Unlocking the Leader Inside You

“I know that in everyone there is greatness, but most people don’t realize how quickly life passes them by.” (Comment by Adrian Gore in a personal interview with Adriaan Groenewald).

Knowing ‘Me’

We learn from many leaders that the foundation of a confident leader is self knowledge.

Shakespeare said: “Know thyself and to thine own self be true”. From experience we realize that an essential element of the process to get to know our self is the courage to deliberately face our weaknesses and negative expectations. Only then can we more fully appreciate and value our basic strengths. When we jump to consideration of our strengths without looking honestly at our weaknesses, we tend to miss a vital step in building the kind of confidence that lasts under pressure.

Knowing the ‘Leadership Me’

The leadership journey is based on knowledge of self (Me), and then evolves into knowledge of the ‘Leadership Me’ that is a journey in its own right. An awareness of ‘Leadership Me’ tends to bring out the best in us because we become aware of being accountable to others and to universal values, not only our self. We move from the selfish me to We awareness. The Leadership Me is a multiplication of the personal Me. In general our backgrounds and training are not always geared to make the cross over from the personal Me to the Leadership Me. That is why we all need to embark on a leadership journey which is a life long process.

Personal leadership conversations

Over the years we at Leadership Platform have had hundreds of personal leadership conversations for training as well research purposes. Personal leadership conversations are more than coaching and mentoring sessions. They are geared to be personal and adapt to the needs and talents of the leader concerned. Personal leadership conversations are a superb state of the art methodology to build leadership fitness and confidence.

We would like to share a few unique experiences gained in personal leadership conversations recently.

 A new South African story

Henk (not his correct name) is a mine overseer (mine captain) in a large gold mine group. He is responsible for a few hundred mine workers in a tough and even dangerous working environment. We city dwellers may battle with the concept of working in our world famous deep mines! Henk has been a miner for many years. He was a provincial rugby player, a real traditional Afrikaner in many ways. Because of his experience as a mine overseer, he was assigned to supervise one of the first women to work in a gold mine. For various reasons he was not very happy about the assignment. She was black, she was different, she was a woman working in a tough physical environment that was traditionally operated by men only. He told me that he gave her a tough time and drove her hard in order to live up to the stringent standards of safety and performance required in a gold mine. Eventually she could not take it any more and asked him why he was driving her so hard, more than the men around her. Henk asked her if she wanted to achieve management status. She said that this was her dream. He told her that he was driving her hard because she obviously wanted to succeed and the others in the team were not really interested. She subsequently became a shift boss and later on a mine overseer. On the social occasion that followed her promotion to mine overseer she was asked to address the senior group in attendance. After the function, Henk received the following email:

“We had our annual presentations on Friday. Prudence (name changed) paid a lot of tribute to your influence on her career and life. She said that she hated you in the beginning and didn’t like your firmness and the way you treated her.  But over time she realized that what you are doing is right. She has a very high admiration for you. Thanks for your influence on young employees lives. This is the type of thing that people will always remember, and in her case, she will never forget you”.

It was signed by the Chief Operating Officer of the group.  Henk considers this to be one of the great experiences of his career.

The Henk story is evidence that people do change in spite of social, racial and economic prejudices. Often pressure situations tend to bring out the best in us.

Moving a challenging situation

In personal leadership conversations we often have the privilege of sharing universal principles and behavioural models that really make a difference to what seem to be ‘impossible situations’. Recently one of the managers I meet on a monthly basis was going through a traumatic time after having a serious confrontation with his boss. The situation has racial undertones that threaten to turn it into a career threatening problem. A matter of moral principle was involved and it seemed impossible to resolve the situation without the manager having to sacrifice a principle that he believes in passionately. We analyzed the various elements of the situation together and found that we could discern between what was really principle and what was simply a confusion of perceptions that caused emotional stress. It was an inspirational experience to see how this young leader was prepared to travel the leadership journey with courage, humility and tenacity. The application of universal principles of movement and governance makes a real difference to our leadership confidence and performance!

Taking ownership is personal

Personal leadership conversations (as opposed to normal structured training) as a leadership development tool proves to be invaluable in helping leaders at all levels to take ownership of universal principles that boost their confidence as leaders. Bear in mind that attitudinal changes and taking ownership in general takes place on a personal level. We may often be influenced by motivational ideas expressed in open meetings and by inspirational words in articles and books. But actual change of behaviour is a personal experience, no matter how this may be triggered.

Personal leadership conversations can be a valuable tool, especially when backed by extensive leadership development research and experience. The objective of these sessions is to support the leader in his or her personal leadership journey, to develop confidence in his or her own leadership style and to master universal processes that build leadership confidence to move barriers to potential.

To ‘tell’ somebody to improve performance is only a part of the process that is needed to actually bring about ownership and passion to perform. The process should include in some form or other assistance on a personal basis to work though the emotional as well as mental elements of behavioural change. Generally leaders are far to busy in the modern work place to invest quality time in sharing the personal leadership journey of those who report to us. We all have need of personal support in the leadership journey to maintain leadership fitness in the rapidly evolving challenges of our environment.

This article appeared in the:

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on adriaan@leadershipplatform.com for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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