When most people think about leadership, they imagine a person standing at the front of the ship in charge of steering the boat—the captain. In the corporate world, we think of the captain as the CEO. The captain plays a vital role in setting the strategic vision of the company and in leading the crew. However, to turn this vision into a reality, the captain needs a crew who they can trust to execute on the vision. In this sense, the crew is equally important to organizational success, and that's why all levels of employees must strive to be strong self-leaders.
The Importance of Self-Leadership
Self-leadership is actively developing a confident sense of who you are, taking ownership of what you do, and being intentional about where you are going. It's a crucial skill that all employees should strive towards, beginning with your individual contributors. Of course, managers, directors, and C-Suite level individuals should already possess this skill, and it should be constantly evaluated and improved.
Self-leaders are a critical part of your organization for two reasons:
- Traditional "leaders" can not be truly successful at managing or leading others until they can effectively manage and lead themselves.
- An organization's vision is only as impactful as the execution of the vision. Therefore, organizations need capable and motivated individuals to carry out the vision of the executive team.
Self-leadership helps improve both of the above, because when employees possess these skills, they are more likely to:
- Achieve their goals and fulfill the responsibilities of their role
- Productively respond to tough situations
- Demonstrate accountability and confidence
- Work more creatively and productively
- Be intentionally aware of their emotions and behaviors
- Communicate effectively and forge stronger relationships
Ultimately, individuals with strong self-leadership skills can make greater contributions, a more significant impact, and reach higher levels of productivity for your organization. Here are three ways you can get the most our of your individual contributors by increasing their self-leadership skills.
1. Pair Technical Skills with People Skills
First, a strong self-leader can make a greater contribution to the organization by pairing strong technical skills with strong people skills. This means giving employees the tools to increase their EQ, and the tangible skills they need to succeed in their role—both of which are fundamental to an individual contributor's success. On-the-job training or assigning an industry mentor to your employees is a great way to increase their technical abilities. To increase EQ, you can help the employee understand their behaviors or reactions more objectively through honest conversations, the use of workplace assessments, or providing the opportunity to participate in development programs to drive their awareness into action.
2. Leverage Competitive Advantages
Second, a strong self-leader knows and acts on their workplace competitive advantages. By having an awareness of their strengths and the areas where they provide the greatest value, they can magnify their impact. This helps the organization know what they can count on each individual for and where they will be able to make the biggest impact. When individual contributors own their talents, they can contribute more intentionally and work toward strengthening these strengths even more. Help your employees recognize their talents by acknowledging where they bring a different skill set or perspective to your team and the unique value they provide. Then, it will help them see how they can use these strengths in other situations or projects.
3. Effectively Manage Stress
Third, by better managing stress in tough situations, self-leaders can be more productive more often. It makes a big difference if an employee is productive 5/5 days of the week than 4/5 days of the week. If one day every week an employee is feeling stressed, frustrated, or burnout, you are losing 20% of the individual's productivity. Even if you have a highly skilled expert on your team, these talents will go to waste if their inability to manage their emotions or reactions gets in the way of productive communication and collaboration.
No matter how talented your individuals are in their area of expertise, they will struggle to transform knowledge into value across your organization without critical self-leadership skills. Birkman can help individual contributors improve performance and productivity through increased self-awareness and more intentional self-management. Invest in your independent contributors and high-potentials early on in their careers to make a more significant impact. Let's connect.
About the Author | Torri Olanski
As an elite athlete for many years, Torri (literally) dove into the world of sports psychology at a young age, which sparked her interest for personal development and coaching. Her creative interests later led her to pursue a degree in Entrepreneurship and Marketing at the University of Houston's Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. Here, she took her first Birkman assessment and has been analyzing it ever since. Today she is the Content and Innovation Manager at Birkman and is very passionate about celebrating the diversity of personality. A proud Canadian, Torri enjoys travelling to the great white north to spend time with her friends and family.