I saw an interesting tweet from Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak on Twitter) yesterday.

“Find harmony within yourself before looking for alignment with others.”

It caught my attention and I thought, hmm…wouldn’t that mean you might spend not so much time with people? So I tweeted back, ” I saw your tip about finding harmony. Wouldn’t that be lifelong quest? Not sure can’t happen in tandem”

Most people spend a good portion or all of their lives seeking to understand themselves better. Leadership is a relational journey. It can be a journey to get to a position where you are in a one-up position over others. That may not be the most pro-social relationship but it does exist. For others, the key is being compassionate and competent in having the difficult conversations.

Great leadership comes from developing one’s maturity. Things like developing patience and knowing that one’s outlook and mood can encourage or limit the productivity and morale of the staff. But the more I think about it, the more it seems that time and experience season us as leaders. We see our foibles and warts when we bounce off other people. But it isn’t necessarily a negative. Sure, in the moment, it might be an unpleasant lesson about ourselves. But we wouldn’t see things so clearly without people stopping us in our tracks.

Managing conflict may be the greatest test of how leaders manage relationships.

Those moments that show us our foibles and warts are moments of opportunity. We might continue to relate to others as if they are the crazy ones who should listen better, stop questioning us or generally stop being so stupid. And…this is information for our relationship tendencies in general.

The greater challenge lies in taking a moment to look at ourselves with clearer eyes. Maybe this is where Dan Rockwell was really going with his tweet. When we hit that bump in our relationship with someone and there is conflict, it often triggers our emotions. These triggers may be due to someone violating our value system, old hurts or even insecurities about our current identity and competence.

We have certain ideas about who we are and how people see us. Some conflictual relationships seem to make us act in immature and/or irrational ways. When our perceptions about ourselves are contradicted, it creates cognitive dissonance. As in, “I know I should be better than this but that person makes me (crazy, spiteful or…).”  Finding harmony within ourselves is about recognizing and alleviating the cognitive dissonance.

Is seeking harmony within ourselves done in a vacuum?

The most difficult person you have a relationship with is perhaps one of your greatest teachers. It is often said that leadership is more about character and beliefs than it is about what you do. Your actions manifest your character and beliefs. Small business owners tend to have greater access to their staff which means there is a greater chance to enhance or lessen relationships. When we seek harmony within ourselves, we must use our compassion, understanding and forgiveness. It becomes part of the process to decide what to hold onto and what to let go of. This switches our cognitive dissonance to cognitive resonance. As leaders, we can now respond to conflict with the wisdom of when to be flexible and when to hold firm.

But…this takes practice and, fortunately or unfortunately, relationships with other people to illuminate where we are more adept and where we need more practice.This is the journey of leadership.

What helps you create harmony within you?

How does that affect the relationships you have with direct reports and/or peers?

Besides conflict, when would you discover insights about how you lead others?

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and trainer who guides established small business owners to be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about a new business opportunity to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.