Importance of Leading Oneself

Leadership is about influence, service, and transformation.  First, leadership does not come from positional authority; rather it is based on influence.  Second, it is the leader’s job to serve the people.  For as leadership-expert Larry Spears states, “True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others and see them grow” (1998, p. 3).  Finally, successful leadership is about transformation—the transformation of individuals, organizations, and even broader culture.  It is in this transformation piece where professional development plays a key role.

Transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  As Peter Drucker (1999, p. 11) writes, “The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.”  Essentially, one must effectively lead oneself before attempting to lead others.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself: personality, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc., one has the responsibility to understand that others are just as unique.  Then, instead of rejecting those differences, one is able to see them as complements.  It allows one to create and lead a team where others’ strengths balance one’s own weaknesses.  Or, in the words of strengths-expert Marcus Buckingham (2008), “A great team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.”

The important question then becomes, how does one lead oneself?  One important way one can learn to lead oneself is through professional development.  Some professional development tools we use at Inta-Great include: the DiSC Profile, The 360 DiSC, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership, The Truth About You, and a listening profile—among other things.  All of these assessments are meant to help individuals understand more about themselves and the way they think, feel, and act.  On top of these tools, identifying personal values, writing personal mission and/or vision statements, setting SMART goals for one’s life, and developing a relationship with a mentor are all great professional development exercises.  And more formally, professional courses/seminars and advanced education also constitute professional development.  And yet, professional development is not only confined to resources outside of oneself, for as Donald Schon (1983) is quick to point out, the reflective practitioner is a resource onto himself.

The reflective practitioner is one who engages in reflection-in-action as a means of professional development.  Reflection-in-action takes place when one thinks about what he or she is doing while he or she is doing it.  This allows one to conduct mini-experiments, apply theory to a situation, and, in real-time, evolve the theory until the desired results are achieved.  This reflection-in-action allows one to recognize the tacit understandings which have been guiding one’s actions, perhaps even hindering one’s effectiveness (Schon, 1983).  Schon (1983, p. 68) sums it up when he says, “When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice of context….[he] constructs a new theory of the unique case.”

Overall, professional development, through both external resources and internal reflection-in-action, is the foundation of self-leadership.  Then, self-leadership is the basis for personal transformation.  And finally, personal transformation is “the breath that sustains our ability to lead others” thereby transforming organizations and institutions, and ultimately culture (Manz, 2001, p. 16).

Resources:

  • Buckingham, M. (2008). The truth about you: Your secret to success. [Video]. (Available from Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN)
  • Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. NY: Basic Books.
  • Spears, L.C. (Ed.) (1998) Insight in leadership. New York: Wiley.

What Makes a Leader?

In his research at nearly 200 large, global companies, Daniel Goleman found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.  These qualities may sound “soft” and unbusinesslike, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results.

Hence, Daniel Goleman’s famous quote, ‎”IQ and technical skills are important, but emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership.”  Here’s an overview of his classic article, “What Makes a Leader?”

What is My Calling?

There is the leader one is and the leader one is meant to be.  According to Richard Leider, the key to having these two leaders meet is asking the difficult question, “What is my calling?”  Asking this question requires courage to look inside oneself, identify one’s strengths and talents, and explore how to offer those strengths and talents to others.  Recognizing one’s own calling is only the first step, however, truly great leaders are able to recognize the potential in those they serve and help them discover the leader they are meant to be as well.

Leider defines calling as “the inner urge to give our gifts away.”  Therefore, when one asks “What is my calling?” he is really asking, “What gifts do I possess, and how can I offer these gifts the world?”  Answering this question requires a lot of introspection and honesty.  It also emphasizes the principle that good leadership starts with the self.

One’s own life must be transformed, one’s own questions answered, before one can hope to successfully lead others.  As the old adage tells us, “One cannot give away what one does not possess.”  It is only after one takes the time to explore his or her own strengths and stewardship of those strengths that one’s full potential can be reached.

After understanding one’s own strengths and talents, true leadership requires the ability to help one’s followers identify their strengths and talents.  Why?  Because a great leader knows and responds to the differences in calling and gifting among the people he or she serves.  This allows the leader to pull together a team whose sum is exponentially greater than all its parts.  Or, as strengths expert Marcus Buckingham puts it, “There are no well-rounded leaders, only well-rounded leadership teams.”

In the end, asking oneself “What is my calling?” is the key to unleashing the vast potential inside oneself, and then, inside others.  It is the key to transforming the leader one currently is into the leader one was designed to be, and the results are sure to be remarkable.

*Richard Leider, “Is Leading Your Calling?” from Leader to Leader, Winter, 2004.

Why Does Leadership Development Matter?

Times are tough.  We are in the middle of a recession.  That’s the truth and there’s no getting around it.  As an executive you may think, “Yes, I believe leadership training and organizational development work is important, but I just can’t afford it right now.”  Well, think again.

According to the world-renown research institute, the Gallup Organization, businesses that have optimized employee engagement have 2.6 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry.  On the flip side, within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates the cost of disengaged employees to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity.  Ask yourself a question—can you afford that?

What makes an employee “engaged?”  Engaged employees sense alignment between an organization’s vision, values, and everyday practices.  And most importantly, engaged employees have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday—they work from their strengths.  In fact, Gallup reports that employees who have the opportunity to “focus on their strengths every day” are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Inta-Great will come along side you and help your organization create alignment around a clear vision, mission, and values.  We also have programs designed to help your employees become more self-aware, understand what their strengths really are, and learn how to communicate those strengths to you and their peers.  But it can’t stop there—for real change to take place you need to know what to do with that information.  That is why Inta-Great offers services to help you achieve organizational transformation.

The last thing very successful companies have in common is great leadership.  Credited leadership expert Jim Collins has found that great leaders—“Level 5 Leaders”—garnered stock returns at least three times the market’s for 15 years after a transition period So while it important for your employees to be engaged and working out of their strengths—it is important for you as well.  Organizational culture is created from the top down; therefore, Inta-Great offers many services and programs for C-level leaders.

There is one important caveat—this is not a “quick fix.”  Transformation is a process not an event Real change takes time and commitment.  It is not easy, but our team at Inta-Great promises to support you and provide you with all the tools you will need as you grow yourself and your organization to greatness.