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Karp starts his discussion of the development as a leader with a detailed examination of the self-concept. He points out that self-concept is an integral part of any leader, and although research often focuses on interpersonal capabilities and interactions, leaders’ self-awareness remains overseen. In Karp’s opinion, such a perception of the leadership development is inaccurate, as self-awareness and self-regulation together should be combined with social skills.
It is important for leaders to be aware of how they handle themselves and their relationships. The self should be perceived as the individual core and substance, and some particular characteristics of an individual can determine personal comprehension of him/herself. Karp examines different psychological approaches to the self. For example, he references Locke’s understanding of the self as consciousness. Quoting Moxnes’ words, Karp points out that developing as a human being means being seen. Jung named the process of becoming an individual individuation. Karp also provides a different point of view, explaining that some researchers see the self as a stream of actions. Depending on the situation, various aspects of the individual (the self) can be brought to action.
Personality psychology suggests a different way of approaching the leader’s self. According to this perception of the self, needs and drives, personality traits, personality adaptations, and life narratives together comprise a person’s personality (or define it), as well as this person’s conception of self. In this case, Karp points out, there is no need to strive for the ideal self; instead, the individual should effectively deal with different factors such as psychological defenses, faults, weaknesses, etc. and learn to accept or be aware of them. A detailed discussion is dedicated to inner demons of leaders and other factors that affect leaders’ behavior.
For example, psychological needs, social-cognitive mechanisms, socio-cultural practices are also parts of human personalities. Karp references Sheldon and argues that “needs to sustain a basic sense of self, to manipulate the environment in order to achieve instrumental goals, and to form cooperative relationships with others” are among crucial psychological needs that also define personality. Personality psychology also pays particular attention to traits and defines the personality of individuals as a variety of these sets of traits (such as extraversion, neuroticism, openness, etc.). However, Karp points out that although leadership theory is based on personality traits, their influence remains to be debatable.
Motivational, social-cognitive, and developmental adaptations are also interesting as they also affect (or are embedded in) human personalities. Karp notices that characteristic personality adaptations are interesting from a self-developmental perspective because they are linked to motivation and cognition, environmental and cultural influences, and are more likely to change over time.
The author examines multiple types of research and studies on leadership, focusing on personality adaptations (e.g., character, values, integrity, etc.) and saying that these are perceived as crucial to leaders and their performance. Some theorists (Maio and Olson) believe that values reflect fundamental, not surface differences among human beings, while others (Badaracco) point out that leaders have to face and maneuver in the tension between principles and pragmatism. In the article, particular emphasis is also put on the concept of intentionality. It becomes (in the form of a dream) a resource to the leaders that they can use.
Not only intentionality but also commitment and purpose are essential factors that impact characteristic personality of individuals. While personality traits focus on the question “What kind of a person are you?”, the characteristic personality adaptation asks a different question: “Who are you?”. Karp notices that this question is of a different existential level, and this level is essential because self-awareness is a trait vital for leaders. Moreover, some (Hautala) even argue that without self-awareness leaders would be unable to develop successfully. Another significant aspect, the author argues, is a personal narrative; such narratives directly affect individuals’ growth, coping, well-being, etc. An example of such an influence would be self-dialogue.
Development of the Self
Karp continues to examine various approaches to the development of a leader and introduces the method of the developmental psychology. For example, some researchers (Jahoda) theorize that mental health of individuals can be improved with the help of a model that triggers the process of acceptance, growth, autonomy, environmental mastery, etc. Another point of view is that human beings develop when they shift their attention from themselves to relationships and personal principles.
In this case, person’s maturity is directly related to her or his ability to develop as a leader. Karp also points out that positive psychology made a specific contribution to the developmental psychology. According to it, core moral virtues such as humanity, justice, wisdom, courage, knowledge, etc. are supported by cognitive, interpersonal, individual, emotional and other strengths and pave the path to successful self-development.
Karp argues that certain factors or so-called points of convergence can cause self-development of leaders. The leader’s experience is defined by crucial moments, points, or critical episodes that can trigger leader’s self-reflection. These points of convergence are root questions that lead to the creation of certain schemata. These schemata are produced by leader’s first-order consciousness. This development often implies that a change in leader’s self-concept is also taking place.
According to the author, while it might be true that human personality is difficult to change after 30, some personality adaptations (relational patterns, values, principles, energy management, etc.) can still serve as targets for the leader’s self-development. Karp suggests that various questions that target grounded self, true self, and possible self help understand how various capabilities and qualities (e.g., beliefs, assumptions, personality traits, characteristic adaptions, reality perception, etc.) can be changed.
Karp believes that to develop as a leader means to involve oneself in processes that build or develop self-awareness of the individual, which rarely can be found in self-help books or training programs. The leader is defined by her or his ability to raise awareness of her/his leadership self, which, in turn, affects her/his mastery of relationships and overall leadership capabilities. Thus, it is crucial to test one’s assumptions and beliefs.