The War Against Self: Becoming a Better Leader

Becoming a Better Leader slide

For many of us in quality assurance, there's a point where we realize becoming a better leader is the turning point of our quality assurance career. 

Leadership, and being a better leader is a battle against the "opponent within." There's was a definite point where I realized my biggest enemies were my own self-doubt, insecurities, pride, self-centeredness, and fear.

I was in a battle against myself. I couldn't even lead myself, so how could I lead other people?

Change Is Possible

Most of the people I worked with are fairly new to quality assurance and leadership.  Invariably they struggle with the same stress, fear, financial insecurities, and confusion that I struggled with when I first started.

I came to the conclusion that before you can deal with the issues of becoming a better leader of other people, you must first identify and develop some core leadership characteristics.

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Acceptance of Reality

Great leaders have a knack for being able to perceive and recognize the reality and scope of a situation. They neither minimize or maximize, they see it for what it is.

Jim Collins talks about being able to "confront the brutal facts" in his book Good To Great. For great team leaders, being able to assess and confront reality (as it REALLY is) makes the difference between success and failure.

Are you willing to accept reality as it really is? And if you are, are you then willing to confront the brutal facts of that reality, no matter what? If you are willing to do these things then you are committed to becoming a better leader and applying key strategies.

"Under the right conditions. . . justice, order, leadership and morale. . . a small team could prevail over a large group. Those who establish a viable group will win even if they are small. The key to all operations is harmony with people."  - Sun Tzu

Finding Purpose

If you're determined to succeed in your chosen venture and you're dedicated to becoming a better leader, you must discover your unique purpose in life, what Jim Collins might call your "personal Hedgehog Concept.

Journal Like Crazy:

Take notes about what you enjoy personally. What really floats your boat? What things about your job, your life do you really not enjoy? Take notes about reoccurring themes throughout your life.

a. Looking over your notes, what do you enjoy most? From this try to flesh out what is your passion? What do you like doing better than anything else?

b. Discover what you're best at. Looking at your notes, where does your skill lie? What can you do better than others on your team? Where do you struggle? You want to target doing the work you're best at and the work you love at the same time.

c. What drives your economic engine? How do you get paid? What keeps you employed?

Begin to visualize links between your passion, your skills, and your economics. Ultimately this will become the core of your life at work, your "personal Hedgehog Concept" that will keep you engaged and focused on the ultimate goal.

Becoming a better leader and applying key strategies takes focus, drive and determination to do what is best for your team. Personally that means tapping into your best qualities and bringing them to work everyday, while minimizing your weaknesses.

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Becoming a Better Leader and Growing Trust

Part of the development and maturation process, for both teams and individuals is learning how to trust themselves and the people around them.

This means learning how to trust yourself to do the work that's in front of you, while trusting the people on your team to do their own work. Then allowing the process to naturally run its course.

My tendency as a manager, team leader, parent, go-getter was always to run the entire show, to arrange the players and the lights, so it "worked" perfectly.

Almost always this led to confusion, resentment, and me stepping on peoples' toes.

I realized that to become a better leader I needed to take a step back.

I needed both a "To Do List" and a "Stop Doing List". This let me know what was inside the scope of my personal Hedgehog Concept and what stood outside.

This idea freed up both time and energy and allowed me to allow others the room to shine.

Commit to the process Of Becoming a Better Leader

All of these ideas take time and action to implement. Repeated actions over time become habits; habits are either useful or not useful to the development on your team.

Whether you choose to develop good or bad habits depends entirely on you and your willingness to face hard facts, find purpose, and grow trust in the team building process.

It does not happen over night, but the psychic change of becoming a better leader will happen if you commit to the process of allowing it to happen.

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Robert Broughton
(805) 419-3344
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