Identity, life and learning are closely linked when it comes to the discovery of ourselves, especially when we embody a leading position. Crucial is the fact, that the leader is capable to make himself object of his perception. This is the necessary prerequisite to unfold the capability to reflect oneself as a leader – and: change.
The best mirror for leaders though, is feedback. And one of the most effective methods to enhance self-perception and then self-reflection is group feedback in a group dynamic process. Twelve of our young potentials were able to make this partly tough experience last week-end, when I gave a leadership training on leadership behavior.
The training was designed to challenge the stable self-concept of every young future leader in the group and to define areas of future personality growth. In order to make this personality development happen, it was necessary to challenge the existing self-concept which was at the same time the so far developed identity of each participant. An identity endowed with many successful behavioral strategies as long as participants remain in their comfort zone – - and at the same time when pitching them into their personal stretch zones the same personal identity also tagged with regressive and powerless states of mind and soul. And these often hurting spots are the starting point for personal learning and development in the leadership context.
First of all, humans need to discover their “me”, this is basis for a sane personality development. This takes place, when we are two years old. Then, later, as a teen and young adult, we built up stable concepts of ourselves. However: the structural framework of the daily business in our times often requires destruction or at least a change in who we believe we are.
“However: the structural framework of the daily business in our times often requires destruction or at least a change in who we believe we are.”
This is where self-leadership begins.
Flexibility in behavior, a sovereign reaction towards change and difficult structural frameworks, adaption and at the same time proactive drive, all these items are the requirements we have towards our young potential leaders. Leadership training always evolves on the thin line of on the one hand strengthening the self-worth of participants and on the other hand challenging the protection of the self-worth, where it is doing harm through stuck state patterns for the future role of a leader.
The training simulating a crisis harshly distressed the inner processes of self-protection of the participants so that they were starting to look for new behavioral options and new values in order to enrich and grow their identities, discovering a new “me” because leadership demands it.
But not only through crisis, also during the daily business or in a new job an approach to self-discovery is made by people in leading positions. It is no secret that success in business not automatically brings satisfaction and balance in the private life. A burn out, a bore out are phases in the life of a leader which often lead to a revision of one´s self concept and a new discovery what is currently there and what is missing.
This gap analysis in between our ideal self and our real self – through feedback out of the systems in which we are living and working – leads to the learning and self-developing cycle, Richard Boyaztis presented some decades ago, calling it “self-directed learning”. In order to achieve the ideal concept of oneself as a leader, we undergo a phase of experimenting new behaviors and new approaches to life and leading. With successful changes we continue; the unsuccessful ones we drop. Step by step our self concept changes towards the person we want to be.
This is the way, leaders take responsibility for themselves and how they fulfill themselves and how they realize their self concept. And these personal feedback loops should take place every now and then in order to stabilize the human system of a leader.
Sometimes, changing our life we do more justice towards our own self concept than we might expect. And leadership is a journey which fosters self discovery more or less every day – if we are open towards ourselves which means being in contact with ourselves – and then, in a second step, with others.