The Most Important Person We Can Lead

Which area is the most important when it comes to leading: Leading above, across, down, or self? Knowing the answer to this question is crucial to leading successfully. Each area is important to gain influence in but one is essential. Let’s examine each of these areas:

Leading above- Everyone has the potential to influence their boss. This starts with leading yourself well, solving problems, supporting your boss, and taking on extra responsibility. When your boss and upper leadership see you start doing these things, then your influence with them will rise. This shows your ideas and opinions are worth listening to.

Leading across- We have the ability to influence our peers; this can be people who work in the same department or a different department. If we want to lead our peers it requires building trust, a friendship, and adding value to them. John Maxwell says, “People always move toward someone who increases them and away from anyone who decreases them.” 

Leading down- This starts with a title and is maintained with positive influence. People start following you because they have to but they will only continue following because of your positive impact on them and the organization. The best leaders have the ability to empower, guide, value, and stretch their people.

Leading self- A leader needs to be able to lead and manage themselves. This starts with being aware of their temperament, personality, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses, then being able to manage them well. It also takes living a balanced life. It’s important to remember that, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.”~Plato

Having a balance of who we lead is important but there is one area a leader needs to spend the most amount of time leading. This area is self-leadership. Being able to lead yourself is essential when it comes to being an effective and successful leader. The first person you need to be able to lead is yourself and if you can’t lead yourself than you won’t be able to lead others well.

Question: What are do you find most important when it comes to leading? 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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40 thoughts on “The Most Important Person We Can Lead

  1. You do a good job of showing the importance of all areas and if I were to pick one as the most important I would have to say leading self. If I am not leading self then I am not growing and if I am not growing I am not going to be as effective in leading in the other areas. I see self leadership as the key to the other areas.

    • These are some valuable thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

      It’s good to hear, It took me a few weeks of thinking about this topic and several rewrites to finish this post. To hear it makes senses, makes me glad I posted it and did not hold off any longer.

  2. Great points. I really like your quote by Maxwell. For me, being humble and being a listener are extremely important. Keeping my focus on God helps keep me grounded, remembering he is my ultimate boss. I know it seems corny, but sometimes I am confronted with situations and I really do stop and ask myself: What Would Jesus Do?

    • It might sounds corny but it’s something we all should do and think about. At times I also ask myself the same question:)

      Both humility and listing are two essential quality’s any person should have. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

  3. I agree with you Dan, self leadership is the key function because when we lead ourselves poorly, the people we lead will also be led poorly most times.
    I also in terms of leading above, I still remember a Craig Groeschel quote “You honor them publicly and will gain influence privately”

    • Really like the quote. I also think it’s important when your peers/followers are around to always honor and give recognition to them. Never talking bad behind your bosses back or gossiping. The ability to do this shows character. Thank you for reading and sharing bro.

    • So important but I have noticed its something we often forget. I like what your said about it “Driving all our other leading” so true.

  4. I’ve always had the mindset that if I can’t lead myself, I have no right being a leader. I can’t speak into the lives of others on an issue if I’m not willing to deal with it myself. Great post, Dan!

  5. I agree with this wholeheartedly, Dan. Self-management is the hardest area of leadership and needs the most time, effort and resources.

    Thank you for your great thoughts here. I love that Maxwell quote.

  6. One of my favorite sayings: “you can’t give what you don’t have.”

    Simple but also profound as well.

    I’d agree with most of the other commenters: to lead well, you’ve got to manager yourself.

    Great discussion Dan!

    • Such a good saying. It should be on the mind of every leader. Thank you for taking the time to add to the discussion.

    • your words remind me of the current GOP Debates, some of the candidates have questionable backgrounds, not that anyone is perfect, but I want a candidate that leads themselves well before I will trust them to lead the country.

      • I think we would have better leadership if they focused on self-leadership more. I have not been watching the GOP debates but hear they have been interesting. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  7. Wow…really liked your words today Dan…

    I really think that we can’t have one without the other…

    If we are truly leading…then all of these aspects fall into place…

  8. This is GREAT!!! I am going to write these points down and keep them on my desk. Because of my experience and a lifetime of observation, I find that true leadership begins with the ability to follow, and to work side by side with all of the folks mentioned in your post.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The best preparation a leader can have is to follow a great leader for a season. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  9. Hey Dan good post. Leaders need to start leading with themselves first before they try to lead others. We have the same mindset on this which is great.

    • Joe, So true great impact only happens when a leader has the ability to lead self well. Thank you for stopping by.

  10. I think it’s leading self. Our leadership is justified when we are able to discipline ourselves before leading others. Otherwise, we’ll be like the blind leading the blind. I believe self-leadership is among the hardest too because we tend to be more lenient to ourselves.

    • I really like what your said about, “Our leadership is justified when we are able to discipline ourselves before leading others.” We have the right to lead others when we can lead our self well. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  11. Great post! This makes me think of a glass that is overflowing. If I am not leading myself to be better and improve, how on earth can I lead others? But if I am, then what spills over (out of my glass) will be visible and naturally affect others around me.

    Leading all the way around is important. Maxwell’s 360 Degree book was excellent on this subject. But leading ourselves is so crucial.

    However, I also find that leading ourselves is complicated because we are often the least compliant. When I tell someone on my staff to do something, I can expect, for the most part, that it will be done. For me, however, I argue with myself a lot!

    Thanks for the post, Dan!

    • Great example and points Matt. The hardest person we can lead is our self. Thank you for adding value to the discussion.

  12. Well written. Agreed that we can not expect to lead others until we have not lead ourselves first. It’s the first step that needs to be taken in order to go on.

  13. Dan,
    This is great stuff and everyone of these levels are important. I wonder if you think that it all starts with leading self? are the others a feeder out of good character? Thanks for a great post!

    • I would say it does all start with leading your self well, then from their flows into the other people around you. Glad to have you read and share.