This issue I want to talk about self-knowledge. It used to be that managers had their pathway in organisational life clearly defined; getting the job done, putting in the hard yards in progressing through the organisation; relying on experience as it was handed down, and occasionally updating their own skills in a formal business or management program.
For the time (which, 10 or 15 years ago, was stable and in many cases regulated), this was an appropriate approach to management of an organisation. Naturally there were those who sought information from wider perspectives or who seemed to have a natural ability to engage others in the pursuit of a common purpose, but they were quite rare.
Today, the old way is simply not good enough.
It can no longer be taken for granted that you are qualified for life. Rapid and continuous change in I.T., in the marketplace, and in work practices has meant that maintaining managerial and personal relevance is not gained through formal studies alone or one-off training experiences. The key to understanding management and leadership in organisations is understanding yourself as a manager. That means staying relevant by reading widely, attending seminars and conferences that present alternative conceptual models, seeking information from outside your industry sector, and reflecting on, and understanding, yourself.
If leadership is the process by which our leaders influence followers towards the realisation of shared purposes, then by inference self-knowledge is the essence of being an excellent leader. This includes knowing your personal preferences and management style, questioning your values and ethics, and knowing why you arrived at decisions.
Is self-knowledge essential for leadership, or is it merely another facet of the management debate that is currently fashionable?
I believe it is the former. A recent study by Attracta Lagan of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney concluded that Australian managers do not allow themselves the time to develop into good leaders. She says leadership is about searching inwards, and self-knowledge is a precursor to organisation learning. She believes that companies are not putting resources into learning. The majority, large or small, are failing to create space in the organisation for people to reflect.
There is a message there, but are we insightful enough to do something about it? I welcome your views.
- Mike Gurry, National President of the Australian Institute of Management (February 1999 issue of AIM magazine)
© Copyright 1999, The Institute of Advanced Leadership. (www.ioal.org) All rights reserved. Last updated 15th July 1999