For me, developing yourself as a leader starts off with answering the most basic of questions:
What type of leader do I want to be?
As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going every road will lead you there.” As a leader you have to know:
- who you want to be,
- what you want to be known for,
- what you want to achieve, and
- how you want to contribute to others.
The answers to the above questions provides you with direction and clarity of the impact you want to make.
Of course answering these questions is not that easy. In my leadership development journeys I spend the first day with senior leaders helping them to reflect on these questions. What amazes me is how little time leaders spend on who they are and who they want to be, every time. It feels like even at the most senior level in an organization people live from day to day, from target to target and from quarterly statement to quarterly statement. In most cases they are better able to explain the company brand or the capabilities their company is building to succeed in the future rather than the their personal leadership brand and how they will personally grow in the future.
So when I help leaders articulate their leadership brand I take them through the 4 stages below and help them answer 14 questions.
1. Your Past
A future has to be built on your past. Whether you like your past or not it will influence you and will create the foundation on which you’ll have to build your personal leadership brand. In reflecting on your past you have to identify which jobs, projects, and/or activities helped you achieve “flow” and which did you hate. You have to ask what did other people say about you, who your role models were and how do these reflections impact the leader you currently are.
2. Your Current
Having reflected on your past you need to check in with today. Consider,
- What you’re truly excited about (both personally and professionally)?
- What talents do you have in which you know you’re better than most people?
- What values are important to you?
- What do you want to be know for?
- What career preferences do you have?
All of these answers will help you by arming yourself with the knowledge of your strengths which you can use to address the next stage.
3. Your Future
Whereas your past and your current builds on elements that are currently there, when you start thinking of your future it’s all about putting on your thinking hat and start contemplating the leader you want to be. You have to think about the people you want to have an impact on. It’s all about imagining the possibilities, having a vision of the person you want to be and what you want to achieve. In thinking about your future, it’s putting yourself in the future and looking back on what you want people to say about you. And finally it’s about reflecting how you can achieve balance in life, between your physical, mental, social and emotional needs.
4. Your Legacy
The final element is about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered and what do you want to leave behind? You need to reflect on what contribution you’re going to make on the planet, society, and family. That you’re going to leave everything you’ve impacted for the better. You’ll reflect how you’re going to contribute to the lives of the people that matter to you, the masterpiece that is going to define you and who you are.
These are big questions and they are often very tough for leaders to answer. But if leaders who have the intellectual capability, the resources and area of influence that is larger than most others are not able to answer these questions, who will create a better tomorrow and a planet in which our grandchildren can live comfortably on?