The Self-Evolved Leader: Leadership Lessons For The 21st Century

The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown is a practical guide for those leading teams who wish to adopt new ways of thinking which will take their leadership skills to the next level.

What is a Self-Evolved Leader?

A Self-Evolved Leader is someone who is able to achieve the following:

  • Get more done in less time
  • Instead of lurching from crisis to crisis spends time on the medium-long term development of the team
  • Get better results from the team
  • Increase the value brought to the team and in turn the organization and community

Why is there a need for Self-Evolved Leadership?

Our current models of leadership no longer work.  The idea that the leader is there to be a hero for the team, to swoop in and solve every problem, which leads to helplessness and disempowerment.

Cycle of mediocrity

This behaviour leads to the cycle of mediocrity in which a leader confuses busyness with progress. They race from meeting to meeting, phone call to phone call with little time to consider the decisions they’re making daily. With the best intentions, they make the decisions for the team which cripples effectiveness.

In the cycle of mediocrity, we see the leader’s focus on tactics and daily actions rather than quarterly and annual horizons.

How to master the craft of leadership

Self-Evolved Leadership starts with your personal commitment. The pursuit of lifelong learning is crucial. 

The mind-set of a Self-Evolved Leader

  • They pursue an objective understanding of their leadership effectiveness
    • This means seeking feedback on all aspects of their leadership, even if it’s unflattering
  • They take responsibility for their development
    • Self-Evolved Leaders put themselves in positions to learn and they seek out opportunities to grow
  • They focus on practice and reflection
    • Self-Evolved Leaders put into practice what they’ve learned and assessed their progress

The Key Elements of Self-Evolved Leadership

To build a Self-Evolved organization a Leader needs to develop the following three key elements:

Create a shared vision for the team

A powerful, inspiring, compelling vision for the Leader’s team helps align people around a common goal

Establish a pulse – build an implementation rhythm

Implementation should be steady and consistent and when carried out in this way a Leader will find a pulse. A pulse provides a focus for execution yet still allows you to remain flexible and agile

Key disciplines

Disciplines are hard to master but they are the only way to lead to ongoing behavioral change. They will help the Leader fulfill the team vision effectively.

There are eleven key disciplines (six micro disciplines and five core disciplines) essential for every Self-Evolved Leader. 

The six micro disciplines are:

  1. Take a pause – this will help you to regain composure in times of stress
  2. Exist in the present – this is hard to do in a fast-moving organization, however, it will help build stronger relationships with everyone you work with, generate creative solutions and reduce stress
  3. Set the context – help everyone you engage with understand wherein the team’s pulse conversation it sits and the broader impact of their decisions
  4. Be intentional – know what you want to get out of any major interaction whether it’s a discussion, event, project or meeting
  5. Listen first, talk second – let everyone else share their perspective on a matter before you do. You’ll get a stronger decision almost every time
  6. Push for clarity – this can help keep your team aligned

The five core disciplines of a Self-Evolved Leader are:

  1. Reclaim your attention – Manage your attention to devote full focus to the task, person, or project at hand
  2. Facilitate team flow – Manage the inputs to your team in a way that gives them authority and responsibility for tasks and projects so that your team grows and you stay focused on achieving your current goals
  3. Supporting high performance – Help your team to assess challenges, weigh their options and take action
  4. Having symbiotic conversations – Providing an atmosphere of openness, transparency, and trust so your team knows they can share their perspective without fear of repercussion with the choice to opt-in or out of the outcome
  5. Building shared accountability – Create an environment where your team has the desire, skills, and tools to deliver excellence as a group working to and celebrating collective goals


Leadership is something that should be practiced daily. Stay true to the desire to grow and develop as a leader, keep pushing for better, keep striving for excellence and resist mediocrity.

Bio: Dave McKeown helps individuals, teams, and organizations achieve excellence by doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well. He is the CEO of Outfield Leadership and author of The Self-Evolved Leader – Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People in a World That Refuses to Slow Down (Greenleaf Book Group).

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