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.