Published on December 12th, 2016 | by Nancy F. Clark0
How Far Should We Go In Building Leadership Qualities?
By Homaira Kabir—
I’m looking for a catchy bio for my Twitter profile. I want it to be fun, appealing, unforgettable. The endless options before me make every 140-character combination look pale in comparison to what it can potentially be. Until my vain attempts begin to embarrass me and I settle for a more realistic copy of myself.
We live in an age where the fascination with our social profile has reached new heights. And even though the online world is the epitome of our imagination, we spend disproportionate amounts of time and effort working on aspects of ourselves that are admired by others and that can lead to our societal success.
Carl Jung called this social face our “persona”, and in our obsessive tweaking and enhancing of everything from our appearance to our resumes, it appears that our persona is increasingly taking over our identity.
This creates an inner disconnect has far reaching consequences in leadership. 5 Essential Qualities or 3 Must-Have Attributes of great leadership do little to build consciousness between self and the world. Nor do they ease the self-doubt and inner conflict that can arise in difficult situations. A leader whose sense of self rests upon attributes that are prized by society, will feel good about themselves only as long as someone better doesn’t cross their path. And in the global and competitive world we live in, it also sets them up for negative competition, unethical behaviors and a dearth of empathy.
Warren Bennis, named the “dean of leadership gurus” has said that becoming a leader is about becoming yourself. This is not to say that leaders should toss aside the research-backed abilities and qualities that make for effective leadership. Quite the contrary. We all have a strong motivational drive to want to grow and self-actualize. But as Carl Rogers noted many decades ago, this can only happen if we begin with a self-concept that’s true to ourselves.
Awareness is about having trust in one’s strengths and weaknesses, but also in one’s thoughts and emotions. This does not mean acting upon them—it merely means acknowledging their presence without suppressing, quelling or controlling them in any way. Leaders who are aware of their internal world are able to be present in the moment rather than preoccupied with perceived personal slights, the need to be right all the time and other unhealthy behaviors to protect an inflated ego.
Acceptance can be difficult, especially in a day and age when we vie for perfection and are constantly being judged and rewarded on our positive aspects and attributes. As leaders, this could result in distorting reality or blaming those who’re not in a position to stand up for themselves in desperate attempts to mask our own limitations. However, leaders who compassionately accept their imperfections are not only motivated to work on them, they’re also tolerant of the limitations of others, and able to motivate them to do what they do best rather than push themselves beyond their window of tolerance.
An overemphasis on positive qualities has also shown to lead to inflated self-views and narcissistic tendencies that can be damaging to the morale of the organization. Research shows that such positive self-views can confer multiple disadvantages in the long-term, from decreasing individual wellbeing to the disengagement of employees. Instead, leaders who can step out of their ego-system and compassionately enter the eco-system of the people around them, instill an environment of secure striving and engaged and loyal employees.
When leaders are grounded in the awareness and acceptance of who they are, they’re well positioned to take courage and values based decisions that may not always win other people’s approval. And they’re keen to invest in people and their growth, rather than in feeling superior and infallible, and safeguarding a faltering sense of self-worth.
I had a Math teacher when I was 11 and struggling to make sense of numbers. This was over 30 years ago in the remote city of Colombo. I’m sure she didn’t have an inkling of the studies on effective leadership. Nor was she an extrovert by any means who could inspire me through a grandiose vision. But there was a power in her presence that gravitated me towards her and empowered me to believe in myself and my mathematical abilities. Looking back with older eyes, I can see that it came from being one with who she was, doing what she loved, and helping others with compassionate encouragement and unconditional positive regard.
Leadership then is about first learning to lead the self. It’s a process that takes time, and is rife with uncertainty and discomfort, something that we’ve become ill accustomed to in an era of quick fixes and little patience. And yet, it empowers us to lead from the inside out, and that’s authentic leadership that just doesn’t happen in 3 Easy Steps.
Homaira Kabir, is a positive psychology practitioner who helps women connect inwards and harness their brilliance to live lives of passion and purpose. You can read more about her at www.homairakabir.com, on Facebook and you can take her free authentic self-worth quiz.
Article Photo by Miguel A Padrinan