An Inside Job

by Steven Mundahl on September 23, 2013

This journey of self-discovery of our true worth is the most important work we will do in our lives. When we fully accept ourselves, we have more integrated personal lives, which sustain us in our leadership roles. We also possess greater faith in our own abilities, and we ignite that belief in those around us. From a place of strength, a leader can mentor others to remove the obstacles to their own worth in both direct and indirect ways. A staff member who could not trust parental figures to be emotionally available and provide for their needs in childhood may suspect your ability to be trustworthy and present for them. In my first CEO position, I had a staff member who had unhealed issues from a very dominating father. We typically had a good relationship. On occasion, when I became a bit questioning or direct about a situation or decision she had made, she visibly reacted and accused me of being too accusatory and verbally assaultive. Emotionally, it brought her back to the hurt caused by her father.

Although I tried to work around this issue, it became more productive for me to directly ask her to question the hurt and the true source of her strong reaction to me. In time, she saw the connection and worked on it, sometimes with a humorous comment. If I had come from an unhealed place within me or taken her aggression at face value, I could have interpreted her behavior as a personal assault. Role-modeling the payoffs to inner healing work and having an understanding of our past conditioning has become a part of my leadership mentoring, all while continuing my own inner work in leadership.

We all desire to be respected, validated, and even admired. Often this desire is a motivator for why people wish to be in leadership roles. If you cannot feel respect for yourself, you cannot feel respect for others. What you long for, you cannot give; therefore, self-respect eludes you in leadership and can lead to failure. Respect is a universal desire of everyone around us. When we realize that respect begins with ourselves and does not necessarily come from others until we find it within, the impact of this revelation on leadership is profound. The leader who desires respect from others may appear emotionally needy or egocentric and garner the opposite—disrespect. It is always an inside job first!

Steven Mundahl

CEO at Goodwill Industies in Western MA
Steven Mundahl is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries in western Massachusetts. He teaches leadership and personal effectiveness in the graduate school of Baypath College.
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