I think about self-leadership often. I connect its role to leading others well and enabling collaboration. In my view, there are four distinctions that make self-leadership possible and effective. All four are needed. They are

  • Perspective

  • Responsibility and Choice

  • Design

  • Action

This is the fourth in a series of five blogs.

Vision without action is merely a dream.

Action without vision just passes the time.

Vision with action can change the world.

- Joel A. Barker

Action is the culmination of the previous distinctions that mobilize us to take the steps to realize our intended future. Through our actions we manifest our vision. Others judge us by our actions, not simply by our good intentions. Our actions often affect others and may elicit their assessments about our trustworthiness. The world is a rich social context.

There are three areas where our actions have an impact:

  • doing what we say,

  • anticipating consequences,

  • and addressing breakdowns.

Here are illustrations.

Doing what we say. Years ago, I was working with Gary, IT director at a professional services company. He had seven direct reports, scattered at locations throughout the US. One of the development areas we worked on was his commitment to assure that all of his direct reports were prepared to be promoted to director. To do this, his developmental work included mentoring, coaching and giving stretch assignments. It also included speaking positively about (socializing) his people to his peers and the executives who would make promotional decisions. Within two years, six of the seven were qualified for their promotions; within three years, all had been promoted and were doing excellent work in their new positions. Gary had done what he committed to do.

Anticipating consequences. One of my coaching clients was Mark, a senior manager at a retail company. He was asked to make substantive organizational changes the structure, reporting relationships and accountabilities for his business unit. Mark recognized the probable adverse effect on those in his organization and his own professional status. To reduce the impact he spoke to the CEO about how proper communications needed to be consistent and timely. He drafted a communications plan to support the implementation that included opportunities for safe dialog and feedback. While people tend not to like change when it’s done to them, his thoughtful, timely messages and willingness to listen made the process easier for all.

Addressing breakdowns. One of my coaching clients, Denise, leads the talent development (TD) group for her manufacturing company. As the TD function became decentralized, accountability for executing its policy and programs in Asia was being carried out local senior managers. Over six months, there were several incidents of bad hires, harassment and poorly delivered programs. Though not her job, Denise took it on herself to help correct the situation. To do this she coordinated efforts with the legal department to terminate employees, mediated discussions that avoided lawsuits and changed policy. She fostered fresh thinking and developed new procedures to prepare trainers for effective training delivery. She went the extra mile as a leader and good corporate citizen. She addressed and resolved the current breakdowns and increased organizational capability for the future.

Action is the phase when we apply our design for the sake of our intended future. Whether in small steps or large ones, we can act courageously to stay on course. We can persevere, make adjustments along the way, and even take care of others who may be affected by our actions.

In the final blog of this series, I will bring all four self-leadership distinctions together. You should already have a sense of how they fit and mutually reinforce each other. Each is a set of practices we can consciously take on, practice and turn into habits that support every area of our lives.

Do you have examples of how these distinctions show up in your life? Would you be willing to share your reflections and experiences? Whether in response to this or the next (and last) blog posting in this Self-Leadership series, feel free to contribute your comments on our LinkedIn page. We look forward to an ongoing dialog.

Image: Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

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