Magazine article New Zealand Management

How to Get a Head Start? Know Thyself! Effective Management and Leadership Require Effective Personalities; People Who Know Who They Are and Where Their Strengths and Weaknesses Lie. So Which Courses and Directions Can Help Make a Difference in 2007?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

How to Get a Head Start? Know Thyself! Effective Management and Leadership Require Effective Personalities; People Who Know Who They Are and Where Their Strengths and Weaknesses Lie. So Which Courses and Directions Can Help Make a Difference in 2007?

Article excerpt

It's all a bit personal really--but in 2007 developing self-awareness, testing individual comfort zones, building leadership skills and staying balanced is as important for emerging executives as it has ever been.

There's a growing interest in the so-called "soft" skills as people increasingly realise that leaders need to know and look after themselves as well as understanding the needs of others, notes Darren Levy, director of short courses for the University of Auckland.

"Leadership and personal development should not be put into [separate] boxes because leaders are people and people are unique and complex. Leaders need to talk more and listen properly. It's fine to have competencies, but leaders also need to be aware that everyone is different and spend time understanding how people work."

Around 4000 people a year attend Auckland University's short courses but those aimed at helping executives develop a healthier and better balanced lifestyle haven't historically been well attended because many people are loathe to admit they are not achieving a good work/life balance, says Levy. But the courses that focus on personal development do help people correctly assess the nature of their lives and are a great way to jump off the treadmill for a while to reflect and talk to like-minded people, he adds.

Executives who want to further their careers while maintaining a sense of balance in their lives need to work with those close to them to plan personal and career directions, advises Action International business coach and mentor Martin Jimmink.

No-one is born a workaholic--individuals facing burnout have not learned to delegate or employ the right people to relieve them, he says. And those with insufficient self belief to go forward need personal development to encourage that belief.

"The main focus for [a leader] should be their relationship with themselves. They can't lead anyone else if they haven't got that sorted out. If the big picture is a dartboard, then the individual is the bullseye," says Jimmink.

There is a growing global focus on both leadership and personal development agrees Lester Levy, adjunct professor of leadership at the University of Auckland Business School--and father to Darren Levy. There is understanding that a focus on management skills alone isn't sufficient, he says.

"[Leadership] development is certainly not as cut and dried as management training and development; yet a lot of people have just switched the label from 'management training' to 'leadership development'. That's not very honest because while [the two disciplines] are parallel they are also very different to each other."

However, the term 'work/life balance' worries him because some people don't work hard at all but still have "awful" balance in their lives. Nobody can sit in judgement on what is good for a particular individual--people need to reflect on what work/life balance means to them and what they can change in their own lives. It is something that evolves, rather than being some kind of formula.

He believes New Zealand organisations still have a strong streak of authoritarianism and says more compassion would result in fewer leadership problems. Personal development would address this.

"There's still a lot of ego and power [involved in management] and many managers don't have the capacity to engage people. Leadership [in New Zealand] is like one of our new highways that never seem to get finished. We are not well prepared because we haven't spent adequate time on leadership development. Fortunately, it is changing."

WHICH COURSE? But which personal development courses are best--and how does an employer know what would best suit their staff?

Ask employees what they want advises Jimmink.

"I did an MBA but was bored out of my head because I prefer to learn by just doing. I advise employers to profile the people they want to develop and then decide [with the employee] whether it is better for them to be personally mentored, or whether they need a specific skill set. …

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