There is a general misperception that leadership is always something that is done to other people. In this blog, I explain that successful and impactful leadership of others always includes leading self. I believe that regardless of your title or position, strong self-leadership will be the foundation of your success, happiness and resilience in your personal professional life.
Leading self is like looking at a bucket that has holes. If you keep filling it up with water without fixing the holes, the bucket will never stay full. You have to fix the holes first, so you can fill up your bucket. Remember you can only serve from a full bucket.
Research in Psychology Today published statistics that show that 30% of Fortune 500 leaders last less than three years, because they are not good at leading self. I’ve experienced this myself when I was working overseas, where I was so focused on performing for the company and getting the most out of my team members, that I didn’t look after myself. I almost burned out, depleted my resilience and had lost the sense of leader I was and wanted to be. Probably the toughest time in my career and completely unnecessary. But I learned my lesson: lead-self first.
Leading self and fixing those holes in our bucket means we have to create healthy habits. For example, we need to schedule time out and create space, especially working in a hybrid world where work and personal life largely happens in the same space. We have to adopt healthy habits that work for us, not others. This could be long runs, meditation, getting lots of sleep or starting a new hobby. It’s about being healthy AND finding joy.
Leading self also means that we develop a sense of understanding who we are. We need to be clear on what our values are – what we stand for and what we don’t stand for. It helps us to build necessary boundaries which we need to protect ourselves. If I had these boundaries in place when living in Asia, I would have left the organisation I worked for much earlier. We also need to create self-awareness of our strengths, how we add value and what our purpose is. Basically, we are creating our brand message to have clarity on what kind of leader we want to be. Check out my blog on how to build your leadership brand.
Building our leadership bench strength that moves us into leading others is also part of leading self. For me it always comes down to two things being a successful leader:
Relationships and Communication
To build effective and trusting relationships and communicate with impact we need to start with ourselves and, again, lead-self first. We need to understand our natural behaviour style (recommended to use DiSC Assessment) and what that means in relation to other peoples’ high preferences. We also need to build Emotional Intelligence, the ability to understand and manage our emotions within ourself and others. There is no Social Intelligence (tuning into other people) without Emotional Intelligence.
Another part of leading self is your ongoing development as a person and as a leader. Be a life-long learner and keep on reading books and meaningful articles or take up a course or learning program. I set myself a goal to read 2 leadership books a month minimum and take up 2 big learning journeys a year. Also consider having a mentor and coach to surround yourself with people who support you and challenge you at the same time. Here is my lead-self model for an easy overview:
Healthy habits, Finding joy, Growth mindset, Leadership brand, Behaviour style, EQ, Ongoing development
Your leadership is a journey that starts with leading self and on your path of leading others always include and keep on leading self. We need to remember to re-focus on leading self, time and time again so that our bucket stays full and we can help to lead others.
If you want to work with me, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org