Whether you run a company, a consulting practice or just your own life, you are a leader. We all are.
The work of leadership consists of three things.
First, you must have a clear direction… a vision of what you want to accomplish. Second, you must be able to engage and motivate others. There are virtually no worthwhile accomplishments that can be attained without influencing others. Third, you must be able to set and achieve goals that are milestones in the pursuit of your vision.
As you can see, whether you run large enterprises, are an artist or focusing at being a parent, you must do all these three things well to be effective. Yet, there is more to life than simply being effective. Fifty years of research on life satisfaction has taken scholars to where it all started… the work of Abraham Maslow.
Maslow is most famous for developing a hierarchy of needs. In his view, people were always motivated by what they didn’t have. His range of motivations started with physical needs, graduated to social connection, and culminated with something he called self-actualization. Self-actualization occurs at the intersection between effectiveness and happiness. His work was considered to be a breakthrough because he was the first prominent psychologist to study very high functioning people.
The connection between Maslow’s research and leadership is profound. I’ve seen this over my 30 years of working with leaders and coaching them in both their professional and personal lives.
Just as Maslow discovered that only 10% of the population was coming to self-actualization, I have also observed that relatively few leaders are consistently both effective and happy. I use the word happy here because its core definition contains both contentment and optimism. Today many clients are resistant to the idea that self-actualization is an attainable goal. They complain that the pressures of business competition or the competing commitments of modern life are so intense that coping is the best they can do. Self-actualization is something to be achieved in retirement when the bonfire of life has settled into embers. That’s missing the point. Self-actualization isn’t the destination… it’s a means to a well-lived life.
It’s the substance of great leadership. The point of our challenges is that they drive us to self-actualization… doing our best and becoming our best. In order to get this point across, I’ve developed a simple quiz based on Maslow’s eight markers of the self-actualizing person. It just takes a minute… and see where you are.
Respond to each statement using the following scale: 1 = almost never true 2 = rarely true 3 = frequently true 4 = almost always true (You may notice this is a four-point scale. There is no middle, ‘sometimes true’ statement. That’s because four point scales have proven to be more accurate because they force people to make a clear choice rather than default to an “I am not sure” response. The result is more actionable data.
1. I experience my life vividly. I feel genuine emotions daily and am fully present at important moments throughout the day. (1-2-3-4)
2. I make choices that pust me out of my comfort zone that foster my personal growth and development. (1-2-3-4)
3. I am attuned to my inner nature and act with integrity with what I value, believe and feel. (1-2-3-4)
4. I am honest with myself and take full responsibility for the consequences of my decisions without excuses. (1-2-3-4)
5. I have the courage to not manipulate or bully others when I am not getting what I want. (1-2-3-4)
6. In any situation I’m willing to both stand out and fit in based on who I truly am rather than the expectations of others. (1-2-3-4)
7. I have an ongoing process for reaching my potential by constantly learning and doing the work necessary to fulfill my self-vision. (1-2-3-4)
8. I frequently have peak experiences in which I feel authentic closeness to others and being extraordinarily effective in my work. (1-2-3-4)
After you answer each question on the 1 to 4 scale, add up your total. If you score 24 or above… congratulations.
You swim in the pool of high-functioning leaders and individuals. If you score below 24, perhaps it’s a little more clear on what you might work on to get in the pool.
But here is the hard truth…the research on self-knowledge with over 50,000 leaders show that the person who has the most inaccurate view of you is you!
So, to gain deeper insight… after you answer these questions, have someone that knows you well answer these same questions in terms of how they experience you. Do they see you the same way you see yourself? That might give you a clear starting point on what to work on that will both increase your success and your happiness, which is my hope for everyone.