At the conclusion of my book, The Other Everest: Navigating the Pathway to Authentic Leadership, I tell a Sufi story about a pregnant tigress who chases a flock of goats in search of a meal. As she pounces upon them, she brings on the birth of her baby as well as her own death.
After returning to their grazing place, the goats found the just-born tiger cub and his dead mother. They adopt the little guy and, surrounded by goats as his only models, he began to believe he was one. He learned to bleat and eat grass, even though the grass was very hard on his digestive system.
Months later a male tiger chased the flock, and as they scattered, only the young tiger was left to stand helplessly and bleat.
“What are you doing living with goats?” the tiger asked the young feline.
When the little tiger responded with, Maaaaa, and started nibbling grass, the big fellow was mortified and carried him to a pond. For the first time, the young tiger saw his face in the reflection. When the big fellow gave a roar, the young tiger could only bleat, and the elder tiger said, “No, you have to roar like a true tiger!”
After several attempts, the young fellow could roar fully with the sound of a tiger. That deep, loud roar is what the Sufis say is equal to one human being who discovers his true nature.
As authentic leaders, we must decide if we want to live a mistaken life or live the life we are destined for. The decision to live in alignment with our true nature means deepening our self-awareness.
A commitment to awareness – the will to understand – is a central pillar of authentic leadership. The 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council unanimously agreed that self-awareness is the most important capability for leaders to develop.
So, how is self-awareness developed? While attending presentations, reading or listening to books, and investing in leadership training is useful, self-awareness ultimately involves deep personal honesty and asking and regularly answering the hard questions. Self-awareness is like fitness – you don’t get there by going to the gym once a year. It’s a daily habit.
But unlike fitness, self-awareness can’t be done alone. While personal reflection is a component of self-awareness, it’s not sufficient. You can’t see what you can’t see. Your gifts and your blind spots are too close to you for you to be aware of them. You can’t see yourself accurately through your own lenses. A mirror – in the form of a guide, community, confidant, or mentor – is essential to see yourself.
And that’s why I’m excited to be launching the SAGE (Self Awareness Group Experience) Forums.
It consists of a group of ten to twelve like-minded leaders who meet in a virtual four-hour session each month and potentially once a year in a retreat. The group is facilitated by one of our trained and experienced leaders, designed to offer a safe and supportive community to discuss how to authentically navigate any of the issues and opportunities you face.
We sincerely hope you will consider applying for this life-changing program.