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Being Your Best Self: Enhancing Your Leadership Potential at Work

In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies are looking for innovative leaders who can guide organizations through change and help them achieve their strategic priorities. With growing competition for talented employees, it is also increasingly important for individuals to bring their best, most engaged selves to work each day in order to stand out. However, fulfilling career achievements and personal well-being do not always naturally occur. Leaders must make intentional efforts to harness their strengths, cultivate enthusiasm, and channel positive energies into the workplace.


Today we will explore evidence-based strategies for individuals to become the best version of themselves at their jobs.


Self-Awareness: Understanding Your Authentic Self

A fundamental step in being one’s best at work is cultivating self-awareness. Researchers have found self-aware individuals perform better in leadership roles and experience greater life satisfaction (Avolio & Luthans, 2006; Ryan & Deci, 2001). Gaining insight into personal values, motivations, strengths and growth areas helps coordinate efforts towards meaningful objectives aligned with one’s authentic self. According to organizational psychologist Adam Grant (2013), self-insight allows individuals to play to their strengths and focus energy in areas primed for success.


Developing Self-Awareness


To develop self-awareness, leaders can:


  • Reflect on past career successes and failures to understand drivers of performance

  • Complete personality/strengths assessments and get 360-degree feedback

  • Maintain a personal journal of experiences, emotions and realizations

  • Discuss life purpose and aspirations with trusted colleagues or mentors

  • Monitor reactions/behaviors in stressful situations for vulnerabilities

  • Regularly evaluate alignment between daily activities and core values


For example, a finance manager realized through reflection she excelled in client-facing roles due to strong interpersonal skills. She embraced this understanding to lead collaborative projects maximizing face time with customers. Self-insight enhanced work satisfaction and business relationships.


Wellness: Fueling Peak Performance

Maintaining overall well-being is another foundation for bringing one’s best to work. Research shows wellness supports cognitive functioning, resilience during challenges, and balanced leadership (Danna & Griffin, 1999; Quick & Henderson, 2016). Incorporating regular rejuvenation helps professionals sustain high performance over the long-term.


Prioritizing Wellness Activities


Leaders can prioritize wellness by:


  • Exercising moderately for at least 30 minutes per day

  • Practicing mindfulness meditation or deep breathing

  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night

  • Avoiding excessive alcohol and limiting caffeine

  • Eating a nutritious, balanced diet

  • Taking occasional “wellness days” to relax and recharge

  • Cultivating hobbies and interests outside of work


For example, an account executive at a telecom company noticed burnout creeping in. She started yoga twice a week, which helped manage stress levels. Improved well-being enhanced client relationships and sales closed. Overall, small lifestyle changes can work wonders for personal leadership potential.


Relationships: Connecting through Collaboration

Developing strong, authentic relationships is another hallmark of influential leaders (Kouzes & Posner, 2007; Uhl-Bien, 2006). Research shows those with robust interpersonal networks experience greater career opportunities, resilience during obstacles and derive more fulfillment from their work (Forret & Dougherty, 2004; Cross & Parker, 2004). Leaders should therefore proactively cultivate quality connections.


Building Strategic Relationships


Some tips for nurturing important relationships include:


  • Spending face time with colleagues from different teams/levels

  • Getting involved in internal networking/mentoring programs

  • Attending external industry talks and conferences

  • Offering help without expecting anything in return

  • Having one-on-one coffee meetings regularly

  • Expressing sincere appreciation and recognizing contributions

  • Maintaining a contacts database to strengthen existing ties


For instance, after joining a new company, a marketing manager volunteered for cross-departmental projects. This expanded her network, leading to an enhanced role managing a prestigious client. Conscious connection-building enabled career progression.


Curiosity: Continuous Learning as a Leader

Constantly expanding knowledge areas through learning fuels growth, fresh perspectives and resilience as the business landscape changes (DeRue & Ashford, 2010; van Vugt et al., 2008). Leaders who maintain curiosity experience more fulfilling careers and enable organizations to adapt nimbly (Patel & Weberling, 2012). Continuous learning should therefore be actively prioritized.


Staying Curious in the Workplace


Professionals can sustain an inquisitive mindset through:


  • Committing to one formal course or certification per year

  • Regularly reading industry publications and thought leadership pieces

  • Experimenting with new technologies/approaches on low-risk projects

  • Asking “why” and seeking divergent opinions from experienced peers

  • Teaching or mentoring junior colleagues to enhance one’s own expertise

  • Discussing ideas with outside specialists beyond typical channels

  • Pursuing hobbies/interests exposing to different domains, ideas, cultures


For example, a software sales executive who taught coding classes on the side noticed technology trends sooner. This gave him a competitive edge helping clients address emerging opportunities through innovative solutions. Lifelong learning keeps skills and perspectives fresh.


Conclusion

In today’s complex, fast-paced business landscape, dedicated professionals have a great opportunity to take their careers to new heights and become influential leaders through intentional self-development. By cultivating self-awareness, prioritizing wellness, nurturing relationships, and sustaining curiosity, individuals can tap into hidden strengths and bring sustained passion, innovation, and resilience to their organizations. While not always easy, small efforts consistently applied in these areas over time can dramatically enhance one’s career potential and positive impact. Any dedicated worker who commits to continuous self-improvement has the ability to become the best version of themselves at their job.


References


  • Avolio, B. J., & Luthans, F. (2006). The high impact leader: Moments matter for accelerating authentic leadership development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

  • Cross, R., & Parker, A. (2004). The hidden power of social networks: Understanding how work really gets done in organizations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

  • Danna, K., & Griffin, R. W. (1999). Health and well-being in the workplace: A review and synthesis of the literature. Journal of Management, 25(3), 357-384.

  • DeRue, D. S., & Ashford, S. J. (2010). Who will lead and who will follow? A social process of leadership identity construction in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 35(4), 627-647.

  • Forret, M. L., & Dougherty, T. W. (2004). Networking behaviors and career outcomes: Differences for men and women? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25(3), 419-437.

  • Grant, A. M. (2013). Rocking the boat but keeping it steady: The role of emotion regulation in employee voice. Academy of Management Journal, 56(6), 1703-1723.

  • Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  • Patel, P. C., & Weberling, B. (2012). Staying true to science: How female professionals navigate gender in male-dominated settings. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 27(4), 184-200.

  • Quick, J. C., & Henderson, D. F. (2016). Occupational stress: Preventing suffering, enhancing wellbeing. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(5), 459.

  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 141-166.

  • Uhl-Bien, M. (2006). Relational leadership theory: Exploring the social processes of leadership and organizing. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(6), 654-676.

  • van Vugt, M., Jepson, S. F., Hart, C. M., & De Cremer, D. (2004). Autocratic leadership in social dilemmas: A threat to group stability. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(1), 1-13.

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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