Leadership Competencies: Know Yourself

In some ways leaders are going to have to become more personally transparent in the coming decade. They must communicate personal proficiency. They need to know themselves well, and not be hesitant to admit reality.

Hiding behind your title or office or your reputation doesn’t work, and I doubt whether it ever did. Nor does an authoritarian, command and control leadership style. It doesn’t work except in crisis situations and only temporarily then.

It’s not only the younger generation that mistrusts authority. It’s everyone who’s lived through the last decade of corporate and political scandals. People have long memories for bad bosses and ethical violations.

So how do leaders increase their credibility and trust among the people they lead? It starts by knowing yourself really well and being able to present yourself without the fluff and feathers. You can’t come across as sincere unless you become familiar with both your strengths and weaknesses.

The problem is that people can see their strengths and are more familiar with those, but have trouble seeing and admitting their weaknesses. It’s human nature.

In The Leadership Code (Ulrich, Smallwood, Sweetman), the authors distill leadership into five core competencies:

  1. Strategist
  2. Executor
  3. Talent manager
  4. Human capital developer

The fifth one is Personal Proficiency. It’s a big one, because without learning about yourself, and becoming more of who you are and want to be, you can’t lead others well. People won’t follow you if you try to hide or minimize your errors, or if you’re blind to your dark side.

I think this competency will become even more important in the next decade as older leaders are charged with leading younger people. Younger generations are by nature skeptical and ideal oriented. Leaders will need more personal proficiency to gain their trust. At some point everyone walks around the statute of the general on the horse to spot the back side. Will you be ready?

By personal transparency I don’t mean that leaders should discuss their personal lives or details inappropriately. I’m talking about revealing themselves as business professionals, charged with making decisions for the benefit of the organization, its customers, its employees and stakeholders.

When decisions are made, people want to know why. It’s no longer enough to lead with what. Knowing why inspires people to do their best.

You can’t communicate the why without being solidly grounded in yourself and your values. Who you are as a leader is a key predictor of what you can help others to become and to achieve.

So while many of the leadership competencies for the future are grounded in solid knowledge and research, personal proficiency requires individual work and continual learning. You are always changing and evolving and that requires learning agility. What are you doing to learn about yourself? Have you been making good use of an executive coach?

How would you go about learning more about yourself?

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