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Leadership and the Self

September 16, 2012
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (Photo credit: Festival Karsh Ottawa)

The first step to being an effective leader is self awareness. How conscious you are of the leadership you practice, defines how effective you are.

My friend, mentor and leader Karen West says the most fundamental question is: Why do you want to be a leader? What fuels your desire to lead?

If the desire is to give, to add value, to make a difference – you will be one type of leader

If the desire is to compete, win, overthrow – you will be a different type of leader

If the desire is to fulfill your internal needs for social approval, have the good things in life – you will be yet another kind of leader

In reality, there are parts of each one of the above that drive our desires. The key is to be conscious of them, the key is to be aware of which desires can create blind-spots and become derailers. The key also, is to know which ones will fuel joy and success.

A wise man I knew once said, we’re all running in life. Some of us are running towards something we love and value. Others are running away from something we fear or dislike. We are all running, but the quality of the race is very different.

Do you know why you are running?

This is a good time to take a pause, sit back and think about why you want to be a leader.

My list is:

1. I believe I have the ability to provide clarity and direction – even when things are chaotic – I want to be able to help a team navigate through tough times in order to be successful

2. I believe I am able to help individuals harness their strengths and perform to their greatest potential

3. I believe in thinking out of the box and trying things differently and leadership gives me the ability to be able to do that

4. I believe in making a difference to the larger ecosystem that is our society, nation, environment and humankind. Leadership gives me the platform to be able to influence such a direction

5. I get bored by routine and doing the same thing day after day. I believe leadership enables me to have more “play” and influence on doing different things and taking on a variety of challenges

What’s your list?

Leadership is also about agility and being dynamic. The beliefs, styles, skills and attitudes that succeed for you in a particular context will not work all the time. Your ability to learn. To flex. To change. Will define sustainable success.

This is another good point to pause, and reflect on how you have changed in the last 10 years. An equally important question you must ask yourself is: What am I continuing to do that is either irrelevant or is not adding value, and I must change?

To paraphrase Jim Collins: Great leaders look to the window to shower praise and look to the mirror to find fault.

So what kind of leader do you want to be? Why? How are you going to make it happen? What do you need to change, starting now?

Become self-aware. Be more conscious of who you want to be and who you are being. And you will be on your way. Enjoy the race!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Shilpa Gogia permalink
    September 18, 2012 11:24 pm

    Very interesting and rare insight … an attempt to “Know Thyself” has been made by many and those who pursue it relentlessly reach a realm of a certain uncertain much beyond leadership, organizations etc. Its a pity most people never bother to look at themselves in the mirror. Thanks for sharing Rishi.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      September 20, 2012 8:52 am

      Thanks Shilpa. Some people take longer than others, to find that breakthrough. All we can do is “Be the change we want to see” :o)

  2. sahil chopra permalink
    September 17, 2012 7:25 pm

    Nice read. Made me explore myself.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      September 20, 2012 8:50 am

      Hi Sahil,
      I’m glad you found value. Being able to make a difference is the primary motivation for me to keep writing. Thank you!

  3. September 17, 2012 5:48 pm

    Fantastic piece. Thanks for sharing….reminded me of a blog I penned earlier…

    Quoting from it:

    “I have often been amused by the fact that everyone calls himself or herself a leader these days. Fancy designations and titles have crowned nearly all middle and above management roles as that of a ‘leader’. Everyone is being projected a leader, without knowing what is leadership all about in the first place!

    Does the fact one has become a senior manager and manages a team make him or her a leader? Does one become a leader just like that? Or there is more to it…?

    To my mind, leadership is more about knowing and managing self and not only managing others. It starts with asking some hard-hitting questions to self, before embarking on the journey of leading women and men…”

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      September 20, 2012 8:51 am

      And you write equally well, Rishi! Thanks for the additional input!

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