Leadership is Personal

by | Aug 10, 2017 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

At Executive Impact, our team has coached and trained hundreds of leaders over the last few years and have experienced quite a few “adventures” along the way.  A recent story came to mind that prompted this article.

We were recently called in by one of our local manufacturing clients to coach one of their leaders. The coaching program was designed to elevate the leader’s mastery of key leadership competencies and equip him to be more effective in his role with his team.

The program was launched and, after only one session and one item for ‘homework’, the leader went back to the internal HR Manager to ask to be removed from the coaching program. When the HR Manager asked why he wanted to be removed from the program, his reply was “This coaching is too personal.” The HR Manager responded, “Leadership IS personal.”

She couldn’t have stated a more accurate truth: Leadership is personal. It is actually VERY personal.

Having over 25 years experience in business, with over 10 years of that time working inside a corporate environment, I was “brought up” in the era of business where we were told as leaders:

  •  “Check your personal life at the door.”
  •  “Remember this is business, it’s nothing personal.”
  •  “This is about the numbers and results.”

While there is a great deal of value in focusing on results, achieving outstanding business performance and being objective in making great business decisions, leaders who still operate with this “command-and-control” type of leadership style are struggling to remain effective in today’s workplace.

As leaders today, we are faced with much greater business complexity ~ the need to innovate and adapt to change significantly faster than in the past, to “do more with less,” to succeed in a global marketplace and to lead a changing workforce here locally that is comprised of almost 40% millennials. This business complexity requires us as leaders to adapt ~ and that includes adapting how we lead. Trust me when I say: learning to adapt how we lead gets really personal.

Adapting as a leader to meet the demands of business requires us to ask ourselves some challenging questions:

  •   “Who am I as a leader?”
  •   “What leadership legacy am I leaving behind?”
  •   “What impact am I having on my team and the organization?”
  •   “Do I inspire and motivate others to greater success”?
  •   “Have I cast a clear vision for the future?”
  •   “Where am I hindering business results?”
  •   “Have I created silos or barriers in communication?”
  •   “How will I navigate this increasing business complexity?”
  •   “Am I modeling a coach-approach to leadership?”
  •   “Do I hold myself and others fully accountable?”
  •   “Am I a positive example of work-life balance for my team?”

Answering these questions and, even more importantly growing as a leader to make the answers what we want them to be, gets really personal.

Our experience in growing ourselves AND our clients in the area of leadership has taught us that who we are personally as individuals, our natural wiring “under-the-hood” and how we play our “inner game” directly influences how we show up as leaders. Our ability to inspire, engage, motivate, influence, innovate and achieve comes from a much deeper, more personal place, than traditional head knowledge about business.

I love what John Maxwell teaches in his principle of “The Law of the Lid”, and we believe it further amplifies the idea that leadership is personal. To summarize some key points, the law of the lid teaches:

  • Leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness.
  • Personal and organizational effectiveness are proportional to your strength of leadership.
  • The relationship between leadership and effectiveness is evident in sports as well as in business. Talented athletes with poor coaches are not usually winning teams. To change the effectiveness of the team, lift up the leadership of the coach. That’s the Law of the Lid.
  • Likewise, to change the effectiveness of the business team or organization, lift up the leadership ability of the leader.

And the only way to lift the lid, is to get personal about who we are as leaders. It requires us to be open, vulnerable and, yes, very courageous. 

Some leaders, as was the case in the story I shared earlier, aren’t willing to “go there.” They don’t believe leadership is personal or should be personal. And, as a result, they become the lid for their teams.

Other leaders HAVE been willing to “go there”. We’ve seen them embrace the idea that leadership IS personal and that the command-and-control approach of the past won’t get them where they need to go in the future. They have chosen to lift the lid of their own leadership. And, as a result, their growth has been transformational for them as individuals and for their teams.

As a leader, what will you choose? Are you willing to “go there”? Will you lift the lid of YOUR leadership? It most certainly requires courage, I assure you. But the results you’ll experience will also be transformational ~ for you as an individual AND for your team.

Alissa DeWitt is the Founder/CEO & Executive Coach of Executive Impact, a west Tennessee based organizational development firm and State of Tennessee Certified Business focused on helping organizations increase their ‘culture capital’ by developing leaders and building high performance leadership teams.