Research Paper By Catherine Evans Joines
(Executive Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
Leadership is not about men in suits. It is a way of life for those who know who they are and are willing to be their best to create the life they want to live. Kathleen Schafer
For many it is easy to dismiss leadership skills as something your managers need or something you will need later when you have a team reporting to you. However, there is one particular aspect of leadership skills development, which can be applied to everyone, no matter what role you have within an organisation – developing personal leadership. In this article we will look at what we mean by the term “personal leadership”, the benefits to both the individual and to the organisation and the role coaching can play in its development and enhancement.
Developing Personal Leadership Skills from an Individual’s Perspective
Personal Leadership means taking responsibility for all aspects of your life, both personally and professionally and having a clear vision of how you want to lead your life moving forward. It is about living in alignment with your core values and beliefs, and designing a pathway to reach your goals and dreams for the future.
When you develop and enhance your personal leadership skills you are investing in your personal growth. When you focus on what is truly important to you and align your activities accordingly, you are ensuring that your actions are congruent with your core values and beliefs, and that you are ultimately moving closer toward your goals and dreams. As a consequence of your focus on what really matters to you, you will undoubtedly develop strategies to enhance your effectiveness and productivity, as well as manage your time and energy. You learn to live each day to its fullest as you develop a deeper awareness and understanding of the power of self-determination in reaching the goals/dreams you have for yourself and the effects of your choices and actions. You learn to take responsibility and hold yourself accountable for the choices and actions you take/don’t take. You develop support structures and networks to assist you in keeping the commitments you have made to yourself and others. In short you develop an enabling mindset, an independence of spirit powered by the desire to be the best you can be, at work, at home and in all that you do.
Taking all of this into account, it is evident that developing Personal Leadership qualities and skills is not just for the High Potentials but is equally applicable to everyone no matter what stage you are at in your career or entrepreneurial journey. Being clear on who you are, what you stand for, how you want to be seen, where you are heading are key aspects in developing yourself and ensuring that you attain your goals and realise your dreams both personally and professionally.
When you demonstrate Personal Leadership, you live with authenticity. You become a role model for others. Developing Personal Leadership Skills not only benefits the individual but also the organisation with which they are affiliated, as well as the wider community.
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. Marianne Williamson
Benefits of Developing a Personal Leadership Ethos within an Organisation
Organisations often invest heavily in Talent Development Programs, with a view that these employees will be in senior leadership/management positions in the relatively near future. However, it is widely recognised that Managers and Leaders are not necessarily one in the same: not all managers are leaders and not all leaders are managers (see Side Bar Infographic by Chuck Mache Communications1). By focusing their attention on developing only a few High Potentials organisations could potentially be missing out in the long term.
What is clear that whilst not everyone in an organisation has management responsibilities, leaders can be found at all levels throughout an organisation. In fact, every time a team member meets a commitment, strives for excellence, takes ownership of a project, demands high standards of fellow team members, to name a few, they are demonstrating their leadership skills.
Leaders take responsibility for their actions and the things within their control and empower themselves and others to do their best work. Empowering individuals to lead themselves is a critical first step in their being able to lead and influence others.
The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example. John Wooden
Therefore, organisations which embrace the concept of Personal Leadership and take the view that every team member has the power and ability to be a leader within their given sphere of influence are likely to see a number of benefits including:
- Improved employee engagement
- Improved team work
- Improved communication
- Generation of an empowering organisational culture
- Greater Productivity
- Increased efficiency
- Decreased costs
The most notable of these is increased employee engagement, as many of the other benefits come about as a direct consequence of having a more engaged and empowered team.
According to a 2012 Gallup Research Study2 of 49,928 business or work units, including 1.4 million employees in 192 organisations, across 49 industries and 34 countries employee engagement is a very important competitive differentiator for organisations. The research showed a strong correlation between employee engagement and 9 key outcomes:
*compared with bottom-quartile units, top-quartile units have:
- 37% lower absenteeism
- 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
- 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
- 28% less shrinkage
- 48% fewer safety incidents
- 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
- 10% higher customer metrics
- 21% higher productivity
- 22% higher profitability
The results of the Gallup Research demonstrate that the benefits of investing in Personal Leadership Development throughout an organisation to drive employee engagement can not be underestimated.
Coaching for Nurturing Personal Leadership Development
By taking the time and effort to develop Personal Leadership skills organisations and individuals will ultimately reap the rewards. Many individuals (and organisations) wishing to enhance their Personal Leadership qualities will engage the services of an executive or development coach.
Coaching is a partnership, in which the coach supports you, the individual, in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires you to maximise your personal and professional potential3(according to the International Coach Federation, ICF). When working with a coach you are supported and encouraged to:
- Develop a vision for your future
- Enhance your self-awareness
- Identify and understand your core values
- Focus and prioritise the important things in your life
- Generate strategies and approaches to achieve your goals
- Uncover any limiting beliefs which might be preventing you from achieving your goals
- Identify and utilise support structures or resources which will help you achieve your goals
- Define the actions you can take to reach your goals
- Take responsibility and hold yourself accountable for the actions you take/don’t take
A coach will support you to be the best that you can be, in all that you do, both professionally and personally. You will be encouraged to consider how you need to be, act and think in order to be your very best. Coaching fosters a growth mindset, a desire to be curious, learn and keep developing self. Coaching is forward-thinking and is based on the premise that you are the expert in your life (and work) and that you have the creativity and resources needed to draw upon in order to reach your goals. By working with a coach you cement the learning process; the results of the changes you are implementing will be longer lasting and you gain greater insight and self-knowledge/awareness.
You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him to find it within himself. Galileo
In fact, it is widely accepted that working with a coach helps individuals to “dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, whilst improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential”3.
The development of “leadership skills” encompasses also those qualities and attributes related to Personal Leadership, which Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, defined as “the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things.”. When we consider the role of coaching in the context of this definition, the synergy between the coaching process and the development of personal leadership skills becomes evident.
Infographic by Chuck Mache Communications http://www.chuckmache.com/infographic-leader-vs-manager/
Susan Sorenson “How Employee Engagement Drives Growth” published June 20, 2013 on http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx
International Coach Federation “FAQ: What is coaching?” (viewed online 02.07.16) on