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HomeArticle: Understanding Leadership

Understanding Leadership

You will not be a Great Leader — Until You Understand Yourself

Many executives who find themselves in leadership positions, assume they must be good or even great leaders. However, leadership is a difficult challenge that requires constant vigil. It is similar to participating in the bull riding sport at the annual Houston Rodeo. The belligerent bull represents the ever-changing circumstances leaders face, and the body of the rider represents the executive's sense of where he or she is. To ride the bull and to be a great leader, you have to manage the circumstances and be acutely self-aware.

Leadership Journey

How well are you progressing on your leadership journey? How well have you grown as a leader in the last year? If you haven't asked yourself that question, you are shortchanging your organization, team and yourself. If you believe you know all there is to know about leadership, you probably are in more need of learning than any other leader. Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong.

“Unless you understand the layers within yourself, you will be a superficial leader at best.”


Becoming Self-Aware

Leadership is as much about you as it is about others. It is the mechanism through which you may ultimately transform yourself. If you fail to keep discovering more about who you are, you will fail to keep improving as a leader. Being self-aware is one the most important characteristics of a leader. Few executives are able to see their own actions and thoughts in a dispassionate view. As a result, they never realize how they are being swayed by their emotions of greed, fear, jealousy, insecurity, hubris and ego. We human beings have our emotions and past experiences buried multiple layers deep within ourselves. In many cases, we never realize why we react to circumstances in ways completely contrary to the values we subscribe to.

Many CEOs who stoutly claimed integrity as their core values in public presentations, could not prevent themselves from cheating their companies and shareholders. Their baser emotions overcome their intellect. It is worth repeating, leadership is as much about you as it is about others. Unless you understand the layers within yourself, you will be a superficial leader at best.


Some basic questions to start with are: How much of your own Kool-Aid are you drinking? What aspects of your personality prevents others from contributing fully to your initiatives? Which areas of work you refuse to let go even though they are not your strengths? How honest have you been about your weaknesses, and how are you working to address them? How willing are you to accept responsibility for your actions and thinking, and how open are you to changing yourself? How aware are you of the unintended consequences of your actions, thinking and directions?

Leadership is about connecting with others at a fundamental level. If you are a superficial leader, you might be able to push your subordinates to perform their tasks, however, you won't be able to find a way to pull them to follow you and stay with you through difficult times. Their association with you will be strictly opportunistic.


Passion not Obsession

You must have passion, not obsession. It is a fine line. When you are blindly in love with yourself, your position, company or product, that’s when you will make big, fatal mistakes and lose the following of your team.

Like the Rodeo rider, be aware of yourself, otherwise the metaphorical bull of circumstances will throw you off its back.




Ravi Kathuria 
A recognized business thought leader, Kathuria has been quoted in various publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, WorldNews, and featured on the BusinessMakers show, CBS Radio, and is a monthly columnist for the SmartBusiness Magazine.

Kathuria is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Coherent Company: Drive coherence across mission, vision, goals, strategy, execution & culture to unleash business performance. It is a realistic and intense story of how a CEO struggles to transform the business and, in the process, struggles with his personal transformation.

Kathuria is the founder and president of  Cohegic Corporation, a management consulting, executive coaching and sales coaching firm. Halliburton, Hewlett-Packard, St. Lukes Episcopal Health System, AT&T, and Imperial Sugar Company executives have co-published seminal business articles with Kathuria in the Houston Business Journal on sales effectiveness, performance, corporate culture, and change management.

Invited to speak at large conferences and corporate meetings, Kathuria is a thought provoking and vivacious speaker. He has spoken at the 5th Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Conference, Rice University, Business Forum on Emerging Markets, University of Houston's Wolff Center For Entrepreneurship, University of Texas' Fleming Center for Healthcare Management, Institute of Internal Auditors, Dover Club, Galleria Chamber of Commerce, American Business Women's Association, French American Chamber of Commerce, Business Resources Group, Financial Executives Networking Group, Silver Fox Advisors, Houston Technology Center and the 2011 SPE Americas E&P Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Conference.