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Nosce te Ipsum: Who Are You?

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

A quick search on Google for "Personal Development" produced 4.25 Billion - Billion! - results. Clearly, there is a lot of interest in the topic, but I often wonder what it is that people are really looking for when they run a search like that.

Wikipedia says that "Personal Development consists of activities that develop a person's capabilities and potential, build human capital, facilitate employability, and enhance quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations."

Sounds great, doesn't it. Does it mean that if I go and do a Personal Development course, or attend a webinar, or read a self-help book by one of the many, many gurus who write on this topic, then I'm automatically on track to achieve all this?

No, of course it doesn't. Unfortunately for those looking for a quick fix, life doesn't work that way. If you want the results, you're going to have to do the work. The courses, webinars, books and all that are merely guides: they point the way, they give you some tools and techniques that you can use, but in the end it's up to you to put those tools and techniques to work in your daily life. If you're not prepared to do that then you're not going to get the results, no matter how many times you do the course, attend the webinars, or read the books.

Why, you might ask, am I writing about Personal Development in a blog about Leadership?

It's because Personal Development and Leadership share an important fundamental element: you must know yourself. If you don't understand yourself and what makes you tick, how can you possibly expect to be able to understand anyone else? And if you don't understand other people, you can't possibly lead them.

It really is as basic as that.

That's why, when I begin a mentoring program with a new client, the first question I'll ask is this: "who are you?"

When you read that question, do you automatically think something like, "I'm John Smith from Croydon and I'm a senior engineer with XYZ?" Almost everyone goes straight to that, but it's not the answer I'm looking for.

I already know your name, and knowing what you do doesn't tell me much about who you are. You are a human being, not a human doing, right? So when I ask you, "who are you?" I mean what motivates you? What excites you? What makes you angry, sad, happy, content, fulfilled? What are the personal values by which you live your life and on which you will never compromise?

If you can't tell me these things then you don't know who you are. You don't know yourself in the way that you must if you want to be an inspirational, transformational leader.

But wait, there's more. If you don't know who you are then it's impossible for you to know what you want to be and to do in your life. If you don't know that, then you can't possibly have an inspiring vision that those you lead can see and buy in to. Without that basic understanding, you might just have a feeling that getting into Leadership could be a pretty cool sort of thing to do, but you're going to need a bit more than that if you want people to follow you.

Not everyone chooses to step in to a Leadership role; some have Leadership thrust upon them after being promoted because they were good at the technical aspects of their role. If this has happened to you, you must know that being good "on the tools" does not necessarily mean you'll be a good leader. The extra salary, the company car and the nice office that perhaps came with your promotion are attractive incentives, no doubt, but you should not accept them unless you really want to accept the responsibilities of Leadership. That includes being prepared to do the work to develop yourself both personally and professionally as you step in to your new role.

And so that's where we begin, with a focus on you: who you are and what you want. Only when you have those things crystal clear are you ready to take your first steps into effective leadership.

Despite all the hype, Personal Development is not just some new-age fad. It's a lifelong process of learning and it underpins everything you go on to do in your personal and professional life. And, as I observed at the start of this article, if you want to succeed then you must be committed to doing the work, learning your own lessons, and putting what you have learned into practice every day.

Now, tell me, who are you?

If you can't answer that question clearly and concisely without having to think about it or rummage through the notes you made when you last attended a Personal Development seminar then you still have some work to do.

If you'd like to know more about Bernard's Leadership Coaching and Mentoring programs, visit his website at

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