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Learn What Drives You and Become a Better Leader

6th November 2014

Anthony Kasozi explains how learning what drives you as a leader allows you to reduce stress, save time and lead to better relationships with clients and colleagues.

The Leadership Shadow (9780749470494)If you have had the joy (and pain!) of starting or running a successful business, are a senior executive in a high-performing corporation or are in charge of a busy frontline customer-facing department that is successfully and repeatedly exceeding its customers' demands, then it is very likely that those around you will describe you as driven, focused, tough or demanding.

This should be of no surprise to you.

Successful entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and sportspeople quite simply work hard and are extremely demanding of themselves and others. They are driven to achieve where others may be inclined to give up. As one executive mentioned to me, "Being on top of my game is not an option - it is the only option".

Coping with Self-Doubt

However, as a leader or senior executive, used to working under time and financial pressure and facing demands from people and events all around you, you will undoubtedly have experienced times when you are simply not ‘on-form’. At times you are ‘off your stride’ and you can see the veneer of well-polished leadership authority and effective relational skills cracking. You may even sense that your ability to keep control and to achieve against the odds is slipping out of your grasp.

Successful leaders that we work with tell us that such episodes of doubt are inevitable. When they occur, the leaders find that on these occasions they do not feel very ‘leader-like’. They may be anxious or riven with self-doubt and become despondent or even depressed. Even as they drive harder for success and try to mask their internal concerns, they also have episodes of feeling inadequate and helpless in a changing world that is challenging them daily with unrelenting and unforgiving demands.

The Leadership Shadow

At these times leaders also become more aware of the highly personal flipside of the leadership ‘success coin’. They begin to dwell on what they may have sacrificed or discarded to get to where they are now. They become aware of qualities and needs which they both need and regret not paying attention to. In the midst of success they become aware of what has been relegated to their shadow side and is now starting ‘come out’ and ‘to play up’. It is as if the glaring light is revealing a silent silhouette, which is now sharpening into a shadow - stretching out and beginning to haunt the leader.

Learning to work with our 'drivers'

For many entrepreneurs and leaders, the instinctive reaction may be to take control, to focus and work harder, to pay even more attention to what others want, to make even quicker and more pressing demands and to crowd out any concerns. In other words to try to be even tougher, more helpful, quicker, more correct and stronger. Typically we all have ‘drivers’, learnt early in our development which ‘kick in’ when we are challenged and enable us to overcome difficulties facing us. Quite simply these same drivers, possibly crucial to our success so far, can be problematic in helping us overcome the ‘uncharacteristic’ feelings of despondency or anxiety that we are now facing. In this situation, leaders face a dilemma: they cannot simply discard the drives and patterns they have because these are part of them and have been essential for their success; but also they cannot simply embrace their drivers because they will overshoot and create all manner of imbalance and derailment.

Avoiding overdrive

Somehow they have to find ways of understanding and appreciating what drives them as well as what else is implied and hidden within the patterns and cycles created when being driven. This awareness gives them a better opportunity to recognise the cycles of being and behaving that drive them to successful interactions with others. The awareness also helps them understand which cycles contribute more to ineffectiveness, anxiety and despondency. In particular they can become more aware of what triggers these cycles and how best to respond and recover from situations in which they go into ‘overdrive’ or ‘derailment.’

Understanding Your 'Leadership Shadow'

Understanding better what drives you can help you learn how better to process and work with your high workloads, unrelenting demands, ingrained suspicions, fears and episodes of exhaustion. Understanding what drives you, and the leadership patterns that you have, can also help you achieve a balanced and constructive approach to colleagues and clients whom you rely on and whose interaction and input you need. Whether you are a successful entrepreneur, senior executive or other high performer and leader in your sphere - understanding your ‘leadership shadow’ is essential.

The Leadership Shadow, by Prof Erik de Haan and Dr Anthony Kasozi, is out now from www.koganpage.com
A version of this article appeared on Newbusiness.co.uk.

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