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How to Become a More Successful, Efficient, and Effective Leader from the Inside Out
By ANDREW BRYANT, ANA LUCIA KAZAN
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013Andrew Bryant and Ana Lucia Kazan
All rights reserved.
Imagine a large chessboard. Now consider you are a piece on this chessboard. Are you a pawn, moving slowly forward with little choice and at the mercy of other, more powerful pieces? Or are you a knight, able to take risks and attack but with little concern for your own safety? Perhaps you are a bishop, able to move rapidly but constrained to a diagonal path from which you may not deviate. Or you may think of yourself as a rook (i.e., a castle), solid and safe but not very adventurous. A king? He's very important but requires other pieces to serve and defend him. Which leaves the queen, highly flexible, adaptable, and able to move in any direction.
Do you know who you should be?
You should be sick and tired of being a piece of wood and pushed around a board by someone else! In life and in business, before we lead others we must be able to lead ourselves.
This book is about self-leadership, or how you intentionally influence yourself to achieve your objectives. Self-leadership is not for pawns; it is for people who want to choose how they live and work. It is for people who believe—or who always suspected and/or hoped—that they can live a positive and productive life and influence those around them to do the same.
Self-leadership works, whether you are an employee, manager, teacher, parent, or even someone who currently doesn't want to be defined by what you do. Self- leadership works because it is the foundation for being an effective human being living in a contemporary world. So whether you are reading this book for your own personal and professional development or you are a manager wanting to create an empowered team, practicing self-leadership and encouraging others to live with self-leadership is an important task.
On the business side, self-leadership is important as a foundation for personal, team, business, and strategic leadership (see Figure 1.1), and it is a starting point for any organizational or leadership development program (see Chapter 9).
To be a leader you must be able to think effectively, behave congruently, and relate empathetically. The authors' research and experience shows that self- leadership is necessary to achieve all three of these qualities. As it turns out, these qualities also make anyone a great human being.
With the flattening of hierarchies, the emergence of global teams, and the need for empowered and engaged people and employees everywhere, a new style of leadership is required. Managers and leaders need greater and better self-observation, self-confidence, self-management, and decision-making abilities.
As a practicing self-leader, you can become a competent communicator, able to collaborate with or lead a team, open to learning equally from successes and mistakes, and conversant on how to best utilize your strengths. As a practicing self-leader you will be able to raise awareness of the importance of goals and foster your followers' transcendence of their own interest for the sake of the team or organization. Encouraging self-leadership within a team or organization leads to more collaborative, committed, and engaged employees.
Self-leadership is based in science (see Chapter 12), and the authors have applied the ideas in this book to multinational companies and tested those international professionals' self-leadership. The authors are also sharing in this book a link to the most updated academic self-leadership questionnaire, which can be taken online. Many chapters of this book have practices, which have been tested, to build your self-leadership in a variety of situations.
As humans we face fear and uncertainty at different levels and throughout different phases in our lives. More and more we are coming to the realization that while we go through life's phases we will not have people around to support and encourage us all the time. To successfully navigate and triumph through these challenges we will need to develop our self-observation, self-confidence, self-management, and resilience to become the best we can be, regardless of whether or not we are surrounded by support, or by friendship, or by encouragement.
With self-leadership we can manage stress and achieve peak states of focus and creativity. As we exercise our self-leadership we become a positive force influencing those around us.
Consider Nelson Mandela, a man who was imprisoned 27 years for acting on his beliefs and yet on release chose not to be consumed by anger and hatred but to lead his party (the African National Congress, or ANC) in negotiations that led to a multiracial democracy. During his presidency of South Africa (1994–1999) he often exercised self-leadership in the process of reconciliation. The 2009 movie Invictus tells the story of how President Mandela was inspired by a Victorian poem of the same name and how he inspired the captain of the Springbok national rugby team to apply self-leadership to lead his team to victory against all odds.
The last lines of the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) capture the spirit of self-leadership:
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
When you think of a self-leader, who comes to mind for you? While you think about that (it is good when we can have role models, although we cannot always find them), meet a very important self-leader: you!
Research has shown that environmental factors in our early years impact our self-leadership mindset; so if you are born into a family that teaches you cause and effect in a nurturing way and you have the freedom to make choices, then you have been dealt a great hand of cards. As an adult you get to pick up new cards in the form of learning experiences, but ultimately what makes the difference is how you play your cards as you face life's challenges and opportunities.
Is it natural for you to act and live independently and self-reliantly? Maybe you were born with a very independent personality, prone to critical thinking. Or maybe your parents (or family or community) promoted independent thinking and self-reliance.
If you fall in the category above, that's great. You are off to a great start.
But many people were not dealt the same hand of self-leadership cards; they were encouraged instead to consult with family or friends and to be more fearful or cautious with unknown situations. They were given fewer opportunities to try their hand at adventurousness. As a result, they became more dependent on the external world, on other people, and so they may prefer not to be exposed to situations in which they have to make decisions and act alone.
Self-leadership can emerge in extreme situations. When facing danger, the individual who previously always hid from trouble may find an inner strength and start to take charge of his or her life. Or under the influence of love or care, someone who has been extremely cautious his whole life may start taking little steps toward independent action. Self-leadership can be revealed through love or through suffering, or yet, as shown in this book, it can emerge from a more measured path to growing ourselves and harnessing our own resilience.
Self-leadership means taking responsibility for our own lives. Some of us had to bravely face life's difficulties alone, while others have been sheltered from the reality that they are responsible for the actions they take. Overcaring parents or a maternal or patriarchal culture or community can breed adults who have been able to avoid responsibility their whole lives.
Excerpted from Self-Leadership by ANDREW BRYANT, ANA LUCIA KAZAN. Copyright © 2013 by Andrew Bryant and Ana Lucia Kazan. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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