Reality Checks Leaders Must Give Themselves in 2016 (Part Two)

In this post, I presented three reality checks leaders must give themselves in 2016. In today's post, I complete the list of five with two more.

By way of introduction, a recap of why reality checks matter:

The essence of leadership lies within who you are and how you behave. You don’t just arrive at great and sustainable leadership with a rub of the genie’s bottle. You need strong foundational work and pillars that may take months if not years to develop.

The best leaders never stop learning and growing. They continually hone and fine-tune their leadership skills in order to serve others better. On top of hard managerial, left-brain skills that drive bottom-line results, they have uncanny intuition and perception to understand the emotional realities of the circumstances and people around them. They will then operate on those realities, often in support of elevating their own and other people’s behaviors and actions.

Here are the last two of five reality checks that will help you gauge your leadership aptitude and assess whether changes need to be made going into 2016.

Reality Check #4

Leaders Need to Know and Understand Themselves and Others to Achieve Greatness.

Self-awareness, another component of emotional intelligence, is one of the most important capabilities for leaders to develop. Remember, these are learned traits. Let me suggest that the first to-do on your path to leadership greatness is to know your true, authentic self. What does that look like in real life, you ask?

A self-aware person will naturally exhibit traits of humble self-confidence, because that’s what it will take to change something that no longer works.

A self-aware leader also shows resilience. A leader with a resilient mindset rewards himself or herself for corrective behavior, such as deciding to try it again a different way. Instead of self-defeated victim behaviors—e.g., asking “Why me?”—self-aware leaders probe and ask themselves questions like:

  • Why do the same issues keep coming up over and over in my business unit, marriage, life?
  • Why do I respond to situations with anger, fear, optimism or withdrawal?
  • What makes me think, act and feel the way I do? What makes me tick? What pushes my buttons?

Having a complete self-understanding gives you an edge. You can manage yourself and your emotions, identify opportunities for development, and make the most of your strengths.

Reality Check #5

Leaders Have to Be Willing to Listen to Constructive Feedback—Especially the Kind They Don’t Want to Hear.

Many leaders don’t want to listen to the ideas, opinions and constructive feedback of others. It’s hard to acknowledge something that may be true because truth sometimes hurts. We might fear loss of respect from our peers or subordinates.

So, while such leaders may appear strong on the outside, in reality, their fears and insecurities send a loud message that they don’t want anyone to disagree with their views. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever worked with this type of leader, it can be exhausting.

Leaders who listen well do so with active listening. This helps to filter any criticism, strain out emotion and find the facts. They can respond appropriately, cutting out the drama.

If you’re still filtering through your emotions and can’t shake off the urge to react, it may be helpful to probe and ask questions—and keep asking them until you get clarification and understand what the speaker is trying to tell you. This means you should listen to understand and always focus on the future.

As I mentioned earlier, if you are in the infancy stages of your development as a leader, or even if you’re facing some hard truths about your leadership style from those around you, start by looking within and building up good self-awareness to define your present reality and then figure out what authentic leadership behaviors need to be learned and practiced day-to-day. This change process will take courage, but it comes with the territory of being a strong and effective leader.

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