Leadership: Taking it Personally
Ah, Leadership. Are you cringing? The term gets tossed around like candy at Mardi Gras sometimes. Are we growing tired of hearing about leadership? Are we at risk of becoming numb to its good intent? As an Executive Coach, I remain a huge advocate for helping people become more leaderful. I also know the process begins to stale when we focus too long and too hard on it. When I sense this happening with clients, it helps to step back and call to mind where successful leadership really begins. There are a variety of competencies which make for great leaders and those competencies are highly contextual. For this reason, “self leadership” as a starting place – and a place to return to often – is essential. The more universal framework of “self” creates a powerful foundation of competency for effective leadership across a variety of environments. It’s often said – and I agree – that if we ever hope to be effective leaders of others, we must first seek to be effective leaders of ourselves. Here are a few things I often propose to leaders, established or emerging, on the inner work that’s required.
1. Be Open to Self-Discovery
Get to know yourself well. Consider a credible, quality self-assessment and debriefing to evaluate your own, unique natural characteristics. There are many; one of my favorites is the Kolbe Index™ which I use with executives and teams as a solid foundation from which to begin. Whatever tool you choose, find one which doesn’t rely on context, learned behaviors or personality, but rather on instinctive abilities and natural strengths. That way your profile remains relevant and useful over the long term and will not likely change even if your circumstances do.
2. Be Clear About What’s Important to You
Learn what you value most. (And “to thine own self be true.”) What vision for yourself are you committed to? With that answer in mind, what are some specific and tangible commitments you can make that support your larger vision? Create your goals from this and hold yourself accountable (or find a mentor for accountability; see Step #3). Be very specific with the actions that will support your goals. Include detailed steps, dates and ways to measure progress. Because it’s not only about the follow through – it’s about following through on the right things.
3. Be Willing to Be Led
Whether you’re a new or seasoned leader, collaborating with someone who offers strong mentorship through the lens of their own experience is invaluable. Finding other leaders with powerful questions can bring insight and ongoing learning; discussion that involves you navigating through their experiences to find a parallel with your own. By the way, finding someone whose personality or achievements inspire you to be similar is not about becoming something you’re not. It’s about recognizing a reflection of you in them and choosing to honour it in yourself.
4. Be Intentional
Self leadership is a never ending work in progress that draws on a continually maturing self-understanding. It means knowing your values, personality, needs, tendencies, emotions, strengths, improvement areas, etc.With a sense of who you are and a vision of the leader you aspire to, you can intentionally and effectively re-motivate yourself throughout the leadership development process.
This inner work is beneficial not only to ourselves, but equally to others (which brings us back to context). Personal leadership is critical in our private lives if we are to find fulfillment and purpose. It is critical to our family or business if we want the ability to influence others toward success. And it is critical to our community and our world if our intent is to play a positive role in the bigger game, collaborating effectively toward a greater good.