I know from bitter experience in my own leadership journey where after many years of extremely fruitful leadership I became so busy responding to the demands of people and stretching for even greater goals that I stopped asking myself these questions. The results were disastrous for the organisation I was leading and shattering for me and my family.
John Maxwell says, “Leaders who need people cannot lead people”.
The leader must be aware of the big picture. They must see what others do not. Leadership decisions usually have greater implications than others in an organisation. If the leader gets it wrong everyone notices and many people can be affected. Real leaders accept that the buck stops with them.
So, in the midst of a host of competing demands how do I look after myself as a leader in order to make sure I do not fall at the first or the final hurdle?
10 Questions every leader needs to ask:
- How do I measure success? KPI’s are helpful but tend to be focused on productivity issues. How do I measure the quality of relationships, level of morale in the team, emotional energy being used, whole of life balance, my personal growth, etc.
- When is enough, enough? If things are not going well the tendency is for leaders to work harder and longer, which can then be self defeating. How do I build some margins into my life?
- What is the real strength in my leadership? Casting inspiring vision, setting demanding standards, being tough with non-performers, being insightful about recruiting staff or being the kind of leader who draws out the potential in people?
- How can I be tough enough to make the hard calls without losing my essential humanity? There are some very tough calls as a leader, none tougher than firing people or letting people know their performance isn’t up to standard. Its the same around decisions to restructure the organisation that unsettles everyone and causes uncertainty and the inevitable criticisms and complaints. How do I steel myself for those times when I have to deal with wayward staff members without becoming hard emotionally in a way that affects my ability to have compassion towards my own family and friends?
- How do I deal with guilt, fear, insecurity and other potentially self-sabotaging emotions?
- What do I share with whom? If there is a personal issue that is troubling me, with whom do I share it without potentially undermining my leadership? (NB. This is one of the reasons why authority figures cannot mentor people under them because there will always be a limit to what is shared.)
- Who do I allow close enough to see my weaknesses? I believe it is essential for your long term safety and sanity that you have a few trusted people who know you well enough to call you an idiot when you are being one.
- How do I learn my unique strengths and weaknesses and overall capacity? This is where honest feedback is very useful, and a personal analysis tool like Extended DISC is invaluable.
- What do I need to guard in order to always be sharp on game day? Every leader has a unique Rhythm of Life that they must learn to understand and flow with so they can always be ready for high energy days.
- How do I plan an exit strategy at the right time for me and to ensure a positive legacy? Leadership does not and should not last forever, and most leaders hang too long rather than leave too early.
The more responsibility you have in leadership the more important it is to have clear answers to these 10 questions.
So, if you are in any kind of leadership position, I suggest you print out these 10 questions and see if you have a clear answer to them. Mark the ones which challenge you and do something about dealing with these and any other issues that your arise during reflection.
Issues may arise that are uncomfortable. If that is the case I strongly suggest you find a skilled leadership coach or mentor who can assist you with you. Can I urge you from painful experience not to let your pride get in the way.
What other questions would you add? I’d love to hear your feedback.