STRONG leaders are essential for business success, especially in the current challenging climate.
Given the turbulence in global and local economies, there is certainly an increasly compelling need for leaders to possess the craft competence to steer their organisations through the volatile and unstable economic environment.
Naturally, a leader needs to command respect, have presence and gravitas, combine strategy with emotional intelligence, make people naturally want to follow you and, above all, inspire your team to excellence. In the words of the famous Mahatma Ghandi, “…be the change you want to see in the world.” Accordingly, leaders need to model, exemplify and essentially be what they are asking for in their teams and companies, and this takes advanced personal development.
In this endeavour, self-understanding is fundamental. You need to understand yourself, your personality and what you need to be to deliver your best, and to understand and maximise how you come across to others. Self-leadership implies practically and intentionally influencing our thinking, feelings, and behaviours to achieve our objectives. Simply put, self-leadership emerges from self-awareness which, in turn, increases our ability to reach our goals.
Becoming a self-leader and maintaining self-leadership is a self-development activity but empirical evidence has also shown that organisations that encourages self-leadership tend to enjoy immense benefits of such an undertaking. It is therefore strongly believed that self-leadership must be the foundation of any organisational development programme. To skip the self-leadership piece is to leave out a significant part of the puzzle of developing a learning organisation.
Essentially, excellent leaders need to be authentic and to convey this congruence and alignment between thoughts, words, and actions in everything they do. Otherwise you get a jarring dissonance and disconnect that undermines your ability to lead effectively. The concept of self-leadership evolved from studies about self-management, during the 1980s when American companies started implementing telecommuting work teams in some areas and circumstances.
At that time, self-management studies targeted the ability to manage a person’s own time, and efficacy without the control and observation of managers or colleagues, while working away from the office environment. The idea was to nurture authentic leaders and it was and still is argued that “you can’t be authentic if you don’t know who you are.”
Integrity and authenticity are about wholeness, really, a state where your actions are aligned with both your individual values and the shared values of the company. Therefore, good self-management, include developing abilities such as goal setting, decision making, focussing, planning, scheduling, task tracking, self-evaluation, self-intervention, and self-development.
Interestingly, the birth of the concept of self-management came from the field of medicine. In medicine, self-management is related to the education of patients with chronic conditions (diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and asthma) to keep their conditions under control through the practice of healthy behaviours. By taking responsibility for the day-to-day management of their diseases, patients become more and more knowledgeable, and feel more confident about their ability to lead better quality life, utilising fewer healthcare resources. It is from this premise that we can safely conclude that self-awareness transcends age, intelligence, education, profession, and job level. Just like Bryant and Kazan (2012) observe, with an enhanced self-awareness and an understanding of how we operate in the world we can make better decisions, assertively communicate those decisions, and receive feedback from the results of our decisions.
The question we might ask is: How can we develop self-awareness? Research has shown that the human brain operates at two distinct levels of dominance on what has come to be called brain dominance theory. The brain dominance theory identifies the two hemispheres of the brain as the left and the right hemisphere. The findings basically indicate that each hemisphere of the brain—left and right—tends to specialise in and preside over different functions, process different kinds of information, and deal with different kinds of problems.
Essentially, according to the findings, the left hemisphere is the more logical/verbal one whilst the right hemisphere is the more intuitive, creative one. In other words, the left deals with words and the right with pictures; the left with parts and specifics, the right with wholes and the relationship between the parts. The left deals with analysis, which means to break apart; the right with synthesis, which means to put together.
Although people use both sides of the brain, one side or the other generally tends to be dominant in each individual. The oft-quoted (and mis-attributed) maxim, “The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same things over and over and expect different results” causes us to conclude, that if you want different results you must change, and to change you must change your mind before changing your action. Self-awareness, allows us to ‘step back’ from a situation and ask, “Why am I doing this?”, “What causes me to see it this way?” and “How can I think and feel differently to get different results?”
Bryant and Kazan (2012) conclude that “Self-leadership emerges from self-awareness, which leads to greater self-responsibility and behavioural flexibility, which in turn increases our ability to reach our goals.” Unfortunately, most people only ever use 5% of their brain potential—even the popular genius Albert Einstein was estimated to have used just 10% of his brains at the time of his death..
Without self-awareness, you are locked into a stimulus-response nightmare; operating from unconscious and out-of-date programmes and reacting to situations rather than influencing them. If you want different results, you must change what you are doing and/or the way you are doing it. And, to do this, you must know why you do things a certain way.
Robert Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Institute of Leadership, Research and Development (LiRD). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org/www.lird.co.zw.