Boss Lady

What you need to become a great leader

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Few people are born with great leadership skills. These are abilities that are generally acquired with experience, or with learning. Yes, there are crucial factors in becoming a great leader and these are incorporated in the theory and practice of Flow Leadership: the ultimate state of effectiveness, influence and success in leadership.

How do you become a great leader who is effective, influential and successful?

Having the self-awareness to recognise and capitalise on your own strengths is paramount, closely followed by the ability to focus on others’ needs and work collaboratively.

The Women who Lead program has been designed to develop women’s leadership capabilities in the key areas of self-awareness, appropriate assertiveness, effective communication, personal brand, creating presence and the ability to promote you. All of these key focus areas are ultimately designed to increase confidence and empower participants to step up in their leadership journey.

The most effective and successful leader is both self-aware and skilled; they are capable of fluently adapting their approach to fit the current context, optimally utilising their skills in a challenging environment.

While I am continually reassuring leadership program participants that there is no one ideal profile of optimal leadership, I do believe optimal leadership is achievable through Flow Leadership.

Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s fascination in achieving happiness lead to his investigations of “optimal experience” a genuinely satisfying state of consciousness he called flow. During “flow”, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. You may recognise the experience of flow when you have been totally absorbed in what you are working on and don’t even notice the hours go by as you create your masterpiece.

So how do you get to this state of flow when working, and how do you achieve flow leadership?

The four levels of development

Applying the concept of flow to leadership I have developed the Flow Leadership Model, which contains four developmental levels representing four distinct stages. Each stage specifies the current state of the learner and the development required to progress to the next stage, in relation to movement along the Flow Spectrums.

There are 18 trait dichotomies on the Flow Spectrums, grouped in to three categories:

SELF – Your personality traits and innate preferences that shape your behaviours

OTHERS – Your default behaviours when interacting with others

WORLD – Your lens of the world used when forming perceptions and making decisions

Each of these dichotomies reflect your innate preference which shape attitudes, behaviours and ultimately leadership decisions. Understanding one’s instinctive leadership style is the first step to achieving Flow Leadership.

To achieve a state of flow it is essential that the level of challenge is equal to the level of skill, as the challenge increases so must the skill set and confidence. For many women though we underestimate our skill levels and lack confidence utilising our skills to lead others – this is holding us back.

Recognising strengths

To gain greater self-awareness around our strengths we need to embrace the positive affirmations of our strengths in feedback from others as being more important than skills that are identified as Women leadersneeding further development.

Most people experience some anxiety receiving feedback about their areas of strengths and developmental needs. And most people want to compare their results to others to see how they measure up. Our education systems are designed to measure performance against others and nurture and reward desirable skills (math, science, IT) and ignore, devalue, or limit less valued skills (arts, trades).

Which skills to value

We learn to value certain skills over others, and believe we need to develop only certain skills for overall success. In our education systems this is unfortunately often true. If you don’t perform well in exams your opportunity to gain access to university courses is likely to be very limited, therefore less successful in entering into professional employment. For many gaining professional employment is a measure of success.

So we are generally primed to want to know which skills are valued most, what we need to do (or be seen to be doing) to be most successful, rather than utlising our own skills to optimum.

From masculine to feminine leadership skills

Several of our historically valued leadership capabilities such as being directive, assertive, and decisive, are now far less likely to lead to effective leadership than are emotional intelligence and the ability to work collaboratively.

The historically valued leadership skills are also predominantly masculine characteristics, which can be difficult for women to cultivate. Fortunately the current focus on emotional and social intelligence and collaborative working styles are traditionally more feminine characteristics – we now just need the belief in ourselves to utilise our skills with confidence.

It’s not about authority

Leadership is not about authority. I have worked with plenty of people in positions of authority who are terrible leaders.

I attended a masterclass on adaptive leadership with Ed O’Malley from the Kansas Leadership Centre recently, which highlighted the concept that “Leadership is mobilizing people to tackle the most pressing, daunting, wicked challenges: the tough stuff.” Central to this theory is that anyone can lead, leadership starts with the individual and must engage others.

Keeping the team with you

Effective leaders are skilled at empowering their teams to work collaboratively to make a real difference, rather than charging ahead and then realizing that they have left their team behind. Again, I hypothesise that women are more naturally inclined to work in this manner – we just need to develop the confidence to step up and speak out.

The Women who Lead program ultimately develops women leaders’ confidence, by developing self-awareness, affirming existing skills and strengths and building upon these, embracing flexibility of approach, and consciously (eventually subconsciously) choosing the most effective approach most suited to the current context. As women are naturally multi-taskers we already have such a head-start at maintaining authenticity and a sense of purpose while maximizing a flexible approach.

Flow Leadership is the ideal or ultimate state of effectiveness, influence and success in leadership. The experienced and self-aware leader who has developed the ability for spontaneous movement between approaches and styles to best fit the current audience or context can attain Flow Leadership.

The Women who Lead program is a collaboration between Flow Leadership and Style Confidante, designed and delivered by Katalin Howell, Director of Flow Leadership and Melissa Lewis Founder of Style Confidante.

If you would like to know more about our programs or would like a program tailored for your organisation, please contact us at [email protected] [email protected] or visit our website www.flowleadership.com.au

About Katalin Howell

Katalin is a leadership development professional with over 20 years experience in psychology education, leadership development, board governance, and executive education. Katalin has specialised in designing and delivering leadership programs working with leading organisations such as Melbourne Business School and Leadership Victoria. Katalin is currently the Director of Flow Leadership, a company underpinned by proprietary research into leadership development. Katalin’s psychology background, her extensive research and experience has led to the development of the Flow Leadership Model. Programs utilising the Flow Leadership Model are offered for emerging, established and executive leaders to facilitate the development of the ultimate state of effectiveness, influence and success in leadership. The Women who Lead program is a collaboration between Flow Leadership and Style Confidante, designed and delivered by Katalin Howell, Director of Flow Leadership and Melissa Lewis Founder of Style Confidante. If you would like to know more about the programs or would like a program tailored for your organisation, please visit our website.