“Modeling the way” is one of the leadership practices that came out of Kouzes and Posner’s research that led to the writing of their book, “The Leadership Challenge.”
I do think that being a role model to the people one leads is critical to one’s leadership success.
Modeling the way means being credible or being consistent in words and in actions. It’s quite a challenging requirement given our fallibility. To succeed we need to muster the will to lead that one important person who can make the difference between people following us because they have to and following us because they want to; ourselves.
Bill O’brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance said that “The success of an intervention is dependent on the interior condition of the intervenor.” I’ve always seen leaders as intervenors and I agree, the success of our leadership journey depends on our interior condition. How we present ourselves, how we make decisions and the quality of our conversations are highly dependent on how in-touch we are with our thoughts and emotions and how we regulate our behaviors specially during challenging times.
Daniel Goleman offers a framework to guide us through self-mastery. Here are some insights of my own to support Goleman’s model.
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Self-Awareness – Keeping tab of your emotional state is an important requisite to self-management. Being clear about your values, knowing your strengths and your weaknesses, makes you aware of your potentials and limitations. As a leader in charge of guiding others, it helps to know that we are also guided by making decisions that are aligned with our values, our aspiration and choosing a path that caters to our strengths.
Self- Regulation – There are a number of situations at work that requires self-regulation; when we’re upset, when we’re angry, when we’re not in the mood, when we’re afraid and when we’re on autopilot which is about half the time we’re awake. When we lead people, the decisions we make impact others more than when we were individual contributors responsible only for our individual performance. It helps to master our emotion so that we can avoid rash decisions we might regret later. By the way, self-regulation is more than just controlling one’s anger. I think a valuable part of self-regulation is mustering the courage to take risk and open one’s mind to opportunities. Surely, an important ability to develop.
Social Awareness – When we are in tune with our work and the people around us, we become sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. It helps us respond better. It helps to continually learn about sensing other people’s behaviors and developing the necessary skills and habits to enhance our social awareness because it leads to better relationship management.
Relationship Management – This is an important skill. As leaders, we need to develop our assertiveness, our ability to express ourselves, process what we are hearing in a way that promotes better understanding and respond in a manner that promotes understanding as well.
I seldom see organizations invest in developing their leaders in these areas which is a shame considering its impact on the quality of decisions leaders can make if they have a higher aptitude for managing their own behaviors. I hope you consider this in your own leadership journey.