Key Axiom: Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.
Action Steps to Truth: A Fearless Inventory of Yourself
- Write in a personal journal
- Make an accounting of your leadership, past and present
- Forgive yourself
In Step 3 of your Axiom Leadership transformation you made a decision. You decided to trust in principles and truths as your guide to leadership. In Step 4 you move from decision to action by making a searching and fearless moral inventory of your leadership surveying or summarizing the thoughts, events, emotions and actions of your life, making the inventory as thorough as possible.
Before I got into more detail of this step, I want to share with you the guidebook I have been referencing in my blog posts related to the 12 Step Program that has helped me understand the transformation principles used with those struggling with addiction. I have been using the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program Guide found at http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/bc/arp/content/english/addiction-recovery-program-guide/pdf/ARPGuide_English_36764.pdf?lang=eng. LDS Family Services adapted the Twelve Steps Program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. according to the doctrines, principles and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I became acquainted with this resource through past service as a board member of the LDS Family Services organization in the Sandy, Utah area and also through personally helping friends who have struggled with addictions. I have attended group sessions and studied the principles in detail. As I witnessed these principles sincerely applied with real intent, I became convinced that their power to transform was not only limited to addictive behavior, but also to other personal and professional areas of life. I have applied these principles in my own life and in my coaching and have found them effective. I recommend the guidebook to you for further reading and understanding.
You will note I have at times relied on the guidebook’s structure and wording to help articulate and expound a principle. Please forgive me if at sometimes it seems I am only copying the guidebook. I have adapted the principles to fit the context of leadership transformation, but have tried to remain true to the original intent and presentation.
Making a fearless written moral inventory is probably one of the most difficult steps in your leadership transformation as it is in the 12 Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous. When AA uses the word “fearless” they do not mean you will have no feelings of fear. There will be many emotions as you review your life including fear, shame and embarrassment. This is normal and should be expected. Fearless means you will not let your fears stop you from being thorough in the inventory process. Undertaking Step 4 means you COMMIT to rigorous honesty as you focus on events in your life, including your own weaknesses, and not on anyone else’s weaknesses.
You may have justified your poor leadership in the past and blamed other people, places or things for the problems you had created. Now you will take responsibility for your past and current actions, even though you may need to acknowledge painful, embarrassing, or difficult events, thoughts, emotions or actions.
The purpose of the inventory is to identify the negative thoughts, emotions and actions that limited your ability to truly lead. By discovering those destructive elements in your leadership, you are taking the first step toward correcting them. This will be difficult, and will require brutal honesty, but it will increase your faith and hope to truly transform into an axiom leader.
So how do you do an inventory? As the 12 Steps confirm, it is a very personal process and there is no single right way to do it.
One way to do an inventory is to list memories of people; institutions or organizations; principles, ideas, or beliefs; and events, situations, or circumstances that trigger positive and negative feelings (including sadness, regret, anger, resentment, fear or bitterness). Just write the list in a free-flowing matter. It’s okay if you list the same items multiple times. The most important thing is to be thorough.
As you make the inventory, look beyond your past behaviors and examine the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that led to the behavior. Your thoughts, feelings and beliefs are actually the root of your shortcomings as a leader. Unless you examine all of YOUR tendencies toward fear, pride, resentment, anger, self-will, and self-pity, your effectiveness as a leader will be limited.
Once you have made your free-flowing list, the next step is to organize it to find patterns and trends. As a suggestion, you may want to organize your list into a table or chart with columns under each of the five headings below. You can be as brief or as long as you want. Again, this exercise is for you so do what you feel is best to help you discover.
Column 1: Incident. What happened? Give a short description of your memory of the event.
Column 2: Effect. What was the effect on you or others?
Column 3: Feelings. What were your feelings at the time of the incident? What are your feelings now about it? Consider how your fears may have contributed to it.
Column 4: Self-examination. How did your character weaknesses or strengths affect the situation? Do you see any evidence of pride, self-pity, self-deception, or self-will in your attitudes or actions? Be sure to record those times you acted right. Here are some questions given by the guidebook to help in the self-examination:
What outcome did I want from this situation and why?
How did I try to control the situation?
Was it any of my business?
What actions did I take or omit to get what I wanted?
Did I ignore reality?
Were my expectations reasonable for myself and for others?
Did I lie to myself or to others?
Did I ignore the feelings of others and think only of myself?
How did I act like a victim to control others, get attention and sympathy, be special and so on?
Did I resist help from others?
Did I insist on being right?
Did I feel slighted for lack of recognition or acknowledgment?
Column 5: Principles and truths. What are the principles and truths that could be applied to this incident?
Four Necessary Elements
Four elements are critical to a successful moral inventory – writing, honesty, support and meditation. If you use all four elements you will better recognize and overcome your shortcomings as a leader.
A result of Step 4 is the feeling of freedom from behaviors that have defined you in the past. You become inspired to change. You can truly accept responsibility for your own decisions and actions. Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. The power is not letting those mistakes define who you are.
You can change. You can choose. There are principles and truths to guide you. Take that step to discover truth by making your fearless inventory. Once this is done, you are ready to move to Step 5: Confession.