Sept. 6, 2022

What Your Leadership Script Is & Why It Matters

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EPISODE 56         

Scripts are the unspoken silent guidelines that shape our thoughts, our beliefs, and our action which we learn from our interactions with our environment since our earliest days. Scripts are the lens through which we see and interpret our world - but they are often not in our conscious awareness.

In this episode I share how we each have a leadership script that impacts the way we lead - often without our awareness. I talk about where our scripts come from and why continuing to be unaware of our leadership script can prevent us from being the best leader we can authentically be.

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(00:00:34) - Introduction
(00:03:57) - What are Scripts?
(00:10:49) - An Example of Scripts
(00:15:25) - Where do our Leadership Scripts Come from?
(00:18:13) - Why out Scripts Make it Hard to Accept Ourselves
(00:22:20) - The "Ideal" Leader VS the Leader I was Created to be
(00:28:11) - First Steps 00:31:03 - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:33:10) - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to my sharing in this episode, was there anything that resonated with you?

- In what way did listening to this episode about leadership scripts change the way you see yourself as a leader?

-  I invite you to think of a particular leadership role that you're playing in your life right now. It could be anything and then list down who it is that you feel you need to be in this role. Describe what that person looks like. That ideal that you feel like you need to be.

After you look at the description of this person or this leader that you feel you need to be. I invite you to ask the question, where do you think this script came from? Where did you learn to value these traits? Where did you learn that?

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So, our scripts create an imaginary ideal of what a good leader should be. And we may constantly be comparing ourselves with this ideal, without us even realizing. Okay, it is very easy, then, to fall into that vicious cycle of self-rejection; thinking I'm not enough and I am too much. And oftentimes, this "I'm not enough" and "I am too much" – it's always in reference to something. And it is in reference to this script that we have, that we are not aware that we have.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again, dear listeners. Okay, if you just happened to listen to this episode, and this is the first time you're listening to my podcast, this is part of a series that's just beginning on the interior life and leadership. Or more specifically, you know, understanding how the issues that we've been discussing on the Becoming Me podcast – how it impacts our lived experience of leading others.

I think we all can agree that leadership has huge, huge impact on others and the more power and authority you hold, the higher up, maybe – or the more people that you can impact because of your position – sometimes, the scarier the implications can be. But even if it is just – okay, I, you know – I'm using the word "just" like "just in our family".

But really, there is nothing insignificant about exercising leadership in our families because I think everything else really, really comes from the foundation that is laid in our families of origin. So, if you are a parent, or you're a spouse, you know, in your relationship with your children or your spouse, there will always be moments, time, seasons, where you need to exercise leadership.

Okay, and what affects the way you exercise your leadership is what's going on in your interior life. Your awareness of your insecurity, you know – all the things that we've been talking about. Like, you are feeling not good enough, or having certain expectations that you need to live up to – all that's going to impact how you act, how you see things.

And it's going to have real repercussions and consequences on the people that you're relating to. So, sometimes, as people who are being led, we bear brunt of the leader’s insecurity or weaknesses or shadow side. And it's hard to reflect that back to the leader, right? So, as the leader, though – as the one who is exercising leadership, there is a lot we can do to develop our own awareness and become more integrated and authentic.

That doesn't mean that we're going to ever be a perfect leader – there's no such thing. But it would at least mean that we will be more open to listening to feedback. And also when we are dealing with feedback that is true, but maybe a little critical or negative, it's not going to break us, okay – if we are grounded and integrated.

[00:03:57] WHAT ARE SCRIPTS?
So, today's episode, we are going to be talking about leadership scripts. Okay, so, basically, what is your leadership script? Or what is a leadership script? And why does that matter? Now, if you haven't listened to the episode before this, which is kind of like an overarching introduction about interior life and leadership, I would invite you to maybe listen to that one first, before coming back to this episode.

Okay, so, let me just delve in. So, first off, what do I mean by scripts? Scripts are the unspoken silent guidelines that shape our thoughts, our beliefs, and our actions, which we learn from our interactions with our environments since our earliest days. Okay, our scripts shape our attitude towards ourselves, as well as our attitude towards the world.

Our scripts are what helps us to make sense and give meaning to what happens to us in our life. And our scripts are so fundamental in our consciousness, right? They're not something that we look at. Our scripts are kind of like the lenses through which we look at everything else. So, we are often unaware of our scripts.

But our scripts have a very powerful influence on our assumptions, our perception of the world, our perception of ourselves and others, about relationships. It has a very powerful impact on the way we act on our behaviour. And our life scripts definitely would really impact how we think of leadership.

So, we would have some kind of a leadership script, right – that is kind of like a subset of our life scripts. Having scripts that influence us – now, in and of themselves, that's neither good, nor bad, right? I mean, it's just necessary. It has to be there so we can get on with the job of living and making sense of the world.

It is the content of a script that may become an issue. Okay, if it keeps us from discovering and embracing our true selves, if it keeps us from being more fully alive, from being authentic, and from being able to relate to others in an authentic and in a loving way. Our scripts can also affect our wellbeing, right –

–our mental wellbeing, our emotional wellbeing. Even now, spiritual wellbeing – because our scripts kind of like dictate and influence the way we approach everything. Okay, so, that's what I mean by scripts, all right. One easier way, maybe, of thinking about like what my leadership script is, would be making it concrete.

Right, so, if I were to ask you, for example, if you're a parent – let's say if you're a mother and I asked you, who do you feel you need to be as a mother; describe the person that you feel you should be, or that you need to be as a mother. What is a good mother? And if you were to write down – try and describe this person that you feel you need to be, that would make you a good mother.

That would be part of your script. Okay, and within that also, it's not just a script, but motherhood, to some extent – it also talks about how you expect or think you should be leading your children in the role of a mother. Okay, so, that can be applied no matter what position you are currently occupying or what leadership role you're occupying.

If you think back to episode four of the podcast. So, again, if you haven't listened to episode four, Living from the Inside Out – I would encourage you to go back and listen to that episode first, so that you would be able to understand more of what I'm going to be talking about here. Now, in episode four, I gave the analogy of an avocado, right?

And there are three layers. There's the skin of the avocado, right – its outside. And then there's the flesh of the avocado – that's in the middle. And then there's the seed; which is the core at the heart of the avocado. And I use that to illustrate how there are three layers to our living.

There is the external layer of our circumstances, our interactions with other people – with whatever it is that we are engaging, right – in the world, the outside world; that's at the outermost layer. Now, most of the time, that's where we are – that's where we live out our lives. So, leadership happens very much at this outermost layer, right.

Because it is a relationship that we have with others. It is a way of living out that relationship with someone else or with other people, in the outermost layer of our lives. But what we often forget is that what's going on at the inner layer and the core of our lives is what's going to really impact our experience of that almost layer.

It's going to impact how we act. Okay, so, in leadership, we often have to manage situations and manage people. We have to influence outcomes. But what we are not aware of, often, is that how we show up and how we interpret what we should do in these external situations are shaped by the invisible scripts about who we should be in the situation and the kind of standards that we need to meet. Because our scripts impact how we see ourselves.

It impacts how we think of ourselves and therefore, it impacts our emotions and how we think about things and how we interact with others. Right, so, our scripts create an imaginary ideal of what a good leader should be, and we may constantly be comparing ourselves with this ideal, without us even realising.

Okay, it is very easy, then, to fall into that vicious cycle of self-rejection; thinking I'm not enough and I am too much. And oftentimes, this "I'm not enough" and "I am too much" – it's always in reference to something. And it is in reference to this script that we have, that we are not aware that we have. Okay, then this cycle of self-rejection then traps us in ourselves and increases our self-doubt –

–while at the same time, heightening our need to gain external approval and validation from other people that we're doing a good job, right. Because when we doubt ourselves, when we don't feel securely anchored about who we are, if our exercise of our leadership is not grounded in something that's internal, then we would constantly need external feedback.

If we are very reliant on external validation, we're constantly going to be feeling insecure about our decisions as a leader. Okay, so, let me, you know, make this a bit more concrete with an example from my own life. Okay, my leadership script includes the following beliefs – okay, all right;

I believe that a good leader – or I used to believe – that a good leader needs to be meticulous about thinking about everything, you know; when she was making a plan or when she's organizing and strategizing, she needs to be meticulous and not leave anything out. And she has to be ready for any situation.

Okay, so, a good leader is ready for any situation. She is always responsible and never lets people down. She must be a role model and her conduct should always be beyond reproach. Okay, so, that's the ideal leader: role model and always be beyond reproach. She is not ruled by emotions, and she makes decisions coolly and rationally.

You know, she's always very level-headed – your emotions ever get in the way. She's compassionate to others, but at the same time, she's also principled and not afraid of making tough decisions. Okay, she's not afraid of making people upset. And she also cares about the personal growth and welfare of the people that she's leading.

Okay, so, she never sees them as, you know, just a means to an end, but she's always caring about their personal growth and welfare. And finally, she wins people over, okay – by persuasion, not by force. Okay, so, she will use logic and reasoning and warmth to win people over; to influence people. So, I don't know what you thought or how you felt when I was describing that leader.

I mean, I still think – even as I hear myself – it sounds like a wonderful person. I would love to be led by such a person. Right, but the problem is, it sets the bar really, really high for me. It makes me want to perform and hit all those points. This script created a kind of type that I would constantly strive to live up to.

And I judge myself whenever I fall short on any of these traits. And it also makes me constantly scan and measure how other people are responding to me – to try and see if I am fulfilling these criteria. Like, am I letting people down? Do they think I'm not being rational? Do they think I'm being overly emotional?

Am I being a good enough role model? Like does someone think that my conduct – there's something wrong with my conduct, or that my conduct isn't beyond reproach? See, my reliance on the external validation can really confuse me because if we do not have a strong enough integrated sense of self that we can mirror ourselves with –

–if we're completely just dependent on the other person's response to us, we would not be able to have a true perspective, right? It would just be skewed from one side, which is just based on the external validation. So, I struggled a lot in all the different experiences that I've had being a leader.

I always felt like I have to be this, you know, perfect example; always available, always having a wise word to say, or, you know, being able to guide those who are getting lost. So, I just had a script, right? I had a script, and that script determined a lot of my actions and my behaviours. And which is why for so long, I was lost about who I really was.

I never even knew that there was a possibility that there was "me" apart from a script that I'm supposed to live up to because most of my life, I have been trying to perform according to the scripts that I have; trying to impress others, or maybe even impress myself, instead of just being who I am and learning to grow more mature and, you know, and stronger based on who I really was.

So, where do our leadership scripts come from? I just described what my script was like. And if I were to reflect on this question, where did I learn that being a leader meant all those things; having to be meticulous, really good at planning and strategizing, always ready for every situation, always responsible, never letting people down, being a role model, et cetera, et cetera.

Well, they came from the living examples that I had in my life; from my primary caregivers when I was very young, from the formative experiences that I have as a student, you know, from what I heard from teachers, from my school; there were certain messages that were repeated over and over again about what it meant to be a good leader.

And then you can also look at what kinds of behaviour or what kinds of examples of leadership are rewarded, right. So, whether it's in the family – what gets mom and dad's approval? Or what gets, you know, teachers’ approval in school? What kind of behaviour and action, leads to me being given more responsibility leads to me being praised and rewarded with positions of leadership?

Right, so, there's a feedback there. And so over time, it just kind of accumulated. And for me, other than family and school, the other very important formative space would be the space of faith, right. Because my identity as a Christian, as a Catholic, was something that was very valued, both by my mother, as well as my school – at least they talk about it a lot.

Right, so, what does it mean then to be a good Catholic, Christian – that also factors into, you know, the script of what it means to be a good leader. So, the whole point about, you know, my moral conduct must be beyond reproach and all that became a part of like the "non-negotiable" of what it means to be a leader.

Now, none of the things that I have mentioned earlier, as points of, you know, my script, are bad. A lot of them – they're good. But they're problematic if they just become points of striving. I hope you can see that. When we live our lives in a way that just constantly trying to make it; to make the ideal, we often don't really allow ourselves to grow and develop organically.

Or to recognize, maybe, what are the deeper reasons why we are unable to live up to some of these wonderful ideals, right? We can't see the reality of where we are. We are not able to tend to, maybe, what needs healing, if our focus is all about hitting the mark.

So, why would our script make it hard for us to accept ourselves? Now, the ideals and traits that our scripts prescribe – okay, and that's an important word; "prescribe", right. This assumption that, you know, this ought to be the way. They could be very different from where we actually are, and it could be very different from who we actually are.

Right, where we actually are – by saying where we actually are, I mean, maybe we're not at the level of maturity or development yet, where we are able to hold ourselves with a lot of integration, and not be ruled by emotions, for example. Maybe we're still in the season where we need to make a lot of mistakes, right?

That's where we are. It's not the entire story. It's not the entire picture. It wouldn't be very fair to measure someone who is only ready for, you know – let's say grade two mathematics against a standard of university, right? I mean, that's a really huge gap, but it doesn't mean that this person can't get that.

It's just where they are at the moment. But when we have scripts, our scripts tend to be very rigid, right Scripts tend to become black and white. And all we see – is that's how I'm supposed to be, you know, that ideal. And I will keep seeing how far I am away from that. So, that's where we are. Secondly, I said, you know, scripts also doesn't tell us about the reality of who we are.

Okay, what I mean by that is, our gifts, our temperament, our motivational design, you know, all these things – more often than not, when we think that there is an ideal way that we should aspire to be, we can do violence to the nature that we have been given. Especially if we look up to that ideal a lot, we think that that's really who we need to strive to be.

And we have no reference point as to – well, how did God create me? Or what's the nature that was given me? We may be trying to really force, you know, like a square peg into a round hole; having a really difficult time and feeling like a failure because we never even considered that the nature that we are given would give us the clues as to how we can exercise good leadership.

Maybe there's more than one way of being an effective leader. Maybe there's more than one way of influencing people to, you know, to do the best that they can do or to manage a team. Maybe there at ways to mitigate our weaknesses. Right, maybe we don't have to do this all alone. But none of these considerations would even make it to our mind if we're very excited about, you know, that kind of perfect ideal of a leader that we are supposed to be aspiring to be.

So, not only then – if we are very beholden to our script – not only would we not know how to bring our best foot forward as a leader, we would also tend to be very blind, very un-self-aware to the shadows that we actually bring along with us. Okay, whether with our gifts or with our woundedness. We would not be able to see all those things because we would just be very fixated –

–we would just be very fixated on what we must be like. So, that's a very dangerous thing. And a lot of times that's what causes a lot of pain and suffering and frustration in communities and in organization; when the one who is in leadership is blind to their blind spots, blind to their insecurities or is striving to achieve things in a way that really, really doesn't fit his or her own design and strengths.

So, for me, being very cool-headed, meticulous, detailed, and systematic was a very important part of being responsible and capable – or being seen as responsible and capable. I practiced this – all this, right; trying to be meticulous, detailed, systematic – until I was good at it. I was never really, really great at it.

I was never like the best at it, but I needed to do it well enough that I was seen to be competent in it. Right, and I always struggled – I always struggled with these things because what I completely missed for the first 30-odd years of my life was that these traits, while they were very valuable, they were not my defining traits.

And they were not the defining traits of my nature or the gifts that I had been given, right. My temperament, my motivations were actually very different. I was warm and passionate and spontaneous. I was creative. I loved originality. I loved finding new ways to do things, seeing things from different angles.

I liked the excitement of the big picture and imagining a better future. All these things – I was much better at them, and they attracted me more because it's like these things to me were more appealing, at least. Okay, more appealing than being very detailed, being very meticulous in execution. But the thing was, being meticulous and being detailed, not only was I taught to value these things more highly, I actually did come to value those traits more highly.

So, no matter how creative and original I was, how good I might be looking at the big picture, I always thought that that's not as important as being detailed and meticulous at executing things, at always being ready and knowing exactly what's going on.

So, I always felt I was not good enough as a leader. So, the environment I grew up in welcomed creativity to a certain extent. Okay, so, for example, artistic creativity or innovative thinking – those were welcome. But what seemed to be not as welcome was unbounded curiosity, constantly questioning – including questioning the status quo.

Like why does it have to be done this way? Why is it always done this way? Can we change things? Right? So, sometimes these things would be seen as – or asking these questions would be seen as challenges to authority or challenges to tradition. Tradition and authority were very highly valued in my familial culture, in my school culture, in even my religious culture, you know? So, for me, these traits, which really were where I really come alive – I always felt like, they were a bit of a distraction.

Because they're not going to be what helps me be a good leader or to succeed in life. Right, so, you can already see the foundation that I had about my identity was not one that was very secure or affirming, right – within myself. Now, whether my family, my parents, my school, et cetera – they were aware of the effect it had on me, I don't know.

I don't think, you know – it's unlikely that they did because what I'm talking about now, is at a level that few of us are aware of – unless we really intentionally do our own interior work, right. And all the people that cared about me, that nurtured me, I would say, at least most of the time, consciously, they want the best for me, right?

They gave what they had. They taught me what they knew. And so, maybe nobody was ever really aware that there was this mismatch. And that inside me, even as a little girl, I was beginning to have that voice that says like, you know, the way that I am or the way that I naturally feel I am is not good enough.

And at the same time, too much, you know – too impulsive, too flighty, too many different ideas and not good enough follow through. Right, so, I helped myself to even more stringent standards and discipline. And I would kind of like decide how well I was doing according to how well I could live up to that script that I had inherited.

So, even in my youth, I had intuited that I was different from the kind of leader I felt I should be. But all I could do was I interpreted this as a kind of failure. Right, nobody taught me how to leverage the nature that I have, or even to really discover the nature that I have and how to celebrate it – how to leverage on its strength for my personal growth and development, how to learn to balance off my strength with – you know, how to mitigate for, maybe the weaknesses by honouring the nature that I have.

You know, not by trying to do violence to the nature that I have and forcing me to just be better at what I'm weak in. Because there are many ways of mitigating our weaknesses, right? But that's not even in the realm of possibility unless we honour the nature that we have – unless we can find out what it is, and we can honour that nature that we have.

Right, so, when we are unaware and when others are unaware, so much damage is done without our knowledge, without our awareness. So, my ongoing personal journey, as I discovered who I was, learned to accept and even celebrate who I was, was also to learn how to lead best with the design that I have been created with.

And sometimes that's just about leading myself better, you know – leading myself in my business or in the way I approach my work; how to work in a way that can let me be effective without causing me worse self-esteem or burning myself out. Right, because what works for someone else that I look up to, may not work for me at all – because we are very different people, right.

[00:28:11] FIRST STEPS
So, as we come to a close to this episode, I want to say that a first step to self-awareness and self-acceptance, right – it's not the only step, but it's a really good first step – is to become aware of the hidden unconscious scripts that are in operation within us. Right, we don't often even think about what these scripts are.

These scripts shape how we see and evaluate ourselves. They shape how we look at others and our expectations of others – which is also very important because we are leading others, right? So, our scripts may impact what we want to see from others as well. And it may prevent us from seeing them for who they really are or what they're actually capable of.

Because sometimes we may – when we are insecure, especially, how others do, how the people that we lead, how they are faring – we see as a reflection of our success or failure. So, to bring what is hidden into the light, helps us to begin learning about what shapes and influences our thoughts and emotions, what our reflexes are, what our reflexive actions are –

–whenever we enter a situation, you know, what are our compulsions, our automatic kneejerk reactions. When we become more aware of that, we can also become more aware of the impact that we have on others. Now, this is as true as if we were leading a big organization or if we are just – again, I put in inverted commas – so called, "just" leading our children or younger sibling in our family.

There's never an insignificant way of leading anyone. It matters because small things add up to big things. And especially in our families, the way that we were led and the way that we lead others, that often sets the foundation for all other kinds of leadership that we subsequently live out in our life.

And if we do take up positions of leadership that influence many people, or we're given authority and power over others – if we have a poor foundation that's not healed, well, then the damage that we can do, the people that we can harm would be even greater, right. On the flip side, maybe on the positive side, we would be saying we may not even be able to really leverage our strengths to create the kind of impact that we can.

So, if we make this interior journey to knowing who we are and to valuing, you know, greater authenticity and healing, we can become the leaders that we were actually created to be not the ones that we believe we should be. And if we become the leaders that we were created to be, we can then really be a blessing to the world.

Okay, So, here are the praxis prompts for today. One: Listen – so, as you listened to this episode, what resonated with you? Was there something that kind of jumped out at you and, you know, you felt like, yes, I get what Ann's talking about. What was that?

Two: Ponder – in what way did listening to this episode about leadership scripts change the way you see yourself as a leader?

Three: Act – I invite you to think of a particular leadership role that you're playing in your life right now – it could be anything – and then list down who it is that you feel you need to be in this role.

Okay, describe what that person looks like; that ideal that you feel like you need to be. Think about a lot of times people haven't even thought about this – but then when they ask that question; who do I feel I need to be? – A lot of things can come out. You'll paint a picture of that ideal that you have been holding yourself towards – holding yourself up against.

Okay, who do you feel you need to be? And then finally, after you look at the description of this person or this leader that you feel you need to be, I invite you to ask the question; where do you think this script came from? Where did you learn to value these traits? Where did you learn that it was important to be like this?

Okay, so, that's one step you can take into greater self-awareness of yourself as a leader. I hope you've enjoyed this episode until the next time. Have a wonderful time becoming.

[00:33:10] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!