Over the past 15 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the intersection of power and leadership with my friend and Center of Executive Excellence Co-Founder, Dr. Tony Baron.
Before our paths crossed, Tony had established himself as one of America’s most sought after consultants on the subject of violence – in the workplace, in schools, and in the public square. He counselled survivors of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, and the September 11, 2001, attack on The World Trade Center. In 2009, Tony accepted the role as President of The Servant Leadership Institute in San Diego, California, to help spread the concept of transformational servant leadership in corporate America and religious institutions. He led sold out conferences featuring speakers such as Ken Blanchard, John Maxwell, and Southwest Airlines President Emerita Colleen Barrett.
Tony’s work resulted in the publication of three books on the subject: The Art of Servant Leadership (2010), a compelling case study of leadership tested by adversity, The Cross and the Towel (2011), a call to action for Christian leaders to set aside ego, political correctness and selfish ambition in their ministry, and Servant Leadership In Action (2018), a collection of essays co-edited by Ken Blanchard.
I interviewed Tony last week on the topic of Self-Leadership in the Age of Isolation (watch the recording here). He shared the need for leaders to create both inner and outer peace in order to manifest a non-anxious presence through an In, Out and Up model.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict,” Tony said. It’s a pervasive sense of well-being that leaders must intentionally cultivate so that when conflict comes, they don’t get knocked off balance. Instead, they have the presence to steer the ship through the storm. Tony’s mentor, the late Dallas Willard, taught him that peace isn’t something that you drift into. You can’t fake it. Peace is achieved by having a vision, being intentional about dedicating yourself to that vision, and employing the tools necessary to help keep you on the path.
In, Out and Up
To illustrate, Tony used the model of a triangle. Inside of the triangle is peace, or the pervasive sense of well-being. One corner of the triangle focuses on what you’re allowing in your life. Are you spending quality time with those who are important to you? Or, are you spending more time than necessary on screens? Which is more likely to bring you peace and which is more likely to cause anxiety? “You’ll know when you’ve struck the right balance in your inner life,” Tony said, “when you experience gratitude.” The bottomless scroll through social media apps or watching 24/7 breaking news is not going to result in gratitude. But, spending quality time with people with whom you have meaningful relationships will.
Leaders who are at peace don’t focus solely in their inner lives, according to Tony. They also naturally address the opposite corner of the triangle – the out. That outward focus manifests itself in generosity. Leaders who devote time, talent, and/or treasure to others can offset narcissistic tendencies like a sense of entitlement.
To complete the triangle, Tony suggested that leaders also need a space for an up in their lives. Whether your up is the acknowledgment of a higher power or God, knowing that there is something or someone that can do things that you don’t have the power to do on your own helps complete the peace triangle. We find grace in the up. “Grace is the unmerited favor,” said Tony, “that reminds us that there is something bigger than ourselves.”
If we think of peace as the absence of conflict, we focus on the pleasure principles of life that bring us short-term results. But, leaders who endure are those who work on manifesting gratitude, generosity and grace. Thank you, Tony, for sharing your wisdom on self-leadership.
Question: World peace begins with inner peace. – Dalai Lama. What are you doing to manifest inner peace in your life today?
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