As an Inspiring Leader, you train yourself first

Last autumn at Siili, we launched Inspiring Leader training to achieve a shared understanding, language and culture of leadership. Siili’s Tribal Leads were the first to start the training.

For three months now, they have taken a close look at their own motivation, clarified their understanding of their coping strategies and taken multiple viewpoints to gain insight into the reasons why we are the way we are. If you didn’t know that the law of least effort represents the default setting of the human brain, well, now you understand why we are so often tempted by our sofas.

Leadership begins with self-awareness

When we become aware of our coping methods as well as our good and bad habits, we can influence them and change the way we play our game — even quite radically if necessary. If the team leader is off his or her game, it is practically impossible for the team to be on top of theirs. Unfortunately, self-awareness does not grow on its own, and those in leadership positions may have very little understanding of how their autopilot ways of working affect others.

Our Tribal Lead Miikka Niemelä says that one of the key insights from the first Inspiring Leader lectures was that a better awareness of himself and better physical well-being help him perform better in his work and with his leadership duties. As the training has progressed, many of our Tribal Leads — including Miikka — have set a personal goal for themselves and worked on creating good habits and positive routines that support the achievement of that goal.

Thinking about your own response to failures is an eye-opening exercise. In his book Succeeding When You’re Supposed to Fail, Rom Brafman divides people into two groups. For “externals”, external factors arise from the actions of others, and they feel it necessary to analyze what others should have done better and to identify who is to blame. Conversely, “internals” possess resilience that is based on their capacity to accept external events and influence their own fates. The difference between an inspiring leader and an uninspiring leader is the range of coping methods they use. Forgiveness towards oneself and others, enthusiasm, humor and finding and using mentors are effective and healthy methods for coping with difficult situations.

The significance of change management is nowadays increasingly highlighted compared to other leadership skills. In today’s world, none of us are playing a static game. Goals without plans are merely dreams—or worse, illusions. When we think about change, we mistakenly believe we are doing something substantial towards it. But change always requires sacrifices. Change also always requires learning new habits and routines. This is why change doesn’t exactly feel good when it happens. For us and for those we lead to boldly move towards new goals, we need leadership based on personal sparring and coaching. A melting iceberg won’t get a lone penguin to move. You need at least one more penguin and a vision of what it looks like elsewhere and how to get there.

To ensure that leadership is not merely being too hard on yourself and a desperate battle against our lazy brains, you can start your journey towards inspiring leadership by taking an inventory of your own sources of inspiration and enthusiasm. What gives you energy? What makes you feel genuinely happy? Where and how can you get more of it? Who can help you? When you are energetic, it is much easier for you to be a better version of yourself. And, rest assured, your team wants that better version of you as its leader rather than the you that is always having a bad day.

Tribal Lead Miikka also uses books to help him develop new models for inspiring leadership. He particularly recommends David Rock’s leadership ideas from the books Your Brain at Work and Quiet Leadership. He also encourages managers wishing to develop their coaching-style leadership skills to familiarize themselves with Neuroleadership and Nonviolent Communication.

Our New Year’s resolution could therefore be to promise ourselves that if it is impossible to resist the sofa at least we would read a useful book while sitting on it…


Written by Kristiina Burtsoff

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