Fearless Leadership: Leading Self

knowyourselfTo become stronger as a leader, executives and managers need a complete picture of both the core personal assets they possess as well as how they are currently using those assets to achieve results. Leading Self is one of the two major components of Fearless Leadership and it is fundamental to building capacity on all levels. This includes deep self-awareness of your own preferences, strengths and weaknesses, how you are perceived by others, and how you show up at work. Armed with the knowledge of how she is currently influencing others, a leader can begin to strengthen her ability to lead by example and demonstrate leadership in her own daily actions through self-management.

How can self-knowledge affect your leadership journey?

Understanding the personal assets that each person brings to their work allows that individual to develop leadership strategies and development plans that best suit their unique strengths. The most effective learning style for a great reader will be different than that of a greater talker; a more gregarious individual may derive more benefit from working in larger groups than a less gregarious individual who may benefit more from individual or small group work. Knowing your own innate strengths and having a foundation for understanding the kinds of activities, environment and approaches that bring out your best work is at the core of self-knowledge.

What is self-awareness?

To build on self-knowledge with self-awareness, a 360-degree leadership assessment can provide a comparison of how you see yourself with how you are seen by peers, subordinates, supervisors, customers or other groups you interact with on a regular basis. With those gaps in mind, a leader can assess how his own behavior might shift his results in positive ways. Personal Development Planning provides a framework for each leader to set realistic and powerful personal goals for shifting behavior and is a tool for self-coaching through those goals.

Attitudes and Mindsets are strong influencers

In addition to understanding and leveraging strengths, it is important that each leader identify attitudes and mindsets that strongly influence the ways in which they show up and the results they achieve. While strengths and style shift only slowly over the course of a lifetime, attitude can shift very quickly and is an area where leaders can choose to make changes if they find their current approach is not as effective as they would like. Assessment can help identify the core thoughts we carry with us about ourselves, others and the world, and how those thoughts contribute to our current results. Leaders can learn about different categories of thought, how to identify and shift limiting beliefs and other thought patterns, and how shifting core beliefs removes many of the barriers to success. This transformational work helps leaders shift from being driven by their emotions to making a choice about the most effective approach for each situation.

Everyone has a default pattern

Rounding out these core personal skills, each leader much understand his or her default interpersonal pattern and conflict styles to better understand how they themselves prefer to give, receive and process information, and how they approach situations when there is strong disagreement. Communication is often the heart of building trust, inspiring others and avoiding interpersonal conflict. By identifying specific patterns and how they contribute to or impede success and smooth working relationships (both internal and external), leaders have the opportunity to identify how they can make small modifications to improve their own overall effectiveness and resolve issues more quickly – freeing up capacity to do other productive work.

What one skill defines great leaders?

The most critical daily thinking skill for leaders is strategic thinking. Leadership and influence means understanding the nature of strategic thinking and how leaders must apply this and expect it from others. The era of 5-year strategic plans in thick 3-ring binders has passed, and the exercise of strategic planning and strategic thinking in an integrated way is the hallmark of a high performing organization. One key gap in many leadership development efforts is the lack of development of core strategic thinking skills in leaders at all levels. It is this final ability to keep the big picture in mind, while making daily decisions, that separates leaders with vision and drive from those who meander or get distracted.

Other key elements for greater leadership

Identifying personal values and developing core values rituals, stories and artifacts are also important for greater leadership and influence. Incorporating the latest science on behavioral change, values and culture are critical to addressing both the rational and emotional sides of leadership. Throughout the leadership development journey, leaders learn about key characteristics of great leaders, evidence from leadership research and work on a common framework for assessing leadership capability in themselves and others.

Our next blog post will talk about the other component of Fearless Leadership, Leading Teams. We’ll add to self-knowledge with knowledge of other people’s preferences and how to influence outcomes and effectiveness of a group to improve overall functioning of the organization.