5 – Leaders are Self Aware

5 – Leaders are Self Aware

Leadership and Self-Awareness

Today’s segment is the second in a series of podcasts on leadership and will focus on how the most effective leaders have strong self-awareness. Plato said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Based on the comments from our speakers, one could also argue that working for an oblivious boss is a job not worth having!

Transcript

Cohn: So what I think of as authentic leadership is really leading from and I will say it’s kind of lofty, from their best self .

Trenchard: They know what their own weaknesses are. They know that they need to improve in a certain area.

Clark: Good leaders know their limits. And that’s not a fault or a failure. I think that’s a sign of success in maturation.

Kristen: Welcome to “Sound Advice” – the brief audio download that brings the best of eClips to you. I’m Kirsten Barker.

Today’s segment is the second in a series of podcasts on leadership and will focus on how the most effective leaders have strong self-awareness. Plato said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Based on the comments from our speakers, one could also argue that working for an oblivious boss is a job not worth having!

First, we’ll hear from Alisa Cohn. Cohn is a Business Coach with more than a decade of professional experience in large and small corporate environments. She was recently selected by the Boston Herald as one of the top 10 business coaches in Boston. She states that authentic leadership comes from understanding one’s best self.

Cohn: One of the hallmarks of a good leader is that they have developed a sense of self-awareness and that they have channeled that self-awareness kind of, it’s infused in them and that it informs what they do and their behaviors with others and certainly with themselves. So what I think of as authentic leadership is really leading from and I will say it’s kind of lofty, from their best self, from their highest self and the best self, not from the day-to-day minutia that’s get in everybody’s way and that kind of stresses out everybody and also interferes with again like your best self and acting from best intentions. So that minutia is politics and that minutia is ego and that minutia is just having a bad day and normal stresses and like aggravation from other people. So what I think is an authentic leader can sometimes, I won’t even say more often than not because it’s not human but like sometimes, really rise above that and figure out, hey, what needs to happen here and what is my best self telling me to do and how can I kind of back up what my true values are in my behavior as a leader and my style.

Kristen: Bill Trenchard is a serial entrepreneur who is currently the CEO of LiveOps, a teleservices company. Prior to LiveOps, Trenchard was the founder and CEO of Callcast which merged with LiveOps in 2003. Trenchard was also the founder and CEO of Jump Networks, Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft in April 1999. He states that the best leaders are self-aware and create good work environments, where employees are comfortable being themselves.

Trenchard: I think in a company I think good leaders create–they know how to create a great place to work. I think they do it by starting to look in the mirror. They look at themselves, how they act, how they treat people in the company, what they do on a daily basis, and the type of people they hire. It all starts there. It starts at the very center of the company. I think good leaders they understand that, fundamentally they understand that it all starts with them and they take responsibility for it. I think that a lot of, for us, for example, the cultural change that I am working on, that stuff I think is very intentional. I think you need to take your company somewhere. You don’t magically get there. I think leaders understand that and they understand the strengths and weaknesses of the company, and they know where they want to take it. They intentionally create a culture environment where you can get there. I think also the good ones, the ones I respect are very self-aware. They know what their own weaknesses are. They know that they need to improve in a certain area. They know that they can’t do certain things well and they ask for help. In doing that, I think they create a really good environment for their team, because you don’t have to be a star all of the time, and you don’t always have to be right. They sometimes make mistakes.

Kristen: Building on that last point, Laura Clark, an Investment Principal at private wealth management firm Lowry Hill, takes it a step further and says that leaders who are self aware and understand their limits are not showing weakness – in fact, they are showing maturity and good leadership skills.

Clark: Good leaders know their limits. And that’s not a fault or a failure. I think that’s a sign of success in maturation. They know they are not good at X,Y, or Z. Maybe they had a sales job. And they now understand and appreciate the difficulties of selling. What it takes to sell. How that fits in the rest of their organization. But they know they are not the best salesperson. They are not the person to do the job. They need to hire the best salesperson they can that is going to share their vision and get their company to the next level.

Kristen: Finally, we’ll close with a comment from Steve Belkin. Named Cornell’s 2005 Entrepreneur of the year, Steve is founder and chairman of Trans National Group. Belkin pioneered the concept of using direct mail marketing to provide products and services to the Affinity Group marketplace and TNG is currently the world leader in Affinity Group marketing. His comments really focus on the need for both the leader and his staff to grow and stay open to change.

Belikin: A business is about personal growth of the staff and about its leader. If the people in your company are growing as people, the business will grow. A business really is just made up of people. You need to create a positive experience for your staff and your customers, and then the profits will flow. Some people their objective is just about money, that’s not the proper objective. The proper objective has to be a quality experience for your customers and a quality experience for your staff, and then the money just naturally will flow to the corporation. Business is always a reflection of its leader. If the leader isn’t growing, the business is not going to be able to grow. Business, as life, is all about personal growth. Personal growth means you need to expand your view of the world. You need to have a broader view of the world. You can’t see it through the same eyes you saw it through a year ago or five years ago. You need to be around people who are different than you. You need to try different things in order to expand your view. Always stay very open, always try to expose yourself to a variety of experiences as you can, and as a diverse group of people as you possibly can. If the leader of a corporation creates the culture, the leader needs to grow, and a leader needs to become much more aware of his strengths and his weaknesses.

Kristen: Self-awareness in leadership is clearly more than looking inward. While it certainly involves understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses, it also involves looking outside oneself to bolster those weak areas and create an organization that is stronger than any one individual. Self aware leaders embrace people for who they are – mistakes and all – but also strive to create organizations which stretch people to grow and deliver more than they thought they could.

Thanks for listening to this segment. If you are interested in hearing more from Alisa Cohn, Bill Trenchard, Laura Clark or Steve Belkin, or if you are interested in hearing more eClips speakers share thoughts on the topic of leadership, please check out our website at eclips.cornell.edu.

That’s E-C-L-I-P-S. cornell.edu.

And remember, if it is a business topic of interest, eClips will bring you “Sound Advice”…


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