As a leader I am convicted about positively impacting and influencing others. But, how do you really know if you are impacting, influencing and leading successfully?

I am not sure if I can give the perfect answer to this question. However, I would encourage you to figure this out and try what I did and continue to do.

The first step I took was to discover and identify who I was, what I believe in, why I act the way I do and what my strengths and areas of growth are.

I have also learned though, that if you are seriously interested in impacting, influencing and leading others as a leader, you have to activate this step. You cannot wait and assume you have it all figured out. Your followers need to know that you know who you are before they can put their trust in you to lead them.

I fervently believe that authentic and integrity filled leaders are what committed followers are looking for.

Authenticity and integrity-filled leaders need to know self. They need to know the reasons why they lead and why they act the way they do
. They need to know that, “being a leader is not about me; but it starts with me” (J.L. Whittington).

When I assumed the Superintendent of School’s responsibilities this self-discovery became even more significant.  I spent a lot of the transition time from the Assistant’s role to the Superintendent’s role getting to know myself better.

I wanted to understand my motives for wanting to lead as a Superintendent. I wanted to find the reasons for and the motivation for causing me to act in a certain way. I wanted to find out what the essence and reality of who I am and what I was all about as I moved into this demanding role.

Although I had previously spent time doing this, the Superintendent’s position was new to me and had a number of challenging responsibilities I had not encountered previously. I was now the CEO in charge of a leadership team of over one hundred leaders and the executive officer to the Board of Education. The overall responsibility of leading an effective and efficient organization now fell on my shoulders.

With the assistance of some influential reading material like True North by Bill George and the Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey, I felt it was necessary to revisit and revise my foundation as leader.

Once I completed this self-examination I also felt that it was important to communicate that to the team I was now responsible for leading. I activated this step at our first leadership team meeting as Superintendent by sharing my self-discovery.

Fortunately, although challenging, this self-disclosure was informative and helpful. Looking back, my open and transparent sharing signalled what the team could expect of me as CEO. It signalled who I was as a leader and how I would act as the leader of the organization.

I took Whittington’s advice and started a transformed leadership journey anchoring my leadership in a solid foundation built on authenticity, integrity, transparency and trust. I tried hard to consistently communicate this through my words and actions throughout my time as Superintendent.

To me this was a successful step. First it helped me to not only establish a solid leadership foundation. It was also impactful to the team members as they get to know me better and see me more than just a leader who could get things done and solve problems. This step allowed them to understand that “leadership is more about being than doing.” (Whittington)

This transition taught me that

Understanding and knowing self is critical for leadership success. This step is foundational and I believe is the basic, decisive and pivotal point in effective leadership. It really is the crux of leadership.

Without establishing this solid foundation I believe that your leadership is not anchored. In fact, it is built on shifting sand and may be vulnerable when your leadership is questioned, challenged or when the inevitable storms arise.

Make self-examination and discovery a priority. You and your leadership impact will be better with the investment of time and effort.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

This is part 1 of a series of posts on Foundational Leadership. Next up – self-discovery at home.


Photo by Raúl Nájera on Unsplash

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