The Pre-requisite to the Leadership of Others

by Dr Tim Hawkes

[4 minute read]


This is one of those ‘tap on the shoulder’ blogs that seeks to remind that the effective leadership of others starts with the effective leadership of self. If our personal discipline is chaotic, our example will be less than stellar and our influence as a leader compromised.

Achieving self-leadership must take us on an adventure of discovery – it’s a quest to find who we are and what we can do. It’s an odyssey that takes us through a fog of ignorance and into the light of self-knowledge. After self-knowledge, various other ‘selfs’ need to be confronted such as self-management and self-control.

Let’s get back to self-knowledge. Most people would probably say they have a pretty good knowledge of themselves. They’ve lived in their skin for many years - long enough to know that they don’t like broad beans and turnips.

But - how well do we really know ourselves? Do we know our unconscious bias? Are we aware that subconsciously, most of us have what is called ‘confirmation bias’ that causes us to look for and interpret information that confirms our beliefs?

  • Did you know that you blink more when you’re lying?
  • Did you know that you tend to throw the dice harder when you need a higher number and softer when you need a low number?
  • Did you know that we are all governed by curious fallacies? For example, if we have tossed a coin and got five heads in a row, we think the next toss is more likely to be tails. Wrong. This is a gambler’s fallacy – because there is exactly a 50/50 chance that the next toss of the coin will be tails.

Although not aware of it, some of us engage in PAREIDOLIA – we see significance and meaning in images and sounds – think portents seen in clouds and figures in Rorschach inkblots. Others suffer from REACTANCE, - the urge to do the very opposite to what we know others want us to do. Several of us unconsciously engage in REACTIVITY - when watched, we work better. A few of us suffer from LOSS AVERSION – we prefer to avoid losses rather than obtaining gains.

Most of us suffer from – are you ready for this – AVAILABILITY HEURISTIC. We tend to remember bad news rather more than good news. I could go on, but the point is made that we need to recognise we may not know ourselves quite as well as we think. And what does this mean? It means this. We need to be a little cautious in claiming that we really know ourselves.

SPOILER ALERT: If we’re going to talk about leadership of self, it’s going to take us into the dark and uncomfortable place of personal discipline. Sorry – but there’s no escaping it. Much of the task of being an effective leader of self is about being disciplined enough to achieve the things you want to achieve. So - let’s look at the matter of personal discipline.

Personal discipline is not just about moderating the amount of chocolate eaten and doing 100 sit-ups each day. It involves being able to control those impulses which, if yielded to, would compromise integrity. If we’re not crash hot in this area, then we’re talking remediation, we’re talking improvement, we’re talking training.

For training to be effective, it needs to take us to the limits of existing capability. This can hurt. For this reason, training is not always enjoyable. Developing a skill, obtaining a degree, achieving a weight that is sub 80kgs is not going to happen without inconvenience, drudgery and a capacity to resist the chocolate.

A white belt in martial arts will only become black after many hours of practice.

Matthew Syed, in his book Bounce, suggests that one of the most important factors in fostering good performance is whether we have been placed on a ‘trajectory of excellence’.

Syed reports on a study undertaken in 1991 by Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University. Ericsson studied three groups of violinists. One group was outstanding, another was good, and the last group was of average ability. The finding that Ericsson discovered was that by the age of twenty, the outstanding group had put in 10,000 hours of practice, the good group 8,000 hours of practice, and the average group 4,000 hours.

What does this mean? Well – (and you’re not going to like this) it means ‘no pain, no gain’. Effectiveness as a leader is only likely if there is effective self-leadership and effective self-discipline. If we’re going to develop a strength in Christian leadership, it will only happen if we submit to training – the sort of training offered by the Arrow Leadership programs.

Remember, if we cannot manage ourselves, we cannot be expected to manage others.