Nadine B Hack at IMD in Lausanne SwitzerlandI 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.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Keith Merron June 28, 2010, 9:57 am

    Nadine: It’s wonderful you are focusing on self-awareness and authenticity. In my experience and research, they are crucial to remarkable leadership. If you and your readers are interested, see my book on the subject. It’s titled, The Golden Flame: The Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership. You can find it at the following url: http://remarkableleaders.com/products-page/ or purchase it at Amazon.com or your local bookstore.

    Reply
  • Pamela Hawley June 28, 2010, 6:03 pm

    Nadine, thank you for sharing with us about what sounds like a very inspiring conference! How wonderful to hear about women leaders in business who are continuing to grow…not only as leaders, but as people.

    I believe all good leadership starts with people. And we don’t turn that switch on and off at work. As we continue to interact with people in a principled manner, we then become more comfortable with leadership, and each new situation for growth it brings.

    You can’t lead many people until you learn to lead yourself interacting with one person. We start leading the minute we wake up each day.

    What is true for People Leadership, is then also true for Strategic Leadership. We have to put ourselves in multiple situations, again, again and again. I remember starting UniversalGiving. As a first time CEO, I had to shift from much internal operations and client relationships (still very important) to constantly watching the big picture and trends in our industry. At first I felt my mind was so crowded, full, trying to process and synthesize all the information. But bit by bit, it began to become natural. Now I don’t even think of it, and I love it. If I hadn’t pushed myself, I would have missed out on understanding Life in a whole new way. And I wouldn’t have been able to lead effectively either.

    We all have some qualities we are predisposed to. Sometimes we need to work and build these existing leadership qualities. Sometimes we need to branch out and encourage ourselves in new realms. But the leadership truth remains: We must continually grow and build in leadership…it is not a static process, or one with an end point.

    Thank you for an excellent article, and for encouraging us to take leadership to an entirely different level!

    Sincerely,
    Pamela Hawley
    Founder and CEO
    UniversalGiving™

    phawley@universalgiving.org
    http://www.universalgiving.org

    Living and Giving blog
    http://www.pamelahawley.wordpress.com

    Reply
  • Tom Schulte June 28, 2010, 10:42 pm

    Nadine,

    You are soooooo right on with your point on self-awareness as being the key starting point! Without knowing one’s “recipe” of strengths, struggles, values, preferences, and styles (etc.), one has no road map for really understanding how to best interact with others.

    When people have a good and healthy understanding of them self and can feel comfortable with their whole package, then they can more effectively see how they can best contribute to an effective team.

    I am so pleased that you are doing what you are doing!

    Keep up the God Work!

    Tom Schulte
    Atlanta, GA USA
    http://tinyurl.com/JoinL2LGroup

    .

    Reply
  • Debra DeBoise July 2, 2010, 6:33 am

    Great article, and so true the importance of “knowing one’s self” I have applied many small steps in my own life, to finally reaching that plateau of confidence and feeling comfortable with my inner being. Thanks for sharing…

    Reply
  • Sherry Roth July 30, 2010, 1:35 am

    Taking care of self is essential to the process of helping another. Although it may appear counterintuitive, putting on your oxygen mask before securing the oxygen mask of your child is something we are told when flying commercial airlines. There is a reason we are told this.
    Learning to recognize your own needs and understanding yourself is a journey making authenticity and integrity possible. Without this, leadership is possible; great leadership is heightened with self awareness.

    Reply
  • Susan Saiyorri from Kenya December 20, 2010, 9:19 am

    I was in the above class that Nadine describes well where self awareness becomes bitter sweet.
    Bitter in that you discover a part of you that you never thought was there a part that you do not like…sweet in that there is a new dawn and that you are empowered to know that you can change what you don’t like about yourself without feeling ashamed of yourself.
    For me it was a life changing journey for I was able to know more about myself in 4 days than I have known for 40 years.

    Thanks Nadine,thanks Ginka and thanks to everyone involved in making me.

    Reply
  • Rebecca Walker December 25, 2010, 5:50 pm

    Nadine–

    Thank you for the powerful work you are doing. Your spirit, integrity and commitment leap from the screen and encourage me to continue to deepen my understanding of my role as a leader on this earth at this time. I hope to participate in a session of this kind with you at the right moment, when all the forces align. Until then I read your words and continue to do my work–personal and political, private and public, assessing outcomes critically along the way.

    All best,
    Rebecca

    Reply
  • Rebecca Walker December 25, 2010, 5:50 pm

    Nadine–

    Thank you for the powerful work you are doing. Your spirit, integrity and commitment leap from the screen and encourage me to continue to deepen my understanding of my role as a leader on this earth at this time. I hope to participate in a session of this kind with you at the right moment, when all the forces align. Until then I read your words and continue to do my work–personal and political, private and public, assessing outcomes critically along the way.

    All best,
    Rebecca

    Reply

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