Recently I received a call from a business leader who wanted to become a better leader of others. This is a common request and a logical approach to leadership development. It is how I looked at it for many years early in my career. But one of the true ironies with leadership development is that we often think it is about leading others when in fact it is first about leading self.
This business leader is now experiencing incredible personal breakthroughs as he completes phase #1 of SM Advisors leadership development process. Phase #1 is, you guessed it, leading self. Phase #2 of 5 is leader others. He was totally unaware of his leadership style and how it intimidated other members of his leadership team. Consequently, they pulled back from taking leadership and engaging in healthy conflict. This has resulted in a very dysfunctional leadership team and underperforming organization. Employees in this situation overtime will often wonder why they should follow him if he can’t lead himself first. That is a valid question.
A couple of the core skills developed that are necessary to effectively lead self include emotional intelligence, personal accountability and self-awareness. We can measure a leader’s growth in these areas through behavioral science and 360-Degree input from peers, direct reports and supervisor. Measurement is critical to ensure advancement is being made in development of each of the 36 leadership skills we can measure.
There are actions you can take to learn how to better lead self so you can more effectively lead others. Much has been written about various leadership styles. In order to be genuine in your approach to leadership, you must first understand your natural behavioral style, so you will know how to most effectively lead with it. We like to call it “leading with style.” We use behavioral assessments to help leaders understand, own and leverage their natural behavioral style. It is proven science that your natural behavioral style is developed by the time you are seven years old. So the sooner you understand your style the more effectively you can lead.
Naturally, people with certain behavioral styles are more comfortable with taking leadership roles. But, we are all asked to lead at some point in time. It might be in your role as a parent, in your career, or even someday at the scene of an accident. When others look to you for leadership you need to be prepared for it, and be ready to lead from your true self.
There are numerous benefits to leading yourself before leading others:
- You will become a more effective leader because now that you understand yourself, you can lead with your strengths and put development plan in place for your growth opportunities.
- Understanding self leads to transparency and humility, which makes you more approachable. You will be trusted as a leader because you are genuine and authentic.
- Because you have experienced it yourself, you will become a better developer of talent in those around you. You are able to coach others to increase their own understanding of self.
- Your team will not only rally around you: they will run through a wall for you!
So where are you at with self? Does your leadership development plan need to include seeking greater clarity on self to be a more effective leader? People lead in different ways, but you must first know how to lead yourself before you can successfully lead others. Those who plan – Profit!
Steve Van Remortel is a strategy and talent thought-leader and consultant, blogger, speaker, certified behavioral analyst and author of the award-winning book, “Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream.” Register for his free monthly strategy and talent newsletter at www.stopsellingvanillaicecream.com His column runs the first Sunday of the month.