Hello and welcome to the knowing self knowing others podcast, the fortnightly podcast that explores self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Join me your host, NIA Thomas, as we talk to today’s knowing self, knowing others guest
listeners, I’m joined today by Liam McGuire. And it’s lovely to have you here. Liam, thank you so much for joining me. Liam has a very interesting background in firstly in the army and then becoming interested in training. And that has led him on to looking at children’s homes and developing his own children’s home, which is something that he’s he’s involved in at the moment. But Liam, please do introduce yourself.
Hi, my name is Liam. I’m from South Wales. My experience of Leadership is that I initially went to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and where we train our British Army officers. I went there in 2009. I then became a captain in the Royal Welsh, my train and lead soldiers. In cases like that believes in South America, Kenya, and then Afghanistan. I then got into training young recruits, I’m in Catterick, and fell in love with the whole vocation of youth development. I then left the army, I got into managing children’s homes for about five or six years and worked in a secure children’s home and very, very intense environment, but very meaningful. I then left to become a head of operations for a family and children’s charity called HomeStart. Cymru. And then I have recently left and joined a housing association called Valleys to Coast where I’m their leadership management trainer behind that trustee, trusty for two charities.
That’s amazing and quite an interesting pathway to, to go from Army through to training through to supporting young people. And I went to children’s homes, but having we’ve had a bit of a chat before. And I can really see how all of those pieces fit together that step into our questions, because I’m sure listeners are very interested in hearing your answers to these questions coming at it from that winding pathway that you’ve taken to come to leadership. How do you define self awareness?
Very interesting question. Very important concept, I think for all leaders at all levels. Personally, I think it’s a self awareness is a 360 degree, multi dimensional understanding of yourself. I
like that. I like that I might use that in the future. Yeah, well, I
thought about it. And when I was in the military, we were always taught to treat the battlefield, like a 360 degree environment or work behind you everywhere, and you’re really looking out for risk. And you need to understand that risk comes from everywhere, you need to be fully informed about Battlefield, as I said, 360 degree environment. And I think you need to be the same vote yourself. To have true self awareness, you need to look at yourself from different perspectives, your own and others. And that’s the only way you can be truly informed about who you are. And as I said, ideally, with no no biases, I think it’s really important that you you have that all rounded view of yourself. I am, the simplest way to put it, which I really liked is the classic quote from from Aristotle and Nietzsche about Know thyself, I really like that I think that’s just such a simple, simple way to look at self awareness. But then there are multiple dimensions to that. Mainly the subjective dimension, and then the objective dimension. So you need to stand yourself in terms of how you feel. You need to understand how you think, what you say, what you do, but most importantly, you need to try and understand why you feel think, say and do those things. So you need to understand your your unconscious drivers, your your needs, I think your values, your voids, potentially your traumatic experiences. So I’ve seen a lot of this in certain parts of my career. The other part of it and sometimes the part that some people get a bit more uncomfortable with is the objective awareness of you. So the other side of the coin and understanding how how your thoughts, words, actions affect other people’s view or view. I think I think you can never really have a 360 degree perspective of yourself unless you unless you understand how others also view you and I think that can be very much a moderator or at least a a very well needed tonic for your ego. I think other people’s views can. It’s really important because when we If it’s cited, it’s a social contract, isn’t it? It’s like it’s not just about what you think yours also what other people think is, I think that two dimensions to self awareness
Do you think there’s a relationship between self awareness and leader effectiveness?
Absolutely. I think there’s a very strong relationship, I’d like to hope so. I think it helps to ask yourself what the crux of leadership is, I think leadership is the art or the skill or the behaviour of motivating others to follow in your example, or hopefully achieve their their potential, but I think people not going to follow you. And they’re not going to believe in you, or trust in you. If they don’t believe in you. You need to be inspiring, you need to be motivational. You need to you need to understand your, your skills, what you’re good at what you’re not good at, in order to be able to inspire and motivate others. So I think yeah, I think the greatest leaders generally would, would be people who are quite self aware, I think if I was to give a young emerging leader some advice, one of the first things would go back to what Aristotle Nietzsche said that you need to know yourself, and I can’t possibly understand other people, if you don’t understand yourself, although very interested in that a lot of people would say ignorance is bliss. As Jim Rohn, who I really like he’s, he actually says Ignorance is not bliss, it’s devastation. And tragedy says you can’t improve yourself unless you understand the good and the bad. And that’s often quite uncomfortable, isn’t it to find out the negative about yourself. And interesting link with that is that you hear you hear lots of people say, I shouldn’t care what people think you see, you see it on memes, you see it on LinkedIn posts. And I think that’s, whenever I see that, I always think it’s quite a one dimensional view. Again, that goes back to what I mentioned earlier, sort of that that’s the subjective part if you if you don’t never care what anybody thinks it’s quite ignorant in a way. So I think any leader should be receptive and open and actually quite seeking of other people’s views. But the key I think there is seek out and care about the views of people who matter people who have a deserving of respect people who are professionals in your field, people who have good intent for you, I just don’t think you shouldn’t care about you shouldn’t care about everybody’s vision, you shouldn’t not care about everybody’s you should pick wisely, or care about the people that really matter. But yeah, I think understanding yourself is hugely important skill.
Do you think effective leaders can be found at all levels of organisations?
Well, I don’t think they just can be, I think it’s absolutely essential to virtually every organisation that they are, I think, and not just that they are found at every level of the organisation, but that leaders already in position are proactively pursuing to cultivate those leaders at every single level. I think, a great quote, I can’t remember who said it, but good leaders have lots of followers, but the best leaders create other leaders, I think that’s really key, I think you need to work from the ground up, I think you need to sow the seeds regularly, I think you need to harvest them and then allow Lau those seeds to nourish the organisation. And often those will come from the example set by the leaders. Again, another quote I heard from a CEO of JP Morgan, he said, if you’re if an organisation is doing well, it’s normally because of some form of good leadership. And if an organization’s not doing very well, it’s normally due to a lack of leadership. So I think it’s clear that you want to try to promote as much leadership as it as many levels as possible with like delegate authority. For example, in the army, we have a term called mission command. And it’s making sure that everyone at each level has that autonomy, and that delegate authority to be able to make decisions on the ground in the most useful way. But at the time, it’s needed. I think, imagine, imagine if you had an organisation where no one could make a decision, no one could take or seize the day. They had to constantly come back to their managers back to their leaders back to their line managers asking for advice what to do, and never been able to, as I said, seize the day, I think evidence seems to show that if you’ve got a culture of compliance, where no one can make a decision, unless they get it from a single source of authority, those sorts of organisations will really struggle I think. Yeah,
and I’ve certainly seen an organisation where the systems and the organisations set up decision makings to happen only at the very top of the organisation. I would
absolutely say that, that the best leaders are the ones that delegate authority push authority and information downwards to allow people to make decisions whereas you’ll often see and I see this in the more not to be ageist but the younger newer, fresher leader sometimes you’re less excited errands. They think that the power, the arrows, the power arrows and information needs to always go upwards, you need to push it downwards to the frontline, because that’s often in any service, the arrow should point towards the front because that’s closest to the service user or cert closest to the customer, you need those decisions being made quickly on the ground. And plus, as a manager, you don’t want people coming to you with every little thing all the time. As I said, the Army Corps that mission command is about empowering others to have authority,
the leadership book by Neil Jude, who is also an army background would be very interesting. And I certainly heard a presentation from the Centre for Army leadership. And they talked about that mission command. And it was such such an eye opener. And that actually, it makes so much sense. And I think we tend to think that military leadership or military functioning is very separate and has nothing to do with the world of work or public sector, private sector. But actually, in listening to that it really does talk about exactly what you said. It’s that empowering others to make the right decisions at the right time.
Oh, definitely. I think that I’ve worked in I’ve worked for the army. So public service, I’ve worked in private, I’ve worked for local authorities, and I now work in third sector, a lot of the leadership, frameworks, models, principles, etc. In the army, would be hugely beneficial to every other sector. I think lots of people fall into the trap of thinking that the army is all about, just do as I say, that’s absolutely not that not the case. So lots of lots of positive things to learn.
Do you think leaders at the most strategic level of organisations have greater self awareness than leaders at other levels of organisations? And for listeners, you can’t see there’s a wry smile on Leo’s face here.
Yeah, interesting. I think you would naturally think yes, because if if going back to what we’ve already said, if self awareness is key for success, which it really is, and key for personal growth, then you would therefore think that those who’ve risen up the competence hierarchy and been very successful would have high levels of self awareness. So you would naturally think however, I think from my experience, sometimes what you have is you have an issue in an organisation. In fact, I see this quite often. The higher up you get, sometimes people are concerned or worried about telling you the truth, you’re more likely to tell people the truth when they’re your peer, or they’re in your team. But sometimes people are a little bit concerned, to be honest with the CEO or people who are in positions of power and authority that may potentially have a negative impact over you, if you tell them something that they don’t potentially want to hear certainly seen that I mean, how many people sugarcoat answers to the CEO or sugarcoat answers to the director or the colonel, because they’re worried about their careers. And so what happens often is that the more senior you get, the less aware you are of the environment or the workplace, because some people just butter you up. And some people say things that aren’t necessarily true. And they just sound nice, because they want to, they want to gain favour of people in higher positions. So it’s really, this is why it’s really important that you have a culture of psychological safety. And that needs to come from the top down. We need we need senior managers at all levels, to be very, very receptive, open, and welcome in of critical analysis. I think the best leaders are the ones that put their ideas out there with a hunger for people to stress, test their ideas and critique them. Because if you’ve done then, how good is your plan? Or how good is your idea if you haven’t exposed yourself to find out about potential weaknesses in your point of view? So yeah, I do I think, naturally, you would think all people at the top, they must be very self aware, because they they’re at the top, often, they’re not because people don’t necessarily have the courage to expose their on honesty to them in, in case of of reprisal or interesting, but I’ve seen it done really well. So in the organisation I work in now and in relation I previously worked in both our senior leadership team that I was part of, it’s very, very open and receptive to feedback and it helps them be self aware. And we do that with lots of consultation, lots of surveys, making sure that we promote a culture of psychological safety. There’s probably a lot of different perspectives in different organisations, again, depending on where you sit in that organisation. So you had a very interesting question. Yeah,
I think you’re right. I think people come at it from a very different perspective. It’s interesting as you were talking there, there is and again, it talk to some other people throughout my podcasting. And there is this definite sense as a leader unless you are open to feedback, then you are not going to be able to develop that self awareness. But as you were talking, I think I was thinking, it’s not just feedback and having an open door policy being welcome. And being receptive to that. It’s something about actively seeking it out, as well.
Yes, definitely. Yeah, I think that’s really important. You need to give people the feeling that you really want it and that it’s genuine and sincere, then there’s nothing, we’ve all probably come across those disingenuous people, whether it’s peers, managers, supervisees, I think you really need to get across to your organisation that you are genuinely valuing their views and their opinions. Because if you don’t value people’s opinions, eventually they just won’t give them. So yeah, I agree totally with you, you’ve got to be actively genuine in your desire to want to listen to people’s views, their feelings, their thoughts, their suggestions, you’ve also got to make sure you, you include them in being able to add value to the organisation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean telling you you’re right, added value can be actually saying, Hold on a minute. Now, what you’re doing, I think is wrong because of this, this, this and this. And we need those people going back to the military always try to lean on this sometimes. And if I had a plan, when we was going on patrol, and I called my three corporals in and one of them had information, vital information about the risk or harm, or say, for example, I wanted to take a certain route, and I didn’t have all the information. And they didn’t feel confident to tell me that puts people’s lives at risk. I need that person that that Corporal that leader of a team to be able to say to me, Look, observe boss, whatever you want to call me that that route is very dangerous. I know you’ve got that plan in your head. But that is not what I would do. Now, if I was a egotistical leader, I would be like, oh, now I’m the boss, I know what I’m doing. But actually what you need, like, Great, thank you so much for telling me that you’ve added value by critically analysing my plan. That’s exactly what we want from those leaders. And that’s why you need to delegate that confidence, and have that culture of psychological safety,
especially when you’re in life and death situations.
Especially so yes, yeah.
Do you think effective leaders have more self awareness than ineffective leaders?
Yeah, I would say overwhelmingly, you can have examples of people leading leading teams or organisations to probably short term success and maybe not being particularly self aware, but I think they’re very few and far between. I think, I think as we’ve touched on, this has been a common thread all the way throughout. I think self awareness is one of the key skills of any effective leader. I, I can’t think of many leaders, or leaders that have been consistently successful across multiple domains who have not been who’ve not at a very high level of self awareness, I think, for you to continually grow. And for you to continuously be successful, you need to continuously reassess yourself. And I think it’s extremely important.
And I’ve, I’ve spoken to people who have said, leadership without self awareness, as you’ve said, is limited time limited. It’s only going to get you so far, but great leaders have self awareness. And I think that’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s that difference between Yeah, you can lead, but are you going to be an effective and a great leader. And maybe self awareness is that key difference, we can confuse
leadership, sometimes people are in certain positions, and not necessarily due to competence. And you could and the team could be successful. And that may not necessarily be done to you. But I think if you’re going to be a consistently successful leader, across not just multiple domains, but multiple timeframes, then I think you need to, then that’s where self awareness is really going to be key. I think we can all be successful once even maybe have a bit of luck, but to do it consistently over multiple domains over time across different organisations. That’s where That’s where it, it really becomes a power skill. There’s another there’s touching on what we mentioned earlier about Aristotle and Nietzsche as quote about Know thyself, there’s a there’s an American operatic singer, Robert Brogdon. And he wouldn’t think many people would be able to improve on the quotes from people like Aristotle and Nietzsche, but he has a really, really good quote on something that has helped me thinking quite a lot recently, especially when we’ve spoken about this. He says, Know thyself, but keep renewing the acquaintance. I love that. I thought that that blew me away because it made you think knowing yourself is not a one off thing. So every day you become a new person you shed your skin every experience that you go through makes you a new person you add to your Arma so the leader I was 10 years ago is not the leader I am today. The person I was before I had my daughter is not the person I am today. And I think that that that extra value he added to that quote of making sure you renew the acquaintance is really important because because it means you’ve got to constantly keep reflecting on who you are today. Because you need to change your experiences change. So I really liked that. I thought that was a nice, nice thing to add.
Last definitely. Liam Maguire, it’s been absolutely brilliant having you on and I’m so glad we found the time to have this catch up. Thank you so much. And I very much look forward to hearing how things are going with your children’s homes, and how you’re developing your leadership during that role, and how you’re developing the leadership of others. Leah McGuire, thank you so much.
Thank you very much. They’re all the best.
Thank you for joining me your host Nia Thomas of the knowing self knowing that this podcast if you’d like to know more about self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Please take a look on my website knowing self knowing others dot co dot UK. You can also join me on YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter. Make sure you bookmark the knowing self knowing others podcast and tune into the next episode in two weeks time. I look forward to having you on my learning journey.
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