Leadership Development: Five Things Leaders Must Know About Themselves

Who are you? Do you know? How would you describe yourself? I don’t mean your height and weight. Look deeper. Leaders must know as much as possible about the people for whom they are responsible, but they often forget that the first person they need to get to know is themselves. Here are five things that, as a leader, you should understand about yourself.

First you must understand your own values. If you don’t know what you basically believe, it’s quite difficult to lead effectively. Oh yes, you can be a leader. There are, unfortunately, plenty of leaders who have what are called situational values. Most of them end up failing, or at least losing their effectiveness in the end. Followers respond better to leaders with concrete values.

Second, know your personal goals in life. I would always ask young leaders about their goals and many of them couldn’t tell me any personal goals. One of the important things to know about yourself is where you’re going. Be honest. If your goal is to be a millionaire by age 30, say so. This is probably the most important part of knowing yourself after values. Knowing where you’re going is vital to getting there. Seems obvious, but many leaders aren’t really sure where they’re trying to go. Now, I’m not suggesting pursuing personal goals at the expense of the organization or your workers. Just that you need to make sure you have mapped a course for yourself.

Third, determine what is important to you. Too often leaders get so immersed in their responsibilities that they completely neglect things that are important like family. In fact, many leaders’ families fall apart because the leader put so much emphasis on the job that they neglected the family. Those leaders may have had success at work but at a very high cost. The job will end someday. The family is supposed to be forever.

Fourth, know your strengths and weaknesses. Most leaders are pretty good at determining their strengths. The problem is, many of them think they don’t have any weaknesses. The truth is that nobody is good at everything and it’s important to know what you aren’t that good at. If you didn’t know it already, let me assure you that your subordinates have a pretty good idea of your weaknesses. If they see that you don’t know, it will provide them with a source of humor, but also tends to breed their contempt.

Fifth, know where your buttons are. This is a little more difficult. I had a psychology instructor once who told us that we (as individuals) were the only ones who could make us mad. For that to work, one must reach a level that frankly I haven’t, but the underlying point is important. As a leader, it’s important to know where the buttons are which, when a boss or subordinate pushes them, cause us to feel, and perhaps display, strong emotions. I’m not suggesting a leader should be emotionless. But, you need to know what sets those emotions off so you can better control them.

Knowing these five things about yourself will make you a better leader.

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