I gave the closing remarks, My Leadership Journey, at an IMD program Strategies for Leadership (SL) led by Professor Ginka Toegel. 31 women executives from 20 countries participated in SL over four days during which I was a coach. SL focused on authentic leadership and how executives must learn to balance their own unique personality qualities with certain attributes critical to be perceived as a strong leader. Since Toegel started the program focused on natural preferences versus a fuller range of possible behaviors, with special emphasis on self-awareness of one’s innate strengths and weaknesses, I chose to delve into the latter. I shared how knowing yourself fully – standing confidently in the power of glorious capacities while simultaneously not being afraid to acknowledge shortcomings – was vital to leadership. Like self-knowledge, leadership is not a destination but a continuously deepening process that each of us bears full responsibility to explore, deepen and expand courageously.
During the four days, participating women executives had the opportunity to learn more about interacting effectively with their boards of directors from Professor Paul Strebel who leads the IMD program High Performance Boards (HPB). They were exposed to new ways to build and utilize their networks by Professor Martha Maznevski who directs the MBA program and is part of the IMD signature program Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP), as is Toegel and Strebel. As an SL coach, I facilitated a team completing an extremely challenging Mission Unknown task in one intensive day. Divided into six segments – three team actions to formulate, initiate execution and complete their task, each followed by a rigorously honest debrief – we explored how they as individuals and a group tackled this purposefully ambiguous task. In a safe environment, they evolved from a band of strangers each with her own way of acting and revealing (or not) to a team ready to give and receive constructive critique: the continuously growing level of trust and candor was palpable.
By the end of that day all participants had a much deeper knowledge of themselves and each other, including essential insights into their reactions to myriad challenge and each other’s differing styles. But epiphany moments are fleeting so the next day I had back-to-back one-on-one coaching with each team member to more fully examine how she might apply her newfound understandings into concrete actions. Together we analyzed what each needed to do first to keep their new-found awareness, second how they might start with small steps to act on that consciousness and third, what would be good long-term goals for them to set their sights on as they strengthened their self-awareness leadership muscles. Most of them were particularly eager to envision clearly how they might apply what they’d gained in working environments that would not have this level of safety and support. Each of them will have a follow up discussion with me in early autumn so we can evaluate what more they’ve learned through their practice of remaining aware and behaving with intention rather than falling back on habits that may not serve them well. Based on where they are in that process, each will decide if she will continue to work towards her self-defined goals or instead course correct given possible deeper insights gained.
Please share your thoughts on the topics of self-awareness, authenticity and transformational leadership: I encourage you to include hyper-links to your work or other websites with interesting views of these themes. At the end of the summer I return to IMD to be their next Executive-in-Residence for at least a year. I look forward to receiving your ideas and feedback that I might incorporate into my research and presentations while there.
If you’re interested in reading more on self-awareness and leadership, see: Sage article, Understanding Leader Emotional Intelligence and Performance: The Role of Self-Other Agreement on Transformational Leadership Perceptions by John J. Sosik and Lara E. Megerian; Complex Acts of Knowing: Paradox and Descriptive Self-Awareness by Dave Snowden, first published in Journal of Knowledge Management; and the FP Executive Blog post, The Self-Awareness Journey to Leadership by Colleen McCormick.