“Last week you shared with me how central you felt a leader’s self-awareness is in relation to his overall success but I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than just self-awareness” my colleague was nothing if not persistent.
“Okay, okay. Let’s meet up later on and I will explain how it fits in with a number of other things that enable good leaders to perform irrespective of the challenges they and their organisations face”
And so later that day we met once again in our in-house coffee shop.
“So” I started as we sat down at one of the tables with our cappuccinos “as we discussed last week I believe that self-awareness in a leader is fundamental to establishing how he or she operates on a day to day basis. It’s primary to the determination of how the leader will behave and more importantly how they are perceived to behave by everybody else.”
“Let’s think about an everyday situation to help me explain how it works.“ I continued “How do you react and feel when your leadership team slavishly recite the corporate mantra as the justification for a proposed course of action?”
“Well, I tend not to respond very well quite frankly“ he replied. “Everybody in the organisation knows that the leaders aren’t really doing their job. They’re not adding value; they’re not thinking and they don’t appear to be committed – the message is that it’s somebody else doing the leading not them”
“Precisely” I continued. “They are allowing the organisation to influence their behaviour instead of behaving in a way that is true to their own values and beliefs. You get the impression that when the chips are down they will toe the line rather than stand up for what they believe to be right”
“Too true” responded my colleague. I could tell by his faraway look he was recalling times from his past where this sort of leadership behaviour had occurred and how he had felt about it. Clearly these were not good memories.
“What people look for in a leader is consistency.” I continued. “By being true to their own morals and values they will both behave with consistency but also be seen to behave with consistency by everybody and won’t be seen as being overly influenced by the thoughts and behaviour of others. Sure a leader needs to be aware of and responsive to the views of others but he should not be seen to be overly influenced by them. In short he needs to be seen as being his own man.”
“But in today’s corporate environment it can be really difficult to behave in the way that you suggest” he correctly concluded.
“Yes but in the long run both the organisation and the team will benefit as the leader takes action that is in line with his expressed beliefs and morals.”