by Justin Standfield
David Cameron will leave Downing Street today for the final time as the UK’s Prime Minister, with Theresa May waiting in the wings to replace him. Mrs May hasn’t even taken over the job yet but the media has been active with plenty of opinion about what sort of a leader she might be.
As a leader of people you have to possess a wide variety of skills and approaches just to get the basic job done to a decent standard. Whilst we all have our preferred way of doing things, when we are in a leadership role our preferences are often second priority to meeting the needs of the team member standing in front of us who needs a specific approach to get them back on track and feeling valued and motivated.
At times, this can feel like we’ve become some sort of chameleon. By changing my communication style and approach with almost every person I meet, it could be said that my identity and sense of ‘self’ is not a fixed and permanent thing; it moves and changes according to the person I’m with. In the same way that energy levels ebb and flow, rapport levels can also dial up and down; sometimes I’m a calm and logical problem-solver, at other times I’m a concerned listener and in other leadership moments I’m a coach. So exactly who am I and is my opinion in a situation actually mine or just a reflection of the person I’m standing in front of?
Some might say that there is no such thing as ‘self’ and that we are constantly evolving and changing moment by moment, shaped by the people around us, moulded by our environment and stimulated by the thoughts that create our reality. For example, in Buddhist philosophy there is a concept of ‘impermanence’ that suggests that there is no static self. Alternatively, some psychologists believe that we have an innate in-born personality, while others assert that it is predominantly a by-product of our upbringing. I find all of these ideas fascinating; personally, I believe that we need some consistent and unmoving anchors of belief, values and opinions in order to be an authentic person – and an authentic leader. Whilst I am someone who likes to nurture my behavioural flexibility, maintain an open mind and increase the range of options I have to choose from, I also have a firm set of values that I apply both to my home and work lives. I do not believe in imposing these on people, but I am aware that they act as an internal compass and guide a lot of my views, decisions and actions.
Having a set of anchoring beliefs and values can provide consistency in an ever-changing landscape. For example, I might be a different person in my approach to dealing with Lynn versus Mike, but my values and beliefs give a consistent steer to my approach and any answers I might be required to give. Having clarity about my values enables me to make conscious use of them each day and decide to what extent – and in what combination, given that I have several of them – they steer my actions.
Whether you are a supervisor, a sports team captain or the next Prime Minister, take some time to explore and clarify your anchoring values and beliefs – an Incendo coaching session combined with a diagnostic questionnaire will help. Contact me today to discuss how this could benefit you in your role as a leader or download a short summary of Incendo’s services here.