Leading From the Inside Out: 4 Common Characteristics

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting with four leaders who I respect and who reside within the middle of their individual organizations. We were discussing the idea of inside-out leadership.

What’s inside-out leadership? It’s a decision each leader must make to lead from the inside. It’s about leading from the heart and believing that if you’ve got leadership right on the inside, you can’t help but be a better leader for others on the outside.

Leadership is an Inside Job

As John Maxwell recently stated in a Maximum Impact Club lesson on this same topic, “Great leadership is an inside job. Great leaders become great because of great thinking, great values, great motivation, great intention.”

I believe that inside-out leadership is at the heart of leading and serving others. If you’re an inside-out leader, you believe in people at all levels and leave perceived power and entitlement behind.

While we were chatting about inside-out leadership, I asked my fellow leaders what they believe inside-out leadership looks like in action and the impact it has on the morale and culture of an organization. These stewards of four different companies provided some great insights about their experiences with inside-out leaders. Here are four common characteristics they believe inside-out leaders share.

4 Characteristics of Inside-Out Leaders

1. Inside-out leaders let others be part of the decision-making process. They ask for feedback and input. They share their thoughts with other members of the team before making a final decision. Rather than simply attempt to validate their own answer, inside-out leaders seek the best answer.

2. Inside-out leaders consistently solicit their teammates input (not just when they’re faced with a tough decision.) Take the time to ask your team what they need and then act on their responses. Questions to ask include:

What specific areas of improvement do I need to make to help you grow?

What specific areas of improvement do I need to make to help the company grow?

What type of leadership do you feel the company needs during this season of growth?

3. Inside-out leaders learn alongside their team! Don’t stop learning about leadership now that you’re a titled leader, and keep the subject alive by discussing ways that teammates can be better leaders for the company. Then ensure the team encourages and holds each other accountable to living it out.

4. Inside-out leaders treat their teammates like they treat themselves. Don’t associate leadership with extra perks or privileges. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that the loftier your title, the less you should be bothered by small, less glamorous acts of service and kindness.

Inside-out leadership is a conscious decision each leader must make to ensure their character and heart is reflected in their decisions and actions. Do you have other characteristics of inside-out leaders that you’d like to share? Join me on Thursday as we continue our discussion of inside-out leadership with five more beliefs and actions of inside-out leaders.

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