Friday, May 20, 2011
How are you doing as a leader?
Many leaders succeed by working hard and smart. They also succeed through stumbling, falling, getting up, and learning a lot in the process. They grow, they are hungry for more impact, and they develop themselves into an even better leader. But only up to a certain point and then many seem to stop learning, growing, asking feedback, and challenging their beliefs and practices. They have reached a certain level, status, and reputation (and let’s not forget power!) and they seem comfortable with their being and their results. Great, you might think, and for sure, the feeling is good and it’s wonderful to enjoy what you have planted and nurtured. You might think: “This is what it’s all about. I have reached my objective”.
But feeling comfortable with where you’re at is not the same as remaining competent in an ever changing world with a fast paced business environment, rapidly emerging markets, technological tornados, and political and economic shifts in countries and regions. The question is not “Am I still doing good enough?” The question is: “How can I continuously be aware and improve myself, my leadership, my company, and this world and stay ahead or at least on top of developments?”
When you write a book, one day it will be finished, ready for your readers to buy and read it. When you cook a meal, at some point it will be on the table for you and your guests to enjoy. When you teach a class, at the end of the lesson your students start processing what you handed them. But when you lead yourself and others, you’re in a process, you’re in a fluent state. Almost like a stream of water, always on the move, always flexible, always changing whatever it touches, no matter how little or how slow.
There are numerous books, lectures, and programs on becoming a better leader and they cover many valuable traits and skills. Let me just emphasize two areas that too often go underemphasized:
I refer to awareness of yourself: your style, preferences, values, purpose, and blind spots. I refer to awareness of your challenges, of your ego strength, and of your drives and motivations. I refer to awareness of where you stand on the many polarities that leadership brings to your every day job. And of course I refer to a strong awareness of your environment, including customers, competitors, and everyone and everything you can learn from. Reflection, contemplation, being present in the here-and-now, and feedback are your tools for continuous awareness. Use them wisely.
You don’t know it all, you haven’t experienced it all, and yes you’re important but dependent on many others and possibly not as important as you might think you are. You can learn most from humbling experiences, you can learn most from stepping down from your throne, and you can learn most from people with opposing styles, beliefs, approaches, and fields of expertise. Go serve the poor and go walk that unfamiliar neighborhood. Go learn from nature, single parents, children and all other resources available. And above all, remain appreciative, listen, and put everything into perspective, including yourself and your accomplishments.
You’re never really done growing, learning, questioning, and evaluating yourself. How are you doing as a leader? I hope you’ll keep wondering curiously till the end of days.