Sunday, 28 April 2013

Learning from Yourself as a Leader: Confidence, Feedback, and Changing Behaviours

'If you defer to me and to my knowledge of leadership, you are limiting what you can learn and discover about your leadership to whatever it is that I understand. Discovery of yourself and your abilities as a leader is a much richer and wider topic.'

I said this to a client not too long ago.  Sometimes when clients have achieved some success in coaching they are tempted to view the coach as their greatest resource in leadership learning.  However, much of what we know as leaders comes from knowing ourselves, more than knowing the theories. If coach and client work together in a relationship of equal (non-hierarchical) status, the leader is best-positioned to learn about what is most effective for him- or herself as a leader.   There is no limit to what the leader can learn or be once the desire to strengthen leadership takes root.

But what if the leader lacks confidence?  A lack of confidence is often linked to a heightened internalization of a critical parent (in Transactional Analysis terminology). When lacking knowledge that a "superior" has, then we may become compliant and personable. When feeling threatened by a lack of knowledge in an area in which a subordinate is knowledgeable, then we can get defensive.  These are just two examples of how a lack of confidence can get in the way of finding our own true selves as leaders.

When an individual receives feedback that s/he has difficulties in working with other people, and even has adverse behaviours against others, I find it most productive to view these things as side effects rather than the sources of the problem. For example, we may work in an environment that doesn't make us feel comfortable, or our driving motivations are not being met and we are lacking the resources to meet our needs. This creates stress and behaviours that we otherwise wouldn't demonstrate start to emerge. It can sometimes be that we have never learned an alternate way of fulfilling our needs. An executive who is labelled as lacking in some interpersonal way is, typically, aware of the presence of these behaviours but not necessarily why they occur. S/he most often will then deny the existence of these behaviours as to do so would imply that they will then change them and they may not have found a way to resolve them to date.

I see counter-behaviours as side-effects of not being “in flow” in our working lives. By exploring who we are at our best—our personal core values and our strengths—we can begin to focus on aligning our behaviour with what is best in ourselves. Show me a "micromanager" and I'll show you a client who cares dearly for the organisation and wants it to be its utmost best. Once we understand better who we are and what we stand for, we are more inclined to demonstrate our best selves to others.


Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures