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Get Straight With Yourself

Among the points he discussed in “My Journey: A Political Life” is the fact that Tony Blair drank more than was usual as a means of coping with the pressure of being Prime Minister. The pressures of holding a top job are immense. One of the ways that leaders deal (aside from self-medication) is walling themselves off from their feelings. But those leaders who are self-aware do themselves and their followers a service by being honest.

Tony Blair

Tony Blair released his long-awaited memoir this month.
While it will be for historians to judge Mr. Blair’s nine-year tenure as prime
minister of Great Britain, I will say that based upon what I heard about the
book from Blair himself and BBC commentators
, he is certainly a remarkably
self-aware leader.

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Among the points discussed in My Journey: A Political Life is the fact that while he does not
regret putting British troops into Iraq, he had no idea that the Iraq War would
become the “nightmare” it became. He also reveals, to no great surprise, the
degree of antipathy he held toward his successor, Gordon Brown. And on a personal
note, he drank more than was usual for him as a means of coping with the
pressure of being Prime Minister.

The pressures of holding a top job are immense. One of the
ways that leaders deal (aside from self-medication) is walling themselves off
from their feelings. But those leaders who are self-aware do themselves and
their followers a service by being honest. Here are some suggestions.

Look in the mirror.
Consider what you are doing now and what you could be doing better. Do not be
overly critical of your performance. Perfection is not only unattainable; it is
a false ideal that leads to disappointment and grief. Better to be realistic
about what you have done and can do in the future.

Insist on candor.
Invite a trusted associate or two to watch you. Hold yourself accountable for
values you espouse. Ask them to check that you are “walking the talk” in
matters of accountability. For example, if you want people to trust you,
consider what you are doing to earn that trust. Leadership is never easy, but
when resources are scarce and financial pressures rise, it is essential that
leaders be seen and heard.

Write your legacy
statement.
How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be the one who
was the first to point the finger of blame, or the first to share credit with
others? Do you want to be considered as one who knew the business as well as he
knew his people? And do you want to be known as one who managed her career as
well as she managed the needs of others? These may be simple questions but when
answered honestly can provoke an honest dialogue. So take the time to write out
how you want to be remembered, not necessary after you pass on but when you leave
your current job.

These suggestions for getting straight with yourself are
only first steps to self-knowledge, but they are important ones that leaders
can take, not simply to get in touch with themselves but to center their
leadership on what is important to stakeholders.

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It takes a measure of courage to be forthright when
discussing your shortcomings in public. But when done right it can be a good
way to provide insight into the psyche of a leader. For those leaders not in
the public arena, memoirs may not be necessary but the healthy assessment of
one’s self is always welcome, if only shared with yourself.

John Baldoni is an
internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach,
author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s
top 25 leadership experts. John’s new book is
Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up
(Amacom 2009). Readers are welcome to visit John’s Web site, www.johnbaldoni.com

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