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How To Ensure You're Leading To Your Full Potential

In 2007, leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith published What Got You Here Won't Get You There. The essence of Goldsmith's book is that many of the behaviours that initially propel high-achievers up the corporate ladder are paradoxically the same ones preventing them from reaching the very top.
He talks about habits like winning too much (for example, the need to win every workplace disagreement, even when it doesn't matter), adding too much value (adding your two cents to every discussion) and goal obsession (becoming so wrapped up in achieving short-term goals that you forget the larger mission). These habits are no longer required when you really want to step up as a CEO and lead to your full potential. How to ensure you’re leading to your full potential

You may well have been recognised for behaviours early in your career that demonstrated you were driven, but right now, these behaviours have likely become counterproductive. Worse yet, they could even be holding you back. So what to do?

Look up and ahead

As a CEO, reflecting on your current leadership behaviours and stepping up as required is critical. You often need to lead differently tomorrow from how you are today. You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone - and be confident enough to do this - and be aware of your context and what the environment requires of you to lead because this is always changing. 

Continue to challenge yourself and ask, 'If what got me here won't get me there, what do I need to be doing now to step up?'

If you've got your 'head down' all day long, knocking off your to-do list, how will you be able to assess what you need to do to influence and ensure the organisation makes real progress? Looking higher and wider means learning to empower and delegate to the team who is doing the work. 

Let go of control and put your trust in others - even if it is quicker and easier to do it yourself. You need to develop the confidence to exercise a different form of leadership.

Be aware

Having a strong sense of self-awareness is now seen as a critical trait for successful leaders, and is increasingly being reported in studies as the one quality that trumps all.

One particularly enlightening study conducted in 2010 by Green Peak Partners and Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations examined 72 executives at public and private companies with revenues from $50 million to $5 billion.

While the research examined a number of executive interpersonal traits, the findings on self-awareness determined that this particular trait should actually be the top criterion for success.

Without self-awareness, we cannot understand our strengths and weaknesses. We cannot understand ourselves sufficiently to know what it means to be authentic in our leadership. We are not aware of what motivates us, what drives our decision-making, and what people we need around us to build the best teams. 

In 'What self-awareness really is (and how to cultivate it)', a Harvard Business Review article from 2018, Dr Tasha Eurich distinguishes between our internal self-awareness, which is 'how well you know yourself', and our external self-awareness, which is 'how well you understand how others see you'.

The three YOUs provides a way to understand this:
  • Inner you: What your beliefs, strengths and values are. What drives you? What is core to you? 
  • Outer you: How you express or use your beliefs, strengths and values via your actions, behaviours and decisions. How do your beliefs and values contribute to the decisions you make? What impact does this have on your behaviours and your actions? 
  • Perceived you: How others interpret your behaviour. Do your actions match others' perceptions of you? 
When we have a strong self-awareness of our real selves in these three areas, we are able to truly step up and lead to our full potential. 


Author Credits

Michelle Sales is a highly sought-after speaker, trainer, facilitator and coach who helps senior leaders and their teams learn to show up as the best version of themselves, to build their confidence and influence with others, and to maximise their leadership and performance. She is the author of the book The Power of Real Confidence, published by Major Street in 2018. Find out more at www.michellesales.com.au 

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