Leadership Development and Self-leadership


Amongst the myriad of leadership philosophies and theories in circulation, one of the few consistent themes is that leadership is underpinned by the concept of self-leadership. To put it more simply, before I can lead others effectively, I must be able to lead myself first.

What is Self-leadership?

So what do we really mean when we talk about self-leadership? In simple terms, self-leadership is about developing my personal effectiveness, to allow me to perform at my best and ultimately lead others more effectively.

To achieve greater personal efficacy, a leader needs to have a clear vision of what he or she wants to achieve and a clear understanding of what drives their behaviour. This includes understanding one’s personal values, motivators and personality preferences.

Leadership Footprint

Before considering these drivers, you may want to reflect on the footprint you currently make as a leader and the footprint you want to leave in future.

One way to do this is to imagine it is your last ever day at work. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to have achieved?
  • What would you want your boss, employees and customers (internal and external) to be saying about you?
  • How do you want to have made people feel?
  • What would you hope they would say when asked to describe your personal values?

A simple exercise like this helps leaders build a clear, compelling picture of the impact they want to have going forward and allows them to take actions that will make this picture become reality. The next challenge is actually creating this footprint.

Personality Preferences – Be Yourself with More Skill

Rather than trying to fundamentally change themselves, London School Business entreats delegates on their leadership programmes to adopt the mindset of: “Be yourself, but with more skill.” To do this, leaders need to both understand themselves and then translate this understanding into action that will allow them to be more effective.

An excellent way of gaining greater insight into one’s underlying personal preferences is by completing a personality questionnaire and exploring your responses in relation to the footprint you want to create as a leader.

Understanding your personal preferences gives you the opportunity to consider how these help shape your behaviour and as such the impact you are having as a leader on your people.

Leadership and Management Style

Most good quality personality questionnaires will provide you a feel for your preferred leadership and management style. Transactional (management) and transformational (leadership) styles are one of the more frequently used frameworks.

A transactional preference is likely to result in a focus on managing more immediate performance issues, ensuring clear goals and priorities are in place and rewarding delivery against these goals.

Transactional leaders prefer dealing with what needs to be done and by when, i.e. the task at hand and managing processes and systems to ensure success. When done well, a transactional preference will help stretch an organisation’s performance capability by delivering increased organisational efficiency.

If this is your preference, and you have the requisite skills to execute it, you are most likely to add value in an environment where there is a high degree of control. This includes a need for adherence to define structures and processes, a need for problem solving and delivering within the existing status quo.

Transformational leaders are likely to result in a focus on engaging people in a long-term vision, building confidence and belief that this vision can be achieved. Moreover, empowering others to take ownership of and deliver that vision.

A transformational preference tend to focus on building relationships. They focus on the ‘why’ (i.e. alignment to the organisation’s vision) and ‘how’ (i.e. enabling others to execute effectively) when it comes to aspects of performance, to drive belief and confidence.

Such an approach is most likely to add value in environments where change is required. It’s suited to where operating within uncertainty and a high degree of risk is needed if goals are to be achieved.

If you have the necessary capability in this area, your preferences are likely to help increase an organisation’s performance by fundamentally changing aspects of how it operates. You also have the potential to fundamentally change what it does, i.e. delivering increased organisational effectiveness.

Execution Focus

An equally important, though somewhat less considered, aspect of personality preferences is how a leader’s preferences impact his/her execution focus. Their preferences include people, strategic, operational and tactical. These are likely to influence how they prioritise different information and factors within their decision making and how they allocate time, resources and energy within their performance environment.

By understanding your execution preferences, you can gain greater understanding into the type of performance environment you are creating for your people.

A leader with a people focus is likely to place an emphasis on inspiring and winning the hearts and minds of their people. Whereas a strategic preference may mean a leader will focus on the future vision and direction of the business. A leader with an operational preference will tend to focus on translating strategic objectives into a series of operational plans. Whilst a tactical focus is likely to see an emphasis on day-to-day performance and executing tangible objectives.

So How Can I Find out More about Myself?

Normally, there is a cost associated with completing a personality questionnaire that provides such a level of insight into your personality preferences and associated leadership and management style. However the Finding Potential personality questionnaire, which generates a detailed personal report as well as a separate leadership and management styles report, is available entirely free of charge.

Gordon Barker is director of consulting at great{with}talent who own the Finding Potential brand.

Contact great{with}talent and find out more about their TalentEngage employee engagement surveys.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvAF23qiSE8&w=560&h=315](Main image from Queensland University of Technology)

Previous Post
Staff Satisfaction Surveys and Chesterton Global
Next Post
Talent Retention Solutions in Financial Services