'Know thyself', aspiring leaders told

9 October 2008
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10 October 2008 | Rebecca Ellinor

Good leaders have one thing in common: acute self-awareness.

That was the conclusion of Christopher Barrat, from the Greystone Partnership, who ran a session at this year's CIPS Premier Conference on motivational forces.

Barrat told delegates plenty of work had been done to try to find the "perfect profile of a leader" - especially by consultants so they can sell it, he added - but the only correlation extensive research has revealed is that all good leaders are self-aware. Quoting the Oracle of Delphi, Barrat said: "Know thyself!"

"If you want your leadership to be effective, you have to start by understanding yourself," he added. "Research has found no picture that matched everybody but it did find all the great leaders knew themselves well even if they were complete bastards - they knew it and used it effectively."

He said leaders who are conscious of their weaknesses and shortcomings will surround themselves with people who compensate for their failings. "The more insights you can have into yourself the more effective you can be."

Barrat and a colleague were running paper-based and game theory tests on participants who attended the workshop so they could examine their own motivations and behaviours. He said of the four components that impact on behaviour - nature, nurture, skills and situations - leaders can only impact on the last three. He said they should consider these when trying to influence the behaviour of others.


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