We’re in an age where the quick fix is all the rage. We’re all looking for the reward without having to put in the effort, to earn the status without working on character, to be seen as an expert without beating on the trade. I’m as guilty as the next person. I’ve recently become consumed by how to make the perfect poached egg (I love poached eggs!), and after several failed attempts and a few hit and misses, I jumped onto Youtube to see how Jamie Oliver does it. How does he do it? With class! He makes it look so easy that it frustrated me even more when I botched my latest effort. I was quickly reminded of a story my dad shared when I was young. I now know it was embellished but it really rang true for me at the time. The story goes that there was a famous artist on a talk show and, handing the artist a pad and a pencil, the host asked the artist to draw something. The artist took the pad and pencil, thought for a moment, and in a couple of minutes created a beautiful drawing with incredible detail. The host was left dumbfounded. “That’s amazing,” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe it only took you a few minutes to draw this.” “It didn’t,“ replied the artist. “It has taken me 50 years to draw a piece like that.” That story has stuck with me and has reminded me of the importance of diligent practice; however, in this day and age, technology and access to information can certainly reduce the learning curve for many skills. It got me thinking about what leadership hacks might be out there to help us fast track the leadership journey. They range from “interesting” to “down-right ridiculous”.
Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid ~ Homer
I wracked my brains and to be honest, I couldn’t think of a list of hacks that would immediately fast-track someone along the leadership path. The reality is, there are a lot of moving parts to being a successful leader, least of all is developing the most important skill of all, self-awareness. Without self-awareness nothing will change because in the mind of someone who isn’t self-aware, there is nothing to improve, or they don’t take accountability for making a change, “It’s everyone else’s problem.” So, rather than a hack, it’s an essential ingredient. But awareness needs to go beyond the self. It needs to expand to awareness of others and how you impact them, and how they impact you. We all have our triggers. How do you know you are not a trigger for another person? How might they be triggering a reaction in you? Beyond awareness of self and others, there is also the importance of having awareness of your environment (or organisation). The environment can also impact your behaviour and you, as part of a system, impact on the environment. Lastly, as a leader, it’s vital to have an acute awareness of how others are impacting on the environment and how the environment (and what might be going on around your organisation) might be impacting others. All of these relationships create an ongoing dynamic and the sands frequently shift.
The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. ~ Nathaniel Branden
Developing the awareness we’re talking about here does take time because it’s not something that can be learned intellectually, such as a technical skill like risk analysis. The difficulty of learning these skills is that they reside in a different part of the brain than, for example, technical skills. The above skills are largely developed in the emotional part of the brain (the limbic system), and the emotional brain requires a different model of learning than the cerebral cortex (or thinking brain). The limbic system requires lots of deliberate practice, and lots of repetition…no hack here, I’m afraid. Your behaviour is being observed by everyone you interact with every day, there’s no special secret. You might as well know what perceptions they have about you so you have the choice of making the changes. Developing acute awareness of others and the environment is a topic for another time but starting with awareness of yourself is always the first step.
So what can you do to start, and continue, your journey? If you’re thinking, capturing and acting on feedback is the answer, you’re absolutely on the right track. How we’re wired as human beings allows us to do amazing things but one of our unfortunate drawbacks is we tend to default to seeing things from our own perspective; this can lead to stagnation in growth. Asking for feedback gives us a second- and even third-person perspective which is extremely valuable in shaping us as leaders. The leadership journey is a tough one. There are many ups and downs on the path but ultimately when you get there, the personal rewards are immense. Remember this…when you get there, reach back and pull someone up. In fact, look around, who can you reach back to and pull up now?
If you’d like to know more about creating awareness or accelerating your journey along the leadership path, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
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