Strategic Planning

The Journey to Becoming a Great Leader

Becoming a Great Leader

Looking for a formula for leadership? No one is born an effective leader, but by the time you become a senior executive, whether a superintendent or city manager, you have no doubt honed a set of skills and talents that enable you to be effective in your job. You may have had mentors along the way who taught you the roles, critiqued you where necessary — even if you didn’t feel it was warranted — and helped develop you into the leader you believe you are today. But the longer you have been on an upward trajectory, the less likely you are to receive helpful, consistent feedback.

Receiving feedback and implementing change based on the feedback is considered to be a vital ingredient in the development of leaders everywhere.

High-level executives live in a world of extreme competition and ambition, whether it be within school districts, or municipalities, but the longer you stay at the top of your respective pyramid, the harder it becomes to get the kind of advice that challenges and changes your thinking and behaviors.

The blind side

In your role as a leader in your field, you have blind spots about how your behavior impacts others that began developing as you progressed throughout your career. Although it’s hard to ask for feedback, you’ll learn things about your behaviors that you would be unable to discover any other way.

If you’re in an executive role within municipalities or education and you don’t ask for feedback on a regular basis, you’re probably doing some things that may cause problems for your team members, without realizing the reach of your impact. We all have blind spots about our behavior — no one is immune. Leaders are especially vulnerable because their direct reports are often reluctant to speak up about problems their superior might be causing for them or their colleagues.

The experts weigh in…

Recent studies of Ivy League schools MBA professors have noted that the most important skill their students can learn is that of self-awareness. In other words, possessing an accurate view of your skills, abilities — and shortcomings — as well as measuring and evaluating how your actions impact those around you.

The missing link: emotional intelligence

So, do you possess a higher level of emotional intelligence (EQ) or intellectual quotient (IQ)? Do you read and respond to situations based on reactions of those around you, or by removing the human factor and sticking strictly to the data? Or maybe you have a toolbox with a bit of each. People in general seem to be happier and more content when their view of themselves is aligned with others’ views of them.

How do you stack up?

Ask yourself, as a leader, how do you feel about your own superior’s self awareness and how it may impact you and your role? Maybe there are some key players within the ministries or councils that you work closely with, or staff within your organization, that are not as self-aware as they may think. Unfortunately these behaviors have a trickle-down effect and you may find yourself in a resentful position with your superior.

Wait a minute…

But, is self-awareness always a good thing? And how many senior leaders really have it?

Leaders’ views of themselves generally don’t mesh with how others perceive them. So, if they don’t view themselves accurately, we have to ask why. Do they underrate themselves? Do they have an inflated idea of their performance? Either way could easily be chalked up to a lack of self-awareness. But, would addressing these errors make for better leaders?

Not necessarily.

Overrated Vs. underrated: how do you measure up?

Surprisingly, the most effective leaders do not have the highest level of self-awareness. In fact, the more senior leaders who underrate themselves, are generally viewed by those around them as being an overall better leader, and a leader that people generally want to follow.

There is a misconception that you either have to be a manager or leader, but you can’t be both — this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re a great leader, you may be innovative and have the vision but you may not possess the ‘people skills’ it takes to connect to the inner workings of your organization to manage the process through to completion, and vice versa for great managers. Ideally, finding balance will help you achieve the insight to see your vision through.

Key takeaways

Leaders who ask for feedback are substantially more effective than those who don’t because their employees feel valued and engaged. Asking for feedback may not be your top resolution of 2016, but it definitely deserves a place on the list, or it may come back to haunt you.

Cara Ong

Cara has over 15 years of experience in business and product management. She is a highly organized, results-driven, strategic executive and entrepreneur with a positive attitude towards work and life.

Cara is passionate about helping organizations find effective solutions and providing forward-thinking strategies to help them achieve their goals of operational efficiency.

In her free time, Cara enjoys acrylic painting and golf.

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