In the self-analysis questions by the National College for School Leadership, it is apparent that there is not only a strong link between personal development and capacity for leadership, but there is a link between the quality of social relationships and leadership as well as a link between learning through experimentation and leadership. Personally, I am strong in some of these areas, and weak in others. Neglecting social relationship and network development, I often spend all of my time and energy on learning and personal development, which leaves me less than well-rounded.
Me as an Authentic Leader
Leadership skills are soft skills which can be developed (Fennell, n.d.). Tied directly to personal development (Westburn, n.d., p.9), beliefs and values, and self-actualization (Westburn, n.d., p.10). This is an interesting idea, because originality and self-actualization is directly tied to the ego. Development of the ego and nurturing that self-identity is opposed to the selflessness and ‘egolessness’ in Buddhist belief, where the ego is a part of the illusion that is separating people from nirvana, making people believe that they are actually individuals when in reality they are not. Assuming that Buddhism is incorrect and that we want to nurture our ego in order to become leaders, then we need to develop our ego in order to develop ourselves as original, authentic leaders. Mark Epstein proposes a middle way, which is a mixture of western belief and the Buddhist selfless idea that can be used as a bridge to say It’s okay to have ego, as long as we don’t take ourselves too seriously (Epstein, 2018). I believe that Epstein is incorrectly watering Buddhism down. Although I have a strong ego and sense of self, I realize it is a bad thing and that as part of my Buddhist beliefs that I should reduce my ego and focus less on myself and minimize my self-identity. In my leadership journey, though, leadership skills are directly tied to my self-development (Westburn, n.d., p.9).
From a 360° view of myself, I have a pretty accurate view of myself. I am an overachiever at work, constantly learning and gaining new certifications, and leading a successful team. My dreams and goals of the future are to move to the southwestern United States far away from people, travel a lot for work, and be a C-suite executive who works mainly remotely from my home via Zoom, Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, or whatever the current technology may be. I see myself as a talented engineer and an ambitious leader, destined for great things. There is a disparity between my public self and my private self in this dream. Publicly, I want to be a strong corporate leader who is known for developing good plans and strategies while always being positive. Privately, I know that I am an introvert and need distance from people. My image of myself is of an executive in a dry-cleaned, collared shirt and tie, organized and in control. My family sees this dream and is on-board with getting me there. They see how hard I work and want to realize this dream for me. In order to develop into this, they say that I need to develop my positivity. My colleagues say that I am already there, although I am too negative sometimes. My colleagues say that I need to develop an emotional steady-state, which I agree with. My colleagues also say that I tend to mouth off and react to certain stressful triggers poorly if I am exhausted. I have seen myself do that and regret it instantly.
I believe that others see me as a knowledgeable person with a lot of technical experience and some leadership skills. Others respect me and look up to me. My closest friends would describe my weaknesses as my lack of boundaries between home and work. Work leaks into home life and my private life leaks into work. This may not seem like a problem, but some parts of life are not professional and need to stay at home. My friends say that I make my biggest impact at work, where I am helping build an amazing company. Since my boundaries between work and home are blurred (or non-existent), there is no distinction between my personal and professional life. Talking to my family, they agree that this is a huge weakness, and they wish I had better boundaries. With work, my coworkers say that since my personal life leaks in to my professional life, I can often appear to give too much information and I appear unprofessional.
This exercise makes it clear that even though I often see myself as a well-developed person and a great leader, I have huge gaps in my armor that add risk to myself and my company. I need to shore up these weaknesses and become a more authentic leader by improving and developing myself. Although I am amazing at learning academic information or new skills, I have fallen short in personal development and I have let my boundaries drop and I often look unprofessional. Although I am very positive and I am constantly challenging myself, I am not well-rounded.
Regarding my learning agenda and tackling those gaps between my ideal and real self, I have a good idea of my current self and my future self. I have a good goal to strive for. My “values, hopes, personal, and professional practices,” though, are out of sync and misaligned (Westburn, n.d., p.30). I need to work hard to develop boundaries and professional communication at work so that I can have a better work life as well as a better home life. As a leader, I understand myself as a strong personality who leads, but I realize that I am not well-developed to lead. As a learner, I excel, but often do not put the effort into my personal growth. I love learning new things and new skills, but do not focus on my own personality and personal issues. To ensure deep, profound learning, I usually try to learn things from different angles. Listening, seeing, and doing new things with different people, for instance. I find that when I want to learn something, if I am moving (kinesthetic learner) while listening to someone teach me something in an audiobook, then listen to a different person teaching me the same information, I retain the information. Now, I need to apply it to my own personal growth.
My plan to bridge these gaps is to focus on developing healthy boundaries through practice, listening to audiobooks, watching YouTube videos, and discussing the issue with friends, family, and mentors. Listening to audiobooks on developing boundaries, then practicing being practical and setting actual boundaries in person is my plan.
In conclusion, I fall short of the ideal leader and I have a lot of personal growth and development to achieve in order to self-actualize and be an authentic leader. Where some days I think I am close to my goal, other days feel like I do not deserve the job at all. In the end, I need to improve a few core things, such as setting boundaries. It is a relief that it is something that I can work on immediately rather than waiting for some learning opportunity.
Epstein, Mark. (2018). Why your self-image might be wrong: Ego, Buddhism and Freud. Retrieved from https://bigthink.com/videos/mark-epstein-buddhism-freud-does-your-ego-need-to-die
Fennell, Andrew. (n.d.). Soft skills: Leadership Skills. Retrieved from https://advice.milkround.com/soft-skill-leadership-skills
Westburn, J & Ireson, J. (n.d.) Leadership Development & Personal Effectiveness. National College for School Leadership. Retrieved from https://my.uopeople.edu/pluginfile.php/923101/mod_book/chapter/244847/unit%202%20leadership-development-and-personal-effectiveness%20OPEN%20ACCESS.pdf