During the recent Emmy Awards Ceremony, Andy Samberg and Seth Meyers honored Lorne Michaels with a "World's Best Boss" award. Satirical entertainment value aside, their former boss is undeniably known for his ability to successfully motivate and nurture unique talent.

There are a few things we can learn from Michaels' leadership tenets. After over four decades at the helm of Saturday Night Live, Michaels remains famous for his dedication and creativity — but also his tenacity when it comes to defending his gifted employees. I'm sure many of us have been inspired by his ability to motivate, encourage and lead by example.

I have never met Mr. Michaels, but I have a notion that this man knows who he is, at the core and takes responsibility for his mistakes. From interviews that I have read, I would also imagine that he possesses a positive belief system, and never gives up on an idea or a person he works with if he feels strongly that there is potential worth developing. Solid "boss" material.

Interestingly, the word boss is derived from the Dutch word "baas," meaning "master," which Dutch settlers first introduced to North America in the 1650s. By the early 19th century, urban workers popularized the word "boss" as calling their superior "master" implicated a slew of negative connotations.

Yet the word "master" still holds useful meaning for a leader, in terms of learning the fine art of self-mastery. Simply put, self-mastery is becoming more self-aware and more skilled in handling your emotions. Through this process, you are better able to develop a more authentic and productive leadership style that pays big dividends for you and the people you lead.

In my work as a business consultant I have asked hundreds of groups from every imaginable field and occupation to describe the best boss that they have ever worked for. Time and time again, the responses are the same. People remembered the boss who listened to them, involved them, cared about and trusted them, and provided productive feedback. These unforgettable bosses all have one key factor in common: they have the capacity for introspection. They are also committed to developing their emotional intelligence, leading to better control of their impulses and emotions.

If you carve out the time to do some soul-searching and take responsibility for your actions, you will undoubtedly gain valuable self-knowledge, and, in turn, more respect from your employees. Operating from a place of authenticity will serve you in many ways.

Here are five ways to begin the quest for self-mastery:

1. Shift your focus. First and foremost, shift your mind-set to one of taking full and complete responsibility for whatever is happening in your life. Once you accept where you are in this moment, only then can you begin to move toward constructive change.

2. Ask for feedback. In my book, Heart-Centered Leadership, this is part of the principle called "Know Thyself." Getting to know yourself better requires coming to terms with your own strengths and what is required in order to make positive, deliberate progress. This can be achieved by asking for feedback from the ones who know you best. Be appreciative of all that you receive — the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly. Every opinion counts, whether you agree with it or not. Take a serious look at this feedback and do what you can to "own" it and work toward changing it, if necessary.

3. Self-reflection. Block out time to mindfully assess yourself — daily or weekly. After reviewing all of the events, phone calls, e-mails, meetings, and conversations that occurred that day (or week), ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did I do to contribute to or take away from the success of these conversations or events?
  • What mistakes did I make? How could I have handled this differently?
  • Under what conditions did I excel? When I am operating at my best, what am I doing?
  • What are my talents and what are the benefits I realize when I have the opportunity to express them?

4. Keep track of destructive and constructive internal dialogue. What kind of messages are you sending yourself? Recording those thoughts through daily or weekly journaling can be extremely valuable in recognizing thought patterns. Meditation is another practice that can help you identify limiting mental thought patterns by taking notice of what thoughts you attempt to push away. Remember, what you resist, persists.

5. Commit to ongoing self-improvement. Another way to "know thyself" is through experiential and educational avenues. Explore and understand yourself as a leader, identify your fears and concerns about working with others in a leadership position. Seek the advice of an executive coach, therapist or mentor to help uncover your particular obstacles to greater leadership.

When you are fueled with the excitement and passion to serve the ones you lead, you can have far-reaching effects. The pay-off is a workforce that is aligned, tuned in, highly engaged, and emotionally connected to their leader and their company.

Published on: Sep 23, 2015
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