Learning to Lead from Your Inner Executive

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By:Beth Flynn, Thursday, March 27th, 2014
From: Daft, R. L., (2010).  The executive and the elephant: a leader’s guide for building inner excellence.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

All of us have these two parts within – the wise and intentional inner executive and the unconscious inner elephant, which does a good job for us most of the time.  The friction between inner executive and inner elephant occurs when they have different ideas about desired behavior.  The inner elephant is concerned about its own needs and comforts, and is often stronger than the inner executive.  The inner executive can see the bigger picture even if it has not learned how to guide and control the elephant.

For a leader, the ideal situation is for the inner elephant to work as the servant, the inner executive to work as master.  Of course everyone faces situations where the inner elephant’s urges seem far stronger than the inner executive’s good intentions.  This is like the inmates having more influence than the warden.  Managers who do not have a well-developed inner executive will not lead themselves consciously and intentionally, just as a company without a CEO and executive team will not have an intended strategy or the capability to coordinate disparate departments for strategy execution. 

When in its proper role, the inner elephant thrives as a follower, not a leader.  Ideally, leaders will understand their own elephant, and will be conscious of its habits and needs.  When a person is “unconscious,” however, he or she tends to live at the mercy of the inner elephant, following its needs and impulses without concerns for others or a bigger picture.  When “conscious,” a leader can be intentional about doing the right thing (p. 11-12).

  • When have you used your inner executive to see the bigger picture?
  • How can you become “conscious: about doing the right thing?
Thu, 03/27/2014 - 11:58am -- Beth Flynn

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