inner leady

How to Develop Your Inner Leader

Let me ask you… Who’s really leading you? No, not your boss, not your coach, not your mentor, not your partner, or anyone else outside of you. But inside. Who leads you from within?

The answer, of course, is you. Whether you have chosen to fully step into self-leadership, or you’re stuck in a passive role of letting everything around you steer your path, ultimately, you are the one making the decisions in your life.

Your leader within is a powerful force, and connecting with your inner leader empowers you to create joy, meaning and success in all areas of life, including leadership of others. You see, the very best leaders – those who draw out the best in people around them, and drive big picture level success – understand that strong leadership starts within. They know that the first step is always to seek inner calm and clarity, so that they can meet others as their best selves.

So… how do you develop inner leadership? How do you embrace that part of yourself that knows, intuitively, what’s right for you? Like most transformations, it starts within.

Five Ways to Embrace Your Inner Leader

Have you ever left a situation and thought, “I should have handled that differently. Why couldn’t I do/say what was needed?”

Leaders who always seem to respond in an effective way – not with solutions, but in a way that opens up possibilities, puts others at ease, and inspires progress – almost always have well developed inner leaders. Either they’ve done the work to fully embrace their leader within, or they were fortunate to have never lost that connection in the first place. As a result, they’re able to respond with calm and clarity in almost every situation.

What’s most important to know is that this is a learnable skill and can be developed through conscious habit building.

Here are 4 ways to do that:

1. Make a conscious choice in your impact.

Everything you do impacts the people around you. No, you aren’t responsible for how they show up or respond, but you are responsible for how you show up and respond. That’s your impact. When you show up from your highest self, you are making a conscious choice in your impact.

When you lead from your lower self – i.e. disconnected from your inner self – you are far less conscious of your impact on others and on yourself. This leads to feelings of resentment and judgement… also of others and yourself.

Your inner leader is the part of you that believes in your values and purpose, and is dedicated to bringing them to life. They want you to succeed and are ready to hold you with unconditional love and acceptance, leading you with wisdom, compassion, courage, clarity, and certainty. These qualities are naturally within you, but it’s up to you to bring them to the surface. Choose, consciously, to let your highest self lead the way.

2. Become aware of your Gremlins

We all have an inner leader… and an inner Saboteur. Or, as I call it, my Gremlins. These are the voices inside you that want to keep you locked in old patterns. Gremlins are afraid of anything outside the status quo, and when we’ve been disconnected from our inner leader for so long, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish which voice is which.

But your Gremlins don’t have to control you and they can be tamed. At any moment, you have the choice of who you want to give the microphone to and how you want to respond. Once you are conscious of both your Gremlins and leader within, you will naturally want to take the microphone from your Gremlins and turn it over to your leader. To help, here are 8 steps to get control of your Saboteurs so you can let your inner wisdom come through with clarity.

3. Get comfortable speaking your truth.

As leaders, we have to be aware of the words we say, and often get mired in the muck of office politics. But, regardless of the current culture in your organization, there is always space for truth, and your inner leader can help with that.

Speaking your truth in professional settings is no easy feat, but it is so worth it. It makes you a stronger, more approachable leader, capable of holding safe space for others, and empowering them to bring their truth forward as well. The key is to tune into your leader within before any conversation where you need to speak your truth, especially if you feel doing so will be challenging. This ensures you are leading from your highest self and from a heart of peace.

When you do the work to speak your truth, you start giving the reins to your best, most empowering self, and developing your confidence in your inner leader. The more truth comes forward, the stronger your inner leader connection becomes.

4. Get curious about others through powerful questions.

When our Gremlins are running the show, the questions we ask people most are focused on getting information. We ask about deadlines, roadblocks, updates and so on. We want to keep everyone on their toes and ensure the work gets done.

When you bring your inner leader to the forefront, you quiet the Gremlins, and are able to see through the daily stresses and get clarity on the humanity of the people you lead. By learning to ask powerful questions, you drive engagement, trust and productivity. You are able to get the information you need, and much more, empowering you and the people you lead to create longterm, big picture success, in addition to ensuring day-to-day tasks are getting done.

Here’s why asking good questions makes you a better leader, as well as tips on how to put it into practice.

Your inner leader is not something you develop by following certain models. It is a unique part of your authentic self and, therefore, will develop in a way that is unique to you. Tuning in and embracing your inner leader exactly as it is (not how you’ve been told it “should” be) is how your leader within becomes its strongest, best self, meaning YOU become your strongest, best self.

How to Awaken the Inner Leader

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. 

—Albert Einstein

If you’re struggling to tune into your inner leader, it may simply mean that part of yourself is dormant and needs to be woken up.

Think about the way most of us grew up. We were usually expected to do what we were told and not to question authority (parents, teachers, coaches, first bosses, etc.). Most of us weren’t heard when something didn’t feel right to us. That wasn’t necessarily with bad intentions, it was just the way things were done “back in the day”.

The result is, to gain acceptance and approval, we learn to turn away from our natural leader within. After a time, our connection weakens and it sort of… goes to sleep. But it’s still there, waiting to be woken up, which is why before getting into ways to let your inner leader out, the first step for you is learning how to find your inner leader and wake them up.

Awakening your leader within takes intention and inner exploration. In my coaching practice, I use a guided imaging exercise from the Co-Active Institute to help coachees wake up that part of themselves and begin reconnecting. In this exercise, your leader within is known as your Captain, because it is the part of you that steers your ship with confidence and clarity, not necessarily because they look like a ship captain. In fact, there is no right or wrong way for this visualization to go. Whatever you see or tune into is the way it is supposed to be for you. This exercise has been done with thousands of people worldwide, across different age groups and cultures, and everyone has a different experience. Let what comes up, come in.

In practice, I walk people through this exercise one-on-one, holding safe space and mirroring back, guiding coachees deeper into their inner world. Doing this with a trained Co-Active coach is a transformative experience. Although I can’t create a personalized experience for you in this article, I can guide you through the exercise at a general level, so that you can begin to initiate your own transformation.

So… Are You Ready to Meet Your Captain?

I assure you, your Captain is eager to reconnect with you. I encourage you to listen to the audio below and begin a journey to meet your Captain and begin developing this amazing part of YOU.

Listen to begin a journey to meet your captain

Now… remember those 4 tips above for developing your inner leader? I’m going to give you one more:

5. Build the imaging exercise above into your daily routine.

New habits demand repetition. As you go about your day, you want your mind to start practicing connecting with your Captain whenever a situation or decision arises. By working this into your daily routine, you choose, each day, how you want to show up and respond to the world around you. I find this works well as part of a morning routine so that you can connect within before anyone or anything else has a chance to impact you, but what’s most important is to find a time that works for you and your lifestyle.

As part of this practice, you might simply ask your Captain, “What messages do you have for me today?” This can take a matter of minutes or even seconds. Simply find or create a quiet space for yourself to close your eyes, breathe deeply, drop all the shoulds, the what-ifs and the I-have-tos, and allow your inner wisdom to come through.

There is a powerful leader within you, waiting to connect and help you create the life and impact you truly want. If you would like further guidance on finding, awakening and embracing your inner leader (for you, your team or your organization) I invite you to connect with me.