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Leadership Self-Development Journey
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you.
You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
- James Allen
CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE: Only by making good heart and mind connections with people can the leader hope to influence them to co-operate enthusiastically.
SELF-DISCIPLINE: The leader's self-discipline sets the standard and example for others without which consistent performance is not possible.
VISIONARY THINKING: The mental picture of a desired destination, big or small, sparks focused activities and worthwhile endeavours, which is why leaders' first task is to imagine the ideal future.
SELF-CONFIDENCE: To lead requires the confidence to take the first step and have others follow you.
LIFE-BALANCE/RESILIENCE: To sustain his energy and ability to focus, and to set a credible example, a leader needs to have good balance between the different areas of his life and model resilience.
BUILDING TRUST: By being honest, open and consistent and by showing the willingness to trust the team, the leader lays a strong team foundation for the good, but especially bad times.
SELF-MOTIVATION: The leader motivates himself with his personal vision, passion, potential and moral convictions.
CULTURAL AWARENESS: In an age of globalisation and culturally diverse workplaces, sensitivity for differences is critical to the leader's success in mobilising people as a community.
SELF-AWARENESS: Self-awareness opens the door to effective communication and the leader's ability to relate to others.
STRATEGIC THINKING: With the vision or goal in mind, leaders accept responsibility for the most effective way to achieve the vision or goal.
PASSION: The leader does not only have to have a strong sense of responsibility, but passion for the cause.
TECHNOLOGY AWARENESS: Understanding the potential positive and negative effects of technology in the organisation enables the leader to balance human interests with efficiency.
TREND/SYSTEMS AWARENESS: A big-picture view to spot trends early on and an understanding of the influences of systems and their relationships is needed for the strategic direction that the leader must give.
CREATIVITY/INNOVATION: Since leaders focus on potential and imagine the future to be different, they demonstrate and encourage innovative and creative thinking.
LEADERSHIP STYLE: Different situations require different leadership styles to be effective. Good leaders are flexible and versatile in their style.
RECOGNITION: Leaders recognise people privately and publicly out of real appreciation for their contributions as well as personal qualities.
DECISION MAKING: With firm and apt individual decision making together with skilful facilitation of team decisions the leader ensures momentum and backing for the direction taken.
ORGANISATIONAL AWARENESS: Sufficient awareness of different aspects of the organisation, such as the reason for its existence, the history, structure and culture, enables the leader to align himself and his team effectively.
PERSEVERANCE: Leadership disappears when we give up and emerges when we choose to persevere when others would have given up.
ADAPTABILITY: Effective leadership is more a consequence of the leader's ability to adapt well to changes than a consequence of his knowledge or experience.
BUILDING SUPPORT: A leader must be able to build support for his ideas and direction or else fail as a leader.
BUILDING TEAM: It is in the development and performance of the team that the leader's effectiveness can be seen.
HONESTY/INTEGRITY: The leader is credible and ethical to the extent that his beliefs, values, attitude and behaviour forms an integrated whole.
AUTHENTICITY: A leader cannot help others unless he shares himself openly and honestly.
SELF-INITIATIVE: To be a leader is to take the initiative to make a positive difference.
CHARACTER: Leadership involves many tests of courage, resilience and morality which make strong character indispensable.
SELF-REGARD: Positive self-regard is necessary for a leader in order to accept criticism, learn from it and continue leading with confidence.
COMMUNICATION: The leader's ability and commitment to communicate with clarity and appropriateness is essential to his leadership effectiveness.
BEING SERVANT: By choosing to serve and not boss the team, the leader builds them up and collectively they grow to become better leaders in service of the organisation.
EMPOWER: The more empowered and free people feel, the more they give to the cause. Rather than trying to control, leaders show trust in people's inherent capabilities.
INSPIRING HOPE: Nothing is as damaging to an organisation as the negative attitudes of its people. It is the leader's uppermost responsibility to inspire hope and create a positive climate.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS: Leadership is by definition action in the context of relationships. To ignore relationships contradicts leadership whereas building them enhances teamwork.

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Trend/systems awareness
Organisational awareness
Visionary thinking
Strategic thinking
Cultural awareness
Technology awareness


Connecting with people
Building relationships
Being servant
Building support
Building team
Building trust
Leadership style
Decision making
Inspiring hope


Intent And Urgency In Leadership

In this life of mad activity and high levels of stress it can be seen as dangerous and unwise to call for urgency. However, excellence and effective leadership is not achievable without a good sense of urgency. Of course, no-one needs more fruitless activity. What we do need is urgency in leadership.

Too often does one find that managers get worked up about the demands of the customer, operational tasks, project deadlines, the boss's or shareholders' expectations, the competition's latest moves and many other typical considerations, but they drag their feet when it comes to leadership. Working on their personal vision for their area of responsibility, consulting key people about the vision, giving new direction, planning and facilitating meetings for optimum engagement of team members and building of the team, setting up one-on-one meetings for feedback and executing plans to develop team members are things that can wait for another day. More often than not these things remain only good ideas and intentions. They never become a matter of urgency.

Some people rationalise about their leadership responsibility with thoughts such as: it is a waste of time; it is not work; other people need to take responsibility for themselves; this is not what I was trained for; I have a job to do; it is for higher level management to do; the time is not right.

The truth is that the lack of leadership actions leads to low levels of collaboration, shared purpose and focus, commitment and general effectiveness. The cost is huge in terms of time spent to correct wrong perceptions, miscommunications, uncoordinated work and poor application due to low motivation. The truth is that people with those views and lack of urgency in leadership never get to develop beyond their functional, technical or managerial expertise. They become a lid to the potential of their own and others' collective efforts and growth.

Controlled urgency

Once the leader interacts with others with intent and urgency in his leadership, it is infectious. It stimulates energy and movement. However, misplaced urgency can be very demotivating and counterproductive. If in the leader's communication everything seems to be equally urgent the potential positive effect is lost. If the leader's urgency is experienced as inauthentic a lot of damage will be done. Pretending his message is urgent in the interest of the organisation the truth might be that it is driven by personal interests or ambitions. Urgency should also not be driven by fear, but by inner conviction. In time people are perceptive enough to 'read' the leader's sense of urgency and where it comes from.

As with so many dimensions of leadership, the art is how to deal with two paradoxical but equally important approaches. Urgency in leadership does not translate to impatience where others can sense the leader's frustration, or worse, irritation. The leader needs to demonstrate urgency in his leadership and be willing to be patient when it comes to the effects of his leadership actions. There has to be urgency in doing what is right, patience in the expectation of results. Urgency in the empowerment of others, patience in the act of doing so.


Mixed signals of what the leader sees as urgent is also counterproductive. Urgency in leadership is not compulsive or an emotional reaction to pressure. It is about commitment and application in the areas that will ensure sustainable effectiveness. Enthusiasm for new technology, new products, the promise of an acquisition or bonusses when targets are met can easily overshadow the more important commitments for building the organisation for the long haul.

Fuel your passion

We are only human and personal dissapointments, disruptions and all kinds of adversities impact on the levels of our energy and entusiasm for what we do from day to day. From time to time we can even be in the situation where the next challenge is not that obvious. We become complacent. Work, as we see it from day to day, has become boring. The problem is not only the lack of urgency we have, it is the lack of desire and passion.

Even as our energy is deserting us, in fact more so then as in other times, we need to see the urgency of refueling our passion. It is time for 'timeout'. Time to break away from the usual routines and make new discoveries. Of course one has to take some risks. Of course one has to enter the unknown. Else, how can there be new discoveries? The more important and transforming risks will be the risks we take in our thinking. But often we need a different experience to stimulate different thinking.

For reflection

We therefore need to face some tough questions and face them courageously.

  • Have you made the commitment to your leadership responsibility over and above your functional or role responsibilities?
  • Have you worked out what such a commitment means in practice?
  • Do you procrastinate the actions you know you need to take as a leader?
  • Are you consistent in the energy and passion you show in your leadership?
  • Is it time to prioritise refueling your passion for and purpose in life?

Let us be reminded by Leonardo da Vinci's observation:

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

- Gerhard van Rensburg


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