Walking along the pier in Victoria British Columbia I overheard a man asking this question to his granddaughter. One could only guess why this question was being asked. Was the man trying to bridge a communication or generational gap with a granddaughter who appeared to be in her early teens? Or, was he helping her to self-reflect to deal with a situation she was facing? Or was it… fill in the blank here. While the true circumstances and the outcome of this conversation will never be known, this profound question did cause me to think what it would mean to have an instruction manual for leadership and what steps would be needed to write it.
Writing your instruction manual requires an understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish as a leader. You may think your purpose in the organization is to grow and develop others to achieve certain goals or outcomes. It could be to translate your organization’s vision into actionable steps to move toward some desired state. Whatever your intended purpose is, leadership must begin with yourself. Writing your manual necessitates you first look inside to better understand how you operate, what you need to run at optimal performance, what you need for regular maintenance, and how you can trouble shoot when issues come up.
In their book Primal Leadership Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee describe self-awareness as having a deep understanding of your emotions, strengths, limitations, values, and motives. They further claim leaders who have a propensity for self-reflection and thoughtfulness demonstrate traits that allow them to act with conviction and authenticity. When you increase your self-awareness, the more clarity you will have about the decisions you make and why you make them. As your mindfulness as a leader increases, the more you will know what enables you to perform at your best, how to best recharge your batteries after a long tough stretch, and how to deal with those times when you are not achieving your desired outcome. If you were to take some time to look inwards, what would you include in your instruction manual?