Who are you...



It has long been a tenet of effective leadership that it really begins with effective self-leadership. So much so that in our coaching practice, we maintain that if one cannot lead themselves, they do not have the right to lead others. While that may come across rather strong, we’ve seen it play out as advertised, both positively and negatively over the last several decades.

Self-awareness is obviously key to effective self-leadership, yet it remains a challenge for far too many leaders. In a January 2018 article in Harvard Business Review titled, “What Self-Awareness Is (and How to Cultivate it)”, Tasha Eurich stated that their four-year research study estimated that only 10% to 15% of their over 5,000 study participants were actually self-aware.

In some of our more recent posts, we discussed how the pandemic has been a bit of “truth serum” for leaders across the globe. No one has escaped the need to reflect and validate who they really are! One of the questions we’ve asked every client over the last six months is “What have you learned about yourself these past six months?”. The answers have both come swift and not at all. The question really isn’t about the answers as much as it is about queuing up the question to ultimately determine the answer for each leader we asked. What we have seen are the various ways leaders are defining who they are and why we see it as an ongoing challenge.

  • Leaders defined primarily by others ~ Basing the leader’s view of who they are primarily based on the input from others is problematic. It is easy to leverage demographic terminology (age, race, gender, religion, etal.) to define who leaders are but it is a perceptional inaccurate viewpoint. For instance, we know the 360 Feedback process is one of the most effective ways for leaders to receive feedback. However, it is based on perceptions and is best facilitated and administered by a qualified and experienced objective third party. This way, the perceptions are received in a context where the leader truly understands who they are viewed by others to be.
  • Leaders defined primarily by their decisions ~ there is a body of work in the market that defines yet another way leaders define themselves based on the decisions they make. This too can be problematic in the sense that decisions are situationally limited in helping leaders define who they are. While there can be some reverse engineering from the decision itself to a deeper knowledge of the leader as a person, the value is still limited by the situation. The challenge arise as the focus tends to be more on the result of the decision rather than the thinking behind the decision!
  • Leaders defined primarily by the way they think ~ While more difficult to reflect on than demographics, psychographics are a much closer representation of who a leader is. We know that nearly 90% of what leaders do is a function of their subconscious. Reflecting on their attitudes in any given situation paints a more accurate picture of who they really are. Some of our recent posts raised the question, “Why do you think that way?”. As we continue to explore the impact of leader’s attitudes, we’ve observed that question can be a bit defensive. We inherently know every leader is a product of their past. Based on that, we now ask the question, “What events shaped your thinking about this situation?”!

Self-awareness is a key element for effective leadership due to the constant change 21st Century Leaders face day in and day out. The VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world leaders live and work in today creates a high level of uncertainty in the leadership ranks. When leaders carry a high level of self-awareness, they also know what and how to adapt to the constant changes as a leader allowing them to be effective lifelong leaders!

Who are you, really? If you don’t know, we can help.

Lead Well!

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Thursday, 21 October 2021