The 7 Practices of Truly Great Leadership

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When you combine professional mastery with personal and organizational mastery, you can build a great business full of engaged employees. But you can only enter the domain of personal and organizational mastery by first developing the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual capacity to connect with and inspire all your stakeholders so they will bring their whole selves to work every day. This is what I call the “CEO mastery journey.”

Understanding Mastery

Mastery looks different depending on what realm of life you are trying to master. For example, professional mastery means success. A successful leader — one who has only achieved professional mastery — gets very good financial results. They motivate by the carrot-and-stick approach, and they focus primarily on self-centered achievement.

But there are other kinds of mastery. Personal mastery is the ability to stay positive, present, and grateful independent of external circumstances. Organizational mastery is the ability to inspire everyone to give their hearts, minds, and souls to a common purpose.

True greatness requires a combination of professional, personal, and organizational mastery. If a leader has not mastered one of these domains, they cannot be a truly great leader.

As opposed to a merely successful leader, a great leader achieves exceptional financial results that are sustainable. They inspire by appealing to employees’ innate drives toward purpose, making a difference, and being of service.

The Principles of Personal and Organizational Mastery

The CEO mastery journey begins with understanding the key principles of personal and organizational mastery. These include trust, right action, emotional intelligence, and spiritual intelligence.

1. Trust

Business is a team sport, and a team can only function at top performance if it has trust. Trust allows team members to hold each other accountable and push each other toward a common mission. Building that trust requires the exploration of vulnerability, but most teams have not engaged in that process, and hence they lack trust.

2. Right Action

Another key principle for enlightened leadership is right action. This concept stems from dharma, a 5,000-year-old life principle originally articulated in the Vedas, the most ancient and sacred texts of India.

Despite its age, dharma remains universal and timeless in its application. Dharma means being true to oneself and treading one’s own authentic path of thought, speech, and action. This is the path we each must travel for material, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment. On a broader scale, Dharma signifies moral uprightness, righteousness, and behavior that upholds life and growth. That is what right action is all about.

3. Emotional Intelligence

Everyone is familiar with intellectual intelligence (IQ), the conventional measure of the quickness and facility of one’s mind. In business, IQ also tends to be applied to how much a person knows about their industry and how well they are able to come up with compelling strategies for success.

Conventional leadership depends a lot on IQ, but so much more is needed to truly succeed in today’s world. That’s where emotional intelligence (EQ) comes in.

EQ includes such characteristics as accurate self-assessment, optimism, honesty, empathy, adaptability, self-confidence, and transparency. Crucially, it also includes interpersonal skills, such as influencing others, conflict management, teamwork, and collaboration.

4. Spiritual Intelligence

Being spiritual has no required connection with religion, nor does it imply being soft on poor performance, two common misconceptions. Rather, spiritual intelligence (SQ) takes us deeper into self-awareness, self-inquiry, gratitude, compassion, and understanding of the ego. This, in turn, allows us to connect with our deepest desire: the yearning to be of service to universal well-being.

As our SQ increases, we develop the ability to see the big picture for what it is without putting our personal spin on it. We also gain the intellectual capacity to hold multiple perspectives in view at once.

SQ is about taking right action and making the hard decisions in an inclusive and objective manner. It is the ability to consistently tap into the innermost yearning for excellence, fairness, purpose, and mastery that is the common heritage of all human beings.

Combining IQ, EQ, and SQ

To unleash your full potential, you must equally develop your IQ, EQ, and SQ. However, in most business settings, you won’t get much training in developing your EQ and SQ. The few programs that are available don’t generally connect these facets of mastery back to the realities of business.

By becoming mindful, self-aware, and spiritually intelligent, you can become a role model for the change you want to see in your business and in the wider world. You can dramatically impact personal leadership, team collaboration, and organizational effectiveness. You can do this by being your authentic self and showing up fully with intellect, heart, and spirit.

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The 7 Practices of Truly Great Leadership

Integrating and nourishing IQ, EQ, and SQ to achieve personal and professional mastery requires personal, organizational, and systemic transformation. The following seven practices are critical to making these transformations and undertaking the CEO mastery journey.

Practices one and two cover personal mastery, which is the key to living an inspired and self-actualized life. This is necessary, but not sufficient, to inspire others to give their very best. That is the domain of organizational mastery, which is addressed in practices 3-7.

Practice 1: Master Human Motivations

Businesses have been slow to adopt peak-performance principles and practices. The science of human motivation and inspiration has developed significantly over recent years, but organizations have not integrated its findings into their basic business functions. Wellness programs like meditation are treated as stress-reduction exercises, but the more direct business benefits of such practices have not yet been fully embraced.

Practice 2: Lead With Self-Mastery

This practice details the personal transformation from a successful leader to a conscious leader. While we all have the capacity to be great, we are not all focused on behaving consistently in a great manner.

When you take the time to know yourself thoroughly, you will have a good grasp not only of yourself, but of human motivations and emotions in general. You will therefore be better equipped to connect with and inspire people to higher levels of productivity and performance.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Everybody wants change but no one wants to change.” The most effective way to bring about change is to start by changing yourself, especially if you are a leader.

Practice 3: Inspire With a Noble Purpose

People don’t follow leaders — they follow the purposes and values their leaders represent. An inspiring, noble purpose that galvanizes everyone into action is crucial.

You have to inspire, not command, your people to give their best. A higher level of motivation is achieved by appealing to each person’s personal desire for greater fulfillment. Touch their hearts and spirits with care, inclusion, fairness, meritocracy, and of course, purpose.

Practice 4: Assess Current Reality

It has been said that you don’t see things the way they are — you see them as you are, conditioned by your unique filters and perspectives. Rising above this conditioning requires a high degree of personal mastery. When you are operating in a state of conscious leadership, you have the natural ability to see things the way they are.

Establish a process to understand reality outside of your personal filters. In organizational terms, that means creating an open, transparent environment where everyone can speak their mind. If people do not feel welcome to speak up, you will find it hard to get an accurate understanding of the state of affairs. Of course, you, too, must have the courage to take advantage of the environment and be vulnerable.

Practice 5: Bridge the Intent-to-Impact Gap

The intent-to-impact gap is the gap between your noble intent and practical reality as it is (see practice no. 4). It is the gap between aspiration and ability — and you have to bridge that gap to make the necessary impact.

Simply knowing your gap does not magically solve your problems. Action — guided by the appropriate process and roadmap — does. Unless you proactively manage your awareness, these gaps will rear their ugly heads without warning at the most inappropriate times. You must hold yourself and your team accountable to take consistent action that produces results.

Practice 6: Engage in Action Leadership

Business is a contact sport, and the leader is the captain of the team. Action leadership means first demonstrating and then training others on the organizational mastery skills: authentic communication; proactive conflict resolution; effective decision-making; energizing and empowering meetings; conscious budgeting and goal-setting; and inclusive, dynamic strategy planning. Once people have been trained, action leadership means demanding that others consistently exercise these skills.

Practice 7: Bake Mastery Into Your Organizational DNA

It is wonderful to have a noble purpose, grand vision, and core values. However, these alone are not sufficient to build a great organization or propel a successful leader to greatness. Vision and values have to be directly connected to critical business functions, operational processes, and daily interactions. You must make mastery a way of life in your organization.

When a leader cultivates personal and organizational mastery, they progress far beyond mere success and professional mastery. Instead, they become a conscious leader, one who drives sustainable results in a high-trust, high-performance environment. This is the essence of truly great leadership, which can be reached at the end of the CEO mastery journey.

Sudhir Chadalavada is the author of CEO Mastery Journey: 7 Breakthrough Practices That Propel Successful Leaders to Greatness.

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