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Leadership: Lead Thyself

Leaders: Know Thyself First and then Lead Thyself before expecting others to follow???

I assume everyone is familiar with the ancient Greek axiom – know thyself. Knowing thyself is critical for great leadership, but knowing thyself means going much deeper than our surface knowledge of ourselves. Knowing our triggers, our habits, our preferences, our attitudes, and etc. is not knowing ourselves in the way the Greeks meant, nor is it knowing ourselves deep enough to get out of our own way when certain situations arise.

This looks like a good read for those seeking to lead thyself first: Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra. Herminia is challenging, to a degree, the concept of know thyself first, her insight and research emphasizes action – lead thyself first – as a means to knowing thyself deeper and breaking new ground in the process.

Take a leap at work by Harvey Schachter: It’s common these days to hear we should lead from the inside out: Understand who our authentic self is, and then use that in tackling the external challenges we face. But in her new bookAct like a Leader, Think like a Leader, Prof. Ibarra calls for a reverse approach she labels “outsight,” in which an external perspective drives inner development. The idea is that the only way to think like a leader is to act like one first – plunge into new projects and activities, interact with different people who can help you grow, and experiment with different (and probably uncomfortable) ways of getting things done.

The Amazon blurb:

You aspire to lead with greater impact. The problem is you’re busy executing on today’s demands. You know you have to carve out time from your day job to build your leadership skills, but it’s easy to let immediate problems and old mind-sets get in the way. Herminia Ibarra—an expert on professional leadership and development and a renowned professor at INSEAD, a leading international business school—shows how managers and executives at all levels can step up to leadership by making small but crucial changes in their jobs, their networks, and themselves. In Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, she offers advice to help you:

• Redefine your job in order to make more strategic contributions
• Diversify your network so that you connect to, and learn from, a bigger range of stakeholders
• Become more playful with your self-concept, allowing your familiar—and possibly outdated—leadership style to evolve

Ibarra turns the usual “think first and then act” philosophy on its head by arguing that doing these three things will help you learn through action and will increase what she calls your outsight—the valuable external perspective you gain from direct experiences and experimentation. As opposed to insight, outsight will then help change the way you think as a leader: about what kind of work is important; how you should invest your time; why and which relationships matter in informing and supporting your leadership; and, ultimately, who you want to become.

Packed with self-assessments and practical advice to help define your most pressing leadership challenges, this book will help you devise a plan of action to become a better leader and move your career to the next level. It’s time to learn by doing.

Excerpt by Daniel Gross:

“The book’s core message is simple and incisive. In an age of constant disruption, you better redefine yourself before the rapidly shifting sands of corporate America and technology redefine you. You have to act like a leader before you’re appointed to a leadership position, and you have to manage your own leadership path. The way to do it is by intentionally making yourself uncomfortable. Only be exiting your comfort zone can you develop “outsight”—the term she coins to describe the valuable perspective gained through actions.”

From Forbes article by Dan Pontefract

At the core of the book — and Herminia’s vast research, conducted with hundreds of executive education students from all parts of the globe — is a concept she calls “Outsight”.

Bottom line? The Outsight principle is about action.

In order to become as effective a leader as possible, we needn’t rely on the ubiquitous number of self-reflection assessments and surveys available to us. Ibarra suggests introspection and self-analysis can only take us so far. On the contrary, leaders ought to seek out new knowledge, experiences and networks in order to both grow as a leader and act as a better, more effective type of leader.