Self-Love Gives Us Strength and Confidence

Pages 31-33 from Lead with Love by Gerry Czarnecki

The first core leadership principle is that a leader must focus on loving the associates, but if you are to accomplish that, then you must begin with a focus on loving yourself.

Loving ourselves in a healthy way creates a sense of peace with who we are. We know our strengths and weaknesses, our good qualities, and our faults, and we accept them. Indeed, our self-love allows us to forgive ourselves for our failings and allows us to reconcile those failings with our achievements. We are in balance because we are able to look past our human characteristics and accept ourselves as we are. Consider John Gardner’s advice on how to renew yourself: “For self-renewing men and women the development of their own potentials and the process of self-discovery never end. It is a sad but unarguable fact that most people go through their lives only partially aware of the full range of their abilities.”

This love of self must not be confused with arrogance or conceit. Self-love allows us to recognize our human frailty and the need to constantly attempt to improve. At the same time, it allows us to accept our self as we find it. This self-acceptance allows us to be at peace with our existence and allows us to avoid the terrible pitfalls of self-pity, self anger, and other self-inflicted wounds that invariably impact the way we relate to the rest of the world. For example, if you compare your knowledge, skills, and capabilities to others’, you are likely to find an associate who outshines you in one or all of those categories. If you do not love yourself, you will probably be angry at yourself for being less capable than the individual you used as a benchmark comparison. That anger will eat away at your own self-concept and, in all likelihood, will be directed at the benchmark individual. Hence, not loving yourself can ultimately cause you to be unable to love your associates.

After considering whether you love yourself, you must ask whether your associates love you. Put yourself in their shoes and ask the question “If I were my leader, would I love the leader?” That takes a bit of objectivity and a great deal of honest, candid thinking on your part. Take the last week’s worth of interactions with your team members and try to think through how you would have reacted to a boss who did what you did. Did you empathize at the right time? Did you criticize without constructive purpose? Did you listen to a complaint and then help the associate? Did you set an example in a time of crisis? Did you back off when you were wrong, or did you continue to try to prove you were right? In short, do you like the boss you see when you look in the mirror?

Of course, you can also go to your associates and attempt to determine directly from them how they feel. Such a poll can be very difficult to do on your own, but many organizations do climate or employee surveys with the objective of gaining a greater understanding of how leaders stand with their associates. You probably have experienced one of these in the past. How did you feel about it? Many bosses resist the results; however, they do so at their own peril. Sometimes, these kinds of surveys are the only effective way to get associates to tell you what they think you do not want to hear. Do not let self-absorption blind you from the truth of your associates’ feedback.

If you are lucky, your organization has a 360-degree appraisal system where peers and subordinates get the opportunity to give you feedback. If so, treat this as an opportunity, not as a threat. You will be able to learn a great deal about how people perceive you.

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