Pick up virtually any popular leadership book of the past 10 years and you'll see a common theme: leading yourself first. In fact, most leadership books go out of their way to make this point before getting into how to lead others. A great example of this is Stephen Covey's wildly popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habits 1, 2, 3, and 7 are about leading yourself.
I recently completed my doctoral dissertation at Pepperdine University on how executive coaches utilize the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) with the leaders they work with. Even if that topic is not of great interest to you, the results of the study are an important reminder for all of us who want to lead others. Executive coaches (the people who are hired by companies and paid many thousands of dollars to develop a single leader) are an important group of people to understand since, while they may be small in number, their important work affects many people in organizations.
I studied a group of 15 North American executive coaches and set out to understand how they use the MBTI. What I discovered was their process for doing this, along with the thing that they say they talk about and do the most. So, what is it that executive coaches do most with leaders when they are working with the MBTI?
Raise their awareness. Both self-awareness and organizational awareness. In essence, help leaders understand themselves and the world around them better. In fact, they do this three times more than anything else.
Leadership researchers and authors get it, executive coaches get it, but do we get it? Do we fully understand the importance of knowing ourselves well enough so that we can lead others? I know that I don't (despite my efforts to the contrary) and I'm guessing that you may not either. It's an important reminder for all of us that if we genuinely want to lead others, we need to start by learning about the person in the mirror.
If you'd like to learn more about the details of my study, follow this link to view my audio/PowerPoint presentation of the study and results:
If you really want to get into the details of my study, follow this link to download my full dissertation:
I welcome your thoughts and questions about this study in the comment forum below.