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Your psychology is your leadership

How we think shows through in how we act. Attitudes are mirrors of the mind. They reflect thinking –
David Joseph Schwartz


James here from the Coaching Room with another article in our professional development series. In this short Executive Coaching article (co-authored by Dr Michael Hall) I am going to share how inseparable your psychology is from your leadership, the psychology behind the most effective leaders, and how to engage people with the way you lead.  


Your Psychology IS your leadership


So here is my first point – your Psychology IS your leadership. When you lead people, you inevitably work from many assumptions and beliefs about people. Leading people entails your ideas about what people are like, what they want, their nature, what you can expect of them, why they are following you, and so on.


Thus your leading is full of unspoken premises in the back of your mind about human psychology, assumptions about human nature, human drives and needs, human hopes and dreams, and human communications and relationships. This means that when you lead, your leadership is not neutral and cannot be neutral. This is why the first task of professional development for a leader is to get your psychology right – but what is ‘right’?


Self-Actualizing Leaders


Jim Collins discovered that great companies that last have high quality leaders (“level 5 leaders”) who have the will (determination, commitment) and humility (a vision beyond their ego, it’s not about them) to facilitate a group of people to become “the best in the world” with their core competencies. It takes time, and patience, and determination, and vision, and a set of values so that with every turn of the giant wheel momentum is built. And because it is a shared vision, they are able to do so much more than any single person can do individually. In the executive coaching world, we call these Self-Actualizing leaders and creating a self-actualized leader is the primary goal of an executive coach.


Self-actualizing leaders know that leadership is not about them. Leadership is about the people, the vision, and the future. So they hold a two-fold focus. First, they focus on the required performances (skills, competencies) that are absolutely necessary to achieve the vision. They focus on results—on implementation, on execution, on people being able to do and contribute. Unlike bureaucrats, it’s not about passing time, crossing every t or dotting every i. It is about creating and innovating effective results. Second, they focus on the meaningfulness of those performances. The results and skills must be significant, inspirational, and meaningful for the people carrying them out.


When meaning meets performance, the result is engagement.


When meaningfulness meets performance, the result is engagement. People are engaged. People are completely and delightfully engaged. They are the right person for the job and are able to actualize their best potentials in that job, and they want even more professional development.


When meaningfulness doesn’t meet performance i.e. there is a strong focus on performance but no connection to anything significant or meaningful, or there is an abundance of meaningfulness and significance in the job but no actual performance or output, the result is dis-engagement. And where there is dis-engagement, people are bored and impatient. They feel out-of-alignment with themselves and the company and so they are just barely there in mind and heart, even if they are punched in on the time card. And when you have that, no amount of professional development will help, and retention will then be a major problem.


Self-Actualizing Leaders create Self-Actualizing Cultures


Self-actualizing leaders create self-actualizing cultures by taking the role of being the teams very own executive coach and finding ways to activate the powers of their people— their mental powers (I.Q.), their emotional powers (E.Q.), and their behavioral powers. And with these powers, they tap into their spiritual (or inspirational) powers (S.Q.).


And what happens then? Well, most of the problems associated with disengagement disappear — motivational problems, problems of resistance, rigidity, refusal to change, secrecy, underhanded competition, power relationships, etc. Now the secrets of a self-actualized organization will more easily emerge— team spirit, creativity and innovation, openness to change initiatives, people taking responsibility, people looking for and enjoying feedback, etc.


And so as we end this executive coaching article I leave you with a question. What psychology are you embodying as a leader? Because the experience people have when they are in your presence IS your brand. If you aren’t seeing the level of engagement you aspire to cultivate, it might be time to focus your professional development on getting your psychology right with an executive coach. Executive coaching can help you reassess your mindset and highlight the blind spots in your perspective.   To read more about Executive Coaching, check this article “Do you really need an Executive coach? Why bother?”



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