Leadercast Live 2018: Andy Stanley
“We face our greatest leadership challenge every morning in the mirror,” said Andy at Leadercast Live 2018. He believes we can be difficult to lead because we’ve mastered the art of deceiving ourselves and justifying our poor decisions.
Direction, not intention, determines destination, he said in his talk. We all want to end up somewhere on purpose, so we have to define values that can become a perimeter around our behaviors, thoughts, work and relationships.
Great leaders last because they lead themselves first, said Andy, and exceptional self-leadership is key to sustained influence and performance.
3 Decisions We Must Make to Lead Ourselves Well:
1) I will not lie to myself, even when the truth makes me feel bad about myself. Exceptional self-leadership requires brutal honesty with oneself.
2) I will prioritize what I value most over what I want now. Exceptional self-leaders lead themselves toward what they value most, not what they want now.
3) I will not attempt to lead myself by myself. Exceptional leaders do life with people who are moving toward similar values.
Watch the video to hear Andy's full talk from Leadercast Live 2018, and click HERE to download a printable PDF of these takeaways.
Now, some of you don't know who I am, and you don't care. You were told that you were gonna learn some great leadership stuff. So I just thought, as we start off today, I should tell you one thing about myself that would maybe put you at ease and let you know that I'm pretty much an expert in what I'm about to share with you. And the thing that I'd like to share with you is this, and I would prefer that we just keep it in the room. Okay? Here it is. I have participated in every bad decision that I have ever made. Don't laugh. Okay?
Yeah, every bad relational decision, I was there for that. Every bad financial decision, I was there for that. Every bad hiring decision, I was there for that. Every long and boring meeting that I led, I was there for that. I was there for all of it. I have talked myself out of exercising. I've talked myself into dessert. I'm a sucker for you might also like. So are you, come on. I'm also a sucker. Customers who have purchased have also purchased. I bought that.
And it's embarrassing, but the only reason I feel like I can share this with the whole world is this. You have participated in every bad decision you have ever made as well, right? You were there for all of them. You were there for your worst spending decision, your worst financial decision, your worst parenting moment, your worst marriage moment, your worst professional, your worst purchase, that stock that you were absolutely sure and you convinced your husband or your wife, this is a great deal. You were there for all of that. In fact, this is really embarrassing. You were the mastermind behind your greatest regret.
Now, the reason I say all that is because of our topic today, and here we go. We face, all of us, we all face our greatest leadership challenge every morning in the mirror. You are difficult to lead, and you should know because you attempt it every single day. Now, our topic for the day is actually self-leadership, as, hopefully, you knew before you got here, which isn't necessarily fun to talk about, because self-leadership, the topic of self-leadership reminds us that all of us have work to do. But it's an extremely important topic, and it's an extremely important topic for three reasons.
First of all, you will not be a leader worth following if you don't lead yourself well. You won't be a leader worth following if you don't lead yourself well. That doesn't mean you won't be able to lead. You'll be able to lead, but you won't be a leader worth following if you don't lead yourself well. In organizational leadership, being a leader worth following is not a necessity and great self-leadership is not an essential, but again, you won't be a leader worth following unless you lead yourself well.
We all know some leaders who are a mess, right? Their personal lives are a total disaster. They may be here with you today, just keep looking straight ahead, right? So we all know leaders whose personal lives are a disaster. And here's the thing. Isn't this true? You don't want to be like them. You may want to travel like them and vacation like them, but you don't want to be like them.
And you learn this from your parents. You see, whether or not you want to be like your mom or whether or not you wanna be like your dad has far more to do with how well they led themselves than what they taught you. What they taught you and what they said to you was important, but whether or not you wanna be like one of your parents has far more to do with how well they led themselves because leaders who are worth following and people who are worth emulating are people who have mastered self-leadership.
The second reason this is a big deal is that exceptional self-leadership is the key to sustained influence. It's not the key to authority. You can have authority because of your position or a job title, that just comes with the office, with the job. But in terms of sustained influence, you have to be a leader worth following, which means you have to lead yourself well because none of us open ourselves up to the influence of people that we don't respect. So to be a leader worth following, you have to lead yourself well. In order to have sustained influence with people, to have them open up to your leadership and your influence, you have to lead yourself well.
And the third reason this is a big deal is that exceptional self-leadership is actually the key to sustained performance. Now, isn't this true? In most cases, when a leader burns out, or when a leader is taken out, it's because they weren't leading themselves well. Great leaders, this is so important, great leaders last because they lead themselves first. Great leaders last. They go the distance. They have sustained influence and sustained performance because they lead themselves well first. So this is a really, really big deal.
As my friend, Clay Scroggins says in his fabulous book...I love this quote. He says this. He says, "You don't have to be in charge to take charge. You don't have to be in charge to take charge of leading yourself. It's your primary responsibility as a leader." And he's absolutely right. And if you haven't read, "How to Lead When You're Not in Charge," I highly recommend the book because you're not in charge. Anyway, so in terms of leadership, leading ourselves first is our number one responsibility, and we are the most difficult people we will ever be called upon to lead.
So that leads us to this question, what in the world do we do? How do we do this? So what I wanna do for the next few minutes is just give you some handles because exceptional self-leadership, I think, requires three decisions that each one of us has to make. You're gonna hear bits and pieces of this scattered throughout the presenters today and their stories and in the interviews that you're gonna be exposed to. You're gonna hear these three things talked about in different ways with different language, but at the end of the day, extraordinary self-leadership requires that we make these three decisions. And the first decision is the hardest.
I will not lie to myself even when the truth makes me feel bad about myself. I will not lie to myself even when the truth makes me feel bad about myself. And our culture, we've been told that the worst thing in the world is to feel bad about ourselves. That is not true. There is something worse than feeling bad about yourself. What's worse than feeling bad about yourself is not doing anything about the thing that's bad about yourself. But we have a very difficult time, as human beings, acknowledging the things about ourselves that need to change. People don't let go of what needs to change because they never acknowledge they're actually hanging on.
The point being this, that exceptional self-leadership requires brutal honesty with that person in the mirror. The easiest person, the easiest person for you to deceive, the easiest person for me to deceive is the person in the mirror. Nobody does a better job selling you on a bad idea than you. You are a sucker for you.
Now, you know this is true because as soon as you...think about it, as soon as you see something you want, if we take this out of the realm of leadership and just in terms of personal behavior, as soon as you see something you want, what do you start doing? You start selling yourself. You start coming up with all the reasons it's a good deal, all the reasons you need it now, you begin selling yourself, and we have all sold ourselves on some terrible purchases. Why? Because we know how to sell ourselves. The person in the mirror is generally our greatest obstacle.
You can't lead yourself well, you can't lead yourself well as long as you're lying to yourself. Have you ever tried to lead a liar? What happens when you discover there's a liar in your midst at work? You don't lead a liar. You fire a liar, right? And for some of us, if we're honest, we need to fire the version of ourselves that keeps lying to ourselves. We need to fire the version of ourselves that keeps making excuses for all the dumb decisions that we've made. We need to have the courage to lead ourselves well. And to do that, you have to be brutally honest with yourself. This is the beginning of great self-leadership. You can't lead yourself until you are honest with yourself.
So I wanna give you an exercise to kind of make this easy for you. Okay? Whenever you're about to make a decision, whenever you find yourself with that little bit of tension on the inside of should I go, should I stay, should I say this, should I attend, should I put this off, you just need to ask yourself this question. And I highly recommend you figure out a place where you can ask this question out loud, even if it's just under your breath. But it's gotta be more than a thought.
And the question is this. It's so simple. Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? And then you gotta take it up one notch. Why am I doing this, really? Why am I doing this, really? In fact, I would like for all of us and all of our Hussites here in the room with me, I want us to say this out loud, and I want you to pause after this, and then add the word "really." Okay? Are you ready to do this together? Here we go, everybody.
Together: Why am I doing this, really?
Andy: One more time.
Together: Why am I doing this, really?
Andy: You owe it to yourself to know. Why am I postponing this meeting, really? Why am I postponing this phone call, really? Why am I avoiding him, really? Why am I avoiding her, really? Why am I going, really? Why am I saying this, really? Why am I about to ask this question? Why am I purchasing this? Why am I wearing this? Why am I doing this, really? Telling yourself the unfiltered truth about what you're doing and why you're doing it is the key to great self-leadership.
Now, here's a little secret. When you discover, when you hear yourself answer this question, "Why am I buying this, really? Why am I saying this, really? Why I'm going there, really?" You don't have to do anything with that new information, but you owe it to yourself to know the truth. And I'm just telling you, if you'll develop the habit of pausing and saying, "Okay, I'm moving in this direction, my emotions are moving in this direction. This is how I've always done it. This is what I've been told to do, but I at least owe it to myself, to be honest with myself and ask the question, 'Okay, but why am I doing this really?'"
So first decision, you've gotta decide, I will not lie to myself even when the truth makes me feel bad about myself. Second decision for exceptional self-leadership is this, I will prioritize what I value most over what I want now. I will prioritize what I value most over what I want now. This one just needs a little bit of explanation.
In organizational leadership...you know this if you're a manager, or you lead a franchise, or maybe you're a business owner, or you have a division, or if you have anybody reporting to you, you know that when it comes to leading a team, you have to know where you're leading the team, right? If you're leading a team, there has to be some sort of destination, there has to be an endgame, there has to be some kind of goal. And the same is true for self-leadership.
So here's the question. Where do exceptional self-leaders lead themselves? In other words, if leadership is about going somewhere, if leadership is about an endgame, if leadership is about we're moving in a direction, this is an important question, where are exceptional self-leaders leading themselves? And here's the answer. This may be the biggest takeaway from our first session today. Exceptional self-leaders lead themselves toward what they value most, not what they want now. Toward what they value most, not what they want now.
What you want now is rarely what you value most. What you want now... This is a lesson most people never learn, but this is essential for extraordinary exceptional self-leadership. What you want now is rarely what you value most. We know this, right? Because later today, it's gonna happen before this day is over, you are going to want dessert, but you value your health. I want dessert. And we could go down, we could create two columns with dozens and dozens of these illustrations, that tension between immediate and ultimate, immediate and ultimate.
What you want now is rarely what you value most. That means there's a catch. That means, as I said earlier, there's some work to do. You can't really lead yourself well, you cannot become an exceptional self-leader until you discover what you value most. And because of what I do as a profession, I'm convinced of this, most people never discover what they value most until it's too late. Most people never discover what they value most until what they value most is out of reach. So how do you discover what you value most? It's actually pretty simple.
Ladies, it'll take you about an hour and a half, men, it'll take you about 15 minutes. Okay? That's a little bit of an exaggeration, but as I've taught this through the years and as I have helped people work through this exercise through the years, ladies you are so much better, generally speaking, at understanding and thinking about things as it relates to what's going on inside of you. Guys, we oftentimes have to work on this. But here's the easiest way. You can do this in an hour.
The easiest way, I think, to discover what you value most...and you may think you know what you value most, but let's be honest, very few of us have sat down and even asked ourselves this question. We always know what we want now, but how do we discover what we ultimately value most? And, again, the worst thing that could happen to you is to get toward the end of your life and realize what I value most is out of reach. And that happens all the time.
So about 28 years ago, I picked up the copy of Stephen Covey's book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," had just come out, and I read the whole book. And many of you have read that book. If you haven't, of course, it's just the standard...extraordinary book. And in the middle of the book, or actually about two-thirds of the way through the book, he suggests that the reader stop and work through what he calls, essentially, a funeral exercise. And you ask yourself this question, "What do I want said about me in the end? What do I want said about me in the end?"
Now, he gives some...you know, he sort of teases this thing out, and here's what he suggests. And let me just be honest with you, when I'm reading a book and I get to the part where the author says, "Set the book aside and answer these three questions," I'm like, "I'm not doing that because the goal is to finish the book. I'm not here to learn anything. I'm here to say, 'Oh, yeah, I read that. Oh, yeah, I read that. Oh, he's so smart. I didn't learn anything, but I read all these books.'"
So when I get to the assignment part of a book, I very rarely stop and do the assignment. You're probably the same way, right? This is almost 30 years ago, I actually stopped, I set the book aside, and for the next four mornings, because I have a habit of getting up early in the morning and spending some time alone, and as a Christian, I use that as a devotional time, but I decided to spend the next few mornings actually working through this exercise.
And here's what he suggested and here's what I highly suggest. If you'll work through this exercise, you will discover what you value most. He said, "Imagine you're at your own funeral and imagine the following people get up to talk about you: Your father or your mother, your husband or your wife, a son or a daughter, a best friend, an employer, a coach, somebody you work with." He goes through a list of people. He said, "Imagine that these different people from these different walks of life get up and say something about you at your funeral." Then he said this, "Write down what you would want to hear them say."
So I did and it was amazing. At the end of that exercise... I spent about four mornings, about 20, 25 minutes, about four or five mornings in a row. At the end, I looked at what I had written and I realized, this is my personal definition of success. This is what I value most. What you want said about you at the end is what you value most and you owe it to yourself to discover that. You say, "Well, Andy, that's just so depressing."
No, let me tell you what's depressing. Depressing is getting to the end and realizing what you value most is out of reach. And it happens all the time. So opt for ultimate over immediate. Opt for ultimate over immediate. Don't settle for what my friend, Adam Johnson, calls not goals. Do you know what a not goal is? A not goal is I'm not gonna be like him; I'm not gonna be like her; I'm not gonna end up there; I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna... But Adam says this, he says, "Not is not enough." And defining your future and defining your success or trying to lead yourself with not goals will not set you up to lead yourself well. You have to discover what you value most. So the second decision, I will prioritize what I value most over what I want now.
The third decision is this one. I will not attempt to lead myself by myself. I will not attempt to lead myself by myself. Now, this seems a little bit not intuitive. It seems like, "If I'm leading myself, aren't I leading myself by myself?" You're not. In fact, you can't lead yourself by yourself. And you know this from personal experience. You know this from childhood. You may have a few stories from your adulthood that underscore this.
Because we know, as we think about our childhood, as we think about our college years, as we think about adulthood, for some of us, your greatest regrets, let's be honest, your greatest regrets when you were creating what would become your greatest regret, you were with friends. You were with some friends that now you wish perhaps you had never met.
And what happened? What happened? It was very simple. You were moving in a direction with people who supported you moving in that direction, and now you look back and you think, "That was terrible self-leadership. That was a terrible decision. It was a terrible financial decision. It was a terrible investment. It was a terrible idea." But you had people around you that supported you in that decision.
You can't lead yourself by yourself, and here's why. It's a principle. Our friends, your friends, our friends determine the direction and the quality of our lives. Our friends, your friends, determine the direction and quality of your life. And in fact, if you have kids... I have three children. I have two out of college, one that graduates Monday. Yes, it's such a wonderful thing. I had to write that last check back in November to Auburn University, War Eagle. Anyway... Yeah, over here on the right. Yes. I'm sure out there in the broader world, there was much clapping about Auburn. But anyway...
The point is this, if you have middle school kids and you have high school kids and they're starting to kind of pester you about that first tattoo, you know, "I want a tattoo, I want a tattoo," here's what I would suggest. I would suggest, as a parent, if you're in that season of life, you say, "Sure honey, you can get a tattoo, but mama gets to choose it. And I suggest that you tattoo right here, 'Your friends will determine the direction and the quality of your life.'" And have them look at that for the next 10 years of their life.
Because you know what you know from your past and I know from my past, my friends determine the direction and the quality of my life. And that doesn't end at 13 or 15 or 18. And this is the thing, and here's the application as it relates to this third decision. You don't simply need friends with common interests. Most people develop friendships with people who have common interests. That's a shortcut. It's easy to find people who share common interests. You need to find people who share common values because self-leadership, exceptional self-leadership is value-driven.
Consequently, you need to find a way to connect with people who don't simply have the same interests that you have, although, obviously, there's nothing wrong with that. You've gotta do life with people who are moving toward and embracing the same values that you embrace. And the reason you know this is absolutely true is because if you have kids, that's exactly what you would tell your kids.
"But mom, we like the same music," and you're looking at the people who like the same music as your kid going, "That's great. I still don't want you to go over there." Right? "But you know, he...you know, we have the..." "I know, but I still don't want you to hang out with him." Why? Because you know this as a parent, you know this as an older brother, an older sister, the values that a person embraces ultimately determines the direction and quality of their life and embracing or spending time with or building community with people who are moving in the same direction has more to do with helping us in terms of self-leadership than perhaps anything we can do on the outside.
Which means, and this is the hard part of this one, it means you may need to disconnect from a friend or two. Again, this isn't just for high school students. This is for grownups. And the reason you may need to disconnect from a friend or two is this, is that ultimate can be threatening to folks who've opted for immediate. That ultimate can be threatening to people who opt for immediate.
When you decide, "You know what? I'm gonna spend the time to decide, to determine, to discover what I really value most, I'm gonna quit lying to myself. I'm gonna fire the liar, and I'm gonna become brutally honest with myself, and I'm gonna embrace what I ultimately wanna look back on." The people who aren't moving in that direction, the people who are living for immediate as opposed to ultimate, there may be some conflict. And that's okay because you're leading yourself.
And here's the bottom line. I'm gonna wrap up in just a couple minutes. Everybody, everybody, everybody ends up somewhere in life, everybody. There's no option. This is just the way it is. Life's a journey, right? It's the principle of the path. Direction determines destination. Direction, not intention, determines destination, right? Everybody ends up somewhere in life.
And the reason we're doing this day today and the reason we put all this together is we want you to end up somewhere on purpose. And there is only one person on this planet that can determine whether or not you end up somewhere on purpose, and it's the person that you're confronted with every single morning in the mirror. So my friends, lead that person well.
You have very little influence perhaps at work in terms of who you lead, but every single day you get up with the opportunity and the responsibility to lead the person that has more to do with your destiny than any other person you'll ever meet. You think it's your boss, you think it's your company, you think it's stockholders, you think it's the economy, you think it's a whole lot of things. The person, the influence that has more influence over your future than anybody or anything you'll ever confront is the person in the mirror. So lead that person well.
Decide today, I will not lie to myself even when it makes me feel bad about myself. Those days are over. I'm gonna fire the liar. Decide that you are gonna prioritize what you value most over what you want now. Now, I realize that I've already ruined lunch for many of you today with this one because you're gonna sit down with the people on your team, the people you came with, and you're gonna sit at... You know, most of you are gonna go to some fabulous restaurant or you're gonna be served a lunch, you know, on your site, and everybody's gonna look at dessert and feel terrible.
So I just wanna free you of that guilt. But I do wanna remind you of this. Dessert is immediate, health is ultimate. Okay, enough about that. So what I want you to do and you...and the thing is you can do this before this weekend or during this weekend, is to sit down and spend some time asking the question, "What do I value most?" And work through that funeral exercise. It won't take very long, it's not depressing. It's gonna open you up to the reality of what's most important to you. And once you decide and once you discover what your values are, write those down.
When I went through that exercise...I forgot to tell you this. When I went through that exercise, I actually...I took all those paragraphs and went you know, "What would want?" I wasn't married at the time. Actually, I was engaged, you know, what I want my future wife to say, all those things. I took all that information, it was several paragraphs, and I condensed it to nine words, nine words, and I could rattle off those nine words today.
Those nine words, those value words became a perimeter around my behavior, a perimeter around my thought life, a perimeter around the way I did business, the way I did ministry, and the way I did relationships. Those became, because I recognized, as I want you to recognize, that's what success is for you.
And then third, last, you've gotta decide, I'm not gonna lead myself by myself. I'm gonna find a way to do...life with, to build a community around me of people who value what I value, they don't simply share the same interest that I share. Leading yourself well is not an essential for being a leader, but leading yourself well is essential if you want to be a leader worth following. A leader with sustained influence, a leader with sustained performance.
And every day of your life, every day of my life, we will be tempted to opt for immediate over ultimate, but don't do it. The person in the mirror is counting on you. And not only is the person in the mirror counting on you, for most of us, there are some other smaller faces in smaller mirrors that are counting on us as well. Thank you.
Leadership communicator, best-selling author and founding pastor of North Point Ministries Andy Stanley inspires tens of thousands of people. Andy founded Atlanta-based North Point Ministries in 1995, leading six churches in the Atlan...
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