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7 Questions All Leaders Should Ask Themselves

August 2015

Leaders today are being encouraged to have regular conversations with themselves in order to lead with greater authenticity and credibility. Asking questions of oneself is a useful tool to deepen self-awareness, increase satisfaction and accelerate not only your success but ultimately the development of your team.


1. What Kind of Leader Am I?

What motivates you to lead? Many people at the top are so busy going with the flow that they fail to check and recheck what drives them to lead.  Are your motives selfish or altruistic? Neither is necessarily better than the other. Selfish motives can often equate with better financial success, an altruistic approach can mean happy, motivated staff and a healthier organisational environment. However, nothing is set in stone. But by being aware of what motivates you, it can help you push forward when times are tough. Good leaders are acutely aware of the things that fuel their personal motivation and use that knowledge to their benefit.  


2. Am I The General, The Coach or The Visionary?

Leadership style is not prescriptive and what works for one person may not work for another. Though, as Kenneth Blanchard author of best-selling guide The One Minute Manager says: “the key to successful leadership today is influence not authority.” He touches on the zeitgeist that leadership is about your positive influence rather than the power or authority you exert on your team. He says people should be able to choose whether or not they accept your leadership, rather than it being forced upon them. Whatever their style, successful business leaders and entrepreneurs need to keep asking themselves whether their style of leadership is optimal for the organisation they are leading. In fact, the leader needs to check they have something worth giving.


3. Did I Help Someone Else Succeed Today?

Good leaders focus on the success of those around them as well as their own personal achievements. Aim to help others succeed or provide them with the opportunities. The grand gestures are nice but it could be something as simple such as spending 10-15 minutes with an employee discussing their performance and progress. This they will remember. Building the strength of those working for you will ultimately enhance your organisation.


4. What Can I Let Go Of?

You’re setting yourself up for failure if you take on too much. Those at the top often feel they need to be directly involved in day-to-day operations and every micro decision. Part of being a leader is being able to recruit and delegate effectively and trusting them to get on with the job. If an employee feels you’re constantly monitoring them this can erode their feeling of empowerment and ability to do the job. Instead allow your employees to shoulder some of the burden. This not only means that progress will occur faster but by sharing the responsibility, you'll build a more collaborative company culture.


5. Can I Show Vulnerability?

The myth of vulnerability is the perception that it’s a sign of weakness. How will your staff view you if you reveal that you may not have all the answers? Some of leadership’s front-running thought leaders advise that rather than see it as a weakness, it’s about learning to manage your exposure. You can’t opt out of uncertainty and risk so good leadership is knowing how to harness that risk. View this process as vulnerability minus boundaries. A mature leader can reach out to their team and say “I can’t do this alone, I’m going to need your input” – this can be a very powerful marker. Even leaders need someone to talk to during a crisis, so seeking out a mentor or confidante is a great way to diffuse and make sense of your thoughts before finding a way forward and leading your organisation back to calmer waters.  


6. What Legacy Do I Want To Leave Behind?

For many, leaving a legacy is associated with the end rather than the beginning of their leadership career.   However, your leadership is not defined at the end of the road but rather by the moments shared, the decisions made, the actions taken, and even the mistakes overcome throughout the journey.  The best leadership legacies are a consequence of success coming to those who are surrounded by people that want their success to continue.   When you can inspire those around you to take a leap of faith, you are creating a legacy defining moment in your career. 

So, how to achieve this?

Self-check each day. Were you happy with the way you conducted yourself today? Remember that your character is important, so govern your reactions to events to develop the character you'd like to have. You're only partially born with the qualities that make up your character, the rest you develop as you encounter your experiences, failures and successes.


 7. How’s My Family Doing?

You’re a leader of more than just a team at work. You’re also part of a family team at home. Good leaders know they cannot ignore their families whilst leading others. Failing to nurture your home life means you fail to lead well at work. An unhappy family dynamic not only causes family relationships to potentially fail but can have a knock-on effect back in the office. Bringing your family into the equation also shows humanity to your team. Because as they say, business isn’t only about the end-of-year balance sheet, it is also about relationships. 

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