by By David M. Traversi,
I recently wrote a book entitled
The Source of Leadership: Eight Drivers of
the High-Impact Leader. In the introduction, I wrote about the
ultimate alignment of my own personal search for my best life with my
professional search for the “holy grail” of leadership success:
I began to
observe and analyze the high-impact leaders and ordinary leaders with whom I
worked as well as study those I’d worked with previously. I found that
success and failure always boil down to personal characteristics. The more
I studied, I found that success and failure as a leader depend on the same
personal choices and practices—ways of being, deep within—that I was
learning in my own very personal search. It was a dovetailing of profound
impact! The drivers, the
personal energies, that were radically transforming my personal life were
also critical to being a high-impact leader.
So what drivers radically
transformed my life? What personal energies fueled what I consider my best
life? They are presence, and
I’m speaking about consciousness and mindfulness,
openness, clarity of thought, emotion, and behavior, intention, personal
responsibility, intuition, creativity, and
The good news is that they exist within each of us and are waiting to be accessed, developed, and used as powerful fuel for achieving optimal levels of productivity and efficiency,
awareness and understanding, self-definition, integrity, health, and
creativity. Fuel for developing and maintaining healthy interpersonal
relationships. Fuel for courage and optimism. Fuel for achieving the
outcomes we desire. Ultimately, fuel for contentment.
Ultimately, the conditions we are
experiencing as a society – things like wars, political stand-offs among
nations, global warming, the subprime mess, backdating of corporate stock
options and other corporate misdeeds from fraud and theft all the way down
to just being unable to fulfill commitments to investors, religious scandal,
violent crime, high divorce rates, substance and other addictions, all forms
of abuse, youth gang activity – are just extensions or symptoms of
conditions we are experiencing as individuals. Conditions like lack of
awareness, stress, malaise, closed-mindedness, lack of creativity, inability
to focus, lack of purpose, inefficiency, lapses in integrity, fear, anger,
shame, blame, depression, strained personal relationships, and poor health.
What has caused these conditions?
Why are we struggling to lead ourselves – and ultimately our society –
effectively? In a word . . . technology. While not a bad thing – in fact,
I happen to believe it is a very good thing, a meaningful part of the human
potential – its dimensions must be recognized and addressed. And the
reality is that technology has conspired to overwhelm us with increasing
amounts of increasingly complex data, downloaded at faster and faster rates.
As a collective practice, self-leadership has simply fallen behind the pace
of everything else in the world that has been accelerated and complicated by
technology. We are often unable to distinguish useful from useless data.
Even if we can, we don’t have time to understand what to do with the useful
before it quickly becomes useless. We’re trying to “drink out of a fire
When you want to change conditions
in a particular environment, you usually need new tools or you need to
enhance the tools you already have. In the case of self-leadership, in the
quest for your best life, you’ll almost certainly need new or enhanced
tools. As I mentioned, the good news is that you already have them inside
you. You simply have to access and develop them.
Using Your Eight Drivers
to Overcome Today’s Challenges
is really a baseline – or foundational - energy, one that drives all traits
and functions necessary to live your best life. It also drives the other
seven drivers. When you live in the present moment, you understand that
everything is connected. Irrelevance is gone. Everything matters. You
absorb every bit of life because you are highly focused. You think more
clearly and efficiently. You act with more integrity and clarity. You are
unburdened by unproductive thoughts of the past or future. You worry less.
You fear less. You are infinitely more creative.
As a means of enhancing my
presence, I’ve been meditating for about ten years and have experienced
first-hand the profound impact that a more conscious existence can have on
one’s quest for his or her best life. I know myself better and am more
self-defined. I see more, I understand more, I can absorb more data, I am
less stressed, I waste less time on meaningless things, I prioritize better,
I listen better, I am more empathic, I speak better, I inspire better, I am
more focused and organized, I am more creative, I can plan better, I have
healthier relationships, and I produce more and better results in all
aspects of my life.
is the second key driver of your best life. Many, if not most of us, have
learned through difficult life experiences
to resist “what is.”
If we once felt pain in response to something, we close ourselves to
situations that might involve the same pain. In some cases, this may be a
form of self-preservation or protection. However, we often close ourselves
off from opportunities because of unrelated pain experienced long ago. And
we often fix our beliefs because we fear the unknown. Fears and fixed
beliefs, however, are incongruent with a dynamic, rapidly changing world.
Resisting “what is” actually causes more pain and drains our energy.
Opening to “what is” becomes liberating and energizing.
When you’re open, you constantly seek to widen the net for possibilities,
and resist nothing. In your best life, you are curious, you are a font of
ideas and creativity, and you see possibilities everywhere.
is the third driver of your best life -
clarity in thoughts, emotions, and behavior. We have all, at least on
occasion, thought, emoted, or acted out of anger, rage, envy, insecurity,
guilt, greed, or some other fear-based stimulus. The sad fact is that too
many people do it too much of the time. They work hard to maintain a
healthy, clear persona—the
appearance they present to the world—and suppress the unhealthy
characteristics of their shadow—the
personality and behavior energies that have been repressed from
consciousness, usually since childhood. But they allow their shadow traits,
such as rage and envy, to undermine their best intentions and drain them of
energy. When you choose clarity of thought, emotion, and behavior, you
choose to honestly acknowledge your shadow traits and use the light of
honesty and openness to manage them so they do not undermine your
relationships and pursuit of happiness. When you are clear, you find it
easy to define every element of who you are, both to yourself and to
others. You are people oriented, open-hearted with a genuine love for
people. You see the good and the potential in everyone, instead of a
threat. You have healthy, empowering relationships with others.
is the fourth driver of your best life.
In every moment, each of us can choose intention or neglect, intention or
disempowerment. While many of us constantly say or think “I hope” and “I
want” and “I’d like,” few of us sincerely believe we can bring about a
desired result. Thus, we often cast our fate to the four winds or to the
intentions of others. Last century, Napoleon Hill (1960) found - and
documented in Think and Grow Rich,
originally published in 1937 - that the active practice of intention was the
single-most important determinant of personal and professional success.
Nevertheless, I have known very few people who actually practice their
intention. Few have enough faith, it seems, in the power of intention.
Practicing intention, which involves a discipline of expressing your
desired result in great detail, regularly visualizing it as a current
reality, offering exchange for it, starting a “conspiracy” of people focused
on helping you achieve your intention, and, ultimately, detaching from it,
significantly helps you to achieve the results you want in your life.
is the fifth driver of your
We live in an era where personal responsibility has been replaced by blame
and litigation. These actions are fear-based denials of reality, and
ultimately they poison interpersonal and work relationships. Personal
responsibility is complete ownership of “what is,” as distinguished from
openness, which is the unbounded willingness to consider every element of
“what is.” Once you learn to own “what is” on every front, and create the
energy that results when you can say, “I am completely responsible for every
positive and negative element that exists in my life,” you will see a
dramatic improvement in the integrity with which people view you, your
courage, and your personal relationships. I mean, who wouldn’t want to
associate with someone who never blamed, or neglected or disowned a
is the sixth driver of your best life.
Each of us was gifted with a powerful source of inspiration - a knowing,
an intuition - that is embedded in this omniscient energy that binds
everything that is. But fear often causes us to abandon too quickly in
favor of a “safer” route supported by “facts” or the opinions of others. In
doing this, we abdicate the crucial role that active intuition plays in
life. The skilled and liberal use of intuition enables your ability to
make good decisions in all areas of your life, adapt to uncertainty and
changing conditions, and interact with others in a highly empathic,
is the seventh driver of your best
life. If you want your best life, once you truly appreciate that life is
binary - there is only creation and destruction, growth and decay, life and
death – it is pretty easy to decide that you want to be on the side of
creation, growth, and life. Stagnation, which is just a stage of decay and
death, is not a viable option.
The key then, is stoking your creativity
in every possible way so that you remain aligned, and not at odds, with life
itself. Fortunately, every person has the potential to be a powerful
creative force. When you tap into that creativity, you become highly
energetic, you see possibilities instead of barriers, you see a better life
for yourself and everyone around you and you see a path for achieving it.
is the eighth driver of your
In the complex, adaptive system in which
we live, where everyone is interconnected and relationships are paramount,
communication is essential for survival. Once past mere survival, the
better you communicate, the better your relationships will be. The
better your relationships, the better
your life will be. Better communication is a function of increasing the
connection in your communication. “Connected communication” is an intensely
powerful energy - a driver - deep within each of us. On
a connected path, you are present, mindful, and completely honest. You are
clear and concise, acutely empathic, and in complete alignment with “what
is.” Everyone around you senses the integrity, the wholeness, of who you
are and how you communicate; others gather strength in your presence. The
system of connected communication, from clear expression of a purposeful
message by an empathic speaker to an empathic listener, fuels your ability
to be supportive of and inspiring to others and have productive, empowering
The Waterfall Effect
Many people ask me about other
drivers – personal energies – and why they aren’t part of the “select” list
of drivers. Of course, anyone can include anything they want in his or her
list. But my answer is that I have found that most other energies flow from
the eight described energies. They operate when the eight energies have
been developed. For instance, love – in all its dimension, form, and glory
– flourishes when you are present, conscious, and aware, clear in your
thought, emotion, and behavior, taking personal responsibility for
everything, and communicating with others in a highly connected way.
Gratitude and humility also flow from presence. It is impossible to be
present and conscious and not filled with gratitude for every element of
your existence and humility in the face of it. Likewise, all elements of
health – nutrition, movement, breath, positive thinking, healing – flow from
presence and awareness. You don’t find a lot of present people regularly
eating fast food hamburgers and opting for television over exercise.
Forgiveness flows from presence as well as the empathy inherent in connected
communication. Apology flows from personal responsibility.
The solution to our worsening
societal woes, and conversely our best societal life, is in leadership.
Leadership at the societal level begins with leadership of the self. Each
of us living our best individual life will flow into our best collective
life. It is just a matter of accessing powers – drivers – with which we are
David M. Traversi, a
nationally known executive coach, is the author of
The Source of
Leadership: Eight Drivers of the High-Impact Leader,
released in September 2007,http://www.thesourceofleadership.com.