The Greatest Challenge of Leadership

The Greatest Challenge of Leadership

Who is the most important person you can lead? Would you say it’s your followers, peers, or boss? After over a decade of being a student of leadership and being in a variety of leadership roles, I’ve found it’s none of those people. The most important person and the hardest person you will ever lead is yourself. In fact, effectively leading others starts with self-leadership.

Self-leadership is also one of the greatest challenges of leadership. This saying states it well, “If I could kick the person most responsible for my problems. I would not be able to sit down for a week.” Leaders can unintentionally be the problem and not the solution. We are humans with emotions and feelings. At times we make mistakes and fail. This is why when we see or sense we are the problem, emotional, or making an unusual number of mistakes; we need to take time to look in the mirror to reflect on how well we are leading the person looking back at us. Self-leadership is about pulling back enough so we can take charge of our actions, behaviors, and attitude. Lasting influence comes when we are able to do this. To assist you in leading yourself successfully remember these suggestions:

  • Place more effort in leading yourself than anyone else
  • Live a balanced life between your personal and professional life
  • Focus on your core priorities and areas of responsibilities
  • Maximize your time by focusing on your top and most important priories
  • Lead through your example. Making sure your words match your actions
  • Invest in personal growth so you are moving toward your maximum potential
  • Chose to look at the good side of your life and people while not finding the bad or what your people are doing wrong
  • Have and maintain a good and positive attitude about your life and surroundings

Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” The greatest challenge of leadership will always be to lead you successfully.

Questions: How do you overcome the greatest challenge of leadership? What other suggestions would you add to help you lead yourself successfully?

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

  • Hi Dan,
    I agree with all you wrote. When I did my MA in Leadership, the very first course was about ourselves. Learning who we truly are. Self discovery and self development are the absolute core to the foundation of exceptional leadership.

    • Hi Bill,

      I’m sure it was one of the most important course. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • The greatest challenge for a leader in my mind is that of servant leadership. To learn to lead with humility and by serving others goes so much against our current culture of brash, aggressive leaders. This is a difficult attitude for a leader to cultivate but one that is also the most invaluable.

    • I totally agree with you. It’s important to serve everyone, those who like us or not. Thank you for adding your wisdom.

  • Good post, Dan. One of the ways I practice self-leadership is by evaluating my actions and reactions, and learning from mistakes. It helps a lot.

    • Hi Joe,

      that’s a great way. Keep doing a great job with leading yourself.

  • Kevin

    I definitely agree that self-leadership is a major key. Everyone made good points. I’ve learned, however, that many people have a problem defining themselves. So it’s difficult to “lead one’s self” if one does not yet know who he/she is yet. So before we can effectively lead ourselves, let’s let first
    get clear on the answer to the questions: Who am I? and why do I exist? The journey of knowing who we are is life long. But it starts with a focus on the right question(s). This helps because the way to the right answer is always to ask the right question. One key is to ask questions like the to above. Then
    Ask, where do I see myself going? And what must I do to get there? Accurate answers to these questions can build our leadership focus and clarity.

    • Those are good questions and should be answered. Self-leadership is about making sure our attitude and behaviors are good and cause people to want to follow us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • Self-leadership. Definitely the starting point and where I can be as critical of the leader as the follower. :) It’s a lifelong goal.

    • Yes it is! True, self-leadership must be constant. Thank you for reading and commenting.