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Becoming the best leader you can be

By Dr Ido van der Heijden


All business leaders eventually reach a crossroads. They look back and see the successes involved in getting them to where they are, but that’s just history. What’s next?

More of the same is rarely the answer leaders want to hear. But, at the same time, choosing which way to go is clouded by the immediate contingencies of running a business. All the pressures and expediencies, dealing with the next cycle of changes, mean putting off the most important decisions, muddling through, measuring life with coffee spoons. And the result is a less effective and less motivated leader.

‘’That’s what Personal Transformation for Leaders (PTfL) is for.’’

Getting to the source of what really matters, and using the energy from that realisation to do something new, do more, do better. We work with people who are open to explore where they really are in their work and life - whether that’s as a CEO, MD or heading up a department - and what needs to change. Often participants rediscover their passion for their role in their organisation and for creating a fresh vision. Whatever the result, leaders find what’s right for them, a new feeling of following the right path, and being better equipped to deal with our 21st century context of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity).

Seeing with fresh eyes isn’t easy. Leaders have been in senior posts for so long, wearing masks in order to build and protect their identity, the defensive layers can become stuck.

'’It’s important to go back to the beginning and reflect on our experiences in early life, what we went through as an adolescent and faced as an adult, the tensions at home, our own and our parent’s stories.‘’

All of these factors shape how we experience ourselves and the world. They also determine our thinking and how we deal with challenges and stress, become prickly or make poor decisions.

Personal Transformation for Leaders
 (PTFL)  is the chance to be in a safe place with peers to actively develop skills of listening, empathy and self-awareness. By talking openly and sharing experiences, people explore their qualities as well as their limitations and reach a clear and positive new ground. It’s an intense activity that takes courage to be part of. But from running the programme for the last 35 years we’ve seen the depth of impact. More than 1,000 senior leaders in organisations like the BBC, Nissan and PricewaterhouseCoopers have been through the process; older leaders have sent their successors; fathers have sent sons; groups of participants stay in touch with each other for years afterwards.

‘’Changes in the business and wider cultural context mean organisations can no longer be run like machines.’’

Leaders need to demonstrate commitment to the bigger issues of sustainability, social equality, and where they stand, the role they might have. As Yuval Noah Harari has stressed in his latest bestseller (21 Lesson for the 21st Century), in a future dominated by automation and AI, highly-developed self-awareness will be at a premium. Self-awareness makes us human. It’s the root of civilisation and our ability to thrive no matter what challenges are ahead.

Tags: leadership, influence, career

Cranfield Executive Development