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Self-Awareness for Leaders Published: Sunday, November 25, 2001 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

It is an imperative for leaders to develop awareness about their perceptual characteristics, sense-making, personality projection and elicited behavior. The purpose is to be more alert of their leadership and management styles in order to gain insights into how they behave in certain leadership and management functions. Furthermore, the idea is for them to engage in a self-awareness process for raising knowledge with respect to their both the assets and liabilities of the characteristics they manifest in their relationships with others. For example, one can discuss three sets of dimensions (conservative, innovative and technical) and leaders should reflect on their strengths and opportunities regarding these fundamental perspectives that influence institutional behavior.

Leaders should hold a mirror to themselves about their interests, behaviors (both under ideal circumstances and under stress), their intellectual styles and their concrete actions of leadership. The benefit is twofold: increase self-awareness and to let them know how they are seen or perceived by other people, including the ones they lead. These types of conversations or dialogues can be quite powerful because frequently they produce new information to leaders. If people can’t express what they think, feel, observe and experience at work it will be very difficult to lead them to contribute to a core organizational purpose. This is the difference between behaving out of obligation rather than out of passion in both work and family life.

When people are forced to do things this can generate psychic pain and a sensation of unmet needs. This defensive behavior tends to spill over on to the people leaders lead and to the interactions with the public. Moreover, objective actions come to be affected by subjective issues. Part of the aim of holding an analytical mirror to leaders is to have them feel psychologically empowered to change their their own behavior rather than just focusing on trying to change the behavior of others. (William Fergurson in his book “How to Heal a Painful Relationship”, alerts to the ever failing but tenacious attempt to always change someone else).

The potential of fully comprehending their reality and then acting upon it by taking responsibility for exercising positive behavior and mitigating defensive performance is a core developing process for leaders, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, profession, social condition, hierarchy level, and knowledge base.

Contrary to what was more common a decade ago, cookie cutter leadership styles simply do not work. In the age of diversity, heroes take on different sizes, shapes and styles. Still there are some universal requirements. Work hard on a clear institutional purpose to achieve the engagement and alignment of different people. Engage people in the process of translating organization-wide purpose into an expression that has real meaning and relevance for the people in different units. Statements of vision and mission are aspects of purpose. Direction setting should cascade all across the organizational hierarchy.

Leaders confront a challenging paradox. In some organizations while there is a lot of talk about trust, values and commitment, there are a lot of actions as if these factors are meaningless. Clarity of purpose and congruent patterns of leadership behavior define a natural and renewing path for dealing with such paradox. Without objective aims, there is no substance for leaders to lead. This very delicate balance is the challenge for leaders in any organization.

 


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