June 2020

Knowing Yourself As a Leader

by Jim Emerick and Kevin Kerrigan

You are the leader of a smart and professional technical team, and you are tasked with trying to get everyone focused on the same thing, at the same time, all while embracing and supporting the same "big picture" vision of the organization. Sound familiar?

This was the leadership challenge Kevin Kerrigan, Director of Technology for Hillsborough County, was facing when he attended the Leadership Excellence Course. It was not a question of talent, as his team was proficient in their technical role. His challenge was to effectively communicate to the team how their role played into the grand scheme of things for the county and how their decisions—or lack thereof—inadvertently affected the overall well-being of the county and the constituents they serve. Ultimately, technology is a tool and an enabler to a more efficient and effective way to deliver desired community outcomes, and those outcomes can only be achieved if the organization is aligned with a clearly defined mission and vision. Kevin’s objectives associated with this leadership growth experience are to improve upon the communication cycle and alignment internally, while having the team realize this is what success truly looks like.

The cornerstone of all Academy Leadership courses is the written Personal Leadership Philosophy or PLP. Kevin learned that one of the key elements of a PLP is communicating expectations—our expectations of our teams, in addition to what our teams should expect of us— as leaders. When both actions are performed, alignment will occur. When we communicate our destination—"the big picture," or answer the "why?" ahead of time—we gain buy-in from individuals who understand how their specific contribution fits into a larger, more significant purpose.

Kevin was also able to obtain valuable insights via the Energize2Lead Profiles that were shared by his team members. He quickly realized how to better communicate with his team and better understand what energized them to realize the department and the County’s mission. He utilized that feedback along with the insights from the team member’s 360 degree review to refine his PLP. He emphasized the importance of providing enough vision and direction to achieve desired goals and outcomes, while also highlighting the importance of creating space for his team to personalize their approach, leading to more ownership and accountability in the process.

When you are leading diverse teams, with different skills and different backgrounds how might you start to better communicate and accomplish the mission? You may consider spending a few hours learning:

Then you will have a better foundation for developing your own PLP, aligning and accomplishing goals, and have a better understanding of how each of us is uniquely "hardwired". The better we understand our individual differences, the more effectively we can communicate and perform on a daily basis. Leadership begins when we understand ourselves first.

If you are interested in further developing your people, Day One of the Leadership Excellence Course includes Managing a Leader’s Style and Energy (Energize2Lead Profiles), Aligning and Accomplishing Goals, and Leader's Compass (Personal Leadership Philosophy).
Kevin Kerrigan is the Director of Technology of Hillsborough County in Tampa, Florida.