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Angela Spaxman 2009I’ve been enjoying some intensive leadership development work over the past few months with a variety of clients and thought it would be useful to document some of the insights I have gleaned. Perhaps some of the questions I am posing could help you take your next leadership development step?

1) Development always requires us to become more aware of our thinking and behaviour. That’s because we must become less reactive –we must stop always following our conditioning, the thinking and behavioural patterns we learned in the past which through practice have become automatic and unconscious. While it is efficient to behave unconsciously –it takes much less mental effort– at higher levels of leadership where conditions are more complex, it is no longer effective.

How much of your working time is spent with awareness? How often are you acting without really choosing those actions?

2) Developing as a leader requires changing habits. Therefore it requires a longer term commitment –months and years, not days and weeks. The brain is plastic and will change over time, but it takes many repetitions.

What kind of leader do you want to be 2 years from now?

3) Different people have different perspectives and see the leader through their own lenses. The leader therefore needs to consider all relevant views and act accordingly to influence the full range of important stakeholders.

How do your sub-ordinates, your peers and your bosses see you?

4) Immature leadership at high levels inevitably has a compounding effect on lower levels. For example, an autocratic leader evokes passivity and compliance which can lead to poor decision-making which in turn can lead to blaming and covering up of mistakes and last-minute micro-managing. Angry outbursts borne of frustration lead to even more passivity and compliance.

What immature aspects of you are negatively affecting those around you?

5) No one is immune from reactive tendencies which limit our capacity for leadership. Those tendencies fall into three categories: controlling (perfectionistic, overly ambitious, overly driven or autocratic), protecting (arrogant, critical, distant) and complying (passive, overly focused on belonging or pleasing, or overly conservative).  The survey tool I’ve been using in this work is a highly effective way of identifying these patterns.

What are the ingrained self-defeating patterns that are limiting you?

6) Since leadership occurs in a system, change efforts are more effective when many different players in the system start changing simultaneously.

What difference would it make to you if all of your bosses and peers started to mend their reactive ways?

7) Is development possible without a trained conversational partner who can help the leader to reflect fully and deeply in a safe, supportive relationship (like a coach)? I don’t know. But I do know for sure that WITH that kind of support, we see uncommon strides in leadership development.

If you had a coach to support you in your leadership development, what difference would it make?

8) The bigger the challenges we are facing, the more we need to know how to relax. Many of the most dedicated leaders have never learned how to relax well, and without developing new skills in relaxation, they will hit a barrier in terms of how much they are able to accomplish. Effective and timely relaxation leads to greatly improved personal impact and influence through greater calm and confident presence. And it is also a necessary component in becoming less reactive (in other words making new behavioural choices) because a stressed person doesn’t have the resources to take a new, more conscious course of action in a high pressure situation.

If you were better at relaxing, what difference would it make to your leadership?

With this busy period of leadership coaching coming to an end, I am open to working with some new clients.

Would you like to set up a phone call with me to discuss how I might help you develop your leadership capability?