The Foundation of Leadership

by Francois Coetzee

When leadership is mentioned, most will imagine a formal environment with a leading figure, surrounded by followers. And though this may be the most popular notion of leadership this is not where it starts. There is also the notion of internal, or personal leadership. In his popular book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey discusses the concept of self-mastery represented as the first three habits, namely “Be Proactive”, “Begin with the End in Mind” and “Put First Things First”.  These three habits are all focused on developing good leadership habits in terms of mastering the self.

Kevin Cashman, the author of “Leadership from the Inside Out” and CEO of LeaderSource, defines the core qualities of leadership as authenticity, self-expression and value creation. He defines authenticity as the link between the inner and the outer person. This implies that leaders must have a good understanding of who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they can function in any leadership environment taking into account their qualities without the need to “hide” who they are. This comes back to character – the understanding of values, beliefs and qualities that are accepted and expressed.

It could be argued that the first step towards being an authentic leader is mastery and understanding of the self. Before the public leadership and reaching out for connection with others, a good leader need to be able to understand the value framework he, or she, comes from, the way that this value frameworks governs decisions, action and reaction; understand what he, or she, wants to achieve, and how it relates to their value framework, before setting out to achieve it; and how to prioritize the important tasks.

In this blog we will discuss the foundational qualities that inhabit authentic leadership and how to develop that through coaching and self-directed learning. In the coming weeks we will explore the extent to which self-knowledge and self-mastery contributes to the concept of authentic leadership.

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