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3 Steps Toward Being a Better Leader in 2009

In a recent blog post I wrote:

An economic world turned upside down makes it easier to take a fresh look. This can open the door to making changes that will benefit you and the most important people in your life, now and in the long run....The crisis, in other words, can make it easier to experiment with new mental models or attitudes about your career and how it fits with your life's purpose, and it can serve as a catalyst for your own reinvention, as a leader in all parts of your life.

A useful investment, then, especially at the beginning of a new year, is to take some time to clarify what's most important to you as a leader, as you see it now and in the future. In my book I refer to this as being real. It's is a necessary component of your foundation as you cultivate your leadership identity and advance your leadership capacity to the next level. Here are a few exercises (adapted from the book) that can help. There's no risk in trying them!

1. Look back at where you have come from.

Think back over your personal history and identify the four or five most important events or episodes in your life, the moments that have defined who you are today. Tell the story of these events, in chronological order. For each one, briefly describe the impact the event had on your values and on your direction in life.

2. Define your personal leadership vision.

A statement of your personal leadership vision provides a focus for your long-term and short-term actions. It's expected that you will revise it over time. It will be of most use if your vision is a compelling image of an achievable future, a story or picture that inspires. Describe the kind of leader you want to become, including the most important goals you have for the contributions you want to make to the world - your legacy -- by writing a short history of your future (your life and career) between now and 2025. What will you be doing in 2025 and what impact will you be having?

3. Take the four-way view

This exercise gives you an understanding of how you are focusing your attention on your four life domains today. It shows how you manage the allocation of your time and energy--the amount of attention you pay to various people and projects in your life--and so helps you assess whether you're actually doing what you care about doing. Complete this chart.

In the first column, distribute the percentages (100% divided across the four domains) based on how important you think each area of your life is, at this point in your life (it is understood that these percentages vary over time). In the second column, distribute the percentages to indicate how much time and energy you actually spend in each area. In the third column, indicate how satisfied you are with how things are going in each domain by circling or bolding a number from 1 to 10, where "1" = "not at all satisfied" and "10" = "fully satisfied." In the bottom right cell, circle/bold the number that best represents how satisfied you are with life in general. Now, the fun part: Reflect on what's important to you, how you focus your time and energy, and how satisfied you are in each of the four areas, and overall.

Readers, what are you doing to prepare for 2009?

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