Often leaders of every persona, ranging from the altruist leading a non-profit, to the competitive capitalist leading a fast-growing tech organization, strive for the answer to the question, “How can I be more effective?” While most leaders want to get better and develop leadership skills, the chasm between wanting to be a better leader and being a better leader is vast. Most people begin leadership training as a means to an end. “I have to get better at accountability” or “I need to be more assertive” or “I need to ask more and tell less” or “We need to create a better organizational culture and it begins with improving the leadership at the top”. Most students in leadership development training programs focus on the successful completion of the program. In our consulting practice, we have seen that the very best students in company-hosted leadership training programs come for a purpose much bigger than passing the class. They come to bridge the gap between their ideal reality of who they want to be as a leader, and the current version of how they operate as a leader. They walk in the leadership training clear minded of their end goal and listen for opportunities to get curious, explore and stretch. I invite you to do the same.
Through our work in transforming organizational culture, we have discovered that some of the largest organizational breakthroughs resulted from leaders taking a step back and dismantling their unconscious bias and pervasive limiting beliefs about leadership and their role in it.
Declaring an Inspiring Possibility for a Leadership Development Program
When looking for your why, it is always recommended to invent something that pulls your thinking forward into a state of mind capable of operating in high momentum, rather than dwelling on what is inherently wrong with you, what is broke and what needs to be fixed in order for you to be okay. One set of thoughts exists above the line of our energy vortex, where we have full access to our innate power, freedom and self-expression; and the other resides in our own narrow, below the line, ego driven perspective of faults, limits, and fears.
On the path towards leadership effectiveness, many participants of leadership training programs are inspired by breaking though performance constraints; enrolling, engaging and leading people towards a mission, building resiliency and sustainability into the enterprise and facilitating a high degree of collaboration, innovation and teamwork among their teams. Whether or not these specific concerns and objectives resonate with you personally, it is helpful to identify one or more main drivers of your journey to a higher level of leadership effectiveness. Once you are authentically connected to the why, and feel compelled into action for a reason bigger than fixing your performance gap, the leadership training journey becomes fun, uplifting and profitable.
Gaining Awareness of Self
The second step to improving your leadership effectiveness is getting connected to reality and your personal thinking, and noticing how often the two are not the same. Shakespeare coined the phrase, “To thine own self be true,” but what happens when we realize that much of our thoughts and perceptions of who we are, was created for us out of our personal identity delicately crafted by the child we once were, during our standard stages of human development. Once we wake up to the fact that most of our bias, thoughts and beliefs about leadership and leading come from a very limited perspective; we could alternatively, right now in the moment, intentionally declare and invent who we are as a leader. From our wisest self in the present moment and through our very own volition and conscious adult choices, we can create something new that empowers.
Each and every moment of each and every day, we face hundreds of choices. I myself have had to learn, and am still learning through trial and error, that how I choose to respond to both external stimuli and internal thoughts about that stimuli are what either lead me to a path of happiness, effectiveness and fulfillment, or drag me down the road of disconnection, frustration and anxiety. When I am consciously aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a leader, as well as my own unconscious biases about others and myself, I can rein my EGO self in when it’s not being helpful. When I am aware of my patterns of thought and how those patterns are hardwired with automatic response patterns, I can choose a best Use of Self in any moment. By simply choosing my response to what is happening outside of me, I tap into my own curiosity and connection with others, rather than responding from my already always patterns of listening and preconceived ideas of how I think something is going to go down. Applying Self-Awareness practices to your leadership development journey, such as hiring a coach, learning to meditate or intentionally creating, journaling and debriefing your days, ensures a stronger application of every segment of the leadership training and becomes the foundation for a better you for years to come.
Consciously Using Self for Good
Whether it is your carbon footprint, the water you drink, the resources you claim and use, or the energy you bring or take away from the table, you are always having an impact. Regardless of our strengths or weaknesses as a leader, how we deploy and leverage those competencies and traits determines the impact we have on those we work with, as well as the impact we have on the space. Getting responsible for what happens around us could be the biggest gift we give our people and our professional leadership development journey. How we manage ourselves is the primary tool we have for managing change in the work system. With a basic understanding of Systems Thinking, we know that we are a part of the human system at work and we are always making an impact on that system whether we want to or not.
How we act, behave, respond, react, and interact or not with others is our Use of Self. If I choose to withdraw, disconnect and check out, I am having a certain kind of impact on the human system. If I choose to be upset, impatient, or intolerant, I am having another very different impact. If I choose to get curious, stay with challenging conversations and rein in unproductive behavior, I am having yet another very different impact on the human system. Conscious Use of Self for good is operating from an awareness and level of responsibility that whatever is going on around me, I am 100% responsible for. Once I accept full responsibility for that which is happening or is failing to happen when I lead, I can consciously choose a new path without pointing outside of myself for someone or something to blame or shame.
The system’s response to what we do (workplace behavior, state of mind of the team, bottom line results) is essentially feedback that tells us if we are on track or off track with our leadership goals. When we experience feedback as simply that, an indicator light for what is working and what is not, and we consciously approach that feedback as the gift of factual non-biased information, we are better equipped for responding in alignment with our goals and intentions for our leadership training.
Measuring What Matters
As a leader inspired by what is possible, it is important to be in touch with those measurements that matter most to the successful operation of your organization, for the people in the system and for you as a leader, in that order. One of your main concerns with regards to the human system in your organization is monitoring the efficiency with which your group gets work done and continues to get better. Other areas that you may want to measure are the productivity of individuals and or teams by looking at the information as a whole, by division, or among cross-functional work groups.
Based on the dynamics of the specific system you oversee; your measurements may be more heavily weighted towards leading or lagging indicators. Keeping congruencies in mind when you design performance objectives ensures whatever you measure operates in alignment with your organizational growth objectives, core values of the enterprise, and purpose of your role.
Stay tuned for the second part of our article series which we discuss the next 3 keys to being an effective leader in your organization!
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