Enhancing Self-Leadership Through Conscious Environmental Design

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Durch bewusste Umfeldgestaltung zu mehr Selbstführung

The environment surrounding an individual is an important component for the development of self-leadership competence. Expectations and demands imposed from the outside cause them to react only to external commands. They strive to meet these demands, often losing sight of what they themselves can or want to do.

How a strong environment affects an individual:

In a strong environment, where everything is structured and regulated, individuals are subject to external expectations and situational constraints. Therefore, this limits individual development opportunities. For instance, examples of such strong situations include work activities in highly functionally divided and hierarchically structured organizations, such as government agencies or production companies. Moreover, even flexibly structured organizations can have a strong environment when projects and tasks must be completed under significant time pressure.

How a weak environment affects an individual:

In a weak environment, characterized by openness and lack of regulation, external guidelines and constraints are minimal, with expectations being less explicit or binding. This provides individuals with greater flexibility and autonomy to actively influence and shape their environment according to their preferences. The less structured the path, the easier it is for individuals to unfold and thrive. Examples of rather weakly regulated situations in professional life include communicative interactions with customers or interpersonal collaboration.

For successful self-leadership, it’s important for individuals to determine the conditions under which they can most effectively make an impact. People need certain conditions against which they can align their own efforts. This requires the ability to achieve personal goals within the overall performance framework of the company successfully and without conflict.

Proactively changing one’s own environment is one method of environmental design. Individuals intentionally change certain characteristics of their immediate work environment to better align with their preferences. Proactive environmental design is particularly helpful for self-leadership because individuals do not leave their work environment but rather attempt to put their personal stamp on it. This method is often practiced during business takeovers.

An example:

Proactive Environmental Influence

(from the book: Müller G. F.: Self-Leadership. 2009, page 91 (at the moment only available in german))

The example illustrates that this strategy demands not only clear goal setting and consistent action but also persuasive skills. In a business takeover, the founder’s son sought psychological advice, enabling him to quickly assume his new role and shape it effectively. Despite resistance from executives fixated on the founder, he succeeded by repeatedly advocating for the benefits of his proposed changes, emphasizing the positive outcomes for all employees. By highlighting how his plans would enhance working conditions for executives as well, he ultimately overcame resistance and garnered widespread support.

 

5 Tips for Environment-Induced Self-Leadership

  1. It’s important to actively seek a social environment that supports the individual in what they do. Knowing that there are people who support them benevolently in their actions reinforces the individual in their process of change. It increases self-competence and the belief that their own efforts can indeed lead to success.

  2. When people are actively involved in joint goal setting, planning, and decision-making processes in the work environment, it contributes to the success of their self-leadership efforts. This helps them persevere even in difficult times.

  3. Independent thinking and action are only possible when individuals perceive themselves as part of their organization and when there is a sufficiently developed self-leadership culture that aligns with their own internal goals and standards.

  4. The environmental conditions should enable individuals to develop themselves further. It is important to note the following: The more restrictions individuals perceive and experience from the outside, the more they must be convinced of their own abilities to achieve the same performance. Only when this is given do they feel in control of the situation. The higher the perceived level of situational control, the more confidently and assuredly they act.

  5. People in a strong environment should learn to reassess difficult situations. If they perceive a situation as being minimally controllable by themselves, the external constraints appear too intense. This affects self-esteem, leads to a decrease in perceived competence, and subsequently to resignation.

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