How to become a better leader
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The questions you should be asking yourself
It has been estimated that between the ages of 2 and 5 we ask something like 40,000 questions as we try to make sense of the world we have been born into. Many of these questions begin with “Why” as our curiosity and need to explore things is at the centre of our learning.
Last week as Dave was reading a bedtime story to his 4-year old, she looked up and said, “daddy why do you like helping people learn things?” In the ensuing conversation she made some interesting observations such as “I like helping people too, I think I might be a teacher when I’m older”.
Reflecting on this conversation later that evening it reminded me just how early in our lives we begin exploring our sense of identity. We try and discover our role in the world, and this continues as we grow and become adults. Sadly though, for many of us the questions “who am I?” and “who am I becoming?” remain unanswered. For those of us who hold a leadership role in business, or in the communities we involve ourselves in, these are fundamentally important questions.
Who are you now as a leader?
Depending on the role we fulfil we may see ourselves as a custodian, or maybe a motivator. What about an innovator, a disrupter or a pioneer? Are you more of a reflector who sees leadership as not just about being “out in front”?
To find adjectives that best describe you it is important you are clear on your mission or purpose as a leader. What do you want to accomplish in this role?
Singer and actress Dolly Parton once said, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader.”
Part of exploring your current identity is being able to answer the question “How would you describe yourself as a leader now?” Whether or not the people around you see things the same way would also be interesting to explore!
What sort of leader do I want to be in the future?
If you look into the future, maybe only a year down the line, what type of leader do you want or need to be? Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine if you became this leader how would other people describe you and the impact you have created?
Strong leaders are masterful at providing clear direction, they create openings for people. A famous example of this was when John F. Kennedy stated in May 1961 that we would put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade. The NASA team seized on this opportunity, made it happen and the space age became a reality. In practical terms, you need to articulate a compelling vision that encompasses values, purpose, your core areas of focus and the concrete behaviours that deliver these things.
This process of being clear on where you’re going and how you’ll get there applies to you on a personal level as the leader. So, here’s another question for you; What do you need to change to become the leader you aspire to be? (remember it’s the little steps that make the difference). This kind of reflective thinking can create an opening for you, something to embrace and make happen.
Does the environment I work in matter?
It is very important to be authentic as a leader. Tapping into all the facets that make up your personal sense of identity and using these for the greater good of others.
Strong leaders are sensitive to the context in which they are operating and use a combination of self and social awareness to adapt to the different environments they find themselves in.
If finding balance in your life matters to you, exploring your sense of identity is likely to be insightful, motivational and empowering. You don’t need to ask yourself 40,000 questions, using the questions we have posed here is a good starting point.
The morning after Dave and his 4-year old daughter had a careers discussion, she was practising teaching with a bunch of teddies and soft toys. Dave suspects there will be many more of these chats before she settles on her true sense of identity. She is having fun exploring though and that’s as it should be.
To contact us and find out more about how to tap into your leadership identity please click here.