Leaders make an impact in their companies but it’s not always understood how that impact manifests in the everyday grind of business. As a consultant, I have been working with leaders from several companies over the past years both small and large ones. I have seen firsthand how the CEO’s behavior and mindset create the model for a particular kind of behavior in surrounding teams. And what I’ve discovered between those years is that the most real and most lasting impact of leaders is cultural.
Leadership certainly affects the culture in an organization, even when that influence is subconscious. That impact can quickly become negative unless a leader reflects on their development. If the personal culture of a CEO is at odds with the culture of the organization, the whole motion of a company can stall. A Harvard Business School research that looks into CEOs in six countries found that misalignment of a CEO can have detrimental effects on the health and performance of the organization.
Preventing such things doesn’t just involve the effectiveness of a leader. It’s as much about your ability to show personal growth. The result of a conscientious personal journey is an excellent leadership
The Issue of Personal Growth as a Leader
When starting in a career or with a company, it’s easy to feel fulfilled. The excitement of new possibilities and being submerged into a working environment with insightful peers and colleagues make you feel invigorating. You can get the feeling that personal growth is continuously happening.
As you get promoted once, twice, maybe three times on the professional ladder, you’ll usually experience a lonelier playing field. You have to find someone outside your organization for peers who understand your everyday challenges, and most of them are actually competitors. Furthermore, Western culture perpetuated the myth of the “hero” executive to the point that you’re expected to suffer silently to be an effective CEO. As a result, you can feel very uncomfortable sharing personal growth with others. Maybe you’re afraid to be seen as weak, failure or less than infallible. While it’s understandable, it’s also unsustainable.
Ignoring or hiding personal growth can destruct you and the company at large as you’ll miss an opportunity to connect with your employees. In fact, many Americans working at midsize to enterprise-size businesses don’t know the names of their CEOs.
How to Embrace a Companywide Personal Growth Mindset?
- Make talking about personal growth safe. We, as leaders, have areas we’re actively working on. It’s happening, and we all know. However, we usually don’t talk about it and it’s not apparent why. Start opening up about your journey to help your employees think more openly and honestly about theirs. By doing it, you’ll provide employees a license to talk about their journeys. It works because as a company leader, you have a degree of authority and credibility. If you strive to drive growth, providing a behavioral pattern for others to emulate is a must.
- Master the art of personal storytelling. If you are telling a story about your personal growth, do it in a way that promotes empathy and understanding. You can encourage deeper interactions if you use a personal narrative. You need to make it real, and you’re as real as it gets. However, it doesn’t mean your story has to be like a heroic tale. Grapple with both negativity and positivity. Talk about the challenge and the journey to overcome. The most critical factor is vulnerability to get a balance of sympathy and hopes that inspire employees in their struggles.
- Find a great coach. As a leader, you are considered as a coach in the company, so it is challenging to find models for personal growth. This is where external mentors come in to provide guidance. Many successful CEOs already depend on great coaches. A trusted and unbiased third party can offer a crucial perspective during your personal growth journey.
Leaders’ actions drive organizational culture. However, you should learn to take notice of your personal growth story to shape your influence as a leader into a force for good. A cogent CEO isn’t fearlessness or infallibility but the opposite. An effective leader is not infallibility or fearlessness; in fact, it just the opposite. Be vulnerable and you’ll be amazed to know those around you open their hearts and minds to your vision.