To lead others, first lead yourself

To lead others, first lead yourself

Water practitioners entering leadership development programs typically do so with the intention of learning how to better lead others. When asked, “What is the main objective you want to achieve during this program?”, answers such as “I want to better motivate my team” and “I want to influence executives in my organisation” are common. It doesn’t take long, however, for most developing leaders to recognise that in order to lead others we must first lead ourselves.

To lead others, first lead yourself

Dr André Taylor teaching in the IWC Water Leadership Program

Quality leadership programs, like the International Water Leadership Program and the Australian-based IWC Water Leadership Program, begin with ‘self-leadership’. We can define self-leadership as being aware of our personal values, nature, strengths and weaknesses, and using this knowledge to actively manage our lives so we are at our best as individuals and authentic leaders.

To assess the extent to which you currently engage in self-leadership, please consider the following five questions:

  1. Are you crystal clear on your personal values as a leader? Such values are deeply-held beliefs about behaviours or outcomes that are important to you. Credible leaders understand their personal values, communicate them to colleagues, and act in accordance with them at all times.
  2. Do you spend time analysing and reflecting on your nature (e.g. your personality) and consider how this might help or hinder your leadership activities? Some personality traits are generally helpful to leadership emergence and effectiveness (e.g. extroversion) while others are not (e.g. emotional instability). Self-aware leaders can use this knowledge to find roles that are suited to their nature.
  3. Do you get frequent feedback from colleagues to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and ways to improve? Finding practical ways to get frequent, constructive and specific feedback from colleagues can be challenging, but is a key to building self-awareness and leadership capacity.
  4. Do you frequently reflect on day-to-day leadership challenges as well as your ‘life story’? Reflection is the bridge between experience and growth as a leader. Identifying reflection techniques that work for you and getting into the habit of reflecting is another important element of self-leadership. In addition, reflecting on your life story is a pathway to becoming a more authentic leader by recognising the critical events that have shaped you as an individual and leader.
  5. Do you excel at practical self-leadership skill sets such as managing time, managing stress, building personal resilience and boosting your own creativity? People who excel at time management, for example, are aware of their ‘big picture goals’, believe they are in control of their schedule, and schedule time to meet their most important goals. From this perspective, time management is more than a ‘management skill’ ¬– it’s a self-leadership skill.

The International Water Leadership Program and the IWC Water Leadership Program will help you to make progress in all of these areas, and more. Once a developing leader is competent in self-leadership, they are in the best position to move on to learning how to influence other individuals, lead teams and even lead organisations.


About the Author: Dr André Taylor, Leadership Specialist, International WaterCentre

Dr André Taylor leads the design and delivery of the International WaterCentre’s leadership development programs and short courses. André completed his PhD in water-related leadership and has worked in the Australian water industry for 19 years. He also coordinates and teaches the Leadership in a Complex Environment course at the University of New South Wales and directs his own consulting business. André has published leadership-related papers in publications such as Water Science & Technology, Journal of Environmental Management, and the world’s premier leadership journal, The Leadership Quarterly.

About IWC Water Leadership Programs

IWC Water Leadership Program (in Australia)

Launched in 2011, this program is designed for emerging water leaders at the project to middle management level. This program runs every year for nine months, starting in December and including two face-to-face intensive sessions in Brisbane and various distance/online elements including coaching. Scholarships are currently on offer for the next round of the program until 15 September.

International Water Leadership Program (in Australia and the Netherlands)

Based on the success of IWC’s own domestic Water Leadership Program, IWC, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and Nyenrode Business Universiteit in the Netherlands have recently launched the International Water Leadership Program. This program targets emerging water leaders in governments, business and civil society organisations, with 10 years of relevant work experience. The first round is scheduled to commence in late 2014.

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