Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast

Why Successful Leaders Focus on "Being" before "Doing" - Inner Development Goals Part 2

July 22, 2022 Gerrit Pelzer, Martin Aldergard Episode 11
Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast
Why Successful Leaders Focus on "Being" before "Doing" - Inner Development Goals Part 2
Show Notes Transcript

Last time, we explored The Inner Development Goals — THE Leadership Model for the Future.  Now, we take a deeper dive into the  first category of this Framework:  "Being — Relationship to Self"

Traditional leadership models tend to focus a  on the actions ("doing") a leader has to take to be successful. However,  the underlying "being" sets the stage for what actions we take and how we take them.

The IDG highlights five specific qualities and skills for leaders:

Your inner compass gives you a sense of direction. It's about your core values and beliefs.

Challenge: We are so busy  "doing", we rarely take time to stop and pause, and to reflect on the real priorities in our lives.

Reflection Questions:

  • What are your core values in life that make you judge things as right or wrong?
  • What really matters in your life? What gives you a sense of meaning and purpose?

A strong inner compass enables us to act with integrity and authenticity. It is related to trust and honesty, a top  characteristic of admired leaders.

Challenges: If we are not clear about where our inner compass is pointing , we may act inconsistently. We might worry if we can show up as our true selves at work.

Reflection Questions

  • Are you practicing what you preach? Are you walking your own talk?
  • Do you trust you can be "your self " at work?

Every change process starts with (self-)awareness. Beyond the obvious (e.g., strengths and weaknesses), outstanding leaders are also aware of their emotions and bodily sensations. They are aware of how these impact them and their interactions with others.

Challenges: As with the inner compass, building awareness may not be seen as a priority. When people do not know about the underlying biology, emotions and bodily sensations may be ridiculed as esoteric nonsense .  Some may be afraid of what they might find when they start some self-exploration.

Reflection Questions:

  • How aware am I of my self?
  • How aware am I of my emotions ?
  • How do these emotions impact me and how can I regulate them productively?
  • How aware am of my body's signals (interoception) and can I interpret these signals in a useful way?
  • How do other people perceive me?

The ability to be in the here and now and in a sate of open-ended presence.  The quality of our presence is of critical importance particularly in our interactions with others.

Challenge: We have too many things on our minds. We may think that multi-tasking is more efficient than staying  focused on just one task. 

Reflection Questions:

  • How able am I to be in the here and now without thinking what's next?
  • How able am I to make a connection with another person ?
  • How present can I stay with a task or a person beyond just a few seconds? 

Having a basic mindset of curiosity and a willingness to be vulnerable and embrace change and grow.
: Past successes seem to confirm that our way is the right way. It can be challenging to question our own values and beliefs

Reflection Questions:

  • How open am I to ways of working (simple) or world views (huge!) that are different from mine?
  • Am I willing to challenge my values and guiding principles that I have lived by for decades?
  • Finally: In my current role, can I be my best self and how does being my best self look like?

More info: 

[00:00:00] Gerrit: A warm welcome to Second Crack — the Leadership Podcast. This is where we explore everyday leadership dilemmas and paradoxes, and where we invite you as our listener to self-reflect so that you can grow as a leader. Today, we will explore why “being” matters more than doing for leaders — or, in other words, why the being of a leader sets the stage for everything they do. This episode today is a sequel to our previous one on the Inner Development Goals.

[00:00:44] My name is Gerrit Pelzer and as usual I'm joined by my long-term friend and business partner, Martin Aldergård. So Martin, how are you being today? 

[00:00:56] Martin: Hello, Gerrit I'm being well today and excited about our conversation as always. 

[00:01:04] Gerrit: Okay. So before we go more into the details of being a quick reminder that, if you enjoy our show, remember to subscribe so you don't miss out on our latest episodes. Also, if you would like to help us grow the podcast, please tell a friend about it, post on social media or leave a positive comment or rating on the platform of your choice. It really helps us a lot.

[00:01:31] So coming back to “being”: Last time, we introduced a new leadership framework from the Inner Development Goals. The Inner Development Goals or short IDG is a not-for-profit open-source initiative and their leadership framework is based on the input of over a thousand experts. So it really has a very solid and broad foundation. Martin and I love it, we believe it can be THE leadership framework of the future, and so we decided it's worth to explore this in more detail.

[00:02:09] Martin: Yes, certainly. And as we have used this framework already in our work with leadership teams, we have practical experience and we have seen how easily this framework resonates with leader and how we can create a good dialogue and good reflection among leaders using this. And the IDG framework consists of the five categories, 23 skills and qualities in total. And today we will talk about the category of being. 

[00:02:41] Gerrit: Uh, and I was positively surprised to see being relationship to self as a category of its own. I've seen over the years, many different leadership models. And while some of them may include aspects of self, such as self-awareness or self-regulation, I've never seen any other leadership model where they talk explicitly about being. But being is so, so important. And when, again, coming back to the typical classic leadership models, they focus a lot on doing the actions that a leader has to take, but the underlying being is, it comes first and it's absolutely absolutely mission critical because our way of being. Impacts the choice and the quality of our actions, the being is critical for doing the right things and doing things right.

[00:03:45] What I also find interesting is that in the English language, we refer to our own species as human beings. However, when I look at the world today at our modern society, I often feel we are reduced to human doings. And if we stick here with the language for a moment, um, what do we use in the, in the context of being so we can be, for instance, content mindful, we can be warm-hearted or we can be perhaps on the other end of the scale, we can be angry, impatient, anxious, and then think for a moment about how these different states impact our actions, our  doing. So this is different when I'm acting from a place where I am content compassionate, uh, as opposed to yeah. Angry or anxious, for instance. Um, when I relate this to my, to just to illustrate this, when I relate this to my own development as a coach, when I started coaching about 12 years ago, my focus was very much on: what are the right things to do as a coach? What do I need to do to help my client get great results? But over time, I realized that my being as a coach had even more impact on the quality of a coaching session, respectively, the, the results that my client would get. So my being as a coach is a prerequisite for doing the right things. And I often realized that when I got too focused on the outcomes of a coaching sessions, too, focused on asking the right questions, then I sensed things were not very productive. But when I focused on just being present with my client, being open-minded and comfortable with whatever comes up during a session, then as a consequence of how I was in the session, my client would then also relax and, and we would have a more productive discussion.

[00:06:01] Martin: I think this being before doing is for many busy leaders, it might be counterintuitive or sound like counterproductive and somewhat fluffy. Right? Why do I need to take time from my busy agenda to think about how am I being and. It sounds awfully fluffy, but in the, in the inner development goal, in the framework, there are actually five specific skills or five specific qualities that we can practice as leaders and these specific skills and qualities that we want to go a little bit deeper into now is first of all, the inner compass and then we'll talk about integrity and authenticity self-awareness presence and openness and learning mindsets. And these five skills and qualities are also in the PDF that we will, uh, uh, that we will, uh, give on the podcast description. And you can also find them on the IDG webpage at

[00:07:19] So should we go into the first of these skills and qualities then inner compass. 

[00:07:25] Gerrit: Absolutely. And I love this metaphor of having an inner compass that guides us in our life that tells us what is right and wrong. What's good or bad. And, uh, on one hand, this may seem so obvious. But interestingly, when, when I look again at my coaching clients, there are, uh, even mature people who they may be in their forties or even in their fifties.

[00:07:51] And they, they never set time aside to really think about. where they, you know, compress is pointing. And, um, often then we, we start with a value exercise where people write down what are the, the, the things that are important in their life, what really matters to them, which then ultimately leads to what gifts you, a sense of purpose?

[00:08:16] What, what will make your, um, your life meaningful? Hmm. And when, when I then think again about the metaphor of an inner compass, an inner compass gives us direction. And you spoke earlier already about people being so super busy and often we get lost in activity and action, and we think everything needs to go faster and faster.

[00:08:43] But once in a while, we need to stop and pause and make sure that before we run full speed in one direction, that we make sure we are running into the right direction. 

[00:08:54] and for in this really fast changing environment and uncertain environment that reacting to have this. Inner compass to be rock solid as our guidance.

[00:09:08] When the winds are blowing all different directions, this really helps leaders to move consistently. And I think there is a real dilemma. Of also finding my inner compass, but also thinking about then how does my inner compass align and fit with the compass of the company? And for instance, what do I do in the case where my inner compass seems to not fully align with the direction of the company?

[00:09:41] Yes, absolutely. And I think that that links back to what gives you a meaningful life. Um, what you do day in and day out in your work. If that's aligned with your values, your inner compass, that is what makes life very meaningful and fulfilling. And if, if it isn't, if you do things that you feel, let's say in the worst case, you feel.

[00:10:05] Whatever you do every day or what you do every day leads to violating your core values. That's extremely frustrating. Um, so if I come back then to the initial aspect of finding the, I think I'm repeating just the questions I had earlier. So reflections question reflection. Questions can be around. What are my values?

[00:10:31] What is it that really matters in my life? What gives me meaning and a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Um, yeah. And maybe we can leave it as a simple reflection like that, unless yes, you have anything that you would like to add there. 

[00:10:48] Martin: I'm I'm thinking then the importance of a strong inner compass then directly links to the next skill and quality, the integrity and authenticity.

[00:11:00] Because of course, this is, I mean, this is so vital as a leader to be effective. The strong inner compass also helps us to lead with integrity and authenticity. 

[00:11:13] Gerrit: Absolutely. And, um, it, it comes down to this as a leader. Are you, are you practicing what you preach? Are you walking your, your own talk? And this is also so important because as a leader, you are always in the spotlight.

[00:11:28] People are watching every move you make. They listen to every word you say, and then they will always check. Are your actions congruent with what you say? Are you practicing what you, what you preach? And, um, we spoke earlier also about the importance of trust based relationships for, uh, for performance at work.

[00:11:53] And obviously, um, that is related. Because integrity and authenticity builds trust. And it's also related to honesty. Um, there are leadership surveys where they say clearly that honesty is by far the most important characteristic of, um, of admired leaders. So. On one hand it's again, it's very obvious, right?

[00:12:20] That integrity and authenticity are so important. But then why is it such a challenge? 

[00:12:28] Martin: I think sometime it's a, it's a challenge for leaders because again, if my inner compass is not clearly articulated, I might be reacting differently from different situations, depending on the external input that I'm getting.

[00:12:44] At the end, I'm perceived as inconsistent unauthentic, even with the best of intentions of being authentic. And then in the fast speed change, people are looking for clear direction. They are looking for predictable leaders. Mm-hmm that they can rely on. That are authentic. So the strength of your inner compass, I believe directly leads to a higher chance of acting authentically.

[00:13:19] Yeah. And, and as a, as a reflection question, I think it's always important to ask as a leader. Am I, am I walking my own talk or look at a situation where I felt that I might not been able to be myself. Why, why did that 

[00:13:39] Gerrit: happen? And, and Martin, I remember an earlier discussion we had on this subject where you actually said most people, they, how did you phrase that's not their intention to be inauthentic, but it's often that, um, they haven't really thought so much about their, you know, compass and yes, what I would like to add is a, is a very different dimension.

[00:14:04] So. It's not necessarily only about the clarity of your inner compass. It's also maybe the even bigger question can be, do you trust that you can be yourself at work? And that has a very practical component. Um, I see many leaders, even very senior people who feel that they have to pretend to be a certain way at work.

[00:14:33] In worst case, they have to pretend to be somebody who they are not. And they are afraid of showing who they really are. They are afraid of. They're afraid that other people will not accept who they really are. And it reminds me of a fantastic book. I read many years ago, it's called the four agreement written by Don Miguel Ruiz.

[00:14:57] And he frames this so wonderfully by. the biggest fear of humans is not the fear of death. It's the fear of being themselves. And I think that's, that's really powerful. We, we always think that, wow, the worst thing that can happen to us is that we die but in our perception being ourself is something we are even more afraid of.

[00:15:23] But then in reality, I experience again and. Once people show up as their true selves, they usually become even more accepted and trusted and admired by others because these other people see showing up as yourself as such a tremendous, uh, tremendous strength. So, um, that is immensely powerful. 

[00:15:49] Martin: And we need, we need diversity.

[00:15:51] We need all the different perspective, all the different kinds of people to join these hard challenges that we're facing in society. So we need people to show up as their true self and be able to be authentic and. How can we, as a leader become more authentic and how can we be more aware of that? Our inner compass might not be calibrated.

[00:16:16] I think then we need to speak about self awareness and how to improve our self awareness. 

[00:16:23] Gerrit: Absolutely. I think self-awareness, um, is mission critical when it comes to, for instance, behavioral change or one, one could say actually every change process starts with awareness, uh, the awareness of what we want to change and what is the, the current status quo.

[00:16:43] So self-awareness literally starts then with the question, how aware am I of myself? Martin you related it already to the inner compass. So how well do I know what actually my values are? Um, my priorities in life often a common exercise is then also around what our strengths and, uh, what our strengths and weaknesses are.

[00:17:11] But then I think we also need to expand the self awareness to awareness of our environment. How aware am I, what impact I am having on other people and how do other people perceive me? We have done recently a whole episode on perception management. And again, we will put a link into the session notes. So I don't wanna go any deeper into perception and perception management, but I think, um, self awareness goes far beyond these aspects that I have just mentioned.

[00:17:47] And I wanna highlight one aspect that I often see neglected in our modern society, especially in the Western world. We seem to be dominated by cognitive rational thinking, and we overlook that there are other aspects to our being. So self awareness also includes the awareness of our body and our emotions.

[00:18:15] There are a lot of processes in our body and in our brain that take place without conscious awareness. But even though we are not conscious of these aspects of our being, they massively impact our behavior. So what we often need to do is. It is to sharpen the awareness of this process. So for instance, we also talked previously about emotions and how important emotions are in terms of giving us energy for action.

[00:18:48] Again, this often takes place without conscious awareness. So an important aspect of developing self awareness. How aware am I of my own emotions then in a second step, how do these emotions impact me? And ultimately, how can I regulate them so that I can be more productive? So that is, I think one important aspect of non-conscious processes.

[00:19:23] The second is, um, the importance. The body and our awareness of our own body. So it's not just our brain that impacts our behaviors. Our nervous system is distributed through the whole body. We have millions of neurons in our heart and in our gut and our body can pick up signals from the environment.

[00:19:50] Without entering conscious awareness. So it's not only about what we see and what we hear. Our body picks up signals, and there's also a scientific term for that. And we call that neuroception so awareness of the body relates to, am I aware of these signals? And can I, then in the next step, interpret these signals in a useful.

[00:20:18] To illustrate that I think a very well known example is the so-called gut feeling. And personally, I am convinced that gut feelings are more important than most people think, especially in the corporate world. And we should give them as much attention as we give, um, the rational thinking. Mm-hmm. 

[00:20:43] Martin: So I think some of the reflection questions here that I can ask myself as a leader is of course, how aware am I of myself?

[00:20:53] And you mentioned of my emotions and also about my bodily reactions and how aware am I of the effect I'm having on other people? Yes. Uh, This makes me think about the importance of feedback, right? Uh, I can, I can practice to become more aware of myself as well, trying to observe myself. But as you also mentioned that these are a lot of.

[00:21:22] Non conscious processes going on. It might be very difficult to do self observation and then inviting others to give me feedback must be so vital important, and making sure that people are, feel comfortable to approach me with feedback that would then of course, dramatically increase my chances to be more self-aware.

[00:21:50] Gerrit: Absolutely Martin. And, uh, so as you put it, the self-awareness has this compare, uh, component of exploring this myself. And then when I think about the impact I'm having on other people, I can, of course also sharp my awareness. That's say I'm having a meeting, giving a talk also one-to-one interaction. I can simply observe the other person and interpret.

[00:22:19] How they respond to me. So, um, we have this aspect and then there's of course this aspect of yeah. SIM simply, uh, simply asking the other person, um, for feedback. I think that is really critical. Yes, mm-hmm if 

[00:22:34] Martin: you're moving on now to the fourth, uh, scaling quality presence, I mean, this is again, it's one of the skills that is easy to say.

[00:22:47] But it is actually, it's so hard to do sometimes. 

[00:22:51] Gerrit: Yes. So, I mean, maybe we, we should, first of all, explain briefly what we mean with presence. So that relates to the ability to be in the here and now, and ideally in a state of open ended presence that presence and. Being present is, is critically important in our interactions with other people, be that at home or at work, um, take notan the famous Buddhist monk and teacher said this very wisely.

[00:23:22] The biggest gift we can give to others is presence to love. Someone is to be there for someone and being there is an art. So, you know, on one hand it sounds very simple. Being present means just being in the here and now, but at the same time, it, it is an art. It is not necessarily easy. Um, I think the big challenge here is that.

[00:23:52] People are super busy. We live in a world that values action. And we try to multitask right. Either because we think we are more effective or maybe because we look more effective, but oftentimes we just have to, um, Slow down when there are too many things to do and, and focus on. Yeah, what's, what's going on here in the moment.

[00:24:17] And when I relate this then to the leadership application, when I have a one to one interaction with the people I work with, If I can be fully present attuned to the other person, this, and typically where we can gain new insights, new perspectives and where we can generate new ideas together and can be creative.

[00:24:41] And obviously that's not only in the one to one interaction, the same applies also, um, to meetings, right? Mm-hmm mm-hmm 

[00:24:51] Martin: and, and. To me. I think this present and skill is so important, especially for these complex adaptive challenges that we're facing. When as a leader, we don't have the answers, but we're putting together diverse teams.

[00:25:07] So as a leader, of course, I need to be fully present. To listen, what's going on to observe body language, to help a dialogue, to emerge and facilitate the conversation. I cannot think about my next meeting or my agenda. My job as a leader in that room is to be present, to listen and enable the conversation to happen.

[00:25:32] I'm there because I care about them and their process. To solve this problem. And I think you, you helped me to understand this, uh, when we had our past conversation that as a leader, if I set a clear intention, before I joined a meeting, my intention is to be present and to be available for the person or the team.

[00:26:00] That makes it easier for me to leave out my own agenda and it, and it stops me from multitasking. It stops me from jumping to conclusion or being two steps ahead in the line of thoughts, I can focus on what's going on in this room and on that relationship. 

[00:26:17] Gerrit: Yes, uh, absolutely setting the intention is crucial.

[00:26:21] Uh, oftentimes we are just in this reactive mode and we go on from here to there and there's so many things on our mind and coming back to, we need to stop and pause and then ask yourself. Yeah. Um, what is it that I really want to achieve here? Set the intention and it has a beautiful side effect. The more often you practice it, uh, the better you get at it.

[00:26:45] So we, we have this saying you, um, you come from states to trades, so the more often you actively practice being present, the more naturally. You will be, how should I say more regularly present in, in the future? Hmm. So if I think here again, of some reflection, questions for presence, um, very simple. How able am I to be in the here and now without thinking what's next?

[00:27:21] Or what else? How able am I to make a connection with another person that is with me in the room. And also let's say in general, since our busy minds like to be distracted, how present can I stay with a task or a person beyond just a few seconds? Mm-hmm 

[00:27:44] Martin: and I think this, the ability of being fully present.

[00:27:49] In a meeting, in an interaction with another person leads then to the fifth skill and quality, the, the openness and the learning mindset. If I'm fully present with the other person, it of course helps me to also be more open and I might learn something new as well. 

[00:28:08] Gerrit: Yeah. Yeah. And I think this, uh, quality or skill of openness and learning mindset on one hand, I think.

[00:28:18] It's so natural. Right? Why do we even have to mention it? Mm-hmm but then in reality, to be truly open, it can be challenging. Mm-hmm when I think of senior leaders, they have advanced through the organization, they're eventually in a, a top position. So that means they have been promoted. Many times and every promotion tells them actually what you have been doing was really great.

[00:28:46] So there is a risk that this confirmation can lead to thinking. Yeah. You know, my view of the world is, is the right view, but being truly open means being open to different ways of working. Different perspectives and, and eventually, uh, different world views. And you Martin, you, you explained this so nicely when we spoke about humility earlier, it needs this, this mindset to be open to say, yeah, I might be wrong.

[00:29:22] Martin: mm-hmm I, I like when you're talking about the, the world views, right. To. To drive the change we need. We need to challenge our world views. We need to challenge our past assumptions. Yeah. And we need to be open to that. And in my experience, I'm always imagining, and I have seen like these two different kind of leaders.

[00:29:44] There's, there's one kind of leader that walks into meeting room. And they look like the boss, like the expert they're coming into meeting room and everybody feels they can speak up because this guy has all the answers already. And on the other side, there are leaders. They still have a lot of respect, but they, they have a beginner's mindset.

[00:30:07] When they enter a meeting room, they are actually inviting the people in the meeting room to be the experts, not themselves. They are role modeling this open mindset and learning mindset by starting with the beginner mindset, not with their expert mindset, because of course they have a lot of experience.

[00:30:30] Perhaps you need to start with a beginner mindset to really role model openness and a learning mindset. And, and remember that. Yeah. What worked in the past. It might probably not work today. 

[00:30:44] Gerrit: Yeah. So we, we permanently actually, we need to question ourselves, especially in this fast changing environment that, that we live in and this complex world that we live in.

[00:30:54] And I also thought about, uh, conflict management in, in this context. Right? So I think one major reason why resolving conflict is so difficult is. That we are often, should I say unable or unwilling to take the perspective of the other party? Right. So imagine there's a conflict between two parties.

[00:31:18] Usually both of them think I'm right. I have the right solution. And, um, Being open to other perspectives can be, can be very challenging. Yeah. And, 

[00:31:29] Martin: and we, we need this now, when we, for instance, working with the triple bottom line, et cetera, where there are potentially conflicting priorities and, and so many, so, so many different stakeholders that all, everyone has a piece of the answer.

[00:31:47] To the solution, right? 

[00:31:48] Gerrit: Diff different stakeholders and also in this very global environment, different cultures. Yes. Different ways of, of doing things, different ways of looking at the world mm-hmm . And, uh, 

[00:31:59] Martin: and I, I think a good reflection question here for leaders is really honestly, Try to answer, how open am I to ways of working or simply the work views of, of others.

[00:32:15] And am I willing to challenge my own views with the beginner's mind? 

[00:32:22] Gerrit: Yeah. And, and it can be, can be difficult now because I've, I've grown up over, over decades with a certain view. And am I willing to, to, uh, open up to, to other points? So. I think we've, we've covered all these five qualities and skills. I wonder how do we wrap it up?

[00:32:42] Martin: Yeah, I think we, we talked about the inner compass, the integrity, authenticity self-awareness presence, openness and learning mindset. And I think these five skills and qualities, it gives a very tangible understanding of the being. Yeah, the other, the second point I wanted to make here, of course, we talked about them in some sort of linear sequence.

[00:33:09] Of course they are all interconnected and tied together and they impact each other. So we need to work on all five of them at the same time. And of course also being it is interconnected with the other four characteristics of the inner development goals. So this, this means we, we develop all these skills and use them at the same time.

[00:33:37] Yes. Now, as a wrap-up, I think we have some bigger picture reflection questions 

[00:33:43] Gerrit: again. Yeah. So typically we end each episode with reflection questions, and I think we threw in a bunch of questions already. When we talked about the five skills and qualities, the, the, the only final question I would perhaps add is then thinking about the importance of this ex aspect of being, which then sets the stage for connecting with other people and taking action together.

how much time and effort do I actually spend on being versus doing. And if I eventually find that I'm not doing enough, how can I, how can I make more time for that? Mm-hmm . 

[00:34:31] Martin: I wanted to add a reflection question in term of in my current role or in my organization or in my state of life, can I be my best self and how would being my best self look like?

[00:34:49] Gerrit: Wow, that is, that is really powerful. Can I be my best self? And, and how would that look like? That's a, that's a great coaching question. Yeah. Wonderful. I think that concludes our episode for today. Thank you, Martin.

Martin: Thank you, Gerrit!

Gerrit: Again, if you'd like our show, remember to subscribe on the platform of your choice and if you would like to help us grow the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you tell a friend about it, post about it on social media and leave a positive comment or rating and more info about us. And our work is also on our website: and of course, more detailed information about the inner development goals is also on the website: That's it for today. Bye for now and until next time!