By IESE Insight
“You will have a hard time managing people and organizations if you are unable to manage yourself.” This is the basic premise of the new book on leadership by IESE Prof. Cosimo Chiesa.
The author sets aside his usual subject matter, business management, for this project focused on personal leadership. The 2015 book is driven by the conviction that “the leadership of an organization always begins with the personal leadership of each of its members.”
Offering 25 keys to true leadership, the author addresses such aspects as:
- Focusing on what gives meaning to our lives. Our mission and our values, and what makes us happy, are important components of effective leadership.
- Time management, that perennial complication. “There can be no success, or lasting happiness, if your daily agenda does not conform to your core values,” Chiesa writes.
- Taking care of relationships. Personal, professional and family relationships are all essential to fomenting good leadership.
- Taking care of ourselves, which includes finding time to think, listen and manage our emotions, to read and study, and to get some exercise.
The 8 Treasures of Well-Being
The book takes the form of a series of conversations between a highly successful (but not particularly happy) executive, who has just suffered a serious car accident, and his former professor, who visits him in the hospital. Over the course of nine hospital visits, the professor helps the self-questioning executive rediscover his core beliefs and values. The professor also coaches the executive to rearrange his priorities and commit to a set of goals more aligned with his own true desires.
This coaching process revolves around what the author calls “the eight treasures of well-being,” i.e., the eight elements that lead to personal fulfilment: personal, professional, sentimental, physical, economic, social, community and spiritual treasures. Throughout the process, readers are encouraged to reflect upon their own beliefs and priorities.
And this is where the hard work begins: the book aims to reduce the gap between who we are (or who we have become) and who we would like to be. “Being consistent in what you feel, think, do and say,” is, according to Chiesa, the key to serenity, personal balance and, ultimately, happiness.
Define Your Mission
The first step is to find, and verbalize, a mission to guide your actions from that point onward. This mission will help prioritize between important and urgent tasks.
Start by asking: What is it that inspires and compels you to act? What are your goals? What price are you willing to pay to achieve these goals? What mark do you want to leave on the world?
Your mission should be aligned with your values. “Your values are your DNA, the compass that tells you which way to go,” Chiesa writes.
Each aspiring leader needs to define his or her own personal and non-transferable mission. The book offers a series of practical exercises to help with the process, including tips to help identify fears and thoughts that may trip us up.
The Importance of Setting Goals
“When we don’t have an action plan to stick to, good intentions quickly fall by the wayside,” the author warns. Setting objectives is essential: they allow us to chart a course, align our priorities, measure progress, develop creativity, fix concentration, be proactive and stay motivated in the face of constant challenges.
Yet, armed with clear goals and the best intentions, we can still end up lost in what Chiesa dubs “the valley of excuses.”
What holds us back from achieving the goals we set for ourselves? Falling short of a proper self-assessment is one problem. Fear is another: fear of leaving our comfort zone, of failing and of being rejected. Sometimes we forget the advice we have been given; at other times, we stumble due to a lack of consistency, conviction, or faith in our own potential, Chiesa notes.
The Winning Formula
To overcome common obstacles, Chiesa advocates decisiveness, engagement, dedication, daily improvement and, last but not least, time.
After nine frank conversations, and a list of 25 keys, the coaching process comes full circle to reinforce the first and most vital key to great leadership: the idea that the path to true leadership starts with the individual.