The Instrument of Leadership

Just like a painter has brushes, paint and a canvas, a hunter has a gun or a bow and arrow, etc. what do you have as a leader, what is your ‘instrument’? You! You are the instrument. And for you to be an effective leader, you have to know yourself as well as you can and also know and appreciate that you are not the same as others.

This week we would like to delve into the captivating concept of “Self as an Instrument,” drawing inspiration from the profound works of the late Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge, a thought leader in the field of leadership development and organisational change.

Understanding “Self as an Instrument”:

At the heart of Cheung-Judge’s philosophy is the idea that leaders are not just managers or decision-makers; they are instruments through which positive change and transformation can occur. By acknowledging the self as an instrument, leaders recognise the importance of their own personal growth, awareness, and alignment in driving meaningful organisational shifts.  

“Leadership is not just a position or a set of skills; it is an ongoing process of self-awareness, self-regulation, and continuous learning. When we treat ourselves as instruments of change, we become attuned to the impact we have on others and the organisations we lead.”

“To lead effectively, one must first lead oneself. This entails deep self-reflection, understanding one’s values, strengths, and triggers, and constantly striving for personal development. Only then can a leader authentically inspire and guide others.” – Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge

Embracing the “Self as an Instrument” concept can bring about transformative shifts in leadership and organisational dynamics. As a springboard for considering journeying in your own self-work, here are some activities relating to owning, refining, and integrating our self-knowledge:

  1. Develop life-long learning habits: As a leader, you must constantly grow and improve your skills to move fluidly between the different duties that are expected of you. Building relationships with peers and experts to check perspectives, speak through difficulties and strategies, and align values and practices would be a good place to start. Seeking feedback from your teams and coworkers, as well as taking acceptable risks that exceed your leadership comfort zone and competency, can assist you in learning and unlearning some behaviours.
  2. Work through issues of power: Recognise your issues with power and control and train yourself to recognise emotional triggers. This helps you to come up with your own techniques for managing power dynamics. By doing this you also develop habits that help you in setting and keeping appropriate boundaries with colleagues and subordinates.
  3. Building Emotional and Intuitive Self-awarenessLearn about your fears, blind spots, and comfort zones as you embark on your self-work journey. Make use of your emotional comfort or discomfort as data in making choices about your work and how you show up. Bring yourself to a point where you can develop habits for dealing with anxiety over the accuracy of your views and leadership style, while also embracing the potential value of intuition in decision making and taking risks, especially when there is evident opposition.
  4. Commit to self-care: Schedule regular time off to care for your health, mind, and spirit. This reflection and integration time replenishes your intellectual and emotional energies. By having an effective self-care package in place, you recognise that, like a machine, we cannot continue to provide long-term service without regular maintenance.

As we reflect on Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge’s insightful perspective on the “Self as an Instrument,” let us remember that effective leadership extends beyond the role, and reaches deep into the core of one’s being. By embracing our role as instruments of positive change, we open doors to greater personal and professional fulfilment, and we pave the way for a more harmonious and empowered future. So; fill your cup so you can pour into others!

None of this is easy, which is why at Worldsview we incorporate developing the awareness of self into our Leadership Programmes, whether we work with first time managers/ supervisors or senior leaders. The Enneagram is a powerful tool that has been tremendous in helping our delegates understand themselves- probing/digging deeper into their fears, triggers, blind spots, default leadership styles and behaviours. 

Let us know if you would like to have a quick chat about your Leadership Development needs, we’d love to be your thinking partner!