Why this often overlooked, yet impactful competency defines a leader

“Self-management isn’t something we typically ask leaders to develop. The successful leaders I get to work with are able to work independently, prioritize activities and accomplish high-quality work with clarity of focus. These are the tenants of effective self-management,” says Trish Candler, the newest member of the TCL faculty.

As a Lead Talent Management Consultant with LG&E and KU Energy LLC, Trish specializes in talent management, succession planning, and assessment strategies. We talked with Trish about the importance of self-management, why it’s a daily choice, and how it helps leaders relate to their teams.

Why is self-management important for a leader?

Self-management is not a trendy new competency. History provides numerous examples of leaders who have not demonstrated this skill. If you look at the news, and at the many companies battling PR messages in response to scandals, you’ll see that in most cases the root cause is lack of self-management at various levels.

From a people perspective, today’s leader is dealing with multiple generations, often virtually, and around the globe. The lack of face time or frequent check-ins requires leaders with higher levels of effectiveness. Employees determine where they want to work based not only on meaningful work, but also primarily on the interaction and credibility of the leader. Employees are drawn to leaders who can lead themselves successfully.

Personally, self-management is a daily choice. I’d like to say I’m successful every day, but sometimes it’s more like every week. I can become distracted by actions, responding to the latest need or demand. It’s not long before I’m overwhelmed and wonder how it happened. But with the self-awareness that comes from The Complete Leader, I at least can more quickly recognize when I’m off track in my self-management. I am lucky to have several internal and external colleagues who support my development with great coaching and support. However, in the end, it is my choice to manage myself.

What is the result of a lack of self-management?

Span of control, leaner company structures and increasing demands are more of a challenge for leaders who have not embraced the discipline of self-management.

Often in those scenarios leaders don’t even know they are missing it because they are constantly reacting, putting out fires, and handling one crisis at a time. This type of behavior translates into only meeting needs urgently instead of working through and thinking about problems.

If leaders don’t know where they are supposed to go, they won’t know how to get the team there. People don’t like to work for someone who doesn’t know where they are going. If a leader doesn’t have self-management and is constantly flying from one thing to another, the team can become disengaged and wonder what’s happening.

What are a few ways that leaders can work on self-management?

In addition to some very tactical steps, the first step to better self-management is self-awareness. A leader must take the time to explore current and past situations and identify moments of impact, where a decision was made or an action was taken (like not thinking clearly, elusive self-control, and fire alarming distractions) and reflect long enough to identify triggers that invoke reaction instead of response.

Choosing to respond involves a healthy level of self-control. I love this quote from The Complete Leader, “What can I choose to do that is within my control, to move my work forward?” Again, respond, not react.

Some additional action steps include:

  • Clarifying roles and ensuring others are aligned with values and project details.
  • Managing time and priorities, with a consistent process that works for you, not just the best-selling instrument or application.

With this foundation, there’s a greater opportunity to minimize disruptions and promote momentum in behaviors that drive results.