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The Nature Of Leadership Growth – Self Knowledge

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This is where one of the greatest truths about leadership comes into play. And that is the importance of knowing yourself. Reflection doesn’t need hours of work every week. Reflection is something that happens over the course of a lifetime.

Once you develop self-knowledge, you can take two approaches. One is to understand your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. In my view this is fundamental, but not critical. The other approach is to improve on your strengths. This is critical. Then you pay people to cover your weaknesses.

For years I was told it’s all about your corporate SWOT. Well, why not turn your corporate SWOT into a personal SWOT. How many people have ever done a SWOT analysis on themselves?

One of the things that I do when I coach clients is to do a SWOT analysis on them. So, they will go through their strengths and weaknesses, and their opportunities and threats, and there will be loads of strengths and very few weaknesses, and tons of opportunities, and zero threats. Why? Well, it’s not because they’re perfect. It’s because they’re not reflective, and they don’t have that depth of self-knowledge.

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging you’re a fuck-up in certain areas. Once you’re acutely aware you suck at certain things, you can employ people to do those things for you.

If you are terrible at organising your calendar, then get a PA. You’ll make your money back ten fold, because you’ll be held to task. People may say that it’s easy to hand out this advice when you can afford it. I couldn’t always afford it. I made it happen. Because I have a vision, I have a goal, and I know where I’m going.

The Maths And Science Of Leadership

Leaders need to think a bit like a chess master and a scientist. A chess master has hundreds of possible moves in their head before they even begins playing.  For every move that the opponent plays, there are considering between three and seven counter moves. It’s all maths.

Maths alone is not enough though, and this is where the scientist comes in. The scientist is constantly innovating. So where the chess master is seeing between three and seven possible moves, the scientist is looking for the eighth move that hasn’t yet been discovered.

It’s all a part of being proactive, rather than reactive. And so, while the scientist is looking for that eighth move, the chess master comes back in, because even when you’re innovating, it has to be in line with your grand plan.

To lead effectively, you need to have a plan. And you need to stick to the plan. Sometimes people tell me that I stick to the plan to the point where it is going nowhere. That is because they don’t know the plan. In order for your plan to be effective, you need to make a long-term commitment. You can’t be impatient.

When you have a long-term plan, whether that plan is twelve, twenty-four or thirty-six months, then it brings you clarity. And even if people don’t know the plan, they will see the clarity. You don’t need to impress anyone. You can keep quiet about what you’re doing.

However, as much as you need to have a plan, you need to be open to new experiences. Innovation needs to drive you, and so the scientist comes back in. Work out what you can do better. It’s about continuous improvement.

By developing your key leadership traits, and understanding the different sources of power and leadership styles, you can become a great leader. This is true even if leadership doesn’t come naturally to you. To be a great leader you don’t have to be the life of the party. Introverts and extroverts can both be successful. You just need to find the path to success that matches your personality.

And this is why you need reflection, self-knowledge and growth. 95% of successful entrepreneurs and leaders invest in themselves through coaching and education [1.]

To be a great leader, you need to invest in yourself. You can’t be a drop-out. As Edison said, ‘Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.’

When you’re looking for a coach or a mentor, you’ve got to find someone you want to be like. Find the people who will help you grow. If you’re looking to be better, then pick someone to help you who already is better. They don’t have to be better at everything. They just have to have a high level of skill in the area you are looking to develop.

If money is a worry, shift the focus to what you’re going to get out of it. You don’t need to have a coach for a year. Sometimes you only need a coach for three sessions, just enough to change your attitude. You’ve got to take the approach that you’re going to be ok, and the way to be ok is to keep learning and keep growing.

It’s not about the destination. Forget about the destination, because if it was about the destination all you’d be looking forward to is death. That’s the only thing that’s going to be there at the end.

The point is how you get to death. And if you continue to learn and grow, so that you become a truly great leader, then the legacy you leave will be remarkable, and the mark you make will be indelible. Because ultimately, responsible leadership is not about how much you can get from this world. It’s about how much you can give.

Kristian Livolsi


1. Wadhwa, V., Holly, K., Aggarwal, R. and Salkever, A. (2009). Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Family Background and Motivation. SSRN Electronic Journal.

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