9 Leadership Touchstones

What inspired you to write 9 Leader Touchstones, and what impact are you hoping it will have on leaders? What’s the “ripple” you’re trying to create?

In some form or fashion, I’ve been writing this book for the better part of a decade. Fueled by my own experiences in the workplace—inspired by the actions of leaders, suppressed by them, or by navigating the journey of leadership myself—the desire to share this message continued to grow. However, everything started to move into focus when I moved into leadership consulting, and I witnessed the struggles of well-intentioned leaders firsthand. Behavioral accountability flows from the leader, and that starts well before the bottom line improves. The philosophical underpinning of our leadership model is this—Leaders first look to themselves. I hope this book inspires leaders of people, regardless of their level in the organization, to introspectively examine their impact, not just on the bottom line but on the lives of the people they lead.

Behavioral accountability flows from the leader, and that starts well before the bottom line improves.

Which of the 9 leadership touchstones do leaders tend to struggle with the most?

I want to take a detour from your question to provide context for my answer. My answer connects to how I’ve defined the Leader Touchstones. When developing the Leader-First® (LF) Leadership model, I opted for some definitions from fellow researchers and social scientists. As you know, I adopted your definition of Courage because no other more succinctly captures the challenges leaders face daily. However, some touchstone definitions intentionally deviate from what we’d consider widely accepted definitions. Each touchstone fuels the dynamic, enduring organizational system in different ways and has a specific purpose. How a leader cultivates, exhibits, and guides the development of the touchstones in others can limit or enhance their effectiveness in reinforcing healthy culture dimensions.

By providing that context, my answer will make more sense. From my observations of working with leaders and from analyzing the data from our Leader Touchstone™ Assessment, it’s clear that Resilience challenges leaders the most in the current state of work. The ability to overcome adversity is the standard definition of Resilience. However, when developing the model definition, I couldn’t get past the period at the end of the sentence. I kept remembering how many times I’d overcome adversity in my life and how utterly exhausted I felt by it all, simply because I’m the kind of person who can handle a great deal of stress.

The ability to overcome adversity is the standard definition of Resilience.

While overcoming adversity is necessary, it shouldn’t come at the expense of your health and well-being or worse. The dictionary definition of Resilience is a slippery slope. It leaves leaders open to overcoming adversity at work, no matter the personal cost. The LF Leadership definition of Resilience gives specific guidance to leaders about how they should cultivate this touchstone. Resilience is the capacity to overcome adversity through the systematic renewal of the body’s four energy wellsprings—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

We are in the midst of a global human energy crisis. Unrelenting pressure to perform, fewer resources, and an irrational focus on time management make redefining Resilience for leaders a significant challenge. For decades, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that working late hours and long days increases high performance. Unfortunately, research confirms that not taking focused time to renew energy can catastrophically impair performance and endanger a person’s health and long-term well-being.

When considering your own educational, career, and leadership journey, which of the 9 leadership touchstones have you had to work on the most?

Based on how a person grows in Emotional Intelligence (EI), this is where I’ve done the most intentional work throughout my career. It’s a muscle that we must constantly work. I tell my students, “You never arrive in leadership—it’s a lifelong journey.” With EI, nothing could be more accurate. Most people think their work is done if they score high when they take an EI assessment. But EI ebbs and flows throughout your lifetime based on change. Because our brains are hardwired to resist change, each change introduces new triggers. In these moments, we must step back and do intentional work to understand these triggers. Once we do that, only then can we start converting the change into productive engagement.

I’ve experienced lots of change throughout my lifetime. When you grow up the way I have, you get good at quickly assessing and managing the effects of change. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t had to put in the hard work each and every time.

About the Author

My friend Dr. Jes DeShields is a talented and accomplished consultant, team and leader coach, writer, and speaker. As a thought-leader, her leadership insights are valuable to all those who listen. Her most recent book captures those insights, thoughts, and showcases the journey to what she calls a Leader-First Leader. You can learn more about Dr. Jes DeShields book, 9 Leadership Touchstones here.

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