Leadership proficiency requires taking a hard look at yourself. If you’re not grounded in your values and beliefs, and share them frequently with those you’re in charge of leading, you will not have followers. No one wants to follow someone they’re not sure of, who doesn’t make themselves authentically transparent.
This is hard. It’s easy to be the boss and tell people what they need to be doing. It’s also easy to come across confident and self-assured. After all, you’re in charge and people expect you to have the answers, to be competent.
But it’s like walking a tight-rope, in the sense that if you’re not asking questions all the time, you’re not taking in valuable information you need to make good judgments. You can’t be a know-it-all, and still be asking questions. The right balance is required for effective leadership.
It takes a large heaping of emotional maturity to analyze yourself, to be willing to learn and grow, to share you might not have all the answers, that you need other people’s help, and show that you’re willing to do what’s needed to become a better leader.
In the work I’ve done in organizations with some pretty smart leaders, I’ve learned that most want to become better leaders, but without letting any chinks in their armor show. (As if they didn’t show up anyway.) If you don’t learn to manage yourself well, however, you won’t be credible as a leader, and you won’t excel as a strategist, executor, talent manager, or human capital developer.
These four crucial leadership roles require personal proficiency. You can’t give to others what you don’t have, or what you’re not open to learning.
When you have insights into yourself, you are better able to lead others. It comes from knowing your predispositions (extravert, introvert), your strengths and weaknesses. It comes from extracting the key learning lessons from your life and work and applying them with discernment and courage.
This isn’t easy work. It’s really hard to share mistakes with another human being and learn to see the gift of humanity contained within. It requires being bold enough to take risks. And it takes humility. If you’ve been through a 360 degree feedback process and worked with an executive coach, you know what I’m talking about.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Learning lessons get better each time you live through one. That means every time you are in the trenches, faced with ambiguity and tough decisions to make, make the call and live to tell the story, you get better at it. Things don’t always end up the way we’d want, but with the right attitude, we can at least learn from experience.
While managers and executives have too much on their plates already, those that take the time to invest in their own development are true leaders. Those are the ones who’ll be around the longest, who’ll have the greatest impact on others. Their organizations will profit, but the immeasurable benefits to themselves and their people will be even greater.
In a way, investing in yourself — with assessments and a coach — is a gift to your followers. Think about it. And let me know if you have questions or need help in finding the right help. My organization Scholz and Associates has a number of options, and can help with what’s right for you.