The toolkit to be a better business leader

My toolkit to be a better business leader was the result of studying for my MBA and drawing on the wisdom from the many business commentators.  It is a high level overview and its purpose is to navigate leaders in the right direction as I found there was no exact kind of leader that one should model themselves.  To be a better leader encompasses a range of competences; an awareness of ones emotions and self; and effective communication.


Competences include the underlying personal factors of a leader such as character traits, patterns of behaviour and cognitive mindsets.  It was DuBrin (2006) that provided the framework from which a leader can measure their personal traits against that of the researched list identified as traits of a better business leader.  That intelligence can be used in conjunction with the Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership model to aid in an understanding of a leader’s behavioural match to their followers.  Then Gosling & Mintzberg (2003) came from a different perspective to illustrate the five mindsets that leaders should move between and integrate into their behaviour as an all-encompassing competence.

Emotional awareness encompasses qualities such as having an awareness of oneself; ability to self-regulate; motivation; empathy; and social skills.  It was Goleman (2004) that provided a framework of emotional competencies and his contention was that leaders who were emotionally aware have a tendency to provide a nurturing and encouraging culture within their organisations.  Whereas Caruso & Salovey (2004) explored a leader’s disposition in the context of influencing others and identified that an awareness of one’s mood assisted when dealing with followers, problem solving and communication.

Self-awareness involves reviewing and analysing feedback about oneself to improve personal effectiveness as a leader.  It was Drucker (2005) that stated performance comes from strengths not weaknesses and that leaders should improve their strengths as this generates a higher return on investment than bettering their weaknesses.  In contrast, England (2002) described The Johari Window where the contention was that too much of the time leaders ignored their weaknesses unless they had the self-awareness to reflect and see that inability for themselves.  An ability to reflect is aided by the use of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that identifies a leader’s preferences, ways of thinking and how they interact with others.

Communication encompasses awareness for positioning or influence; and the ability to use communication to influence others.  It was Brenneman (1998) and Gerstner (2002) that illustrated in their situations how communication was paramount to explain what mattered to turn their organisations around.  In contrast the Centered Leadership model outlined the capability to focus on the networks required by leaders as their research indicated that leaders needed to manage their connections differently with newer ways of communication for the digital age.


“The picture emerging from the neuro-science labs is that you ignore your gut at your peril.”

Morse, G. (2006). Decisions and desire. Harvard Business Review, 84 (1), pg 51.

A final thought to ponder; does an awareness of one’s effectiveness of Gut feel fit within a toolkit for a better business leader?  Possibly, however it is an awareness that is utilised in all of the components of the toolkit.  It maybe discouraged in organisations as there are many quantitative and qualitative frameworks, models and tools to use to arrive at a justifiable decision, however the business leader is not immune to the pressure of ignoring his/her gut as such an awareness of its effectiveness can provide a competitive advantage.


Self-awareness to become a better business leader

Recently I participated in an executive leadership workshop at Readify.  This reminded me of work I had previously been doing around how to become a better business leader and whether a deeper self-awareness made for a more effective leader.

Self-awareness involves reviewing and analysing feedback about oneself to improve personal effectiveness as a leader.  Self-awareness is influenced by a leader’s personality and gaining an understanding of their personality typology through self-profile and self-audit. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of many personality typology frameworks that aid in identifying a leaders preferences, ways of thinking and how they interact with others.  It allows for a deeper understanding when a leader reviews feedback as part of one’s self-awareness.

Myers Briggs:

I established that a self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses assists the business leader to be better when confronted with varied situations.  After undertaking a variety of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) I confirmed myself as ISTJ and the description rang true mostly.  It identified to me the traits and characteristics that I have a preference towards, which are not always the most effective for the situation.

This activity has enlightened me as a business leader especially on the limitations of my characteristics and in that same vein it has crystallised my strengths that I was reasonably aware of, however I now have a new perspective that will enhancement my effectiveness as a leader.


I was introduced to the DISC framework at the executive leadership workshop.  The framework allows for a self-awareness of communication style.  There are four quadrants that focus on style and preference of communication.  We were asked to allocate 10 points across the quadrants to establish our style preference.  There were interesting results when comparing with others’ perspective of your preference of style.  Having an awareness of not only yours, but others style assists with more effective outcomes of negotiations.

A general criticism of personality typologies is that they have the potential to justify poor leadership and/or behaviour based on the leader or followers personality type.  However a leader’s type may suggest how they think or predict that they will act a certain way in a situation there is no excuse for removing the potential for personal growth through self-awareness.

Am I now self-aware? Yes, I am now more aware.  Time and reflection will aid in a deeper self-awareness and being a more effective business leader.

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