by Mike Winstanley
We look in mirrors every day. They give us a reflection of ourselves. But what about our inner selves—our attitudes and thoughts? How often do we look there?
True leaders look inward every day and take stock of themselves. As simple as it sounds, it’s the step most overlooked by managers in their journey to becoming leaders.
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That’s why managers who aspire to be leaders (and, believe me, there is a difference) must constantly ask themselves five thought-provoking questions:
1. What does “it” look like? Many people struggle with their leadership abilities because they’ve never stepped back and thought about what it means to truly be a leader. So ask yourself: What are the characteristics embodied by leaders I admire?
Do this free-association exercise: Jot down all those words and phrases that come to mind when you think of the word “leader.” Think of supervisors from your current or past jobs, teachers, political leaders, mentors, etc. Leave nothing off the list. This first look in the mirror is critical; it begins to define the path you will eventually take to being a better leader.
2. How do I stack up? Now do an honest appraisal. Rate yourself on a scale of one to 10 as to how well you think you’re doing on each word/phrase on a daily basis. That will give you a ballpark idea where you’re at.
Then ask yourself what a “10” looks like for each item. Put it into specific behavioral terms. This will give you a beginning picture as to what you have to do (or stop doing) to become a better leader.
3. How’s my attitude? How do you feel about your job and employer? If managers think their working conditions stink, they’re underpaid and their boss hates them, they’ll pass this attitude on to their employees. Attitudes are contagious, and attitudes affect behavior and job performance. As a leader, you have to be conscious of your attitude’s impact. Then work to eliminate the negative behaviors that result from it.
4. What’s my real value? Managers must ask what value they bring to the organization. How do they affect the corporate bottom line? Remember, your company expects a return on its investment.
So managers should assess their true value and put it in terms of how the company profits from the things they do on a day-to-day basis.
Take this exercise to the next level and ask what else you could be doing to add value to the organization. This is part of what being visionary is all about.
5. Do I believe? Do you truly believe you can become a great leader? All these looks in the mirror are meaningless unless you think you can change. If you have doubts, analyze why. Do you blame your company or your boss for holding you back? Is it inside you? Fear of success? Fear of failure? Answer those questions honestly.
Don’t try to change everything at once. Work on one item at a time. Small steps make for an easier journey.
Finally, remember that this self-analysis is what successful leaders do all the time. It’s part of their daily schedule. So if you aspire to be a leader of people, it’s time to ask yourself the question: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greatest leader of all?
Mike Winstanley is president of winTrain Consulting LLC in Farmington Hills, MI, and a former psychology professor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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