The IntExt Path Of Leadership: A Snapshot Of The Building Blocks Of One’s Leadership

Leadership Lesson: How you sit back, look for and see the process of leadership and how it unrolls from within you, is important to understanding your path of leadership – tracing it from the internal to the external — and the way you live it, demonstrate it, and carry it out.

I recently ran a workshop at Stanley Black & Decker’s Access Technologies department which opened up a general overview and discussion about leadership. The session aimed to get to the heart of what the attendees believed leadership and leadership development were all about, and the role of their development in their own life and work, and that of others.

Part of the presentation demonstrated how differently people view leadership. Any time I present on leadership, I tend to start off with that attempt to understand what people believe leadership is and how they would describe it. I can either ask them for one-word descriptions for what they believe leadership is, or to provide an example of a great leader and what it is that made that person so.

I then share what my own view and breakdown of leadership.

I do that not to deter them away from their own definitions or beliefs – not at all. I do it so that they see where I’m coming from with the information and presentation I’m about to share with them. You can’t get through to people if they don’t know where you yourself stand or are coming from.

That’s where the IntExt Path of Leadership I shared with them comes in. This is the Internal-to-External path you can take from your internal attributes and drivers to your external influence and resources.  It can also be driven from the outside-in, or by skipping around in various combinations of order — because every one of us is different — but I chose to cover the internal-external path. In any case, leadership is not solely about one or the other — the internal or external. It is a combination of the two forces coming together.

In the course of breaking down my own thought process for leadership in this particular presentation, I presented them with this list, in this order, as the IntExt path:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Awareness
  3. Listening
  4. Artistry
  5. Inspiration

Each of these is a component one can use to design and reflect their flow of leadership. This is the order in which I set up my message. It begins internally and builds step-by-step into one’s actions, which then make an impression on and influence action in others externally.

Regardless of how you order and build the representation of your path, here’s what each of those steps in the path I lay out here represents:


Absolutely nothing in leadership can happen without curiosity. As open as I am to new ideas and ways of looking at things, this is one area in which I would absolutely not compromise. (OK – maybe never say never, but I’d be hard-pressed to accept anything else as a greater and stronger foundation.)

Curiosity is the foundation of leadership. Everything leadership-related builds off of some form of curiosity. No other steps can be taken without it.

You wouldn’t be able to learn about yourself, others, your allies, your enemies, your competition, your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats without it. And you can’t improve, develop, or evolve without learning what it is you need to…improve, develop, and evolve. You’d be so close-minded, it’d be over before it even began.


The greatest leaders are aware of themselves, meaning they take into account everything that applies to them and where their role really stands in their environment. Sounds kind of like common sense, right? Why wouldn’t someone be paying attention to their own role in the world? Isn’t that what we do every day?

No, not really.

We tend to live on cruise control, having a general idea of who we are and what we want, and providing that general idea to others. But, we need to go beyond that.

We need to have a conscious understanding of our place both in our own development and the impact we have on others.

Related: Before We Can Find Balance With Others, We Need To Keep Ourselves In Check – Part 1


So, beyond being curious about what’s both in and around us, and operating with it through awareness, we then have to listen to what’s around us. That’s how we continue learning – about both ourselves and our environments.

So many leaders give up on great intel from others because they don’t listen. They figure that because they have the top job (of whatever sized group they may lead), there’s no need to keep listening. They get lost in their ego and power.


This is where we begin seeing the external tools of leadership begin to take form. Here, one can take the curiosity, awareness, and listening from above and draw out the best in the environment.

I call it artistry because it truly is making something of disparate components and seeing the possibilities where someone else might not.

That’s a true leader’s greatest talent in action – harnessing the best out of their environment to produce an even greater environment, service, and product.


Leadership can be a byproduct of a leader’s actions. If you think about leadership, much of it is what people witness and take away. It’s how they’re influenced and inspired, even if they aren’t spoken to and worked with directly.

So much more of leadership emanates from someone’s actions than their words. It’s a leader’s actions that really get people believing. So, keeping that in mind, anyone can influence by setting a great example. And they can do that by building off of the four previous items on this list to get to the point where they inspire others.

That’s why I always tell people, even students, that they shouldn’t wait until they have a title to demonstrate who they are and what they’re capable of.

This is passive power – people see it in what you do. This is the most powerful effect of leadership.

Related: Look All Around You To Determine And Realize What Inspires You

Bonus: Mentor/Coach

Serving as a bonus, though, is the active part of leadership where lessons of development are shared with others. Inspiration allows people to learn from what you demonstrate and do. Being a mentor and/or coach allows others to learn from the specific words and language you actually use to teach the lessons.

Each inspiration and mentoring/coaching have their own reach of impact. Leadership by inspiration is the most powerful form to reach the most amount of people. Mentoring and coaching is much more limited than inspiration in how many people can be reached at any given time, although it still pays lessons forward which are just as valuable.

Keep in mind: None of this is limited to people with leadership titles. Everyone is capable of this “path” – if they choose to be.

And, again, this is just one path that came to mind while I was putting together a presentation. It may look different for different people. For example, they may feel more inspiration from what they see in their environment, and then delve into themselves to find out what they themselves are all about.

This IntExt Path is one option. It takes into consideration how much someone wants to learn about the worlds around them (curiosity), how the person recognizes their place in the environments around them (their awareness), the needs of those around them (listening), crafting together what they need using the resources around them (artistry), impressing their influence upon others through their actions (inspiration – passive influence), and, as that bonus, proactively sharing their best thoughts, practices, and approaches with others (mentor/coach – active influence).

This is a great way to break down how you view your leadership and influence on others. How curious are you? How aware are you? How much listening do you utilize? How much of an artist are you with the tools and resources you have around you? How do you inspire others? How do you pay it forward and either mentor or coach others?

That’s how you can make a difference – paying attention to how you interact with your environments. People are always paying attention to and influenced by others’ actions, whether they know it or not.

What are you showing them?

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