Over recent years, the prevailing theme for many work cultures has been adaptability. Companies are looking for adaptable people, and career hopefuls are looking for flexible and adaptable work environments.
Adaptability is essential but not enough to cultivate leadership growth or guarantee organizational success.
When we talk about strong leaders, we imagine someone who embodies the qualities that people find trustworthy and genuine as well as someone who is skilled at managing other people. One skill that doesn’t come as quickly to the forefront of our minds is the ability of leaders to manage themselves.
If you’re a leader, how skilled are you at managing yourself and your mindset? How does self-leadership inform your current leadership strategy?
Self-leadership, the practice of leading oneself, is more complex than the concept might imply. Whereas adaptability is necessary for survival, self-leaders continue thriving on the other side.
In other words, self-leaders can bounce back from a bad situation without bringing any negativity with them.
If your company is no longer in a period of day-to-day survival, then it’s time for a temperature check. Is your organization’s vision to prepare leaders for adaptability or long-term growth?
The truth is self-leaders are already adaptable leaders because they can see the bigger picture better, even during immediate challenges. Here are 3 crucial self-leadership traits that every management team should embody:
- Invests in upskilling both tactical and interpersonal skills. What tools does your organization provide to help improve the growth of your employees’, including their emotional intelligence? There are numerous cost-effective ways for leaders to enhance how they show up for others and themselves. Even simply carving out dedicated time for honest dialogue, even during busy seasons, speaks volumes. Leaders should also invest time and resources into finding tangible resources, like assessments and development training.
- Incorporates self-knowledge into their leadership practices. Everyone has varying levels of self-awareness. People with a healthy amount of self-awareness can evaluate their own behaviors in relation to others and adjust their behaviors and attitudes accordingly. This involves consistent introspection, which can be uncomfortable but is necessary for leaders to develop a strategy that gets everyone on the same page.
- Effectively manages their own mindset by self-coaching. Effective leaders look to cause the least harm in every situation. When leaders are struggling to overcome their own challenges, it’s because they aren’t doing enough self-coaching through the process—especially as they might with a colleague or employee. Sometimes, it can be as simple as gently guiding yourself through a confusing dilemma and learning how to reframe your mindset first before attempting to coach others.
Developing Self-Leadership Strategies Starts with Mindset
For several reasons, today’s corporate leadership struggles to model strategic planning around self-leadership. Economic instability is an immediate roadblock for any executive hoping to invest in leadership training. And even strong leaders sometimes lack confidence in their own decision-making skills.
Traditionally, the idea of leadership hinges upon a top-down model of one person in charge of another. Managers are naturally conditioned to view their position similarly within the same hierarchy.
Developing a self-leadership strategy begins with adjusting your mindset. Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate the current state of your leadership mentality, and answer them in your own words:
- What actions and outcomes am I most responsible for in my team? If the buck stops with you, what hesitations or uncertainties crop up for you?
- Where do I need support? Be specific when defining what help you need and from whom. What are the steps you need to take to access support?
- How much of the past informs my current decisions? What negative thought patterns are you inadvertently bringing to your day-to-day?
Once you’ve recognized and acknowledged your leadership mindset, you can challenge and reframe self-limiting beliefs or negative-thought patterns that impede your performance as a self-leader. How can you reframe a mental obstacle so that you can learn from past experiences and make them contribute positively to your decision-making?
The Framework for Developing Self-Leadership Strategies
Assessment: Encourage leaders, managers, and employees to engage in self-assessments in order to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, and areas needing more work. The goal is for everyone to understand their leadership style and to be aware of the value they bring to the company.
Vision: Promote self-leadership by defining your leadership vision. This involves identifying your values, goals, and the type of self-leader you aspire to be. Seek to find ways in which your personal goals and values align with your professional goals and values.
Organizational Needs: Self-leaders not only understand the organizational needs, but they align their own goals and skills with that vision. Identify how you contribute to the company’s strategic vision and what steps you can take to help foster the big-picture.
Leadership Competencies: Based on organizational needs, define the core competencies that a leader within that organization should possess to be successful. Self-leadership involves knowing your competitive advantages and knowing how to leverage them so that you can contribute more intentionally to the mission. Evaluate yourself against the identified competencies and skill gaps, creating personalized development plans for each.
Self-Leadership Development: Remember that self-leadership promotes tactical or technical skills and interpersonal skills. Provide training and development programs like workshops, mentorships, and other continuous learning opportunities not only for yourself but also your team.
Self-Leadership Culture: Create and maintain a work culture that values self-leadership, and not just with your leaders. Make sure your work environment is one of trust and collaboration. Employees, even those without leadership titles, should feel empowered to be self-leaders; companies should be prepared to recognize and reward self-leadership behaviors that align with the overall mission.
Lead by Example: More importantly, a self-leadership culture is one in which authority leads by example: executives should model what they expect from management teams, and managers should model what they expect from their employees.
In the end, leaders who practice self-leadership are more likely to have increased self-awareness, are more intentional, and are able to reframe their mindset towards seeing the opportunities or lessons from situations or mistakes. This is a skill that is not bestowed upon a professional in tandem with a promotion. Developing self-leadership is an ongoing growth opportunity that will allow leaders of all stages in their careers to become more strategic, drive better results, and be more capable of leading others, while being in alignment with themselves, their teams, and their organizations.
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