Byron's Babbles

Boil It Down To Essence

Posted in Educational Leadership, Essence, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 13, 2022

In the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography he talked about “boiling down to it’s essence.” He was referring to people, events, and characters in stories. I have always been intrigued by essence and blogged about essence most recently in What Is Your Essence? Essence can be defined as “the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character.” When thinking of people and organizations I think of essence as the soul, substance, and core values. This really is as Twain described it “boiling” down to. It’s the honest and critical view of us or our organizations.

Highly effective leaders are context generators. I often discuss that context matters. Our essence generates that context. Our essence is the personification of our values, principles, and character. From an essence standpoint those values, principles and character are always implicit in the leader’s actions. Notice I didn’t say present from “words.” Essence is how a person walks the talk, or doesn’t. As leaders, our essence is reflected in our organizations.


What Is Your Essence?

Posted in #NEI3DLeadership, 3D Leadership, Essence, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 17, 2021

I am reading the great book, Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving, by Mo Rocco right now and while discussing Sammy Davis Jr., he posited that when Sammy did an imitation he had a way of getting to the essence of the person. Our core essence is what makes us uniquely “me”, and is what separates each person in their individuality. This thought of essence is pretty deep. Essence is our style and what seems to show up in every one of our stories. Just as important to discovering our essence is to unraveling the mysteries of our actions, it is also important to explaining the mistakes we make. But, I was also reminded this weekend how important understanding essence is to effective relationships.

I was reminded of this during a discussion yesterday during our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering. Two participants did some deep soul searching and were discussing how they hated to hear things from their principals or team members like, “your doing to much” or “not sure why you are doing that” or “why in the world did you add so many features to that spreadsheet.” I added that last one because I’m guilty of saying things like that. I am so glad that these two opened up, though, because I believe it opened all our eyes – I know it did mine. We were hearing their essence in their stories. Glad we were listening to understand!

I asked them what it was they wanted to hear. They said they just wanted to hear, “Great job on this” or “This is very helpful” or I really appreciate having this.” For these two, their essence is something like being three steps ahead or going above and beyond or striving for success. What we learned from this discussion was that it is not helpful for those whose essence is to build the over the top spreadsheet to say, “Um, not sure why you spent so much time on this, we don’t need all the bells and whistles.” We just need to acknowledge and recognize the person’s essence. You all know me, I asked what do you want to hear? They told me instead of “you shouldn’t have” they wanted to just hear “thank you, I appreciate all the extra work you have done.” Otherwise, we are not respecting their essence.

Since our essence is our style we don’t want to let a story overwhelm our style. That would mean to lose touch with ourselves. When work becomes more important than the living of your own life, or a relationship overshadows your individual needs, or expectations are so prescriptive that you are no longer in control of your life or how you do your job, we are not living by our essence.

It’s amazing to me how a simple word like “essence” can cause such deep thought. But, just as Sammy Davis Jr. could catch the essence of others, we too have an obligation to listen and watch for the essence of those around us understand the essence of those we work with and have relationships with. Essence is a part of each of our stories and follows us no matter which forms we may take. To truly understand the essence of another is to have power in how we work and flow with other. Finally, we also need to understand our own essence and embrace it because to do so will keep us from working against ourselves.