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The 5 core competencies of a self-actualized leader

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams


Today there is a call for a new kind and quality of leader. There are numerous causes and contributing factors making this call—the uncertainty and turbulent times economically in the world, the speed of technological changes, the globalization that’s making the world like a village in terms of how one part of the world affects the rest of the world, the increasing demands and expectations of people of their leaders, etc.


Today to lead the minds and hearts of people — young and old alike —requires enabling and empowering people to tap into their human capital. Today we have to lead people to learn and to learn to learn, to take personal responsibility, and to step up to develop their own potentials as we prepare those of the next generation.


If you want to lead in the 21st century and exercise the highest level of leadership, self-actualizing or humanistic leadership — rather than dictatorship, or military command-and-control leadership —then you lead best by coaching people, by being a leadership coach. You lead best by coaching people to tap into and unleash their highest and best potentials. You lead best by empowering and enabling people to develop and express their intellectual, emotional, and creative capital. So what then are the core competency skills required to enact this as a highly effective self-actualizing leader?


#1 Ability to recognize in all people the drive for self-actualization.

One core competency skill that a truly effective self-actualizing leader needs is an appreciation of the self-actualizing drive in him or herself and in all people. That was Abraham Maslow’s and Douglas McGregor’s primary contribution to this question. A leader who isn’t able to perceive, communicate, and relate to the innate drive for potential in each person cannot be a self-actualizing leader, let alone an effective leader.


#2 A leader has to be self-actualizing him or herself.

You can be the greatest orator in the world, but without actions to back it up, you will lack the personal power and authority to be credible. This is one area where incongruency and hypocrisy will completely sabotage the leadership process. The talk of self-actualizing has to be backed up by the walk. And that’s why congruency, authenticity, and being real is central criteria for leadership.


#3 Ability to facilitate the development and engagement of a vision.

As a self-actualizing leader who can and does effectively lead, he or she facilitates the development of a future vision. Visioning is especially the one thing that an effective self-actualizing leader does. He or she will constantly be awakening people to their own self-actualizing drive and to self-actualizing with their lovers, families, companies, communities, and nations. As a social creature, human self-actualization is entirely and inescapably social.

Leaders who don’t have a heart for people will not be able to lead people; perhaps they can manage things, systems, or processes. To lead people requires heart— care, compassion, even love. It’s been said that people won’t care to hear what you have to say until they know you care about them.


#4 Collaborate rather than monopolize

Leaders often face, and sometimes fall into the mistake of secrecy and turf protecting. But a self-actualizing person and a self-actualizing organization lives from an openness and abundance that knows that we empower ourselves and others through open sharing of information (rather than hoarding). People won’t share information who live in an environment of fear and positioning.


#5 Action Orientation

Self-Actualized Leaders get results and they do that by focusing on implementation that executes the plans and strategies that we co-create. To get results, leaders have to have an action orientation. Results only come from actually translating from mind to body.


What you can expect from these competencies

Whilst there are many more competencies we could add and do focus on in executive coaching and leadership coaching, if a leader is able to show a high level of competency in these core five skills, he or she can effectively lead others and an organization. This organization will unleash people’s potentials and tap into their intelligence, creativity, and innovation. Conversely, a leader who does not demonstrate high-level competency and elegance in these skills has to rely on the old authoritarian command-and-control methods of manipulation, making him or her a boss, a general, a policeman, not a leader.


Wrapping up

A leader with these five competencies is effectively a leadership coach and will inspire people to not only “buy in” to the vision of the organization or community, but become so engaged in their commitment that people will do whatever it takes to fulfill the vision. And when you have that level of engagement, any and all problems with motivation and retention disappear. And with a self-actualizing company, you will have a company on the cutting-edge of creativity, professional development and innovation— the only way companies can survive in these days of accelerating change. And that means continued growth, return-on-investment, and branding of the quality value that you add.


Co-Author – L. Michael Hall, Ph.D

Michael is a developer, researcher, coach, trainer and prolific author in the Cognitive Sciences

having developed the most cutting-edge new concepts in NLP and Neuro-Semantics today, the Meta-States Model, Matrix Model, and co-developed the Axes of Change Model.

Michael co-founded the International Society of Neuro-Semantics and The Meta-CoachTM Foundation

(MCF). Michael is the Academic Director and Researcher for the Meta-Coach Foundation and has authored and published more than 30 books to date. Michael can be reached at meta@acsol.net.  See www.neurosemantics.com.



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