Leadership Qualities – Part 5 Self-Esteem

Leadership Qualities Self Esteem RelationshipModel.com Board Governance

The leadership quality (competency) we shall look this week is Self-esteem.

Self-esteem – respects and likes self, confident in own self-worth and capabilities.

Self-esteem is foundational to healthy relationships. When God commands us to love others as we love ourselves, the clear implication – so often missed – is that we are meant to love ourselves.

Lack of self-esteem can cripple an otherwise capable leader. Self-esteem, developed to an appropriate degree, is attractive. Too little and he/she may appear obsequious and insincere. Too much “thinking too highly of oneself” and a person appears proud. Excessive self-esteem, expressed through boastfulness and arrogance may cause a person to be critical or disdainful of others. It is often indicative of an over-compensation for what may be, in reality, poor self-esteem. Neither distortion is attractive.

There is a strong link between self-esteem and self-awareness (see next week’s Imagine That article) People with good self-esteem often have good self-awareness, knowing and accepting their abilities and limitations. However, it is possible for a person to have a reasonable understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses and at the same time, have poor self-esteem.

A leader who has been appointed through a careful process of assessment is not likely to be significantly lacking in self-esteem. However poor self-esteem can hide in many guises such as an apparent over confidence or inability to accept any form of criticism. Poor self-esteem can be at its most destructive when associated with a desire to control or wield power. Since a leader has a large circle of authority, he/she is more vulnerable to abusing power in this way.

In today’s fractured families and in a society that all too often puts a higher value on the external and visible, there is an alarming increase in the number of people who have poor self-esteem – people who lack assurance about their true self-worth or their place at work and in society.

Self-esteem does not come with a job title. It does not naturally increase in proportion to a person’s status in the organisation. A person who has been affirmed by both correction and praise in secure relationships has a greater possibility of growing up with adequate self-esteem.

Good self-esteem usually gives a person a strong handshake and a personal warmth that is inclusive, extending towards others. He/she tends not to take him/herself too seriously and has a sense of humour. It is not the end of the world when he/she makes mistakes and so he/she readily forgives and accepts him/herself. This is foundational for the ability to accept responsibility for his/her actions without trying to shift blame to others.

A leader with good self-esteem believes in him/herself and this encourages others to hold the same belief too. There is no personal threat in taking on new goals or tasks and so it is possible to speak confidently of what can be achieved. Success is to be expected. He/she is not afraid to learn new skills and grow in knowledge. As these are acquired, self-esteem grows for it is nurtured by the commendation and affirmation of others.

When receiving either praise or criticism, a person with good self-esteem remains level-headed. The confidence of such a leader is based securely in the knowledge of his/her own self worth and value. The excellence of others is not a threat and he/she readily gives them praise and encouragement.

Conversely, a person who lacks self-esteem, holds back, fails to express good thoughts and ideas, shies away from tasks and suffers from chronic indecisiveness. There is a fear of failure and therefore little motivation to increase in knowledge and skills. The person may be frozen by the fear of taking any risk. He/she finds it difficult to affirm others or to express praise.

This is part 5 in a series of 6 articles.  For further reading, read Part 1: Accountability, Part 2: Commitment, Part 3: Communication, Part 4: Integrity.

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