The Executive and the Elephant

Executive and the ElephantThis was a fascinating book that I won in a contest on  Often, when Michael does a book review, he gives away copies of the book to the people who read his blog (another reason to read his blog).  The book is a leadership book… but personal leadership, instead of managerial leadership.  Leading yourself is the first step to leading others; if you’re not good at leading yourself, you won’t be good at leading others.

Basically, each person has two “natures” inside of them: one that wants to follow your own base instincts (the inner elephant), and one that makes rationale, reasoned decisions (the inner executive)–see Romans 7:14-25 for a biblical explanation.  When we’re born, all we do is follow the urges of the inner elephant.  As we grow, we can learn to make decisions that will tame the inner elephant, and make us better people.  We take hold of the things we should do, and we let our inner executive lead.  But what are some concrete things we can do to tame the inner elephant, and let our inner executive take over?  Here are a couple of things that I gleaned from this book:

We have different voices in our heads telling us different things.  For many people, these voices are telling us negative, critical things: “I’m not good enough;” “I’m an inadequate leader;” “I spend too much time on the Internet;” “I’m not good enough for my job;”  “I’m a bad father;” “I hate doing this.”  Richard Daft, the author of the book, suggests that one can replace those pre-suppositions about themselves by using something called autosuggestion.  Basically, you intentionally replace those thoughts with what you want to be, and eventually what you say will be your first thought, instead of the negative thoughts.  This technique was originally suggested by Emile Coué in his book Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion.  Coué suggested that you repeat the phrase “Each day in every way, I am getting better and better” twenty times before you go to sleep and when you get up.  Richard Daft makes other suggestions: “I am loving people more;” “I am slowing down my judgments;” “I am more engaged in school;” “I am becoming more intentional;” or, for me, “I am becoming a better father.”

The basic thing that this accomplishes is focuses your intentions.  When you are thinking about “getting better and better” every night before you go to bed, and when you get up in the morning, you are more likely to be thinking about this during the day, and actually doing things that make you better and better.

Review your day
This was a good suggestion that I think I will begin to implement: take a few minutes at the end of each day to review the day.  What were the highlights of your day?  What made you feel good?  What did you accomplish?  What didn’t go well?  What discouraged you?  What could you make better?

When you take time to review the day, and even write things down, you can identify the things that you do that are elephant-like (that you need to do better), and the things that are executive-like (that you need to encourage and hone).  You can even do this with a spouse or accountability partner by asking them to ask you five or ten simple questions at the end of the day, to force you to evaluate how you’re doing.

Overall, this book has been a great source of ideas on how to improve the way that I lead myself.  There were ideas (especially out of his eastern spirituality background) that I disagreed with, but for the most part, it was an excellent read.

What do you do to lead yourself?  How do you develop habits that make you a better person?  Do you review your day?  Do you use autosuggestion?

  • Ron Tedwater

    Great work keep it coming