Self-Awareness: A Common Trait Among High Performing Leaders
Being “self-aware” is an essential characteristic of transformational leaders. Knowing who you are, what makes you “tick” and most importantly, your unique abilities are key elements in the leadership development process. But knowing “who you are” is important not only for the individual leader, but for the entire organization as well.
Recently, I read with great interest a business journal article about the importance of core focus in organizations. It mentioned the airline industry and in particular, discount airlines. Some of us remember People Express, one of the first to offer “no frills” air travel. More recently, regional carriers like Southwest and JetBlue have taken this idea to higher levels of success. Others though did not fare as well.
These failed attempts include airlines called Ted and Song, which lasted abut five and three years, respectively. Ted was launched by United, Song was Delta Airlines' attempt to gain traction in the discount air travel market. Air Canada took a run at this as well launching Tango which lasted about three years (last Tango?).
Why did all three fail where others thrived? The answer in a word: culture.
Culture is an organization’s DNA. It is hard-wired and part of the fabric and the belief system of every organization. It’s how we think and feel about who we are and what we do. And when we are asked to suddenly do and be something else, the results can be disastrous.
It’s not that they didn’t try. Delta hired coaches to “re-train” their staff to become “quicker and more spontaneous.” In other words, more like the Southwest team (and less like Delta). But the Delta culture held firm and the attempt to be something they were not came through.
In her book “The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs,” Cynthia Montgomery stresses that culture and purpose is as much about what we are not as what we are. That focus can galvanize an organization in a way that brings higher levels of achievement. Paradoxically, the tighter the focus, the broader the opportunity.
In our strategic planning process, we invest time in discussing what we will not do and what we will stop doing; identifying and eliminating the habitual time wasters that can easily become embedded in any organization. Worst yet, this busyness often comes disguised as productivity, creating a self-perpetuating drain on time and resources.
So, what is the primary focus (purpose) of your organization? How will your company be defined and what does it stand for? These just may be the most important questions you ask yourself and your team and is fundamental to strategy formulation and execution.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.