In my journey as a leader, the more self-aware I became, the better off my team and company were, but self-awareness can be hard to come by for a leader. As a CEO, you don’t get a lot of feedback from your team. You might get formal feedback from your board, if you have one, but if you don’t have one, you may not get any feedback at all. So, I have always looked to my team to give me feedback, and to the work of thought leaders to help me gain insight.
I have made reading Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Temptations of a CEO part of my continuing growth as a leader by reading that book every year. It’s short and easy to read, and I get something different out of it every time. As a person, you’re growing and changing all the time, and your business is, too. Reading that book allows me to quickly assess what my biggest temptation is at any given moment and compare it to what it has been in the past.
For example, after four years at Paradata, I discovered that my biggest temptation was to choose popularity over accountability. From an analysis with an executive coach I had at the time, came two key realizations. One was that I had to find a way to hold my team accountable, and the other was that I needed the discipline to regularly take a step back and look at my biggest temptation as a leader. One key and simple action I took as a result was to re-read Lencioni’s book once a year so I could gauge what my biggest temptation was at that point in time. This was put into my calendar right away as a recurring appointment, and it has become part of my annual rhythm, a way to hold myself accountable for growing myself as a leader. The other result is peer accountability. I also make sure my team knows about my weaknesses. Sharing this takes some of the pressure off me, because there are others who can fill in and support me when I slip. It also shows my team that I hold myself accountable to them and that I trust them enough to be honest with them.
If you’re a self-aware leader, you have to understand what you’re good at and what you’re not good at, and that may change over time. That’s why you have to work on this on a regular basis and make it part of your rhythm. By reading the same book year after year, I have created a methodology for checking in with myself and confirming whether I’m still weak in a particular area or whether I’ve improved or am weak in another area. My self-analysis never stops and neither should yours.