They say that you you have to hear something a certain number of times before it sinks in.

Well, I have a note in my phone that I keep with writing ideas, so that if inspiration hits and I’m not able to write at that moment, I keep the idea…and vice versa, if I sit down to write and am not inspired, I have a place to look.

A few months ago, I added “who you are is how you lead” to that note in my phone. I’ll give the first hat tip to Bren√© Brown, for that inspiration from the Dare to Lead course I took in May. Recently, I’ve been listening to Sonya Renee Taylor, and she echoed this sentiment.

Let me explain where my note came from.

I’m trained as a personal coach. In 2014, when I pursued coach training, I had intentions of doing one-on-one work with individuals. I still love doing that work, and somewhere along the way, I realized that my 20 years of experience in Corporate America, could help me work to change the face of leadership in companies.

For years, I knew that behind closed doors, the conversations I had with individuals who hired me privately and the conversations I had with leaders whose company hired me to work with them, were largely similar. We cannot address the professional without addressing the personal.

Who you are is how you lead has come to me a few times. The book Reboot, by Jerry Colonna, is one of my favorite coaching books. The author (who is known as the CEO whisperer in Silicon Valley) truly bridges the personal and the professional. I was an instant fan.

Recently, as professional and personal conversations have veered toward changing oppressive systems and structures, who you are is how you lead is ever more true. To quote Sonya Renee Taylor, “if you have a diversity problem in your organization, you probably have one in your personal life.” (from her talk in Berrett-Koehler‘s Leadership for a Changing World Online Summit 2020)

I’ll add a few other examples:
If you have a hard time understanding the emotions of others, look at the ways you dismiss or ignore your own emotions.
If you’re unclear on the values you want to guide your team or company, you’re probably unclear on your own personal values.
If your team or contractors or suppliers or partners complain about the way they’re treated, look at how you treat yourself.

This is why the personal and professional should never be separate. The world of work consumes the vast majority of our time, yet companies are made up of individuals. Systems and governments are made up of individuals. If we neglect the individual work of self-reflection, emotional intelligence & agility, stress management, and self-kindness, the systems we operate within will reflect that neglect.

Clearly I know my choice. I know who I want to be in this world, and what systems and organizations I want to create and take part in. Do you?