5 questions every leader should ask themselves

Jerome Parisse-Brassens

Are you a great leader?

Ask yourself the following questions, because they will not only improve your leadership impact, but also allow you to be clearer about who you are as a leader and what matters to you.

Questions that leaders should ask themselves for successful culture change

  1. Am I walking my talk?

My ‘talk’ is what I say, what I aspire to, what I want others to be or to do. My ‘walk’ is what I do. Aligning what I do with what I say creates trust because others know that when I say something, I mean it. The flipside of this is that as soon as I say something and do something different, trust is lost. And it takes time to create trust. So, walk your talk.

Of course it is not as easy as it sounds, and it is made harder by the fact that sometimes we aspire to something but we are not there yet. Let’s say for example that you want to increase collaboration and request your team to share information and collaborate freely. You will need to be a role model of collaboration yourself, but you may be naturally competitive, which can show as the opposite of collaborating. People will see a disconnect between what you’re asking them to do and how you are doing it yourself. In this case, be open and explain that it is work in progress for you too!

Great leaders walk their talk.

  1. What behaviours am I tolerating?

Not tolerating inappropriate behaviour is one of the most important skills that a leader must learn. What you tolerate becomes the norm, so if you don’t want it to be the norm, do not tolerate it (This can be applied to kids, pets and partners, although with partners you may be entering dangerous territory…).

Step onto the leadership balcony for a second, and think about the behaviours you have been recently tolerating. Are some of these behaviours impacting your business results? If so, it is time to do the right thing: Re-establish the right pattern of behaviour by describing what is expected and calling people out the next time you see them doing the wrong thing (always with respect, obviously).

Great leaders do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour.

  1. Am I open?

Being open is a core quality of effective leaders. Being open is about knowing that I do not have all the answers, that I may be wrong, and that I have a lot to learn from others. It is about not being defensive when I am being given feedback I’d rather not hear. Openness is a wonderful thing: It allows change to take place. Change in yourself, change in others, and change in business outcomes. It creates trust, encourages speaking up and collaboration. Openness is also a key factor for innovation. Being open pushes fears away.

Great leaders show openness.

  1. Do I hold my values all the time?

What happened the last time you were under pressure? Say, you strongly believe in integrity, but it is end of financial year and you have not quite delivered on your budget yet. Will you sell a specific product or service to a client even if you know they don’t really know it? How resilient are your values when they are submitted to the blowtorch?

Being clear on your values and holding them strongly is a sign of powerful leadership. I put this question in 4th position, but it could as well come first. Being principled or value-based will enable you to stay on track; it will avoid distractions; you will feel good about yourself; and people will trust you because they will know what to expect. If your personal values clash deeply with the organisation’s values, I would encourage you to reconsider whether you are in the right place.

Great leaders are principled.

  1. When was the last time I blamed someone or something?

Did I blame IT for not providing me with the best tools? Did I blame a colleague for not giving me the information on time? Did I blame the lack of time for not delivering on my promises? Blaming is debilitating. Blaming puts me in the role of the victim and makes me innocent (which feels fabulous) but the problem is that because I am innocent, I cannot change the situation. If I’m not part of the problem, I can’t be part of the solution. Try to step out from seeing yourself as the victim, and take personal responsibility. This will make you an agent of change, you will feel self-empowered, and your life (or work) will improve. Even better, you will become a shining light for others.

Great leaders take personal responsibility.

What’s the verdict? How did you respond to each question? I still personally struggle with question number 3. But the struggle is half the journey, so persevere and you will see and feel the difference it can create to your leadership.

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