The management of one’s self is critical. Without it, leaders do much more harm than good. If the leader is the rule breaker, he or she cannot expect staff to follow rules. The creative deployment of self makes leadership a deeply personal business. This deployment I will call positive self-regard. The meaning of this phrase comes from the answer to the question, What are my strengths and weaknesses? For the most part, healthy (not narcissistic) leaders know themselves and tend to emphasize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. They know their worth. They trust their instincts.
Another element of positive self-regard is the nurturing of skills with discipline, i.e., to keep working on and developing one’s talents. Leaders tend to take responsibility for their own evolution and could be called lifelong learners. The third aspect of positive self-regard is the capacity to discern the fit between one’s perceived skills and what the job requires.
The most astonishing result of positive self-regard is that leaders who have it induce positive self-regard in their employees. They pass it on! This is a pivotal factor in their ability to lead. The positive self-regard of leaders is contagious.
Positive self-regard also is related to maturity and emotional wisdom. This emotional wisdom is related to the way we interact with others. Five key skills are involved:
The ability to accept people as they are and not just as we would like them to be.
The capacity to approach relationships and problems in terms of the present rather than the past.
The ability to extend to strangers and casual acquaintances the same courtesy and attention that you extend to those who are closest to you.
The ability to trust others.
The ability to do without constant approval from others.
With experience, it becomes clear that understanding and possessing positive self-regard does not blind one to the less desirable qualities of people. It does, however, establish standards for thinking about human possibilities. It is a way of developing an environment of excellence, which is an important organizational goal.