Q: What is the role of the person in a leader's effectiveness?
A: Leaders have a huge impact on all their followers, yet don't always pay attention to or understand their impact. The leader's role is both an authority role and a service role, and the interpretation is often skewed by followers' biases. Many leaders also don't operate with clear intention.
The first major step for any role involving impact on others is for the leader to understand themselves and their role to create their intention in executing what they choose to do and what outcomes they desire. Choices are directly related to our intention. Seeing behavioral options and being able to execute them are the path into making choices. Our intentions, motivations and values are also key in how we make choices related to our behavior.
Leaders deal with a variety of tasks, responsibilities and situations, most of which impact others. What the leader does may move people in the right direction or cause them to move away. It might inspire or alienate. In interaction with others (followers, peers, bosses) a leader shows up with who they are as a person with certain intentions, knowledge, skills, motivations, concerns and feelings. This is the human side of the leader and involves their use of self.
Self-awareness is always a starting point because we have many "selves" that can show up consciously or unconsciously. Our whole self is always with us; the more we know about ourselves helps us to make intentions and appropriate choices. Our strengths and less developed areas are also critical in how we choose to behave in different situations.
We also all have identities, biases and trigger points that we need to be aware of and manage appropriately. What we are unaware of can derail our intentions, and not using our strengths well can produce undesired outcomes. More importantly, how consciously we pay attention and manage our use of self against desired intentions can determine favorable outcomes in executing our role, or leave us repeating habitual behavior patterns that do not accomplish our hopes and desires.
Use of self is how we show up, behave and execute as a leader and can be very critical in the equation of what makes us effective and successful.
David W. Jamieson is a professor of organization development at the University of St Thomas Opus College of Business.