I was reading a very simple but spot on article on leadership this past weekend. In it, the author discusses some basic elements of leadership. One of the key elements really revolves around understanding oneself (Langhorne, 2013). How simple I thought. But, how true.
This is the well know old adage: know thyself. I think of a reference question I pose to individuals I am interviewing to assess potential new hires. I ask quite a few questions, but one in particular that strikes many as kind of unusual at first. I ask the interviewee if the applicant handles stress well. I then explain that my definition of stress is unique. It means to really understand self, one’s weaknesses and strengths, and to be able to own mistakes and manage one’s environment accordingly in a state of awareness around said understanding of self. I usually get very honest answers when I ask this question because I think people pause and really think about it. You see, a person who knows himself and manages his environment around that can manage stress well. Explained another way, I think of the pep talks I have with my teenage son. He (like his mother) is naturally just a wee bit absent minded and forgetful. Head in the clouds. Conjuring up cool ideas (or perhaps new blog ideas!) while meanwhile forgetting about regular time and space, and things like deadlines and to do lists. I coach him to understand this personal management weakness and arrange systems (organizers, alarm reminders for appointments, etc) to manage himself. This is all about knowing thyself and setting self up for success by applying said knowledge.
Another part of knowing yourself as relates to being successful in the workplace is setting up a structure that keeps you in balance as a human being. This means that you don’t let the corporate urgent crowd out what will make you a balanced and grounded person. Again this is very simple stuff. Certainly a person whose cup is empty cannot be prepared to overflow and serve and lead others. Good leaders tend to their inner self first, and set up boundaries to protect the sacred things in their life. This is certainly about knowing not only yourself but the human condition. So carve out uninterrupted time for things like your faith activities, family, non-profit volunteer work or projects that are meaningful to you, and even just quiet time for self and refreshment. I guess this is not rocket science, but it’s so critical. You see, if your cup isn’t full, it cannot overflow to others. So, fill it up!
Langhorne, J (2013). Leadership and leading a meaningful life. Corridor Business Journal 10 (11), 18-21