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We all have to learn to develop ourselves – managing a personal career that benefits from dreams early on. With an ever-increasing employment market, it’s good to understand the best ways to assess ourselves.
Peter F. Drucker in his essay on Leadership, Managing Oneself, explains that people’s ability to succeed in a leadership role will have a lot to do with the environment they operate in and the people they surround themselves with.
Probably one of the most poignant lessons from Drucker’s essay is this: Put yourself where your strengths can produce results. This changes a lot of things for people as they pursue their work-related objectives.
Drucker further suggests that all people have skill sets, and are eligible to become star performers in something. The goal, then, is to find out where they can shine and excel Anyone who accepts the first job that comes along may be preventing himself/herself from flourishing and recognizing the amazing things he/she can do for themselves and for others with the talents they all have.
To thoroughly self-assess our strengths and hopefully pinpoint the environment in which we will be most successful, Drucker discusses three main questions that require consideration.
How Do I Learn?
As Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, Dwight Eisenhower impressed the press corps with his ability to command press conferences. His advisors made sure that every question from the press was presented at least a half hour before a conference was to begin, and that he was thoroughly brought up to date on pertinent events and issues that were prominent on a given day. It’s said that as a result of this preparatory work, he was able to explain complex policy and situations elegantly and efficiently.
Ten years later, as President Eisenhower, he was chastised by the same press corps for deflecting questions by addressing unrelated issues and not communicating important and relevant issues cogently.
Why the vast change brought about by his job change? Eisenhower was a reader, as opposed to a listener. He preferred written summations from his advisors and time to digest them over impromptu discourse where he was deprived of satisfactory preparation time.
When he became President, Eisenhower succeeded two listeners; Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Both men knew themselves to be listeners, and thrived on the spontaneous discourse provided by the press corps, and the free-for-all environment of the press conference. They were quick thinkers on their feet, and this skill made them adept in their communication skills.
Some years later, Lyndon Johnson, a strong listener, tried to emulate the Presidential style of his predecessor John Kennedy. Kennedy was a reader who assembled around him a brilliant group of writers as his assistants, making sure that they wrote to him before discussing their memos with him in person. Johnson kept these people on staff but wasn’t able to leverage the same success because he enjoyed immediate discourse. Yet as a senator, he was superb, for parliamentarians above all have to be good listeners
Few listeners can convert into readers, and vice versa. Optimal performance requires understanding how you’re best able to collet vital information and process it.
Where Do I Belong?
The way in which many perform has a lot to do with their work environment. Some individuals are just unable to work in a corporate environment where the prevailing strategy is to defend and hold market share – they’re too entrepreneurial. Put them in a start-up situation, however, and they’ll flourish.
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Leaders also need to align their leadership roles with their value systems, which means that the leader’s values must be compatible with the organization’s values. If the two are incompatible then the person probably won’t be successful in that leadership role, will get frustrated, and won’t produce desired results.
How Do I Perform?
One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence – it takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. In the context of business ownership, this means that the owner should concentrate on what he/she excels in and delegate the rest to employees.
Too many people work in ways that are not their ways, and that almost always results in poor performance.
The context of these thoughts is people’s ability to exceed in leadership positions, whether corporate/for-profit, in voluntary positions, or non-profit situations. The sobering reality is that many people do not hold jobs that facilitate their ambitions or strengths because more practical necessities have superseded their desire to pursue a chosen path, (ie: need to bring money into the family, caring for parents, death of a loved one).
There’s no question that, invariably, life situations will arise to divert personal pursuits. These things that normally cause the diversion, however, may very well make us emotionally, spiritually, morally and ethically stronger and more ready to (if the opportunity presents itself,) pick up the paused pursuit and achieve greater success than if these events hadn’t transpired.
This is not to say that material life events are downgraded to the level of merely being catalysts for personal success – people who assert their values and self-defined responsibilities to the extent that they postpone their careers and leadership pursuits to take care of loved ones, establish a better situation for others, or promote advancement for others is a commendable trait in and of itself, which reaps in-kind rewards on its own merits.
Leaders Take Responsibility For Relationships
Very few people produce extraordinary results by themselves. In many cases, without the leverage of others who can utilize their own skill skill sets to complement the leaders’ strengths, success within the corporate context becomes an ever-increasingly difficult aspiration. . The component parts, however, can come together and adhere to produce a collective revenue-generating and efficient operation. Managing oneself as a leader requires taking responsibility for relationships.
Within the context of business relationships, fostering them to achieve a common goal requires acting appropriately on the understanding that people are individuals too and that they all have unique processes, talents and goals that, if aligned and managed well, can be leveraged to achieve commonly desired results.
Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust, and you can only foster trust by being face to face and developing relationships with your employees, stakeholders, prospects and customers. Note that this may mean that you, as the leader, may not be the best person on the roster to devise strategy. We circle back to the need to assess what the leaders skills are. If you’re responsible for leading your team, or company, there may be someone there better than you to devise strategy, and you may be best qualified to bring something else to the table to help implement the strategy.
It remains that the best way to build a strong, market-leading and sustainable corporation is one built on relationships and trust that provides products and/or services that enhance the lives of both the people selling them and the people consuming them.
Nicholas Kilpatrick is a partner at the accounting firm of Burgess Kilpatrick. He leads the firm’s consulting and strategy practice and works with companies to enhance their Analytics, Forecasting , and Data Optimization functions. The practice’s focus includes quantitative forecasting, corporate and unit strategy and planning. Please visit our website at www.burgesskilpatrick.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Burgess Kilpatrick for more information on our firm.
 Drucker, Peter F., Managing Oneself, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, Massachusetts, January 1999.