Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, recently became the richest man in the world with his net worth just topping a staggering £68 billion. Already among the highest ranks of the business profession, Bezos joins a growing group of ‘superstar’ CEOS, like Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Ariana Huffington just to name a few. But according to Andy Lothian, CEO of Insights Group, you don’t have to act like these guys, or even mimic them, to be a great leader.
Business titans like Bezos, who frequently grace the front of global business magazines, can make the CEO role seem like an otherworldly leadership responsibility, but the tenets of leadership can actually be distilled down to a much simpler premise – know and show who you are.
You don’t have to act like someone you’re not to be a great leader. Yes, maybe add a few new tools in your tool belt and recognize what your teams need of you, but don’t change your core and don’t preoccupy yourself with how you think leaders are supposed act. Rather, know yourself and bring your unique traits to your role for your team and your organisation.
It can sound simpler than it is in application. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Self-awareness unlocks potential
Before any team or company can realise its potential, leaders need to first and foremost take responsibility for themselves. Often this involves taking a long, hard look in the mirror.
Regardless of personality type (whether you love the limelight or shy away from attention, for instance), effective leaders must be deeply self-aware. It’s a simple premise – if you don’t hold yourself accountable to how you show up for others, it’s going to be well and truly difficult to try to hold others accountable to how they show up to you.
It starts with understanding your preferences, capabilities, values and how these are perceived by others. Being an effective leader begins with you, not a series of credentials you can acquire or managerial tactics you employ.
Personal breakthroughs lead to business breakthroughs
Research backs this up. Researchers examined leaders to identify predictors of executive success. The findings stated, “harsh, hard-driving, ‘results-at-all-costs’ executives actually diminish the bottom line, while self-aware leaders with strong interpersonal skills deliver better financial performance.”
Self-awareness at the individual level contributes to success at the organisational level because it supports leaders being able to have the right conversations in the right way, in support of the right projects that align to business success. Without this base level of self-knowledge and understanding, leaders are side-lined by work that isn’t aligned to enabling the business strategy and are plagued with dysfunction that disables progress.
Greater understanding helps you identify and change gaps
Self-awareness allows leaders to more quickly identify competency gaps in themselves and their teams, which, in turn, promotes the skill development initiatives required to fill those gaps.
Likewise, when leaders take responsibility for themselves, it makes it much harder for them to dismiss or ignore behaviours that aren’t serving them in their lives and in their professional roles. Essentially, when you’re clued in to the way you show up, you’re much more likely to be able to know when things aren’t working and own your role in making improvements.
It’s always good to be learning and leading
John F Kennedy once said that ‘leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.’ Whether you are in your first few months of leadership or have been at the helm for 30 years, there is always more you can learn about yourself that can serve you as a leader.
As a starting point, consider how you can endeavor to take a look in that proverbial mirror and how you can engage trusted feedback from others. You may also want to consider more facilitated methods for yourself and your team to develop self-understanding. An example of this is Insights Discovery, through which individuals are able to get an understanding of where their personality preferences lie on 3 attitudinal function spectrums (introversion/extraversion, thinking/feeling, sensing/intuition). This can facilitate conversation on the topic of leadership and other facets of how your style may be perceived by others.
In the end, no matter how sorted you feel, there is always more you can do to learn and develop a deeper understanding of yourself and your leadership style. In turn, this will enable you to become a more effective leader of both people and performance.