Innerwill is the courage to act on your values, despite pressure to do otherwise.  That pressure might come from others – like getting punished if you give your boss tough feedback or taking the time to get it right while others finish faster – and sometimes that pressure comes from within – like our fear to leave a job that clearly does not suit us, or our anxiety about what others will think if we share how we really feel. Innerwill is the courage to be authentic, but not to the point that we are ineffective. It is about being authentic with skill, such as the difference between someone who is brutally honest and someone who is honest in a way that others can hear.

If you have innerwill, you are clear on what you value and why you walk this earth and you possess the confidence to act on those values and make choices that align with your purpose. Those with the strongest innerwill have optimal levels of self-esteem – not so low that they question every action and fear to go at it alone, and not so high and fragile that they never consider others or new information. They are grounded in their beliefs.

Think of the worst leaders in your life – for those who seemed courageous, did their confidence spring from a grounding in their core values or was it tied to fear or a need to control? For those who seemed paralyzed, did they horribilize the consequences of their actions and imagine the worst at every turn? Were they victims of circumstance, of others, of the universe?

Now consider the best leaders in your life – were they clear on who they are and did their confidence come from acting on those beliefs? Would you consider them authentic? I would argue the best leaders in your life had innerwill – they may have been imperfect, but they were real and consistent and you knew where you stood with them. And I would wager they allowed you to do the same – to act on what you believed in order to strengthen your innerwill.

I think of the parents who sacrificed their time, money, and their health for their children because they believed it was the right thing to do. It’s the whistleblower who risks losing a job in order to right a wrong, or the subordinate who challenges her boss because of unethical behavior, or the kid that doesn’t smoke even when all of their friends are doing it. They have the innerwill to act on their values and accept the consequences of that action. And when they get knocked down for acting on their values – because we all get knocked down at one time or another – they get back up. And given another chance to make the same choice, they do so again. Not blindly, not foolishly, but again.

Anyone can be courageous in the moment in the face of their fears. But those who are courageous again and again, even after they fail, they have InnerWill.



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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