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  • Writer's pictureKevin Humphreys

Lead: The Home of Noble Self Leadership

In my exploration of leadership, I've developed a model that creates highly effective leadership –of both ourselves and others. A simple three-part process that seeks to: Awaken, Connect, Lead. I also noticed along the way there are distinct parallels between the complexities of leadership and my operational flying career. Indeed, the journey from learning to fly, to becoming an air mission commander provides a metaphor of the progression from leading oneself to leading others. 

When first setting out to become a pilot, one needs to identify the aircraft role they want to pursue. The path is very different for those who yearn to be a military fast jet pilot vs civilian Search and Rescue helicopter pilot, airline pilot, recreational flyer or drone pilot! Likewise, if you’re going to lead yourself or anyone else, doesn’t it make sense to first know where you want to lead them? 

The first step then in leadership is identifying a Great and Noble Cause (GNC). This task sets the foundation for a leader's purpose. However, unlike identifying the type of aircraft you want to fly, identifying the GNC necessitates contemplation of what truly matters for the greater good. To be effective, a GNC needs to extend beyond individual desires or ambitions as ultimately you will use the GNC to inspire not only yourself but also others. This step takes time and will rarely be a complete and whole statement the first time it’s considered. Some questions to ponder include: What are you passionate about? What do you feel is missing in society? What would serve the greater good?  

Dream big. Think large and free of current societal and scientific constraints. 

It’s important at this stage to not allow limitations to your thinking. Dream big. Think large and free of current societal and scientific constraints. Remember, some of our brightest and most influential minds once claimed the world was flat, that black people couldn’t mix with white, and cigarettes were good for you. Don’t be caught up in current dogma or drama, instead look beyond contemporary constraints and challenge society and science to make it possible.  

When you answer those questions and any others that arise, craft a single paragraph that outlines your GNC. Better still, condense it to a single sentence. If you’re having trouble, consider the following questions to help flesh it out then refine it: What does the GNC look like? What does the world look like without it? Is it tangible or intangible? Can you measure it? Who will benefit from the GNC being realised? Why is it needed?  

Identifying personal values follows next, requiring inspection of the core principles that will guide your leadership journey. These values serve as a compass, ensuring that the chosen noble cause aligns seamlessly with your intrinsic beliefs.  

However, as important as values are, by themselves they can be seen as abstract and difficult to grasp. To overcome this, values are made tangible through examples of behaviours that demonstrate the values in action. Along with the GNC, the values and their associated behaviours are shared far and wide across your organisation to assist transparency and accountability for all. (Access my GNC, values and behaviours here) 

Setting clear goals to achieve the GNC is the next step. Regardless of whether your GNC is tangible or intangible, it must be broken down into its component parts with goals attached to each. If values are the compass, then short-, mid- and long-term goals create the map you will use to navigate to realise your mission. 

…mastering self-leadership is not just a crucial step before leading others, but whilst ever leading others 

A distinctive feature of the Awaken-Connect-Lead model lies in its approach to prioritisation. In the initial cycle, the emphasis is on self, then the next cycle has a focus on others, and ultimately the organisation or mission. However, the model challenges the conventional view of selflessness. I proffer that we must maintain a focus on selfishness beyond the early stages of leadership development and throughout the period of leading others. Indeed, mastering self-leadership is not just a crucial step before leading others but whilst ever leading others. 

This approach is the same as the progression I experienced flying in the Army. Initial pilot training focused on mastering basic individual skills; akin to leading oneself. Progressing from co-pilot to aircraft captain for simple missions, then more complex missions introduced additional responsibilities and skills both individually and within very small teams. Additionally, flying in formations symbolizes collaboration, a shift towards working with and leading larger and more diverse groups, and eventually, becoming an air mission commander of multiple different aircraft types from different nations signifies the culmination of leadership expertise. 

Importantly though, the basic individual pilot skills and knowledge are not lost as you progress to higher levels of responsibility. They remain implicit in achieving each higher level, and demand to be continually practiced, reviewed and refined to ensure individual piloting proficiency.  

The same is true of self-leadership.

…just like flying skills, self-leadership also demands to be continually practiced, reviewed and refined to ensure proficiency and wellbeing 

As you focus your efforts on achieving the mission and leading others, you cannot lose sight of leading yourself. Leading yourself with proper physical and psychological selfcare is implicit when demonstrating leadership to others. No matter the challenges presented, just like flying skills, self-leadership also demands to be continually practiced, reviewed and refined to ensure proficiency and wellbeing. 

Would you like to see my Great and Noble Cause, values and behaviours as well as a worksheet to develop your own? Click the button below. 




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