Lead yourself before you lead others


Your personality is your competitive edge – it is what makes you completely unique. Who are you, and what makes you tick? To know yourself is essential before you can lead by example. Personality, temperament and character play a big role in developing your own style of leadership.

Personality is the blend of emotions, attitudes and behaviours in a person. Temperament is as important as personality in knowing yourself. We seem to live in a society in which we are often valued by the volume of our voice, rather than the quality of our contribution to an organisation. Leaders are expected to have presence, charisma and the ability to influence. Introverts too can be good leaders.  

My personal interpretation or definition of an introvert is someone who gathers energy from inside, someone who looks inward for their inspiration, whereas an extrovert gathers their energy and inspiration outwards from people around them. An ambivert finds the balance between the two depending on the situation.

Introverts are more cautious, deliberate, and thorough and focused in their decision-making, which means that because they take longer to make a decision, it will often be a good one. They are able to sit still, to work alone or in small groups. Introverted leaders often show good attention to detail, plus pay good attention – they actually listen to their team and listen to other’s ideas. They are often seen to be more creative and productive than extroverts, and this may be because solitude is crucial for creativity, and introverts choose isolation. They hate open plan offices!

Developing the right frame of mind is essential in leadership. It is optimal to aim for an executive (focused, measured) mind rather than an animal brain (automatic, erratic). The first could be called rational, the second reactive. However, if you are largely of the one kind, it would be advisable to surround yourself with people who have an opposite frame of mind, especially in your second-in-command or close support system. The balance is essential in counteracting the negative aspects of your make-up. Just like training your moral muscle, or practising good habits, you can make a concerted effort to train your brain to be more rational.

Character can be described as the collection of inward values that determine outward action

Many leadership failures could be documented as character failures, not ability failures. Adversity offers a leader the opportunity of either exposing his true character, or merely compromising. They need to focus on principle before focusing on profit. Trust is linked to character. If a leader exhibits strong character, his followers will believe in him and trust him. Leaders show character by being accountable, leading by example and empowering others through encouragement. Character translates into respect. It is earned by making good choices, and also by admitting when you make the wrong choices. Never ignore character flaws and do not confuse them with weaknesses in terms of abilities as these can be addressed. You will need to watch out for promises that are not kept, an inability to accept responsibility or the failure to meet deadlines. These all indicate flaws.

Ego is a Latin word meaning “I”, used in English to denote self or identity. Sigmund Freud initially used the term ego to describe a sense of self, but went on to allow it to encapsulate functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality, control, planning, defence, information synthesising, memory and intellectual functioning. Whilst we hear the word used in a negative and masculine sense, what can be better in a leader than a good sense of self, well managed?

Confidence is essential in a leader. What is not acceptable is arrogance. Arrogance has a level of superiority attached to it which many people find unattractive. Work hard at elevating your confidence by reminding yourself of what you do well, and by putting yourself with those who boost your confidence, those who see your potential and believe in you. Likewise, you will need to do the same for your followers.

Leaders do not have to be right all the time but they do have to be humble enough to admit their faults and mistakes

Humanity is different to humility – it is allowing the personal, human element to show through. It combines with compassion, or empathy. Empathy is essential in a leader who wishes to nurture and nourish their team. A leader needs to be understanding and demonstrate sympathy. When soliciting input from leaders many of them included these qualities in their lists of non-negotiable qualities needed in a leader. It is all part of the holistic style of leadership that the demands of our ever-changing world dictate that we need to move towards.

Those who love what they do let it show – their passion shines through. Passion is the quality that makes ordinary people extraordinary. Passion directs achievement; it increases self-discipline and willpower and it makes you productive. Dedicated people are passionate. Passion makes the impossible possible. Share your passion with those around you.

Jenny Handley

* Jenny Handley is a brand, leadership and high performance facilitator. Her latest book, Raise your Leaders™ is available as an in-house leadership academy for companies. www.jennyhandley.co.za

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