Leadership: Three Ways to be Effective

The first level of leadership is being able to lead yourself. This includes three important attributes:


1.      Self-awareness

2.      Confidence

3.      Stress management


1. Self-Awareness


This means being aware of how we feel and what we understand in relation to other people. For example, a staff member is very angry about their treatment  by a supplier. If we are not consciously aware of our own anger we may react over negatively to the supplier’s behaviour, and inadvertently give the staff member the message that it is appropriate to be aggressive with the supplier. If the supplier is critical to the business operations then our lack of awareness could have a major negative impact on the business.


Research suggests we have three responses to danger: Flight, fight or freeze. These reactions are built into the primitive parts of our brain. When we are threatened the primitive brain takes over – we stop thinking rationally.


Self-awareness helps us to engage our higher level cognitive brain and this helps us to ask ourselves important questions at the time of the interaction  – this also helps us slow down so we can make better judgments.


In their book “Crucial Conversations – Tools for talking when stakes are high” (2002) Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler provide the following advice:


 1. Focus on What We Really Want


Understand our motives:


{     Ask “what does my behaviour tell me about what my motives are?


{     Clarify what I really want. Ask: “What do I want for myself? For others? For the relationship?”


{     Then, ask: “How would I behave if this were what I really wanted?”


Leadership involves shaping perceptions of others. This means every conversation is important and impacts on the business. Self awareness is a significant factor in effective leadership.


2. Confidence


Confidence is important for motivation. Particularly during times of uncertainty. People rely on confident people for reassurance. Confidence is also a key ingredient for inspiring others to achieve.


We vary on the confidence dimension from low levels of confidence to overly high levels of confidence. Both extremes cause major problems in organisations. A low level of confidence can result in over reaction to threats, negativity, second guessing of the motives of others and lack of action for fear of making a mistake. It is also common for people with a low level of confidence to be overly detailed minded rather than focusing on the goal.


An overly high level of confidence can lead people to ignore critical negative feedback. These people can lead others in directions that are dysfunctional.  Over confident leaders are often impulsive, superficial and narcissistic. These temperaments and behaviours are destructive on organisations and people.


A balanced level of confidence is often associated with middling extraversion and introversion – at times the leader is working and communicating with people, at other times the leader is analysing, reflecting, creating and planning.


We can see how good self-awareness and a balanced level of confidence provides an effective foundation for good leadership behaviour.


3. Stress Level Management


How do you manage your energy?


Coping with change is energy draining. A considerable amount of research suggests that it is not the management of time but the management of energy that matters.  For example, how often have you said to yourself “I would like to do … but I’m just too tired”. You have the time but not the energy.


In their book “The Power of Full Engagement – managing energy, not time, is the key to performance, health and happiness” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz discuss four categories of energy:

{            Physical Energy – fuelling the fire – eating well, physical exercise

{            Emotional Energy – access pleasant and positive emotions – activities that are enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming

{            Mental Energy – organise our lives and focus attention – realistic optimism

{            Spiritual Energy – deeply held values and purpose  – authenticity – fuels passion, perseverance and commitment

 Recovery and Renewal

Loehr and Schwartz suggest we stretch ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is particularly the case when experiencing change. We must take time out regularly to recover and renew.



They also emphasise the importance of rituals. These are important for coping with change. We are creatures of habit. Much of our functioning is automatic. When we are experiencing change we cannot behave automatically and rely on habit. So change is energy draining because we have to think before we act.


It is important to create rituals that help us form new habits as quickly as possible. In this way we can again function automatically and save energy.


Life Balance 


Re-establishing or maybe establishing (for the first time) a balance in our life is important for helping us cope with stress.


Change Survival Tips


Here are a few tips for surviving stressful change leadership in organisations:

1.             Obtain information from those who really know what is going on.

2.             Find ways of managing stress and anxiety e.g., relaxation classes, discussing issues with peers, taking time out and ensure you ask the right people to get the information you need to feel more certain about what is happening.

3.             We need to see our reactions to change as normal, and are experienced to varying degrees by all of us.

4.             View change as a learning opportunity rather than as a loss situation.  We will be more relaxed about the changes taking place.

5.             Get involved in planning and implementation exercises associated with the change.


 Leadership is hard work. It is constant and unrelenting. Each conversation is critical. We must maintain our confidence and manage our stress levels – all the time.


Leadership is particularly stressful when it involves an intense level of Cross Functional, Multi-Discipline Leadership. See our article on Effective Cross Functional, Multi-Discipline Leadership will Power Performance – posted on

11th August 2008 – Category “Leadership”.





© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All Rights Reserved

One of the slides in an included slideshare presentation states, I believe my role is a tour guide of learning possibilities providing students with a menu read the forum of these possibilities


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