Self-leadership: The new kid on the block?

I’ve worked in learning and development for more than 20 years, I know that we never stop learning, in fact I love that we never stop learning! However, I had my own personal version of Isaac Newton’s gravity moment or Archimedes’ eureka the other day that I thought worth sharing.

I was contemplating how the world has changed in the past eight weeks – in particular, the impact on people as they form a new ‘normal’ in their lives, whatever that may look like. One thing is for sure, it will feature social distancing, endless Zoom calls, many virtual quiz nights and some working from home arrangement for the foreseeable future.  The first ‘go to’ for me was how that has hit people from a practical perspective. Do they have a comfortable space to work? (my 20 year old niece is working on her laptop sitting on her bed!) Do they have little people at home who need attention? Do they have support functions available to them for complex queries or customer complaints? How often do they speak to their team or leader? Are they coping?  

From an HR perspective mental health and wellbeing certainly comes to the fore. A critical first step in keeping our teams and our people safe during very uncertain times must be a focus on their wellness.  It was around this point I had my ‘eureka!’ – ok, maybe I’m sensationalising, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

My thought was this… In all of my years in learning and my many interactions and exciting projects with large corporate organisations, their leadership development has been focused on their line managers and senior leader populations, makes sense doesn’t it?  It’s these guys who lead our people, who hold responsibility for setting the culture in our business and driving performance and results right? Well, it might have felt right in 2019 but looking forward I see it very differently. Leadership is now a 1-man job, an every-man job; leading ourselves, owning our mindset and how we show up each day, being resilient and adaptable to the changing world around us, being pro-active to reach out to colleagues and leaders alike to share, help, challenge and support. In job interviews we ask lots of questions around self-motivation, self-awareness and self-development.  Well there’s a new kid on the block: self-leadership is now critical for every person in our business. In truth this was the case before but, just like apples always fell from trees and Isaac didn’t see it until it hit him on the head, Covid 19 has firmly not only hit us on the head but kicked our butts, and if one positive can be drawn from it it’s that self-leadership is now sharply in focus.  

So, this had led me to wonder how many organisations had development solutions to build self-leadership skill at scale already in place? How valuable it would be right now to offer our talent self-leadership development; development to truly understand how to lead themselves and others; to improve their ownership and accountability; to understand their purpose, values, and beliefs and perhaps most importantly right now, to support their motivation, wellbeing and mindset. What a difference that would make not only to them but to our organisations. Because let’s be honest, right now we need great leaders more than ever. Leaders who can lead themselves and others through this crisis and into a brighter future.

So perhaps, among all of the chaos, this crisis offers an opportunity to make positive change – so let’s do it!

Ready to make self-leadership part of your people development strategy?

By Lindsay Terris, Ivy House
21st May 2020

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