What does it mean to be your “best self”? It’s a question I’m being asked a lot these days with the upcoming release of my newest book: Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership. The first of “five bests” explored in the book (and the topic of this blog post) is the foundation of them all — your Best Self. (The others — best team, best partner, best investment, and best citizen — will be discussed in upcoming blog posts.)
Becoming your best self is the process of putting into action the four principles of values-based leadership: self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility. Self-reflection increases your awareness and affirms your commitment to continuous improvement. Balance ensures that you are looking at things from all angles and gathering input from others, especially those with differing opinions. True self-confidence allows you to own your strengths and accomplishments — you know what you know. Genuine humility recognizes the value of others and the importance of treating everyone with respect.
Through these principles, you will gain greater self-awareness and self-knowledge, enabling you to pursue the lifelong goal of becoming your best self — and to motivate and inspire others to do the same.
In my career, I have had the privilege of holding several executive roles with a combined tenure of 11 years as a senior leader at Baxter International. I am currently an executive partner with the private equity firm, Madison Dearborn Partners, and a clinical professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Despite the successes I’ve been fortunate to achieve, I am just as committed to becoming my best self as I was thirty-plus years ago, when I was a junior analyst working in a cubicle. In this very important way, I have not changed.
Whether you are at the entry level, a middle manager, or a senior executive, your drive to become your best self will elevate your contribution to the organization and amplify your ability to lead others — starting with yourself. (After all, if you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?)
Your best self is not about perfection. It’s about becoming consistently disciplined and focused, making sure you challenge yourself to truly be your best self — instead of being complacent, convinced that you have arrived. No matter how good you are, you can always be better.
As you self-reflect at the end of the day, you may regret something that you said or did. Perhaps you didn’t treat someone respectfully, or you lost your temper. Maybe you acted like a know-it-all instead of truly valuing someone’s opinion. In short, you acted in ways that are inconsistent with your values. When you acknowledge those times you missed the mark, you can recommit to the process of becoming your best self — to the best of your ability, every day.
At every phase and stage of your life (personal and professional) becoming your best self is the foundation of your leadership.