Leader Know Thyself!
"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult."
When I took my first leadership course in the early 90s, one of our textbooks was "On Becoming a Leader" by Warren Bennis. He challenged many of the commonly held beliefs about leadership. There were two ideas he taught that particularly spoke to me: 1) Leaders are made, not born; 2) The best leaders are people who take the time and make the effort to know themselves, and who lead authentically from that place rather than mimicking others' leadership styles.
I took both of these ideas to heart because they made so much sense to me. I didn't see how anyone could truly be a leader if they were simply copying what someone else was doing. They may have achieved a certain level of success by doing that. But truly leading? I think not.
That's not to say that we cannot learn by observing others who are successfully doing what we want to do. But leadership style, like everything else in life, is not one size fits all. Much like clothes shopping, something may look good when we first see it. It may even look fabulous on someone else. However, when we try it on, it just isn't flattering or comfortable.
In my years of working with and observing people in positions of leadership, I have watched and worked with people who were sure if they just emulated the behaviors that someone they admired was doing, they would be equally successful. Sometimes they were. More often they weren't. It just wasn't the right fit, because they were different people.
Until we know ourselves, it is difficult to know when and how we are best served by making adjustments to behaviors. As you think about that, you may be wondering how it is that one becomes more self-aware. Here are a few suggestions:
- Be curious - Be willing to ask questions and honestly listen to the answers. Ask other leaders. Ask people who work with and for you. Ask your family. Find the commonality in the answers you get and put them to good use.
- Honestly assess your results - Is your life and business unfolding in the way you'd like it to? If your answer is yes, keep doing what you're doing. If not, be willing the make changes that will take you where you want to go.
- Know your stressors and triggers - It is impossible to bring your best self to any situation when you're plugged in. By knowing what throws you off, you can plan for it, learn how to deal more effectively, and minimize negative impacts.
- Develop your intuition - We've all had flashes of insight, gut feelings, or moments of just "knowing" something. It doesn't mean we always listen, though. The more we pay attention to our intuitive senses, the more effective we can be.
- Spend time each day without distractions - Allow yourself some time to be with your own thoughts. We have so many distractions, these days. Noticing where your thoughts go when you have some quiet time can lead to valuable insights.
Above all, embrace who you are and be willing to bring that person into your leadership role. You have unique gifts and talents that you deserve to share, and that people will benefit from. Don't keep them hidden away. The world will be a better place with the gift of you.
Wishing you many opportunities to bring your best self to your interactions with others, for the benefit of all.
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