“Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always sceptical and tolerant.” HL Mencken, influential American writer
Leaders cannot lead others until they know how to lead themselves. Leadership ability hinges on self-awareness and self-mastery. You will need to know your assets, liabilities, how people perceive you, where your potential lies and what you can borrow from others to get you where you need to be. For some it may be really simple – they immediately know what their strengths are and can easily recognise and verbalise them. For others, they have to think a little harder.
One good way to start is to create what I call a personal balance sheet. It forms the basis of a personal business plan that extends into a brand plan. You can start with a simple conversation that you have with yourself, asking what your assets are. These need to include qualities such as sincerity, loyalty, courage, and skills and attributes such as financial knowledge, IT skills, good communication skills, delegation and time management.
Enlist the help of a colleague, someone who has worked with or for you. Ask how he or she sees you – your assets and liabilities. You may be surprised as often colleagues see your good points before you see them. We all have limitations and flaws, but we do not need to focus on them. We merely need to manage them, and change those that can be changed. We do have to accept who we are, what we have, and then make the most of it. Some of our inherent qualities are here to stay (like my impatience!). Accept them and work with them, or around them.
Now’s the time to look at what you’ve got and admit to what you’re not.
Together discuss your potential. This may be learning a third language, developing your emotional quotient, becoming more accessible to your team and a better listener. Sometimes colleagues may surprise you and make simple suggestions that you could benefit from – starting to dress smartly, or to stop interrupting when others are talking. They may not suggest that you enrol for a MBA. Remember, any business is evaluated not only on current assets and liabilities, but in its potential too. Where does most of the potential lie? In human and intellectual capital. Finally look at who can help you achieve success. Perhaps you need to expand your team, start to work with a mentor or executive coach or appoint a personal assistant (PA).
List all these comments under the headings of assets, liabilities, perceptions, potential and loans. This is your personal balance sheet. As a guideline for going forward and using your balance sheet, spend 75% of your time focusing on, and leveraging your assets. Spend just 20% managing your liabilities, and 5% of your time consciously doing things differently. We need consciously to train ourselves to focus on our positives, and to leverage them for good results. If you think back to school – being good at one subject was great – but teachers and parents often focused on that one subject that you struggled with. Sound familiar? It would have been far more productive to boost your confidence with the subjects you were excelling in, before trying to improve those that were more challenging.
Use your personal balance sheet as a living, working document. It should be evaluated at least quarterly; it should be used as the baseline for when you hire an additional member of your team. Ideally, this is done with the whole team, so that you can at a glance see the gaps and plans to fill them appropriately drawing off others’ strengths. It is the strong, well-balanced, confident leader who is brave enough to admit his flaws and appoint to his weaknesses.
Published November 2013