Way back in 1937, Napolean Hill, the famous author of “Think and Grow Rich” said: ”If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self. ”This quote, albeit made in a different context, applies more than ever to modern leaders.
REAL LIFE LESSON
You may have read the story of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong who fired one of his directors during live conference call with 1000 employees listening in. It was simply because the said director took a picture of Armstrong during the conference call. Armstrong later felt sorry and his response afterwards in a memo was, “It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion.” He continues, “At a human level it was unfair,” adding that he apologised. Nevertheless, Armstrong is still holding on to his decision to fire him. No matter how this situation will be resolved, Armstrong has impacted his image as a leader and it will influence how his employee act and behave towards him.
THE MISSING ELEMENT
It is my firm belief that before any person is considered for the role of leader, they need to learn how to lead themselves before they can lead others. The truth is that oftentimes, our ego and emotional state interfere with our capabilities and behavior, which hinder us from performing at our best. Personal mastery is a path towards leadership that uniquely puts your beliefs and thoughts about yourself in alignment with all your capabilities, knowledge and experience.
If there is one field where such a concept is desperately needed to develop better quality leaders, it is in business.
With and ever changing economic horizon looming, corporate fat cats who are only qualified to keep the ship afloat will not be ready to navigate the company and lead its people through the unexpected difficulties ahead. Certainly, many of the leaders today are highly experienced with all the technical qualifications to run a business. But businesses produce products and services to people, with people. And to lead those people, it requires a different sort of quality within the leader.
Leaders, as you well know, are not born, but made. And sadly, not everyone who goes through the leadership manufacturing process comes out a leader because what is missing is this very alignment of his or her thoughts, words, and actions.
THE GOLFER & THE LEADER
Let’s take the examples of a golfer and a leader. The golfer has learned every skill and technique necessary to play the perfect game. However, he has never achieved any success in sport. In fact, he doesn’t even believe golf is an interesting sport. And then there is a leader. He is identified by management and sent for leadership, communication and management upskill programmes in order to build him up o lead. And yet after many months or sometimes even years in the position he still faces resistance, doesn’t manage to inspire people by his vision and fails to motivate or achieve and the desired results. Why is this?
Both the golfer and the leader have the resources and credentials at their disposal but neither believes in their character or attitude to perform accordingly.
Even with more skills and knowledge, the underlying condition is never addressed. It becomes like a skyscraper built upon a weak foundation. Leadership skill is then not the problem. The solution should come before that.
Personal mastery is about getting feedback about your strength and weaknesses. It’s about confronting your fears and dealing with limiting beliefs. Simply reacting with impatience, frustration or anger instead of responding calmly in a positive ultimately damages your credibility as a leader. It is about taking back control and putting yourself in a clear, positive state to make sound decisions.
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