Why Personal Growth is Essential for Leaders
Personal growth is the continuous journey of self-improvement and becoming the best version of oneself. Effective leaders know that personal growth is crucial for achieving success – it allows us to enhance decision making, communication, and adaptability, which are all vital skills needed to lead and inspire others. While sticking to what has worked for us in the past may be more comfortable and familiar, it can lead to stagnation and inability to keep up with the rapidly changing demands of the world. In this blog post, we will delve into the significance of personal growth for leaders, and the strategies to aid in this journey.
The role of self-awareness in personal growth
Self-awareness is the capacity to understand and acknowledge one's own thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Self-awareness enables us to identify our strengths and weaknesses, which is critical for personal growth. By recognising our strengths, we can capitalise on them and use them to our advantage. By understanding our weaknesses, we can work on improving them and conquering any obstacles (or rather, opportunities for growth!) they may present.
Managing emotions and developing empathy are also key aspects of self-awareness. Emotions can greatly influence our behaviour and decision-making, and understanding them can help manage them in a healthy way. By learning to recognise and label our emotions, we can become more aware of how they affect us and others. Empathy, on the other hand, allows us to understand and share the feelings of others. The empathetic leader can see things from different perspectives, which is vital for effective communication and teamwork.
The benefits of personal growth
Personal growth offers numerous benefits for leaders, but three key benefits that stand out are improved decision making, heightened effectiveness in leading and inspiring others, and enhanced communication skills.
One of the most crucial benefits of personal growth for leaders is improved decision making. As leaders, we are constantly faced with challenging decisions that have a significant impact on our organisations and the people we lead. Personal growth enables us to develop the skills and knowledge needed to be less reactionary and more intentional and strategic in making informed decisions.
Another key benefit of personal growth for leaders is increased effectiveness in leading and inspiring others. By understanding ourselves and our own emotions, we can be more attuned to the emotions and needs of our team members. When we recognise the emotional needs of our team members we can hold space for those emotions, which makes people feel seen, honoured, and valued for their full selves.
One practical tool that is simple to use and effective is the Polyvagal Ladder. This allows us to recognise when we are moving out of an effective collaborative state and into a more triggered or even overwhelmed state. The same approach can be used to recognise where others are, and enable us to meet their needs as part of more effective communication.
Finally, personal growth can also help leaders to improve their communication skills. Effective communication requires a leader to “read the room” and the emotional intelligence, focus, and empathy that comes with personal growth will help leaders communicate not just the “what” but the “why” to any audience. This helps move people from compliance to commitment, a powerful place for people to be working from.
Strategies for personal growth
Personal growth is an ongoing process that requires dedication and effort. Reflecting on past experiences, seeking feedback from others, continuously learning and acquiring new skills, setting and working towards goals, building a support system, and engaging in leadership coaching are all strategies that can aid in the personal growth journey. It's important to find what works best for each individual and make an effort to continuously implement that in their lives. Let’s highlight a few of these strategies:
Reflecting on past experiences: This can be done by taking time to think about the events and circumstances that have shaped who we are and how we react to certain situations. By reflecting on our past experiences, we can learn from them and gain a better understanding of ourselves and our behaviour.
Reflecting can also be done after any interaction. It helps if you spend a little time preparing for an interaction and deciding on what your intentions are and what might trip you up. See if you can notice how well you are sticking to your intentions during an interaction, while allowing space for you to adapt to the others state and needs. Finally, you can review your interaction afterwards and note what went well and what didn’t go so well for you and the other.
Seeking feedback from others: Feedback can be sought formally and informally. As you learn to take things less personally, you will find that you become more open to asking for feedback in more situations and from more people - initially this often feels highly intimidating. Formal feedback can include 360 feedback. 360 feedback is a comprehensive evaluation process where feedback is solicited from different levels within your organisation, focusing on specific elements of leadership. . This type of feedback can provide a well-rounded view of our strengths and weaknesses and help us to identify areas for improvement.
Engaging in coaching: This can be a valuable strategy for personal growth for leaders at any stage in their career. A coach can provide an objective perspective, help to identify areas of improvement, and provide guidance and support as we work towards our personal growth goals. Coaching will often be focused on topics such as: tasks; communication; personal development; balance and wellbeing; leadership style; culture; etc.
Growth usually doesn't happen overnight, but personal growth as a leader is not only possible, it's necessary. Use the ideas outlined here to help you get started on your journey. They will require dedication, effort and regular review, but seizing each new opportunity helps you reach your goals, which will ultimately make you a better leader. Being a better leader will help you unlock more potential from your teams and organisation.
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Harvard Business Review: Managing Your Team’s Emotional Dynamic (2023)
Harvard Business Review: Personal growth and transformation (2022)
Woman’s Day; How to Know If You’re Going Through a Spiritual Awakening (2022)
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