“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways and no message could’ve been any clearer. If they wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” These Michael Jackson lyrics may be familiar to some. For me, this chorus comes to mind when I’m conducting professional development sessions.

I firmly believe growth happens at the edge of introspection and self-development. I see the value in taking time to objectively learn more about ourselves, specifically “how” and “why” we do what we do. Research has shown the most effective leaders are those who understand themselves, their strengths and vulnerabilities.

Paul Sean Hill, a former flight director and director of mission operations for human spaceflight at NASA, shared that successful leaders may get comfortable with their own reputation. There is the tendency to focus on past personal or professional triumphs or thinking a team’s success is a result of their leadership alone. Continuing down this path may cause leaders to make poorly thought-out decisions, lose the ability to take risks, or become numb to the realities around them. Sometimes, a failure can snap leaders out of these patterns, but even that requires a leader to be honestly introspective and own up to their mistakes.

I am passionate about helping leaders unlock their leadership potential by performing optimally and finding ways to elevate others along the way. I am excited to say we strive to do just that at the Academy for Advancing Leadership through consultant services and professional development. Time and time again, I encounter leaders who view the assessment process as a waste of time or get fixated on one nuance or another. My approach is to encourage leaders to widen their lenses to avoid taking the bait and missing the cues. As tempting as it may be to spend time defending one’s actions, it is important to remember an assessment provides an accurate representation of a person by highlighting perspectives and differences.

There are no right or wrong answers. There is no good or bad behavioral style. Each leader is unique and has a valuable role within an institution or organization. Good assessments create a robust story of who the leader is, how they are likely to act in a given situation, what motivates them to do what they do, and which ways they demonstrate their acumen. With knowledge from the assessment, leaders may better understand their behaviors related to problem solving, influencing others, emotional intelligence, and otherwise engaging in today’s environments.

More than ever, leaders want and need to get it right. We all know the stakes are so high. The way things were once done will no longer work. Change is what we face. We must be open to continuous introspection to lead effectively.


Felicia L. Tucker-Lively, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Vice President, AAL