Truly effective leaders possess more than drive, ambition and charisma. While those traits are important, it’s leaders who've reached the pinnacle of self-fulfillment and acceptance who are the most dynamic and successful. Great leaders also have a high degree of emotional intelligence, which comes from being self-actualized.
Self-actualization, the final stage of noted American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, refers to the point when you realize your true potential and seek personal growth and self-fulfillment.
While not all great leaders have learned to be self-aware, many of the most recognized are those who've achieved self-actualization, says Jill Salzman, co-host of the Breaking Down Your Business podcast and founder of The Founding Moms, a collective for entrepreneurial moms. As Salzman points out, “Self-actualizing business owners are much more successful in the long-term.”
Wondering just how self-aware you are? There’s a good chance you're there if you possess many of the following eight attributes:
Self-actualized leaders accept themselves, as well as their employees, colleagues, vendors and customers, as they are rather than hoping for something different. This approach allows them to have realistic expectations, which facilitates a positive, productive work environment and helps prevent resentment and disappointment.
Leaders who are self-actualized don’t announce it. “It’s easy to spot self-actualized leaders,” Salzman says. “They’re the ones who don’t act like they’re great leaders, but employees and others in their orbit look up to them as though they are. In other words, self-actualized leaders will never tell you that they’re leaders, but everyone knows they are.”
3. Willing to Seek Assistance
Self-aware leaders have no problem reaching out to their customers and clients or membership bases and asking questions that reveal their lack of knowledge or skills in certain areas. “The interesting thing is that by sharing with the business world that they're aware of their need for help, they receive more empathy and support,” Salzman says.
4. Able to Solve Problems
“Self-actualized small-business owners know they can accomplish just about anything," says Gregg Weisstein, co-founder and COO of BloomNation, a company that works with local artisan florists to hand deliver flowers in more than 3,000 cities nationwide. “Self-aware leaders know they can be and do anything, and they realize that no problem is too big as long as they’re willing to put in the hard work to solve it.”
Self-actualized leaders are fully aware of their personal faults and the weaknesses of their businesses. "Because of this, they can address those faults far faster than leaders who choose to overlook the tough stuff," Salzman says. “They have no problem revealing issues about their businesses, and this attitude results in creating better businesses.”
When an interesting idea or suggestion is made, self-actualized leaders aren’t afraid to put tradition and schedules aside to try something new. They know that some of the world’s most groundbreaking discoveries came out of trying something unique and even unheard of.
While self-aware leaders work well with others and aren’t afraid to ask for assistance, they're also more likely to be autonomous. This means they'll gather the opinions and ideas of their employees and associates, then retreat in order to process and synthesize the information into a useable and workable format.
Self-actualized leaders view the world with a perpetual sense of wonder and appreciation. They enjoy simple experiences and are thankful for employees and others who help them run their businesses. And they freely share their appreciation with acknowledgements, thank-yous and rewards for jobs well done.
If you think you still need to work on developing some of the attributes mentioned above before you can say you’re a self-actualized leader, Salzman has some tips.
“Becoming self-actualized is similar to a recovery program [for addiction],” she says. “First, you have to admit you’re in need of improving yourself as a leader and your business overall. Then, and only then, can you believe that the power to become a better leader lies in understanding that the issue is not you but that it lies within your business sphere.
“Once you delegate to the appropriate people," Salzman adds, "you can improve your awareness of which things need work and let that evolve over time into a deep understanding of the kind of businessperson you are.”
If you're hoping to become a more effective leader, examine your leadership style and see if there's some room for self-actualization.
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This article was originally published on August 29, 2014.