“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu
We as leaders spend a lot of time thinking & worrying about things that are external to ourselves. Customers, competitors, the people who work with and for us, the government, etc. And rightly so. All of those things require us to think and plan and execute strategies of varying types.
But how much time do we spend thinking about ourselves? I don’t mean in a selfish ‘how can I get my share?’ kind of way. I mean, in a ‘how does my performance as a leader in this organization need to improve’ kind of way. How often do you consider questions like, “What do I really struggle with?” or “What am I really good at?”
Often part of the problem is who we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with. Too many leaders don’t have somebody close enough to give us difficult truths. No matter how much of an ‘open door’ policy we have, the reality is that as leaders it can be hard to find truly honest feedback.
So who in your organization is willing to be brutally honest with you? If you have an answer, make sure they’re a regular part of your thought process. Ask for their input. If you don’t have an answer, you need to think about the kind of people you’re attracting to your business.
Another issue is that even if we are able to identify weaknesses, we often don’t do anything about it. We’ve talked about the difficulties of organizational change in this space many times; personal change isn’t any easier. You need a lot of things to make those changes in your behavior as a leader, not the last of which is a plan and some accountability.
So what’s your plan to improve on those areas that need it? Is it written down? Who’s holding you accountable? Maybe somebody internally – but maybe it’s somebody externally. Peers are great for accountability, so where can you find someone (or multiple someones) who can help?
Maybe you have a weakness that doesn’t need to be fixed – maybe it just needs to be taken off your plate. If you’re not good with HR, stop trying to do HR and find somebody else to do it. If you’re not good with IT, stop trying to do IT and find somebody else to do it. Some weaknesses aren’t for fixing, they’re for delegating.
Whatever your situation, it’s not acceptable leader behavior to be looking to continuously improve everything in the business except you. Take a look in the mirror. How can you be better? If you’re not trying to improve yourself, why should your people work to improve your business? Start with the most critical asset you have – YOU.