Self-Centered Leadership - Become a Better Leader by Putting Yourself First

Effective leaders are like orchestra conductors: just as the conductor is tasked with optimizing and harmonizing the efforts of each musician to create something greater and more powerful than discrete individual performances, leaders are expected to do the same. The primary responsibility of both leaders and conductors is to make sure everyone is on the same page, knows the part they are expected to play, and have the skills to perform. They ensure that people know what is expected of them, are given the opportunity to practice to their part, and receive feedback to improve individual and collective success. This is leadership at its best.

Simply managing the activities of others is not leadership. World class conductors are able to orchestrate great performances because they hone their own skills and focus on harmonizing and optimizing the efforts of the group rather than trying to manage each section or monitor specific notes played by individual performers. Similarly, effective leaders build a solid foundation for success by focusing first on identifying and addressing their own skill development needs and then on building relationships and fostering teamwork rather than simply focusing on directing the efforts of others.


While it might seem counterintuitive, the most important aspect of developing your team is spending time focusing on yourself. Many leaders believe that focusing on managing should be their first priority, not realizing that effective leadership begins with themselves as individuals. A clear understanding of self is the critical foundation of effective leadership. Focusing on self addresses the need to be self-aware and willing to change your perceptions and your actions to achieve better outcomes. 

Demonstrate the importance and value of personal development by creating your own development action plan. Gather feedback from your boss, peers, and subordinates regarding their perceptions of your style, skills, and approach. The goal is to have open informal discussions to gather input from different vantages about perceived strengths and areas of potential development. Feedback helps foster greater personal awareness, which drives improved communication, a more collaborative approach and improved team dynamics.


Building stronger partnerships with peers and other key constituents will help drive better interpersonal and organizational outcomes by ensuring alignment and coordination of effort. Your development plan should include strategy for developing more collaborative relationships with internal and external constituents, thought leaders, and colleagues. Rather than defining your role primarily in terms of functional focus, organizational leaders need a broader focus. Fostering collaboration enhances the power and impact of virtually every effort and action.  

Schedule one-on-one meetings with the leaders of other departments or functions to discuss their departmental goals and how they overlap, complement, or diverge with your goals and focus. The goal is to foster better alignment and better outcomes by understanding the broader context of the organization, goals, and expectations as departments or functions interact. Cascading this collaborative mindset to the broader team then becomes clearer and easier.

Creating a culture of collaboration and demonstrating the power and importance of teamwork helps build a culture that recognizes and values the contributions of all and reinforces the concept that long term success is based on effective collective effort rather than a series of solo performances.


This is about achieving results by managing, developing, and leveraging the team. Leaders with a good sense of self who employ a collaborative approach are better equipped to lead rather than simply manage. Feedback and greater clarity about self and an understanding of your own personal development needs informs how to best approach the role of leader or manager of others. Input and perspective gained from peers and other leaders may also inform potential changes as to how your team is structured, how they are motivated, and what they need to accomplish. 

Effective communication is the most critical component of management but many leaders have a limited view of communication that is confined to “push” communication which is designed to disseminate information or inform others. While information sharing is important, engaging others in dialogue and discussion is more vital because it ensures clarity of message, coordination of effort, and positive outcomes. As a general rule, only about 30% of your communication effort should be focused on providing information and context. Equal time should be spent in active dialogue and discussion because this creates a sense of ownership of the process among all members of the team. Beyond informing and discussing, the most critical component of effective management communication is engaging the team in action planning that defines who needs to do what, when, how and why. Action planning is followed by execution of the plan, feedback to adjust efforts, and debriefing on lessons learned and next steps.   

To effectively manage and communicate, leaders need to meet regularly with their team members, both individually and collectively. Everyone on the team needs to understand the importance and the impact of their role and their contribution to the success of the team and the organization. Each member of the team should have specific goals and objectives that are measured, reviewed, and discussed on a regular basis. 

By focusing first on self, then on collaboration, and then on managing, you will build a strong foundation that will help you, your team, and your organization achieve greater success.

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