Leadership development through personal mastery

The text in this posting is copied and slightly adapted from the article: The Role of Personal Mastery in Clinical Practice: How Personal Leadership Can Transform the Workplace (Koehle et al., 2008).

Development is not targeted only at developing hard skills such as competencies; it is also aimed at developing the person more holistically, recognizing that in doing so, the potential exists to transform the work environment and, subsequently, the culture. This development is based on the premise that everyone in the organization can play a leadership role, and that by developing the leadership potential of employees, the culture can be affected positively.

One needs to create or uncover a new kind of leadership—leadership that is less about positional authority and more about leading from wherever you are in the organization. If staff views problems as opportunities for learning, is comfortable with developmental feedback, and, finally, is grounded in collaborative relationships, an organization is more nimble, engaged, and adaptable. The light at the end of the tunnel is leadership that embraces a work environment built on collaborative and supportive management — an environment that embodies respect and trust, where all staff feel valued through an open exchange of ideas.

Leadership is a verb rather than a noun: what is important is what the leader does rather than the title he or she holds. We all need to be leaders regardless of our formal title or role. This starts with inner self-leadership and moves outward to influence, guide, support and lead others. The process of becoming a leader is the same as the process of becoming a highly effective human being. Leadership development is ultimately personal development. This perspective underscores that, as the leader grows, learns, and adapts, so the organization grows, learns, and adapts.

Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively. The twin thrusts of defining a compelling vision and of staying connected to current reality reveals a gap. It is in this gap between vision and reality that creativity resides. This is a creative tension. Leaders use the gap between their current and desired state to create energy for change. This is the play of energy within the concept of personal mastery. Personal mastery comes not from merely accumulating energy but from processing this energy in the light of our awareness. Personal mastery is the science and art of channeling energy from that which we consider purposeless to that we hold as purposeful.

Personal mastery or personal leadership is essentially mindful. It is the motivation of the individual to take charge of his or her own life. Personal leaders realize that leadership is not a position or title, but an outlook on life and their role in the world. The missing link in leadership development is growing the person to grow the leader. This notion of personal awareness and development as integral to leadership has its roots in both eastern and western spiritual traditions, as well as secular traditions.

Leaders must be engaged in the process of changing themselves — how they think and feel, what assumptions they make, and how they behave — as a major vehicle to inspiring the same value-driven changes in others and ultimately the organization.


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