How’s your leadership? The self audit

My inspiration for this article is a Twitter conversation with Dr. Deepak Malhotra‏ (@HeadHR_Deepak) after last week’s Power-of-Connection chat session. (#PoCChat takes place on Mondays at 15:00 GMT, and I’d love to have you join us.)

Dr. Malhotra encouraged us to perform self-audits to help us become more effective as leaders. He provided the following outline; I’ve filled in each step with my own thoughts.

Man looking at himself in a mirror

Image credit: What Shih Said (WordPress: whatshihsaid.com/)

What leaders do I admire?

Write down the names of four or five leaders you admire. They can be famous or obscure, historical, contemporary, or even fictional. They can be people in charge of large organizations or people who simply lead by example. They can be Abraham Lincoln or your first boss. Warren Buffet or Captain Kirk.

It’s best if at least a couple of your choices are people you know and who have influenced you directly. In any case, all of your choices should be people whose leadership styles you know well.

What attributes do I admire in those leaders?

Now that you know which leaders you admire, it’s time to figure out what it is about them that you admire. It’s like asking What makes these leaders effective? But it’s more personal. Leaders can be effective in ways you appreciate but don’t admire or even approve of.

You’re looking specifically for attributes you hold in high regard, and your list will be yours alone. Maybe you admire charisma, or compassion, or strength of character. You should be able to explain, in a sentence or two, why you admire each of the attributes you pick.

Which of those attributes do I want to emulate?

Narrow it down even further: out of the attributes you admire, which ones do you think you’re capable of pulling off?

I worked with an executive who had military-style self discipline: always dressed impeccably, shoes shined, every hair in place. It gave him an air of authority, and I admired him for it. But it was completely not my style.

Other attributes, no matter how admirable, come with a cost. For example, if you resolve to be honest at all times, no matter what, sooner or later you’ll make somebody mad. You might encounter resistance. Ask yourself if it’s worth the cost.

By now you should have a fairly short list of attributes, maybe three or four, that you admire and are willing to develop. If you’re list of attributes is longer, you’ll find it hard to stay focused as you seek to grow as a leader.

How am I doing?

Now that you have a list, measure your performance in each area. Don’t compare yourself to the leaders you admire — that’s an awfully high bar. Instead, decide what level you’re capable of reaching, and measure yourself against that standard.

If honesty is one of the attributes you chose to develop, think back over the last few weeks. Was there a time when honesty was called for, and you demurred? What happened? What thoughts and emotions led you to react the way you did?

If I’m falling short in any area, why? What can I do to improve?

You’ll probably find that you’re already strong in some of the areas you’ve decided to emulate. Many of us admire in others the same characteristics we see in ourselves.

There’ll be other areas, however, where you’re falling short. When you needed to be honest but you weren’t, how could you have handled the situation better? When a similar situation arises again, what might you try doing differently — or what can you say to yourself — to bring about a better result?

Going forward

I’m looking forward to diving more deeply into this. I think it’s going to be fun: recalling leaders who’ve changed my life for the better, and finding attributes in them that I can aspire to.

Dr. Malhotra, if you’re reading this, I hope I’ve faithfully captured the essence of what you meant when you described the self audit.

Everyone: Do you perform self audits of your leadership? If so, what techniques have you found helpful?

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5 thoughts on “How’s your leadership? The self audit

  1. Marcia Riefer Johnston

    Larry, Thanks for the thought-provoking questions. I see a lot of value in the kind of self-auditing you describe here.

    As a supplement to asking ourselves questions like those you list above, I recommend asking similar questions of others to get perspective on how they see us. We did this in the four-month Landmark Worldwide “Self-Expression and Leadership” course that I just completed. People in this course called someone every week, anyone we chose—a boss, a family member, a colleague, a friend, a neighbor—and asked for answers to questions like these: What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What does everyone know about me? What can I be counted on to do? What can I be counted on not to do?

    If you’re already auditing yourself, asking the kind of questions suggested in this post (including How am I doing? and What can I do to improve?), why not reach out and get others’ input, too? I found asking for others’ feedback—facing the fear of what I might hear, being open to whatever people had to say—empowering, surprisingly fun, and helpful toward the goal of creating myself as the leader and human being I want to be.

    Reply
    1. Larry Kunz Post author

      Hi, Marcia. Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, getting feedback from a trusted friend or colleague is a marvelous way to take stock and make sure that you have a true picture of that person in the mirror.

      Reply
  2. juliovaz

    Interesting article, Larry. I’ll have to take some time doing this assessment before starting my new assignment.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: How’s your leadership? The self audit – Technical Writing World

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