Leadership and Self-Acceptance – The Man in the Glass

Many studies have identified acceptance of self is linked to effective leadership. Accepting self is linked to the acceptance of others. Or is it?

Research says it does. So, what does research say about a self-accepting leader?

  • Self-acceptance is understanding your values and acting on them at all times
  • Not being someone other than who you are and not feeling pressurised to do and say what you don’t believe in
  • A self-accepting leader has the faith and belief in being able to cope with life
  • They will take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences
  • They are not shy or self-conscious
  • Accepts praise and constructive feedback from others objectively
  • Self-accepting leaders see themselves as worthy and on an equal plane as others

A direct correlation can be seen between accepting self and being an effective leader. If we accept who we are, then accepting others for who they are will become easier.

We can accept others by:

  • Having a sincere interest in them – their work, family, health, hobbies
  • By being willing to share responsibility with them
  • By trusting them and not always looking to “trip” them up
  • By having an understanding that they have the right to be their own unique person; by having their own thoughts, feelings and opinions

One of my favourite poems is Dale Wimbrow’s 1934 poem – ‘The Man in the Glass’.

The message is powerful and a reminder that we will only be at ease with ourselves if we can look in the mirror every day, and accept what we see.

Do we stay true to our values and beliefs? Our values may be loyalty, mindfulness, honesty, unselfishness or perhaps just a commitment to see through a particular task or challenge. Whatever it is, it must be honoured and kept if we are to remain true to ourselves and be an effective leader.

The Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgement upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, right to the end
And you know you have passed the most difficult of tests
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

‘The Man in the Glass’ is not just relevant for men, women can easily resonate with its message and should not be deterred by its male bias. It was originally about a man’s personal reflections and can easily be adapted.

There are times when we get caught up in trying to impress and please others, win acceptance or fit in with an audience. Sometimes we are tempted to act in a way that is not true to ourselves and this can lead to the “Imposter” syndrome in such a way we start to resent who we have become and forget who we really are and what we stand for. We then become ineffective in life and work, which could lead to illness, stress and personal and work issues.

By reflecting on ‘The Man in the Glass’ and staying true to ourselves, we will stand more of a chance in remaining effective and happier in all we do.

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