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How to Form Strong Teams With Personal Leadership

The first person that you're responsible for leading is yourself. Strong teams in your organization will follow.

July 23, 2021

by Angela Kambouris, 2021

Personal leadership is an essential component in today’s organizations, the backbone of quality management and team-based operations. What often separates forward-thinking organizations from others is the groundbreaking activity of personal leadership. The future of organizations is where everyone is a leader.

Developing personal leadership qualities is built upon the foundation of self-leadership, self-respect and self-management. How you invest in your self-leadership and strengthen your power can be the catalyst for trust to be born and nurtured within a team.

Leadership today is about impact, influence and inspiration within a team. The real power comes from how authentically you can hold a team together, generate enthusiasm and make a genuine difference in the lives of others. Here is how to get started.

Your written “handshake” with the organization

To be a leader, you must appreciate who you are and what you expect to best influence momentum in others. A leadership philosophy is a vital tool for the U.S. Army leadership to communicate their identity with the people they lead and convey standards and expectations to all members.

By defining your philosophy, leaders have a deeper understanding of who they are, their character and how they interact with others and various situations. Your team will be clear about what you value, how you will respond in certain circumstances and what to expect when workplace tension arrives.

To create your philosophy, consider exploring what you value. What is it that you hold dear? Explore what values you think make a great leader and determine your strengths and areas of development. As a leader, identify the outcomes and turn these critical elements into your philosophy statement.

Create a personal leadership-development plan

Leadership development is not static. Leaders must adapt and grow to stay relevant. One of the best tools to help you define and direct your career goals is to design a leadership-development plan. The essence of a plan includes defining your career vision by exploring:

  • How do you want your career to add to your overall satisfaction?

  • Describe how you want to make an impact on your team.

  • Define what you would know was achieved.

  • What evidence do you need to know you have reached the impact you wanted?

By exploring these four areas, you conduct an honest appraisal of yourself on where you currently stand and how far you are from succeeding. Be realistic, results-focused and time-bound. Reassessment provides an opportunity to adjust if a goal was not practical and enables you to adapt to unforeseen changes.

Have insight into how you affect others

Every leader has an impact on others. At times, your impact on the group increases, good and bad. The way you show up as a leader and express yourself is a strong reflection of how your team functions. When leaders build upon their values and align them with the team, their presence grows more robust.

Bob Iger’s book, The Ride of a Lifetime, shared that his secret leadership weapon is having a sense of knowing who you are and being guided by right and wrong. When you trust your instincts and treat people with respect, kindness and genuine integrity, the company will reflect the values you live.

Explore opportunities to grow

Engaging a professional coach can support you to reflect on how you are affecting others, how you can refine or amplify what is working or not and help you challenge your blind spots to allow you to grow. Consciously choosing to work on your ability to manage your leadership style consistently is a powerful way of building resilience to keep you out of burnout.

Define the qualities you need

Your personal leadership style captures not only what you deliver and how you deliver it, but it also reflects your deepest values. It assists people, including you, defines who you are and assesses your value as a leader. Oprah Winfrey’s rise to icon-hood has been influenced by her humble origins, many rejections and commitment to value-driven leadership. Her approach to leading teams has been to elevate the purpose of output by making monetary compensation a by-product of what she loves to do.

To increase your self-awareness, identify the qualities you need through exploring what you love about the work you do. Then conduct an audit of how present you are through feedback from employees and colleagues. Once feedback has been obtained, select an accountability partner and explore what people say about how others view you and align with your desired projection. These are invaluable conversations to decipher what you need to do, more or less, to be more effective as a leader.

Find delight in being wrong

In Think Again: The Power of Not Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant delves into why leaders get caught up in the trap of closed-mindedness and have an unwillingness to change assumptions and beliefs despite the evidence in front of them. Grant writes, “When you form an opinion, ask yourself what would have to happen to prove it false." Leaders need to think more like a scientist performing an experiment rather than a politician defending their ideas.

Fight for your uniqueness

Jeff Bezos recently sent his last letter to Amazon shareholders, outlining that he would step down as CEO. In highlighting his financial successes, Bezos focused on a selected passage about biology from Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker as a metaphor for leaders to question, “In what ways does the world pull at you in an attempt to make you normal?” So often, you hear executives espouse, "Be yourself," which can come at a cost. Leaders today need to assess whether they conform to the work environment or invest in amplifying what makes them different and protecting it. Leaders can utilize their uniqueness as a tool for becoming successful.

Build psychological safety

How often do organizations create environments where employees can take risks without fear of reprisal? When executives model openness and inclusiveness, conversations encompass leaders sharing how their past experiences have shaped their leadership, asking for feedback on how they can improve and are open about their future development goals.

When teams have psychological safety, they are more willing to acknowledge individual mistakes, identify how to prevent them in the future and discuss what they learned from the experience.

By acknowledging imperfections out loud, leaders normalize vulnerability and open the workplace for teams being more comfortable sharing about individual struggles. Leaders can nurture practices by hosting “ask me anything” coffee chats, building in weekly one-on-one meetings and leading monthly team sessions where individual and team goals and progress are shared.

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