Want to be a Great Leader? Write a Book!

“Errol, don’t you mean, ‘Read your book?’, not, ‘Write a book’, to become a great leader?”

Well, yes and no.

Yes, if you read my book, The Process, Art, and Science of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Confidence and Clarity in Combat, in the Boardroom, and at the Kitchen Table, I believe you will become a better leader in every aspect of your life. (The Kindle version is available for preorder today, and you can get your hands on a paper copy beginning July 1st!)  BUT writing the book has exposed more to me about certain elements of leadership than I anticipated.  

Over the last three years or so I have averaged a blog post like this about once a month. I write blogs because they are fun, I feel like I have a message on leadership to share, and they keep my writing skills sharp. However, my experience in writing my book has revealed many “put your money where your mouth is” moments that do not show themselves when writing blogs.

I have developed a leadership process that incorporates distinct elements that must always be accounted for in your leadership journey. They are not random principles all living on separate islands. They form a process, and like any process, for it to work we cannot skip steps. The elements of the leadership process are simple:

1. Practice emotional awareness and recognition

2. Practice cultural awareness and recognition

3. Establish guidelines for behavior

4. Follow a planning process

5. Meet the resistance.

Establishing guidelines for behavior is the area where I had to take my own medicine writing my book and practice behaviors that can be difficult but will make me better in every aspect of my life.

Here’s how it works:

We must first go through the necessary pain of awareness around our emotions because emotions drive our actions. Then we must practice an awareness of what those actions are because those are the actions that make up our personal culture. And we must have this awareness without judgement, for better or for worse. Once we practice this awareness, we are now able to decide how we want to act, or which guidelines for behavior we will establish for ourselves. That is how we practice the art of leadership, by having an awareness and then deciding which behaviors are right for us and in the proper context.

The first thing I was aware of when I began writing the book were the small bouts of procrastination I faced. I would settle in to write and decide first to knock out a few emails or some other extraneous piece of business that could certainly wait. Once I realized I was doing this (because I practiced Cultural Awareness and Recognition) I was able to look at it and ask myself what behavior I needed to exhibit to get better. Prioritize and execute to completion. Yes, if I focused my behavior around prioritizing tasks and executing them to completion, I would get better…at everything, not just writing. I began to act with clear intention and would catch myself quickly when I veered off course to some procrastinating behavior. Good start!

As I focused on prioritizing and executing to completion, I felt good about the amount of time I was giving to the writing process. However, I noticed a new form of procrastination creeping in. Writing, re-writing, and revising are part of the writing process. However, it becomes detrimental to the process when all you are doing is writing, re-writing, and revising the same chapter, section, or paragraph over and over. I needed another focused behavior to supplement prioritize and execute.

As I’ve told clients for years now, you can’t make adjustments to something you haven’t started. I wasn’t really starting the writing process until I moved on to the next chapters in the book and stopped trying to make the chapter I was working on perfect, which is impossible to do. Plus, that is what the editor was for. I needed to simply do the best I could with what I was working on, submit it, and move on to the next. Adjustments would come later. With this context in mind, I needed to name my new behavior for easy access to my mindset. So, I decided I would “ship”. Write, make reasonable revisions and re-writes, ship it to the editor, move on to the next, and revise later based on the editor’s recommendations.

I began focusing on these behaviors every day to move towards the goal of completing my book. But something was still missing. Twice I caught myself procrastinating. Would I find some other way to procrastinate? I needed to figure out what the emotion was that was driving that action. The answer was obvious after a little reflection. Fear! Fear of what? Name it. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to articulate what I thought was important. Fear my thoughts on paper would sound stupid. Fear no one will like what I have to say. Fear my work will be laughed at or rejected. All legitimate fears when you are putting yourself out there like you do when you write a book. But these were not emotions I could act on if I wanted to finish this project. So, what intentional behavior would get me past these fears? Easy. I needed to act with more courage.

Now I had three behaviors to focus on in my journey towards writing a book. They were all in context to my struggles and if I behaved in these ways – prioritize and executeship, and show courage – I would get better. Not just at writing, but everything! As I focused every day on these behaviors, my writing not only improved but I found I was employing these behaviors in other areas of my business and personal life. I focused on them daily, so they became a habit for everything I was doing.

That’s the spirit of Guidelines for Behavior. If you didn’t change the way you made, marketed, or sold your widget, but behaved in these ways, would you get better? My “widget” in this case was writing a book. My behaviors had nothing to do with writing, but they made me a better writer.

So how did this make me a better leader?

As a former Navy SEAL, FBI Special Agent, and current small business owner I’ve obviously employed these behaviors before. However, writing a book reminded me that the importance of continuously focusing on important behaviors in the context of where they are needed allowed me to raise my writing game which, in turn, improved my leadership game in the most important leadership place of all…home!

If I prioritize and execute issues around my family, will I be a better husband and father? I think, yes! If I did my best to arrange or plan for family activities and then shipped the idea, got it started and made positive adjustments along the way, will I be a better husband and father? Again, I think yes! If I act with courage in the necessary, but very difficult process of instilling discipline in my young kids (think quivering lips and silent tears of a 6 and 7-year-old, as the 1 year old looks on wreaking indiscriminate havoc), will I be a better father? Yes, I will! If I behaved in these ways, will I be leading my family better? For the final time, yes!

Now, go write something with the intention of sharing and become a better leader! And don’t forget to check out The Process, Art, and Science of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Confidence and Clarity in Combat, in the Boardroom, and at the Kitchen Table, available for purchase July 1st!

Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coachingkeynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.

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