“You will earn the respect of all men, if you begin by earning the respect of yourself” Musonia Rufus

To become a truly effective leader there is a crucial 1st step you need to take. You need to first understand yourself.

This might sound like a case of stating the obvious but, it’s remarkable how many people work through parts or all of their career without understanding or recognising their core motivations, strengths and weaknesses. Without having a real purpose, a genuine fire.

I should know, I was one of them. For a large chunk of my early career I was utterly short term(ist), pursuing immediate riches or challenges. Focused on the wrong motivations and what I thought defined success, or at least my perception of how other people defined my success. Money, materialism, the 1990s version of insta-tastic, which was essentially telling (rather than showing) everyone what a glamorous life I had.

It took me time to grasp this nettle and it was a particular book that prompted my handbrake turn.

Reading Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience led me to understand the need for clarifying my purpose and getting to the core of my values.

Aligning them with my goals and targets has indeed created greater flow in both my professional and personal life. It also gives me deeper levels of resilience when I know the tougher times and challenges are part of that journey.

Today I chase a longer term purpose, roles that are about enjoying the experience and the people, products that deliver real value and a sense that we are building something with integrity and longevity.

Whether it’s building something of real utility at CTO Academy, helping future entrepreneurs through a start up accelerator or encouraging people to take adventures, my core values are aligned with a longer term plan as well as my everyday work.

But if you’re unaware of personal motivations and/or you don’t have a focus and purpose in life, then you’re potentially making career and life decisions based on what you think you need, rather than what you know you need.

Without understanding myself in this way I found myself in roles, companies and with people that didn’t align with me or my core motivations. It impacted significantly on my ability to find that optimal career path, to lead others and ultimately to find happiness and personal fulfilment in what I was doing each day.

Lack of self-awareness can also damage your true potential, particularly as a leader. If your role and tasks don’t align with who you are, it can show in your performance and in front of direct reports and employees, making it more difficult for them to follow.

It’s only when you understand who you are, not who the world thinks you are, that you’re ready to effectively lead. Knowing who you are, requires an accurate understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, values, beliefs, motivations, and desires. Developing these personal insights provides the foundation of all successful leaders.

It’s not always easy or comfortable drilling into your core values. It’s why in the CTO Academy eBook, “96 Tips On How To Become An Effective CTO” we include right at the beginning with Tip Number 1, a section about needing to know yourself and including a test that helps our users drill down to their core values. As I say, it’s not always a comfortable process and it’s often a surprising one.

Great leaders want to make a difference, and they challenge themselves to grow. The give themselves time to reflect, re-evaluate and learn.

Most of the leaders we work with at CTO Academy are focused around impact. Impact for their business and impact for their team. They’re on a constant journey of ongoing personal and professional development. They have a growth mindset that wants to understand more about themselves and how they can improve.

How can I become more effective as a tech leader and have a greater impact on the people and business around me? How can I lead and motivate my team so they enjoy working here?
How can I help them to fulfil their potential, with long term benefits for them, short term benefits for us?

Leadership comes with challenges, uncertainty, expectations, responsibility. But those leaders who understand more about who they are and where they want to go, are better placed to absorb and deal with the pressures.

They have achieved a positive energy that comes with finding your purpose, and your flow. Their authenticity and values make it easier to buy-in to their vision and follow their example.

More About CTO Academy

CTO Academy has been Ranked #2 Best CTO Course in the World. We provide online management skills training, mentoring and career development advice for tech leaders and managers around the world.

Membership starts from just $39 per month


“The skill set CTOs and IT Managers now require are a world away from what was needed in the past. I find the CTO Academy training modules to be highly valuable resources, providing broad-based business skills and awareness essential for success in the modern workplace.” – Eli Oshorov, Sydney

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