Leadership: Your Path To Leadership Effectiveness

Leadership effectiveness is hindered by having the wrong mindset, but get it right and you can transform your results. For example, do you believe that the personal and professional aspects of your life are separate and distinct from each other? I thought so for many years. I chose to focus my time and energy on professional improvement by enhancing my technical knowledge and skills, thinking this was my ticket to professional success. But I was wrong. Even though my competency in performing my job was improving, I was failing in every other area of my life. Specific problems that were sabotaging my success included the following:

  • A lack of knowledge about my innate characteristics caused me to invest significant time doing work that wasn’t a match for me. I was frustrated because the job duties didn’t align with my natural abilities. My work quality and enjoyment were low, and I was delivering subpar results to customers and coworkers.

  • When other people gave me constructive criticism, I would defend my position, insisting they were wrong. This harmed my ability to listen, learn and improve. Constructive criticism is a crucial element for improvement, but my defensiveness stifled my growth and discouraged others from making an effort to help me.

  • My lack of self-awareness kept me stuck in destructive habits, and ignoring what others were saying to me caused me to say and do things that alienated them. By being unaware and living in denial of ineffective patterns of thought and behavior, my professional development was halted.

  • I allowed my ego and emotions to drive my behavior and often regretted the resulting consequences. When strong emotions intervened, they took control of my actions. I found that acting out of anger, pride, jealousy and fear consistently led to poor results at work and fractured relationships in my life.

From these experiences, I learned a valuable lesson and it’s backed up by the experiences of others and by research. The most effective way to improve leadership effectiveness is to focus on personal development because those efforts enhance every area of our lives and give us a greater capacity to handle anything life throws at us.

Here’s what I consider to be the main areas of personal growth and why each is so important:

Identifying and developing innate talents to maximize productivity and effectiveness. It’s common not to realize your true, innate talents due to distorted perceptions about yourself and messages you receive from others. You often don’t use your gifts because you don’t know they exist. But when you recognize your talents and align your work with them, you are set up to succeed. It doesn’t make sense to grind away at a job that provides limited enjoyment or satisfaction. Also, your current age doesn’t need to be a deterrent to shifting careers. Many well-known successes have been documented about people who made career changes in their 50s, 60s and 70s. The same principles apply to all of us regardless of age.

Increasing awareness and acceptance of ourselves and others. This is often referred to as “emotional intelligence.” Everything starts with our self-awareness and acceptance. If we’re highly critical of ourselves, we’ll tend to remain unaware. This is because the human psychological system wants to protect us from the discomfort of self-criticism. We cannot intentionally change something unless we’re aware of it. For example, I have a habit of binge-eating junk food and it continues until I become self-aware of what’s causing me to do this. When I become aware and understand this happens when I’m feeling down, I can choose to consider options other than binge-eating.

The ability to manage our egos. This means putting desired outcomes ahead of emotional responses and impulses. This has been a real struggle for me. I grew up obsessed with how others viewed me and was overly sensitive to negative feedback regardless of the intent to help me. This led me to be hypersensitive to constructive criticism. As I’ve worked through this challenge, countless doors have opened for me.

Openly working on our weaknesses so they don’t become the limiting factors in our success. Everything starts with the willingness to be open and honest with ourselves. When we’re honest, we become more self-aware, and we can accept the support of others for feedback and accountability. Trying to hide our weaknesses doesn’t make sense, since they’re obvious to others anyway. That’s why developing the skill of being authentic and vulnerable is so crucial. People will connect with and respect you more when you’re willing to be vulnerable.

Research has shown that people connect more on vulnerabilities (courageous openness) rather than strengths. Think about it. Do you feel more connected and trusting with people who are real with you about their struggles, or with those who pretend they excel at everything and constantly tout their greatness?

When you consider each of these personal development areas, it becomes clear they are the same characteristics that lead to leadership success. In fact, leadership development and personal development are one and the same. A deficiency in any one of these areas can derail your career success.

The best part about making personal development the means to your leadership development growth is that every area of your life will improve as a result. It’s like two for the price of one and puts you in control of your quality of life.

Since I made personal development my No. 1 focus, I’ve achieved much greater success in my professional life with less stress and more job satisfaction. Based on my observations and those of others, this seems to be the general rule. My invitation is for you to consider which areas of your personal development need work and then consider taking small steps forward to maximize your potential and performance.  


Brad Wolff is a speaker specializing in leadership development to increase productivity, profitability and engagement, and is the author of People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. www.PeopleMaximizers.com, bwolff@peoplemaximizers.com

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Comments (1)
Samantha Brown
August 8, 2019
Brad, We can all get caught up in the daily grind if we don't have input of new perspective to remind us to look at things differently. I will be sure to share this piece with our teams. Thanks for taking the time to craft this piece. May the learning never stop...
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