Photo by Petri Heiskanen on Unsplash

“For leaders, the first task in management has nothing to do with leading others; step one poses the challenge of knowing and managing oneself.” Daniel Goleman.

I agree. First lead yourself. Identify and value your inner resources and understand how you might not be playing your game. If you lead with and from that knowledge, you’ll lead others better.

Your inner resources are your strengths, values, passion and purpose. They constitute your unique building blocks, your key internal resources. This is about your ‘BEing’. It gives you great insight on what makes you tick, on your intrinsic motivation.

Another crucial aspect is understanding how your negative thoughts influence your BEing’. We all have that unhelpful self-talk which slows us down, in our actions, our professional and personal growth. Everyone has those self-sabotaging voices:

  • If I don’t do this, it will never get done.
  • Success comes from achievement at all costs!
  • I do this to help because I care about people.
  • Unless I constantly point out what’s wrong, nothing will improve.
  • Why would anyone be interested in my story? 😉

Recently a very talented client, Ana brought up an issue she has with one of her team members, Luka: he is not motivated, he doesn’t go for the kill, he doesn’t do things correctly. She was in full saboteur mode. Pointing this out to her, she came to realise she was indeed not helping Luka as she was imposing her own way of doing and being. With that insight, she asked: So what’s Luka’s saboteur saying? How can I help him recognise his saboteurs? 

Great question. Luka most certainly has his own saboteurs. But before going there she really has another muscle to develop: recognising her own saboteur. 

Through our work she had dived deeper into her intrinsic motivations, talents and values. As she is owning them increasingly, she is starting to see the greatness in her team members too. But at times, like that day, her saboteurs fog her vision. She is a confident, action-oriented, decisive leader who loves to challenge herself and others. When those strengths are overused, she gets into saboteur mode and forgets that not everyone connects through challenges or is wired like her. 

And this is what happened with Luka. She gave him a project which was a challenge he might not have felt ready for or not intrinsically motivated for. He resisted, resented – and didn’t get down to the project. She took charge, felt the need to control and dominate; in full saboteur mode. Imagine the time and energy they both lost. 

Ana needed to recognise her saboteurs to be able to question her approach. This allows her to redirect her energy bit by bit. She got curious about Luka and other team members and learned to call upon their intrinsic motivations and with time, she’ll recognise their saboteurs too.

The more you grow aware of who you are and how your thoughts influence your behaviour and communication, the easier it becomes to see the greatness of others and how they hold themselves back or shoot themselves in the foot. This is of course by no means a linear process (first know yourself, and only then…) nor one with a clear destination. However the greater your own understanding of yourself, the easier you’ll lead others.