What is the Leader Within and How do you Develop it?

Learn why you must cultivate the leader within before you can successfully lead people as well as how to develop your inner leader in a way that will boost the performance of both you, and your organizational culture.



Leading people in today’s world is extremely difficult. With more burned-out, unmotivated, and disengaged employees than ever, leaders everywhere are struggling to keep their heads above water. With so much volatility, confusion, uncertainty, and chaos, it can be hard to show up every day with the vigor needed to inspire a team. So what’s the solution? You need to have a crucial conversation with the leader within. You must understand yourself before you can successfully lead others. What is the leader within? The leader within is the purpose that drives every decision you make. It is the set of core values that influence your behaviors in the workplace and life. It is the amount of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness you carry with you daily. The leader within is what allows you to show up for yourself and other people. If you don’t have a strong leader within, you cannot be a strong leader to other people. When you show up to work stressed and overwhelmed, you might take things out of context or react to them in ways that are not constructive or within reason. It can be hard to be there for other people and support them through challenges when you don’t have the capacity to even be there for yourself. A leader who is not secure in themself can not craft a healthy and high-performance organizational culture. Traits of a strong leader within:

  • Commands respect

  • Self-confident

  • Self-aware

  • Grounded in who they are and where they are going

  • Knows what's important

  • Has a clear path to a noble cause for themself and their organization

  • Is steadfast and unrelenting in achieving their goals

Why is developing your inner leader important? Many of the world’s top leadership experts teach that deeper self-awareness is more crucial for success than ever—Ken Blanchard, Patrick Lencioni, and Stephen Covey, to name a few. Why does this extraordinary brain trust believe this? Because companies are human systems. You can’t successfully “deal with” any of your stressors without having your people on board to help. Everyone must navigate the stormy seas together if your company is going to safely arrive at its desired destination. Like a rudder steers a boat, you are the person who shows everyone where the company is headed and how you’re all going to safely navigate there. But how can you steer the boat for others if you’re not the captain of your own ship? Think about basic safety training. The trainers always tell you to help yourself before helping others. You’ve certainly been on an airplane and been told in emergencies put the air mask on yourself before placing it on the child in the seat next to you. If you don’t prepare in this specific order—saving yourself first—there’s a good chance both parties will lose. That’s why understanding yourself, your ultimate purpose, and your values should be your highest priority as a leader. The time to start this important work is now. One of the best ways to start developing the leader within is by working with a coach. A 2022 Gallup study reports that those that undergo leadership training improved their learning capacity by 25% and their performance by 20%. It can be hard to navigate your strengths and weaknesses without a second and unbiased opinion. A coach can shed a new perspective on your issues and offer the guidance you might not have otherwise thought of. At KeenAlignment, we offer a 2.5-day Awaken the Leader Within immersion retreat as a part of our Culture Catalyst Mastery Program. At the retreat, leaders uncover their limiting beliefs and habits that thwart effectiveness and contribution. They learn and practice new methods for recalibrating and recovering from adversity and setbacks and leave with a concrete road map for integrating their newly learned skills into their day-to-day reality. You can learn more here.


Three steps to develop your leader within 1. Establish a purpose for yourself. What is your calling? What is the noble cause that you will chase throughout your life? A leader with a strong purpose for themself is a leader that can bring purpose and motivation to their organization and help their company achieve their noble cause. 2. Discover what is truly important to you. What do you value? Once you understand your values, ensure they align with the values of the people and organization around you. If they are not aligned, you may not be living with integrity and staying true to the leader within. 3. Look at what is holding you back. What are your self-limiting beliefs? What is keeping you from reaching your highest level of effectiveness and potential? Identifying your self-limiting beliefs allows you to increase self-awareness and understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If you can understand what is holding you back, you can create a plan to face your limiting beliefs and move forward from them. Once you are self-aware and self-actualized within yourself, you can help others become the same. If you want to learn more about self-limiting beliefs, you can check out this video and listen to CEO Margaret Graziano discuss how to discover and overcome the beliefs that are holding you back from a self-actualized life. Summary and Conclusion: You cannot lead a team if you have not mastered the leader within. It is the first and most crucial step of any leader. A clear understanding of your desires, values, and purpose will allow you to foster the same things in the people you lead. If you want to inspire and motivate others, you have to be inspired and motivated. Put on your own oxygen mask first, face the things holding you back and keeping you from your highest level of effectiveness, then take what you've learned and teach others to do the same. If everyone in the company has a strong sense of intrinsic motivation, a healthy, high-performance organizational culture is just around the corner. If you want more information on how to strengthen the leader within, you can sign up for sneak peeks of Margaret Graziano’s new book Ignite Culture. In it, she discusses the leader's journey and how it starts with looking in the mirror and changing yourself so that you can create healthy and successful change in your organization. Sign up here! To your success, The KeenAlignment Team