I recently attended a talk for human resource leaders that brought in Hitendra Wadhwa, a very popular professor at Columbia Business School and founder of the Institute for Personal Leadership (IPL). Wadhwa is a mathematician who has made a study of what makes a great leader. It didn’t surprise me that this scholar found that great leadership comes from the person you are inside, rather than being imposed from the outside, but I was excited to learn that his research offers some quantifying evidence to back up that philosophy, which I share. Letting your inner self be your “guiding light,” as Wadhwa eloquently put it, is easy to say, but it’s not always clear to each of us how we can bring that about. Wadhwa proposed paying attention to five key aspects of self. I’ll try to sum up the thoughts he shared on those below and I’ve followed with information about how to learn more about his work.
1. Purpose: What are my chosen values and principles?
2. Wisdom: Following the inner self doesn’t mean letting emotions take over. It means having an awareness and mastery of emotions, so that we feel, but we also are able to hold to our values.
3. Love: Wadhwa talked about this in terms of expanding the heart and training ourselves to feel joy in other people’s joy. If we can do this, we expand our sense of self, giving us important energy we can bring to our work as leaders. One way to do this is to pay attention to another person’s story without judgement.
4. Growth: See yourself as a work in progress, and work to awaken yourself to full potential. Think about ways to do this and don’t ever think of yourself as completed. Leaders become great by sculpting their character as they grow, refining strengths and striving to use them for good ends.
5. Self-realization: What is your inner voice? What is authentic for you?
I felt enriched and affirmed by Wadhwa’s ideas, and his talk was a great reminder of why I do the leadership work I do.