John C Maxwell says that “Leadership is influence, nothing more – nothing less.” If that’s true (and I think it is) then those of us that aspire to be great leaders need to recognize one very important fact: People rarely open themselves up to the influence of people they don’t respect.
In other words, you can’t be an effective leader – at any level, if people don’t respect who you are and how you live your life. Our ability to lead ourselves displays very publicly our ability (or inability as the case may be) to lead others.
So – self-leadership is the primary responsibility of a leader. You are responsible for you. You’re responsible for your emotional health, you’re responsible for your physical health, you’re responsible for your spiritual health, you’re responsible for your bank balance – you’re responsible for all of it. And if you’re not functioning well in a particular area, or you feel like you’re struggling; self-leadership says, “This is my fault.”
Because self-leadership starts with the realization that I have participated in every bad decision I have ever made. In fact, the common denominator in all my bad decisions – is me! Last time I checked I was there when they happened; and as much as I’d like to divorce myself from any responsibility for the negative results; self-leadership doesn’t allow me that luxury. Self-leadership says I have what I have, I am where I am, and I am who I am – because of me.
If we want to lead ourselves well – there are three decisions we need to make: These are not comfortable, they’re not easy – but they’re absolutely essential.
Decision 1) “I will not lie to myself, even when the truth makes me feel bad about myself.” Self-leadership requires brutal honesty with ourselves, without that – we’re never going to grow. Holding on to something bad about myself because I’m not willing to acknowledge it’s there is counterproductive. I can’t lead myself unless I tell myself the truth – as painful as that may be at times.
Decision 2) “I will prioritize what I value most over what I want now.” Very few people every stop and take the time to discover what they value most, and as a consequence they settle for what they want now. The sad truth is that if you discover it too late it can be unattainable. Self-leaders lead themselves toward their values. Once you know what’s really important to you – those values operate as a filter through which the vast majority of your decisions are run, before they’re made.
Decision 3) “I will not attempt to lead myself, by myself.” This sounds out of place – when you hear the phrase ‘self-leadership’ you think that you’re leading yourself by yourself, but that’s not true. You can’t lead anything well by yourself – including you! To lead yourself well you need to surround yourself with people who don’t just share your interests (that’s a nice bonus really) – but who share your values. The people you do life with will impact it more than any other determining factor – so choose people that value what you value.
If you agree to make these three decisions, and to make them consistently – you will become a great leader to the hardest person in the world to lead; yourself! Our biggest challenge as leaders is staring back at us every morning in the mirror. Make leading yourself a priority; and allow the life you have and the person you are to show the world what a great leader you can be!