Know Thyself: Improving my Leadership skills

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Image insipred by the painting “Socrates’ address” from Louis J. Lebrun, 1844-1900.

In many seminars, I am asked how ideal leaders behave, what they do different and how to learn to be a great, inspiring leader.

The truthful answer is: there is no magic wand that suddenly makes You a supreme super Leader after a couple days of workshops with us (or anyone, for that matter). The best leaders that I have met, during my happy decades of coaching and training high-level executives, are those that are not overly confident (or let’s be more straightforward, “arrogant”), and not those that are overly humble (or let’s be less subtle, “appearing to be very moderate/aloof”). The best leaders I have met throughout the years are the women and men who know (almost) perfectly who they are, their strengths, their limitations, when to have the courage to decide or to delegate, when to be friendly and serene, or when to be firm and tough. Those leaders are the best. They know when to do what and how. They practice the cardinal principle in the philosophy of Socrates: Know thyself!

 Are you ready to answer four simple Socratic questions to improve your leadership skills with self-reflection?

See below. Take 15 minutes on a nice, calm day, and do a mini self-retreat.

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The four stages of self-reflection below are only guideposts. And the development process does not always flow in one direction. In clarifying your vision, you will probably gain insight into the person you are right now. The questions and exercises that follow will help clarify each of these stages and will refine your understanding of the leadership journey you want to undertake.

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First self-questioning

My personal Assessment: Who am I?
What are my strengths as a leader? What are my top five skills and my expert knowledge? What are the personal qualities for me to lead others? And also, what are my development needs? Which areas would increase my effectiveness as a leader if I develop them further?
And likewise, what activities do I find energizing and intrinsically enjoyable? What deep, core values do I have about leadership?

Second self-reflection

My Vision: Who do I want to be?
For this exercise, project yourself into the future, five, seven or ten years from now. Write a description of who You are and what You will be doing. Write a one-sentence, high-level statement capturing the essence of your vision. Come up with an image or metaphor that symbolizes your vision.

Third self-questioning

Overcoming my Barriers: What are the obstacles that stand in my way? How can I overcome them?
What are some of my external or internal stoppers? What are the invisible limiting beliefs that prevent me from fully using my abilities? Which ones are under my control? What are some actions or solutions I can use to deal with my obstacles and stoppers? Are there some hidden opportunities? Breaking down my obstacles into smaller pieces, how can I tackle them best?

 Fourth self-reflection

My Actions: What are specific steps I need to move forward and upward?
Once You have a vision and a set of strategies to overcome your obstacles, come up with your goals. Make them specific, positive, challenging, yet attainable, and stretch yourself. Set some long-term goals (three to five years) and some short-term goals (six-month or a one-year).

Lastly, review your actions regularly, every week or once a month.

To summarize:
Know Thyself! Dare to ask yourself tough questions. Engage in productive self-reflection. And finally: Act!

Stop being competitive with others. Instead, compare yourself with yourself. Be a better version of Yourself and of the Leader You want to be today, more than you were yesterday.

Enjoy and be proud to be the best Leader that You can be!

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