DIY Leadership

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

~Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson

Leaders use their heads to manage and their hearts to lead.  If you aspire to be that kind of leader, getting your interactions with others right depends on you getting you right – first.

And getting you right requires:

introspection: casting a caring yet clinical eye on your interests, skills, qualities and values; and

self-awareness: a non-judgmental understanding of how you respond, react, engage and interact.

Getting to know what makes you tick requires a super-sized serving of fortitude – sometimes that mirror reflects self truths we’d prefer not to know.  It’s much easier to point a finger at the management teams of BP, Toyota, Lehman Brothers and on and on and declare that their leadership practices need to change.  That’s really tackling the 800 pound gorilla!  A gorilla that’s of a scale and scope beyond our reach.

Yet what is within our reach is stopping to consider our very own leadership legacy. Is it a good story? A bad story? A so-so story that could be better?  If so, that’s an 800 pound gorilla that can be conquered one bite at a time. Get connected to what goes on in your head and your heart, and then use that wisdom and knowledge to connect with, lead and inspire others.

A couple bites to chew on…

  • Your hot buttons.  Get familiar with what sets you off and prepare ahead of time.  One of my hot buttons is missed deadlines, especially those that come and go without advance notice that there’s a problem.  My workaround has been to use a two-part ground rule that communicated early on:  deadlines are jointly negotiated and a heads-up regarding barriers to completion is an expected practice and courtesy.
  • How you like to learn. Do you learn best by doing? Reading? Touching? Seeing? Noodling it over? Tailor your own practices to fit your style.  Share those insights with those around you so they don’t have to waste time guessing.
  • Your top five values. Many life and career mistakes, and heartache, can be avoided by making the time to inventory those principles that are “must haves” in your life. Taking a wrong-fit job will become a thing of the past as will feeling unfulfilled and disengaged.
  • What you are really good at doing. Get a firm grip on your strengths and put yourself in situations where you can maximize them (without over-playing them).
  • Personal skills that are lacking. Knowing your weakness is really strength. If you’re an introvert and meeting strangers makes your stomach knot up, the nonprofit job you’re considering that requires you to regularly network with community leaders to raise funds probably has a skill gap between your preferences and the job requirements that’s too large to bridge successfully.

I’m fond of saying that real leaders think more about we and less about me. To achieve such a thoughtfully self-aware position, real leaders must first focus on themselves, getting firmly grounded in their own emotional intelligence so they can be successful in leading others.

I'm gonna make a change,
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good,
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right . . .

~Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson

Photo © thereisnosquare