Leadership and Your Inner Voice

The beginning of a new year offers fresh opportunities for growth, both personal and professional. Whether you are a recent graduate, an up-and-coming leader in your organization, mid-career or a seasoned professional, your New Year’s resolutions likely include professional goals. If you are looking for inspiration to kick start 2019, perhaps you could try this new series, based on my course, Catalyst Thinking: Creating Change in the C-Suite. Join me weekly for this guided exploration on leadership. 

At its core, leadership is about character. Great leaders personify great character acquired from a deep understanding of self and others. Over time, well-formed character becomes an inner voice that guides behavior. The ability to nurture and attend to our inner voice is the bedrock of good leadership.

"The ability to nurture and attend to our inner voice is the bedrock of good leadership."

Though an inner voice may sound mysterious or magical, essentially it is a skill that can be developed. It is not an off-the-shelf product that can be purchased. Even leadership programs, such as this one, can only offer a roadmap. Following the roadmap and experiencing triumphs and failures along the way is the only way to build character and develop an inner voice. 

In this new year, I hope you would join me on this exciting journey to find your inner voice and other aspects of leadership that will change the way you approach life and work. This is not a leadership program in which principles and ideas are passed on. Instead, you must commit to a process of exploring, experiencing and reflecting. And it begins with listening. 

We will listen to podcasts, watch TED talks and YouTube videos and learn from a diverse mix of interesting voices. We will listen carefully, and in the process realize our potential as a catalyst for change. 

Be prepared for some counterintuitive insights. Instead of building a résumé, we will examine the advantages of building a eulogy. Instead of plans, we will emphasize dreams. And in everything we will practice the principle "less is more."

To begin, I welcome you to watch or listen to a 5-minute TED Talk by David Brooks, which set in my motion my thinking on this topic. 
If you were inspired by Brooks’ talk, then you are in for an interesting deep dive into value-based leadership. And I welcome you to join us in this exploration.

I find self-reflection and journaling to be effective tools for personal and professional growth. If you are up for it, pick up a notebook and your favorite writing instrument and find a quiet place where you do your best thinking and writing. I like to take a walk in the woods. Your home office or coffee shop would do just fine, it that's where you do your best work.

Jot down your leadership goals and aspirations. From previous experience, I have found that the average response to this exercise is 250 to 500 words. Writing in full sentences is not important. But responses that address the following prompts can offer a comprehensive assessment of your current values and beliefs, which is a good foundation to build upon.

Why do you want to become a leader? What sort of organization would you like to lead? What leadership talents do you have? Are there aspects of leadership you need to improve? Do you have a compelling life story that will inspire and shape your leadership? If you are invited to give a TED talk, what topic would you choose? How would you like to be remembered? Write as much as you are inspired to write. 

Happy New Year! I hope to see you next week.

Learn more about my class and the Michigan State University Strategic Communications Online Masters Program by signing up for a webinar here.

By Prabu David, Dean of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences