Leaders who continually develop themselves can become overwhelmed with lists of what they would like to do differently. All successful leaders have had to change and develop to get where they are, and it really is a life journey. Some leaders are very proactive and have focused on development from the start. Others have gotten to the point where they had no choice but to change. This can happen in a time of crisis in the business, high turnover among people who report to us, or tough feedback that we receive from those around us. No leader wants to wait until something is shaken up for them to change. So, how can more leaders be proactive about initiating their change process?
It begins with a level of self-awareness, a deep look and understanding of who we are as leaders and who we would like to become. I use the Intentional Change Process with my clients, which was developed years ago by Richard Boyatzis at CaseWestern ReserveUniversity. When a leader becomes self-aware, emotional intelligence starts taking hold. Self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence and will often prompt an individual to initiate their own change. Intentional change begins when we identify a clear picture of our ideal self. This could be our ideal self as a leader, parent, spouse, or friend. When we identify with our ideal self, some truths will become evident. Going back to that long list of what one would like to do differently, they may start seeing two lists – what they think they “should” do differently, and what they really “want” to do differently. There is a big difference between those two. One list takes us to a future self that others want to see (the “should”), and the other takes us to where we want to be.
You see, society and the people around us set expectations and standards that we feel we need to fit into. This happens every day, which is why we find ourselves torn and we don’t know why. There are molds that others expect us to fall into, because they’ve done it too. This is where the negative self-talk comes into play, or where we find ourselves thinking that we’re developing, yet we remain unfulfilled and question what the effort is all about. And effort it is, because we’re developing for others often more than for ourselves. We are more concerned about what the rest of the world thinks about us.
If we truly let ourselves go to the place of our ideal selves, we will likely find an ideal self that is true to us – true to what we value, what we are passionate about, and what we desire, and what potential we have. The process of creating and visualizing our ideal self produces positive emotions in us. We begin to create the vision of who we can be. This positive formation of our ideal self begins to develop our intent to change. Many leaders are afraid to go here. They are afraid that if they allow themselves to create the ideal self, it will be very different than where they are today. But that is the essence of this intentional change process because it will take us to our ideal place. We become so positive about this ideal self that we want to change and we will make change happen.
So, if you happen to be in the “development zone” of assessing your strengths, style, effectiveness, and gaps, take some time to step back and create your ideal self. What others may want of you may not be what you desire for yourself. Be willing to go down your ideal path, for that path is the authentic you!