21 Apr

The ‘self’ in leadership Part 1

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly” – Jim Rohn

A common misunderstanding that is often raised in coaching sessions concerns the term ‘leader’. Many people believe a leader is someone who has direct reports; someone who manages or supervises others. Some interesting conversations and insights arise when we discuss the difference between ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ and the fact that you don’t have to be a manager or supervisor to demonstrate leadership.

This is the ‘self’ of leadership – what you bring to the workplace that sets you apart from others, and what behaviours you consistently demonstrate. It is how you interact with and treat others, how you go about achieving results and how you handle set backs. Notice the use of the word ‘how’ here. The ‘what’ you deliver is very important to leadership; equally as important is the ‘how’ you go about delivering results.

If for instance, you achieve targets, yet along the way you undermine others, are rude to customers, throw tantrums in your boss’ office and break policies, then you are not showing good self-leadership. On the other hand, if you deliver results and along the way support colleagues, respect customers, uphold policies and professionally discuss issues with your boss, then you likely are demonstrating good self-leadership.

So, this sounds like common sense – yes? Well, in many respects it is – most of us have learnt from childhood that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Yet this is where we encounter the ‘knowing-doing’ gap, the concept of differing values and the positive approach of emotional intelligence.

Knowing-doing gap examples:

  • “I know that I should greet all colleagues politely, yet at times I don’t, because some of them annoy me!”
  • “I know that it’s inappropriate to yell at people in the office, yet I find managing my emotions difficult and so occasionally I do yell at people.”

So you might know what is or isn’t appropriate; you might know the theory of a particular situation (e.g. giving feedback), yet are you actually ‘doing’ it as you ‘know’?

Differing values examples:

  • “I think humour in the workplace is positive; Geoffrey takes it too far because he likes to tell rude jokes that make me feel uncomfortable.”
  • “Respect is so important to me and I would never gossip about a colleague; I hear people talking about Jenny’s divorce when she’s not here and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
  • “If I have a problem with how we interact, I’ll tell you; it concerns me when I hear that you’ve been telling everyone else but me that you don’t like how I do things.”

We all have values that are important to us; yet what they are differs widely from person to person. And even if we have similar priority values (e.g. respect), what we expect of others in relation to these values can be very different (i.e. ‘respect’ can mean different things to different people).

These differences are ok – it’s part of being human – we are all different! We just need to look at whether we respect others’ values, where we are willing to be flexible with our values, and where/when we need courage to stand up for our values.

Emotional intelligence examples:

  • “In frustrating situations, I am able to avoid emotional outbursts, yet still discuss my feelings in an appropriate and productive way.”
  • “I am able to connect with others by seeking to understand their perspective, even if it differs to my own.”
  • “I know how to demonstrate empathy and support others.”
  • “I can raise challenging issues and provide feedback in a way that maintains relationships.”
  • “I understand that others will differ in their behaviours and values and that I can only control my own actions.”

Do you have the emotional intelligence to handle difficult situations in the workplace and to demonstrate leadership that sets you apart in a positive way?

Emotional intelligence is one of the most effective skills to demonstrate leadership – whether it be self-leadership or leading others in a team. A key ingredient to being able to develop emotional intelligence is self-awareness – being able to identify your strengths and gaps and recognise when you do and when you don’t demonstrate appropriate behaviours.

It’s not about making excuses – “that’s just me” – it’s about truly understanding your strengths and limitations. And then from there, it’s been willing and committed to consistently demonstrate strengths and work toward closing any gaps.

Your self-leadership challenge

Think about how you would like to be perceived in the workplace.

  • What values and behaviours would you like to be known for?

Now ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Are you living those values and behaviours – leading by example?
  2. Are you bringing positive intent to all your interactions with others (regardless of whether you like them or not)?
  3. Are you respecting other people’s values through your actions (whether you have the same values or not)?

Next post we will look at a simple model to help hold ourselves accountable to self-leadership.

In the meantime – what does your leadership ‘selfie’ look like?

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