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  • Writer's pictureSophia Chin

Embracing Personal Experience: The Key to Unlocking Your Leadership Potential.

An expressive oil painting about a young girl Embracing Personal Experience: The Key to Unlocking Your Leadership Potential, depicted as an explosion of a nebula.
Pride in Your Potential. DALL·E 2 generated art.

Personal experience is a critical component in developing your leadership approach and style. Personal experience can provide a much deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the leader.

The video below of the bus driver on a bike is a classic example.

Today, everyone's talking about big data. This is not about big data; it's all about deep data. Removing the blinkers on our own experience helps us develop practical and actionable solutions for overcoming them. Personal experience also brings unique perspectives, insights, and approaches to leadership, which can broaden and enrich the discourse around what effective leadership looks like.

This is not about big data; it's all about deep data.

Unfortunately, many leaders overlook the importance of personal experience, limiting their growth and effectiveness. In this blog post, we'll explore why personal experience is crucial in developing a successful leadership approach, and what stops us from incorporating it into our leadership journey.

Why Personal Experience Matters

Personal experience provides a foundation for our leadership style and approach. It helps us understand the unique challenges we face at work and allows us to develop truly creative solutions that are inherently practical and effective. By reflecting on our own experiences, we can uniquely identify areas of tremendous opportunity, scale our successes and learn from our failures. Personal experience also provides us with the ability to develop empathy and emotional intelligence, which, unlike cognitive knowledge, can't be acquired through reading a book or listening to a podcast. You can't think your feelings; you have to feel them.

You can't think your feelings; you have to feel them.

Moreover, personal experience can broaden our perspective and enrich the discourse around leadership. Our individual experiences and perspectives can challenge conventional wisdom and provide new insights and approaches to leadership. By sharing our personal experiences with each other, we can create a more diverse and inclusive leadership culture.

What Stops Us from Incorporating Personal Experience into Our Leadership Journey

Despite the importance of personal experience, many leaders struggle to incorporate it into their leadership development. Some of the reasons include:

  1. Lack of Time: With the demands of a busy schedule, it can be challenging to carve out time for reflection and self-reflection.

  2. Fear of Being Judged: Sharing our personal experiences can be intimidating, and we may fear being judged or misunderstood.

  3. Emotional Challenges: Reflection on personal experiences can be emotionally challenging, and leaders may struggle to process the emotions that arise.

  4. Insecurity: We may feel insecure about our leadership abilities and hesitate to share our experiences, fearing that they may reveal our weaknesses.

understand the unique challenges we face at work and allows us to develop truly creative, practical, and effective solutions

This is especially challenging in the corporate environment. Making leadership personal is not safe.

Comes With A Warning Label

On the other hand, relying solely on personal experience can also have its limitations. Personal experiences can be subjective and limited, shaped by biases, background, and cultural context. Personal experiences are... personal. Just because something worked for one person does not necessarily mean it will work for others. Therefore, it is important to complement our personal experience with evidence-based research, data analysis, and expert opinions to ensure a well-rounded and evidence-based understanding of leadership.

Create Balance Where There's Imbalance

Ultimately, the most effective leadership theories and practices are those that balance personal experience with empirical evidence, critical analysis, and a respect for diverse perspectives.

When you don't embrace personal experience in your leadership journey, it's just chauffeur knowledge.

Personal experience should not be discounted or disregarded, but rather should be integrated into a broader and more holistic approach to understanding and developing leadership. As it turns out, most of us don't like to be pigeonholed. Not when you can be the glorious shining star of your own blockbuster movie! By prioritising reflection and self-awareness, we proactively take charge of our own personal development and unlock our full leadership potential.

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PERSONNA is a leadership development company specialising in Leadership Branding. We are here to support ambitious leaders and teams in Asia to scale their impact at work without burning out. We provide leadership branding, leadership coaching and group experiences. Personna has been developing leaders since 2010.

If you are curious to learn more drop us an email at

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