photo of woman wearing eyeglasses

The Importance of Self-Development in Leadership

We are surrounded by leaders. Teachers, CEOs, parents, influencers and others who steer the course of a group and serve them. They are not only the figure heads and decision-makers: they are actively shaping the culture of the group they are leading – whether that is a conscious effort or not. 

I have had a lifelong interest in self-development because it seems to me that the real parameters of our lives are not the opportunities we come by or the successes we achieve, as much as how able we are to expand and grow into new situations. And how we shape those new situations. A group culture can easily become a reflection of the best and worst parts of ourselves (and to different extents those of other team members, although usually the leader’s influence is strongest).

In my leadership coaching sessions with clients, it’s very clear to me that they’re great people with very good intentions. And 95% of the time, doing exactly the right things. But in that 5% – that’s where we have the opportunity to grow in really exciting ways.  

The people who are already succeeding 95% of the time are experienced, have mastered a degree of self-reflection and are good at what they do. Usually the remaining room for improvement comes from the part we’re not taught about. This is the fact that how we feel inside and how we relate to, and know, ourselves, is crucial for having healthy relationships with other people and with groups. And that healthy connection is essential for true leadership. 

Working through our own issues can help us to suddenly see issues in the culture or a group that we have been blind to. It can help us to realise how we have been contributing to a dynamic or a culture. And the more work we do on building our own self-love and self-esteem, the easier it is to invite feedback and actually be able to hear it. 

We all have unique personalities and histories and so there is no judgement around the fact we all have stuff to work on. It’s a shame that often as we move into positions with more influence, people are usually more hesitant to point out our flaws. For some leaders this makes them even more cautious, because the usual safety-guards are removed. Other times it means the information a leader is working with is lop-sided or incorrect, because only certain people are speaking out. So it can be very helpful for leaders to have support from people they know will tell them the truth, with the right balance of compassion and honesty.

But at the end of the day, a lot of the quality of our leadership comes down to us. A leader with a healthy sense of self, good boundaries and an ability to work through their emotions is going to create a much stronger and more productive culture, than someone who has many tools, but none of those self-development skills.

And finally, because it can be a lonely job, it’s so important to practice self-care. It can also be very helpful to the culture in your team for them to see you modelling that behaviour also. 

So, a big shout out to all the leaders. It’s not an easy job, and we need you! I hope you’re getting all the support you need to be the leader you always wanted to have. 

Take care! 



I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (From the Wrong Places)

Sometimes – no – often, I find myself working with a client who has a 100% pure impulse towards something good they want or need. It could be anything – art, beauty, intimacy, skill, authority. Anything. 

But no matter how hard they try, they can’t ever quite satisfy it. At least, not until we’ve done some work on finding the approach that is right for them. 

In this brief article I’m going to talk about the way we take those pure, healthy instincts and even with very good intentions, utterly fail to satisfy them.

And this is such a common human error that you could almost say it’s a part of being human. So it’s definitely not something to beat yourself up for, we all do it. 

Let’s use an example. Let’s say a man called Henry has been missing something in his life. It’s a kind of emptiness. He tries the gym, socialising, meditating, experiencing more culture. But although these things are all rewarding in their own way – none of them get to that deeper ache he’s experiencing. He even thinks about changing career, but before taking such a drastic step he decides to try figure out what his need is.

By looking more deeply at the emotion at the core of his uneasiness, he realises that it’s actually emotional intimacy he has been craving. It’s something he’s avoided in the past as it has been too painful and he has successfully distracted himself up to now with work and other activities. But on a deep, soul-level, he knows that’s what he truly wants. 

He’s done something that we all do. We use the things we’re familiar with to try and meet our desires and needs. After all, they’ve worked for us in the past, why wouldn’t they work again?

We don’t only do this out of habit though. We’re often unconsciously trying to silence needs that want us to grow. Perhaps we don’t want to lose our sense of safety or control, or to change the status-quo. So we do the things we already know haven’t resulted in that growth. We get to tell ourselves we’re trying something, while never risking change and vulnerability. 

And other times, we just don’t know any better. Why? 

Because we don’t know what we’re truly craving. 

Let’s try a simple exercise, one which may help you to uncover what you want right now. You’ll need a pen and paper preferably, but a device is ok too. I’m going to list a series of prompts, you just need to write the answers that come to mind naturally, without judgement. You take your first answer and use each subsequent prompt to go deeper. So you stick with the same emotion and go deeper with it, but bear in mind the topics that come up may vary wildly and even seem unrelated. Just trust the process and let go of judgement. 

Also, each desire may need a different number of prompts, so if you need to go for longer (and you can go as long as feels right to you), just keep alternating prompt #5 and 6 until you’re done. 

One at a time, write down these prompts and the words that come to mind right away: 

  1. What I want right now is: 
  2. And underneath that I truly want: 
  3. And even more deeply beneath that I want: 
  4. And below that I want: 
  5. And under that: 
  6. And beneath that: 

How was that for you? Your final answer may have surprised you. Here’s an optional bonus exercise. 

I recommend closing your eyes and putting your hands on your heart before saying to yourself: 

I trust that I want or need this.

Take a moment to be with that knowing, and take a couple of relaxing breaths. 

And now ask yourself any of these questions that feel right, with an open mind: 

Based on who I am deep down, how should I move towards that? 

What would that look like in my life? 

Based on my deepest self, what is a first step I can take towards this?

I hope you got some value out of exploring how to meet your deepest desires in a meaningful way. I think it’s interesting that knowing what our needs are can be just as fulfilling as meeting them sometimes, because they tell us so much about who we are. 

And growing that deep connection with ourselves is where true satisfaction begins and ends. 

Take care of yourself and I hope you find the satisfaction that is right for you!