Posted on 26 Oct 2023

Author: John Wadsworth

You are your greatest leadership asset.

Getting the most out of who you are as a leader is key to maximising your leadership influence and impact.

While each leadership journey is uniquely shaped by context, experiences, aspirations and personal attributes, experience tells us there are some common handbrakes that hold leaders back from reaching their full potential. These are self-doubt, casting a large shadow and mojo. Learn more about these handbrakes below.


Often referred to as ‘Imposter Syndrome’, even the most successful leaders maintain a level of self-doubt that holds them back. This self-doubt can show up in many ways and it is not always obvious. Not applying for a step-up role that you are perfectly capable of doing, feeling like you don’t belong when newly appointed to an experienced team, staying in roles that are not a good fit, seeking to be the ‘hero’ by demonstrating expertise, dominating the whiteboard, staying out of the limelight, working unsustainably long hours and shying away from vulnerability are all behaviours that can indicate self-doubt. The reality is, others see far more in us than we see in ourselves. When we see in ourselves what others see in us, self-doubt disappears.

Casting a Large Shadow:

One of the outcomes of self-doubt can be the casting of a large shadow as a leader. The larger the shadow you cast, the less light there is for others to shine. If you make every decision, you own every decision. By implication, the people that report to you do not own any decision. It becomes easier for your direct reports just to bring you problems for you to solve, knowing you will want to solve them. After all, what is the point in them having an opinion or taking ownership if you are going to make the decision anyway? This can suit both parties – you feel good as you have control and power, and they don’t have to think too much. The only problem with that is you create an impossible workload for yourself by being across everything and those that report to you feel disempowered, do not grow and can quickly become disengaged.

A Low Mojo:

Mojo is a term we have adopted to encapsulate leadership energy, vitality and wellness. A leader with high mojo brings a positive energy, a growth mindset and an open mind. High mojo leaders are more present, respond rather than react to situations and are more resilient under pressure. The opposite is true for leaders with a low mojo who are feeling negative, stressed and exhausted. Exercise, balance, rejuvenating sleep, good nutrition, staying hydrated, healthy weight, manageable stress, work aligned with values, a sense of meaningful purpose, and positive relationships are all drivers of a positive mojo.

Self-doubt, casting a large shadow and a low mojo are, of course, all related. The more at peace you are that you are not only enough, but that you are more than enough, brings a level of self-assurance that results in you empowering and growing others. By growing and empowering others, your team will make more decisions and be encouraged to think through how to realise opportunities and solve challenges themselves. This results in those who report to you bringing fewer issues to you, freeing up your time to be truly strategic and leading, not managing. Everyone, including you, is more engaged and focusing on the right things, which leads to a more realistic workload for you. You will have more time for the things that recharge your batteries and be more present at home. The resulting sustainable high mojo enables you to role model a positive leadership energy and resilience.

It sounds easy, but if it was easy, we would all be doing it.

Understanding the root causes for these three handbrakes is key to unlocking your potential. I am struck by how many people enter our week-long residential leadership programmes with self-doubt, casting a large shadow and low in mojo, only to leave with confidence in who they are as a leader, the skills to empower and grow others and equipped to maintain a sustainably high mojo.

This transformation not only has a positive impact on you and your workplace, but also on your family, friends, and community.

Author: John Wadsworth

John is the Chief Executive of the Institute for Strategic Leadership International Group. He has held executive roles across different industries throughout his career, including sport, business growth, and tertiary education. For better or worse, this article is an original - No ChatGPT or AI was used.


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