“Mastering Others is Strength; Mastering Yourself is True Power”
We’re taught from the beginning that leadership is about a person applying influence to guide and enlist the support others in achieving a goal. Spend anytime actually leading people in the real world, however, and the textbook definition seems more and more like what it is – a text book definition.
In my line of work, leadership is one of the elements upon which success in work performance is measured. In short, we know that leadership of others is important and we’ve developed ways to measure it objectively (metrics) and subjectively (measurement against others).
What we aren’t taught from the beginning is the importance of leading yourself and how to develop this important trait. What we do receive on the topic of self leadership is tied-up only in the definitions of key characteristics such as integrity, self control, and discipline.
However, there’s got to be more to it than simply defining the characteristics and then moving on to the issues of leading others. As Buddha was apt to say:
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours and cannot be taken away.”
What is needed is a deliberate plan for conquering ourselves, a practice for developing self-leadership. It’s the same as with a practice for developing one’s professional skills through continuous study; your mentoring and professional relationships through focused engagements; and your health through diet and a physical training regimen.
Placing development of enhanced self-leadership skills into a daily practice makes it more tangible because you can begin to apply your mind to it daily.
4 Actions To Grow Self-Leadership Skills
Before we cover the list of self-leadership skills, I need to explain that there are two types of self-leadership that must be factored into a self-leadership practice:
- Behavioral self-leadership (BSL): typically associated with goal setting, monitoring behavior, and evaluating progress.
- Mental self-leadership (MSL): includes techniques for examining and altering of self-dialogue, beliefs and assumptions, mental imagery, and thought patterns (i.e. habits in your thinking).
You can address both in routine practice by doing the following:
Evaluating What You Intend to Accomplish Today. This is a goal accomplishment and time management fundamental. Simply stated, you identify what the most important tasks are that must be accomplished today, and then do them no matter what. Don’t hit the sheets until these tasks have been completed. This is a BSL type of self-leadership and builds confidence in your ability to remain focused and persistent. As you build confidence that you can accomplish what you say you will accomplish, you will begin to take on greater tasks and goals knowing you can’t fail.
Identifying Known Stressors Coming in the Day or the Week. There are known-knowns in each of our days that are going to cause stress, e.g. long lines at airport security, traffic back-ups on the way to work, or perhaps a meeting-filled daily schedule. If you identify in advance the events or issues that will generate stress in your coming day, you put yourself in a better position to ambush the stress and alter your response.
This is an MSL type of self-leadership and builds confidence that you can overcome your thought habits and, with practice, lower or eliminate stressors from your life. This in turn gives you control over your thoughts and and responses. I consider this a resiliency tactic that is essential in operating in today’s world of 24/7/365 connectivity. You don’t have to be a C-suite executive to be plugged-in constantly. And you don’t have to become a Buddhist monk to find peace to overcome reality’s stressors and operate as an effective leader.
Evaluating Progress Towards Goals. In addition to identifying what you’re going to accomplish today, check in on where you are in accomplishing your mid-to-long term goals. A daily 2-minute scan of your goals is a tactic that will keep you aware of what you say is important to you. Plus, it allows you to evaluate if you’re still on vector.
This action covers your professional, as well as personal, goals. This is a BSL type of self-leadership action and focuses your energy on creating what you’ve identified as key to leading a successful and fulfilling life for you.
Identifying Thought Patterns That Are Not Useful. I consider this to be a higher-end practice. It becomes very personal and it is tailored entirely to those elements that you know are not productive in your life. As you go through your day, you have mental scripts running for all manner of actions or responses. You know your morning routine for preparing for and getting to work – it’s a script. You also know how you’ll react when people in your life do “A” or “B” – there’s a script at work. Some of the scripts are useful and some not so useful.
Identifying the non-useful scripts is the first step in beginning to remove them from thought. This is an MSL type of self-leadership and it builds awareness and confidence in your ability to control and direct your thoughts.
Self-leadership is vitally important if you wish to maximize your effectiveness in leading others. By increasing self-leadership, you begin to understand why and how you do what you do. As you increase your capability to monitor and adjust your thoughts and actions, you begin to exert leadership on the most important person to influence…yourself.