s on your mind as you see your life represented this way?
- Have you been intentional about developing this kind of leadership within these different circles of influence?
- Where have you been accidental in allowing your tendencies to take over?
- Where do you need to make adjustments for the sake of the people you lead in one specific circle of influence?
As a takeaway for personal reflection, imagine your life represented by these circles of influence and the entire diagram is coloured green to represent liberating leadership:
- What would your life look like if this is how you led yourself, your family, your team, your organization, and your community?
- What would people say about you if they experienced this kind of integrated leadership in every area of your life?
- Begin to consider the impact you would have on those around you if you brought this level of intentionality to every circle of influence in your life.