Start with You

The first person you should lead

A businessman holding a business card with the words, It starts with You.

A leader has several key roles. Some of the most essential include: leading and managing people, casting vision, training and equipping, uniting a team together, delivering results, creating change, and cultivating a positive working environment. There is one quality you need to have if you want to be successful in those roles. The quality is to be able to lead yourself. Leading yourself is about leading and managing your actions, attitude, and behavior. 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.” Your effectiveness or lack of effectiveness as a leader always starts with you. Leading yourself is a challenging task because the hardest person you will ever lead is you. To help you lead yourself well I offer you these 3 self-leadership principles:

1. Know yourself to lead yourself

To lead yourself well requires knowing yourself. Knowing yourself is about discovering and evaluating who you are and how you have been uniquely created. This includes your personality, emotional tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and the deep rooted elements that drive you and your actions. One aspect of this is to know what triggers your unhealthy or negative behaviors or attitudes. Basic needs triggers can include lack of sleep, not relaxing enough, or being hungry while others vary from person to person.

For me I’m vulnerable to react in a negative way with those I lead when I’m hungry or when I need to deal with a staff member who has been unprofessional. I’ve placed safe guards in my life to insure I act appropriately under any situation or circumstance. For example, I make sure to have a snack on hand in case I begin to get hungry. When a staff member has been unprofessional I take time to stop and think about my response before I respond. Most of the time this works but I’m not immune to making mistakes. To lead yourself well take, time to know yourself and your potential triggers. Set up safe guards so your potential triggers don’t negatively affect your leadership.

2. Follow your core to keep you grounded

In body building working out to strengthen your core is essential when it comes to having a strong body. The reason why a bodybuilder focuses so much time on their core is because it impacts all of the other muscles in the body. Your life and leadership also have core elements which impacts all of the other areas. Your core includes your beliefs, values, and convictions. In a world full of ethical and moral compromise following your core helps you to maintain your character and integrity.

For example, if one of your convictions is that stealing is wrong you won’t do anything that might cause you to steal, like arriving late or leaving early for work while stilling get paid for it. Or, if one of your values is trust you won’t do anything that might break your trust, like gossiping or lying to a team member. To be an effective leader and create lasting impact you need follow your core. Take time to determine your core elements and settle that you will never intentionally break them.

3. Take care of yourself to increase your effectiveness

You will not be able to take care of your followers or the organizational needs if you are not first taking care of yourself. There is a reason why flight attendances tell you in case of emergency to place the oxygen mask over your own mouth before helping the person next to you. If you fail to follow this rule you might attempt to help the person next to you while running out of air and in the end hurt both of you. The danger is that this can happen with you in your leadership position. You can be tempted to place so much of your effort, energy, and time on your team and organization that you forget to take care of yourself. In time this can damage everyone.

We need to avoid this danger by being good stewards of our life and leadership responsibilities. This means to place a high priority on our health, spiritual life, mental needs, and overall well-being. Be sure to take regular time away from work activities so you can rest, spend time with loved ones, and do the things that nourish you. Be intentional about scheduling time off work and doing the things you enjoy.

Questions: How do you lead yourself successfully? Which of these principles is relevant to you?

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  • Good advice, Dan. These are certainly essential not just in leadership but in setting an example in any way even if you’re not technically the leader. They are also not seen very often these days, though they are much extolled. Doing these three things will easily set a person apart.

    • Hi Kari, I agree these are not just for leaders. Following them will set a person up for success in the different areas of their life. Thank you for reading and sharing your wisdom.