There’s an old maxim about not answering a question with a question, so I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna answer a question with TEN questions!
And the question is: How can you become a more “self-aware” leader?
As one of the keys to being an effective leader is self-awareness, here are 10 powerful, thought-provoking, and challenging questions you need to think about – and be ready, willing and able to answer – if you truly want to be a more reflective – and effective – leader:
Question 1: How do YOU personally define “leadership”?
There’s a great little book by Mark Sanborn called, “You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader.” In a nutshell, as the title implies, true leadership is not about rank or position – it’s about exhibiting leadership qualities… and stepping up to leadership when leadership is needed. There are almost as many different definitions of leadership out there as there are leaders. Management guru Peter Drucker said that “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” President John Quincy Adams famously wrote that “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” So if one of your people came up to you and asked you for YOUR personal definition of leadership, how would YOU respond?
Question 2: Who are some of the leaders (“public figures”) that you admire – and why?
Who are those leaders throughout history, or current leaders out there today – from the world of business, politics, the arts, sports, etc. – whom you most admire – and why? What are the key leadership characteristics, qualities or traits they possess that you feel made them successful? And who are some of the people out there in leadership roles who you think are not effective leaders… and what is it that they did wrong? Oftentimes we can learn as much from other people’s failures as from their successes. And while we’re at it, regarding the classic question “Are great leaders made or born?” how would you answer that one?
Question 3: Who have been some of the influential leaders in your own life (“private figures”) who have taught you something about leadership?
While we often look to the famous and to the history books when discussing leadership, it is more than likely that the most impactful leaders in each of own lives are people we’ve personally known. So who are the people who shaped who you are and what you believe in? Who are the ones who influenced your ethics, core values, and personal leadership style? Parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors, teachers, coaches, and bosses (both good and bad!) have all put their stamp on who you are and how you are when managing and leading others. So who are some of those people who have touched your life in some way? Who are the best leaders you’ve ever worked for – and who are the worst? What did you learn from them, and how has that impacted how you lead today?
Question 4: What have been some of the “defining leadership moments” in your life?
As we go about our daily lives, most days can be described as “business as usual.” But every once in a while something happens – an incident or an interaction – that transforms us in a profound and memorable way. Sometimes we realize it right then and there; other times it does not become apparent until long down the road. But these are the “defining moments” that leave us with the vivid leadership lessons that we carry with us across the years. These are the “home movies” that we play over and over again in our minds to remind us of who we are and how we got here. These are the stories that serve both to form the fabric of our being and function as our guiding compass. So what are some of those unforgettable, life-altering leadership-related moments from your past that define who you are today?
Question 5: What are you truly passionate about?
What gets you up and out of bed in the morning? And what keeps you up at night? Are you passionate about leading others? If you do not demonstrate passion, how can you expect your people to? Passion is contagious. Negativity is, too. When I worked at a major TV network earlier in my career, I would say to my boss, “Good morning!” And she would say to me, “What’s good about it? Another day in this hell hole!” That’s how the morning started, and it just went downhill from there. One way to look at it is to ask, “What is my ‘Leadership Weather Report’ today?” When you walk into a room, are you a cloud of doom and gloom – with a forecast of intense thunder and lightning looming? Or are you a warm and inspirational ray of sunshine that lights up a room and brings out the best in those around you? Rather than trying to light a fire under people, great leaders light a fire within them. So are you clear on what it is that you are truly passionate about… and do you inspire passion in others?