Leadership education is often based on the traditional belief that heroic leaders should inspire people, setting the goal and direction with visionary insights. Even though this is important, leadership today is much more.
International research has verified that heroic leadership is ‘out’ and coaching is ‘in’. Outstanding results will be achieved when leaders develop both the organisation and themselves in a systemic way.
1. Journey into yourself
Self-awareness is the basis of all leadership. A good leader is constantly looking inwards and has the ability to take a step back and look at his or her own actions from a distance. Self-reflection is crucial. When you get to know your motives and feelings, and are in discussion with your subconscious, leadership can reach a totally new level. Being genuine and sincere is what makes a difference in leadership; it is easy to trust a leader who is driven by the greater good.
2. Look at the big picture
Leading people is about much more than good communication. Leaders must also be able to understand the organisation and its dynamics as a larger total system. An organisation consists of several sub-systems, the elements of which every employee has brought along – from their families, their culture and their previous jobs. Systemic thinking brings a holistic view to leadership: if one part of the entity gets stuck, the answer often lies somewhere else than in the communication between individuals. Different types of people, coming from different ‘systems’, complement each other and are much more than only the sum of their parts. Systemic leadership development and the enablement of diversity are characteristics of leadership at its best.
3. Pay attention to strengths
I have learned from positive psychology that a person directs his or her energy into things where he or she is strong. An energetic organisation focuses on people’s strength and accepts making mistakes as part of development. Searching for failures leads to an atmosphere of fear, in which a person tries to cope with his or her everyday tasks by gripping the club with white knuckles. Sport coaches know how one negative stress impulse can get an athlete out of his or her right mind-set.
The school of life is often the best teacher. You learn to lead by leading. By personifying the classic virtues of trustworthiness, justice and kindness, you’ll already get far!
PS. Even the school of life does not help if leaders are unwilling to develop themselves.