“There are three things that are extremely hard — steel, a diamond and to know one’s self.”
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1750
Research consistently shows the most effective leaders thoroughly understand themselves — particularly how they affect those around them. Influential leaders are candid about who they are, what they want and how to use their strengths and challenges for the greatest contribution to their work and those around them. Effective self-direction and awareness are essential leadership capabilities.
A leadership development journey begins with identifying existing strengths, skills and abilities. To gain a better understanding of ourselves, we must identify aspects that bring out our leadership as well as ways to prioritize areas for change and improvement. Most important in the leadership development journey is coming face to face with our core values and exploring how those guiding principles are at the center to who we are and how we operate.
What’s really important to me? How do I really want to live my life? What brings passion, meaning and purpose to my life? How can I make even more of a difference? How can I live connected to my inner values? What are my strengths? How do I express my strengths?
Like an onion, there are layers of self. Hidden in these layers are our values and disposition — things that must be clearly understood before we can transform leadership character. The path of self-understanding starts at the inner layers and moves outward to the external, observable layer. Leadership behaviors typically are found in the less visible and less observed inners layers of self. These inner layers are formed by individual experiences and mental models. By understanding each layer, leadership character can be better understood.
Like cutting into a real onion, unraveling the leadership onion can produce discomfort, much like the strong and indisputable aroma of the onion. Peeling back the layers requires a loving tolerance and humble acceptance of strengths and weaknesses.
In the book “The Leader Within: Learning Enough about Yourself to Lead Others,” the authors write: “A loving tolerance of self implies a creative tension in life. Peeling the onion requires you to have the courage to intentionally move away from your existing comfort zones, confront your not-so-successful self and, in reflective tolerance, face the harsh realities of self-change.’’
Adopted from Harry Jensen Kramer Jr.’s book, “From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership,” there are four essential qualities of a values-based leader:
Self-reflection is required to identify and evaluate fundamental values. A person must be aware of how his or her experiences, education, priorities, beliefs and values affect how he or she makes decisions, leads others and handles conflict. Self-reflection improves a person’s understanding of himself or herself.
Balance refers to a person’s ability to view a situation from different perspectives. A person should remain open minded and consider all opinions before making decisions or evaluating a situation. This trait also means to achieve a healthy work and life balance that sets an example for others to follow.
Self-confidence is essential for leaders to truly believe in themselves. Leaders should be able to identify areas of strength and weakness while continuing to improve their abilities. Leaders with self-confidence are able to ask for help when needed and use their strengths to help others.
Humility keeps a person grounded and life in perspective. Humility supports a person’s ability to respect others and value their opinions. A person should never assume he or she knows more or knows what’s best. Rather, a person should remain humble in his or her assessment of the situation.
The Western Colorado Human Resource Association will host a presentation on strengths-based leadership as part of its monthly member luncheon program set for 11:30 a.m. Oct. 19 at Bookcliff Country Club, 2730 G Road in Grand Junction. Mary Beth Luedtke, a professional and personal coach with 20 years of experience in educational and professional development, will lead the presentation. To register or obtain more information, visit www.wchra.org.
It’s up to leaders to exemplify connectedness, self-integration and involvement to guide others to develop the same qualities. Good leadership is founded in a state of your attitude, direction, character, feelings and reactions.