Lead Yourself First

How To Lead Better By Leading Yourself


This is a guest post by Larry D. Shankle. Larry is a pastor, author, and blogger who has a desire to raise, build, and encourage people. He helps people build their faith, increase their influence, and find their purpose in life. Larry has served in church leadership roles for over two decades and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of GrandviewChurch. Get his free Leadership Ebook Here.

We expect people to follow us. Leaders lead people; it’s what we do. However, when followers are not lining up behind us, leaders often complain, resort to name calling, get discouraged, or give up. A question is in order here: Why would anyone follow you if you don’t first lead yourself well?

The best answer to the question of, “why don’t I have more followers…more happy followers…more devoted followers…” is often summed up by one long look in the mirror.

The problem is rarely the people. Most often, the problem is you.

Instead of complaining about the poor quality of those you lead, start working on yourself. Sadly, I see this happening in Christian leadership circles all the time. Pastors and church leaders want their congregations to do more, get involved, own the mission, and be the change; but these same leaders expect more of those who follow them than they would ever expect of themselves.

Whether you lead in the faith realm or the business world, the timeless principles of leadership hold true, and the question will always be the same. Why would anyone want to follow you, if you don’t first, lead yourself well?

Here are five ways to lead yourself better:

1. Find your motivation

People want to follow self-starters. They want leaders who are motivated by a cause that seems bigger than themselves. Why do you think we look to coaches, fitness gurus, pastors, and motivational speakers? It is because we see a spark in them that we want to ignite in ourselves. They have a drive that we don’t have. If we follow motivated people, we might just find our personal motivation. Are you motivated or do you need to be pushed?

2. Know your purpose

If I were a person looking for my purpose in life, why would I follow you if you don’t know yours? To lead yourself better, find your purpose and live in it. Leaders, out of all people, need to understand what their purpose in life is. In fact, if you desire the position of leadership without a purpose to define the context of it, what you are seeking is power. Those who pursue leadership without a clear understanding of their purpose will abuse the people they lead because power is their real motivation. To lead others to their God-given purpose, you must first know yours.

3. Build your credibility

Why do leaders look for the quick route? I believe we often seek the fastest road to leadership acclaim because we are putting our interests above the those of the ones we are called to lead. You can find all sorts of “quick” leadership advice online, but it isn’t worth the bandwidth it occupies. To lead yourself well requires building your credibility. Doing this takes time. You plant seeds with every action you take. Those seeds grow and develop over the course of time. Don’t tell people you are a great leader, instead, lead yourself well, plant good seeds, and show who you are by the fruit your leadership produces.

4. Give up your rights

I’ve never followed a leader for very long who sacrificed less than me. If you want to lead yourself well, you have to get good at making sacrifices for your team, those you lead, and the organization you serve. The leader has to sacrifice the most. Don’t expect out of others what you refuse to do yourself. Often, the sacrifices of leadership go unnoticed, without recognition or awards. John Maxwell teaches the classic principle that states: Leaders must give up to go up. What are you willing to give up so you can lead yourself better?

5. Be kind

Kindness is the currency of influence, and leadership is all about influence. Whether you feel your influence comes from your hard work, or from God’s call on your life, if you aren’t leading with kindness your influence won’t last. I once had a leader who was unkind. This person talked about breaking the will of other decision-makers in the organization, in the hope that they would bend to his desires. Guess what? That leader didn’t last long. Neither did the influence he hoped to leverage. People follow leaders when they feel like the leader is for them. If you want to be a leader who makes a difference in someone’s life, start cultivating the quality of kindness.

In conclusion

So what about you? Are you going to continue down the same path you’re on, or are you going to lead yourself first and grow your influence in the process? Making a few important decisions will help you to lead yourself ten times better. The real question is, will you?

Question: How do you lead yourself?

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

  • Points 4 and 5 spoke the most to me. My dad lived these principles out. He never asked his employees to do what he wasn’t willing to do.

    I think the best leaders are humble and willing to admit when wrong and/or ask for help when needed.

    I am at my best when I’m focused on serving God and others. Doing things out of love and remembering Who I belong to helps me as I navigate my day.

    • I totally agree, Humility is so essential. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  • Self-leadership and self-control are absolutely critically important. I love this: “Kindness is the currency of influence”

    • Yes they are. Thank you for reading and commenting.