In more than three decades in people development, I’ve seen some great examples of leadership – and some bad ones too. And I’ve certainly learned a thing or two along the way.
I have seen leaders who use the power of their personality to rule with a rod of iron: modern day Geoffrey de Tournevilles. (In around AD1350, Sir Geoffrey said, “The clinching proof of my reasoning is that I will cut anyone who argues further into dog meat.”)
I’ve seen others with similar power use it with grace to defend their people and the values of their organisations through the most difficult of times.
Whatever their innate personality preferences, I believe the best leaders are those people who are truly, deeply self-aware – based on the fact that individual insight leads to organisational breakthroughs.
Self-aware leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They aren’t blind to their shortcomings, blind-spots and biases. They’ve identified their core values and live according to that code, underpinned by a clear and strong purpose.
Great leaders are the ones who know you’re only a leader if people are willing to stand with you. To roll up their sleeves and commit to supporting your endeavour. Those leaders are the ones who ensure their teams are enrolled in the vision, take the time to communicate each step in the journey, invest in relationships, and stop to recognise achievement – at all levels – along the way.
At Insights, we use a model that helps people to understand their unique preferences, and the unique preferences of others. It’s the start of the journey to self-awareness.
Understanding yourself can be a bit like trying to bite your own teeth. It’s not easy. But for me self-awareness is about understanding more of who I am, why I am the way am and what I’m trying to be in the world – and it’s more than worth the investment.
Once you do begin to better understand yourself, and others, you’ll make a greater impactful in everything you do. And from that solid foundation, you can start to develop yourself as a leader.
In my first career, I was a banker at one of the most prestigious financial advisory groups in the world. One morning, I asked my boss, “What is it that will get me on the fast track?” And he said, “If we can beat the return our clients can get on cash by between half and three quarters of a percent we will have done our job.”
I nodded along, but inside my heart sank and I realised something about myself; making money wasn’t enough of a purpose for me. It was candyfloss: instantly gratifying, but providing little nourishment.
It didn’t take much longer for me to realise that mere financial success wasn’t going to sustain me through a decades-long career. It was that realisation that sparked my own journey of self-discovery and has led me to this point.
And now, as CEO of a Group of companies feeling the impact of the Coronavirus crisis, it’s my job – as a leader – to help and inspire others. To be honest and accountable. To be contemplative. To create more leaders by encouraging others to grown and learn more about themselves.
Are you a results focused leader who gets things done? Are you a visionary leader who envisions the possibilities? Are you a relationship focused leader to fosters relationships and cultivates collaboration? Or are you a centred leader with a clear sense of purpose?
How can you challenge yourself, in this moment of greatest need, to draw from all four of these manifestations of leadership to elevate your leadership style? To achieve greater impact than ever before?
What actions do you need to identify and how will you deliver on them? Visualise achieving your goals – you do you need to help you get there? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Be ‘on purpose’ and ask yourself ‘Who do I want to be as a leader, as we emerge from COVID-19?’
Get a piece of paper and write down your thoughts under each of these headings. Be honest, and if you find this process difficult on your own, then talk to someone you trust. If not a work colleague, then try a family member or friend.
I’ve often said that self-awareness is the foundation on which all else is built. And now more than ever we need leaders who are self-aware. Leaders who have the ability to lead, support, coach, nurture and inspire us.
If you’re interested in learning more, join us for our regular Thursday webinar.
You can also learn about our virtual solutions.