When I was young, I served under a man who knew how to get things done. Everywhere he went the organization grew and I felt blessed to serve as part of his staff. Over the next couple of years, I learned a lot about myself, my colleagues, and leadership.
I was excited to learn leadership from him, and I did. Just not in the way I thought I would. While he was great at leading organizations (so it seemed), he struggled to lead himself well. A pattern emerged as the organization looked more closely at this leader’s past and the current environment.
His life, family, and the organization were paying a steep price because he did not lead himself in a way that brought life and hope to the organization. He was relieved of his duties and that organization struggled to find its bearing for nearly a decade.
I mentioned that I learned a lot about leadership during this time. What I learned, and have continued to learn about leadership is – if you cannot lead yourself well, you should not be leading others.
For most of the past 25 years I have focused a lot of my time and energy understanding how to lead myself and raising up other leaders to do the same. You can do an internet search for a definition of self-leadership and find something that fits for you. I didn’t. Other definitions are good and fine; but not for me.
I define it this way:
Each word in the definition was chosen on purpose, to invoke an image for leaders to grab onto. Pursuing – striving, going after, chasing, hunting. As a leader, I should be doing these actions regularly, daily! Why? What am I pursuing? My best self.
We all have an ideal self, our best self. It’s there, in your mind. You might not share it with others out of fear of expectation or not living up to the aspiration. We have strengths, weaknesses and a bunch of stuff in-between.
Our best self is something leaders grow towards, looking for opportunities of growth and chasing them down. We pursue our best self for the benefit of others. In particular the benefit of those we love, lead, and serve.
When we make leadership about us, the leader, we lose a bit of integrity in the process. Followers (my generic term for those under a leader, not a put-down) are smart. They’ll sniff out if you are there to help them or dictate to them. Whether you want to serve, or be served.
Questions to consider:
- Are you pursuing your best self for the benefit of those you love, lead, and serve?
- How do others (family, colleagues, followers) view your leadership – self-serving or just serving?
During my time leading, I have found four principles that can guide you towards your best self. I call them principles because there is wiggle room in them. They are not “do it like this” mandates. Instead, principles are like the bumpers on a bowling alley. They are there to guide you to the purpose – knocking down the pins.
That’s what we want right? We want success. In bowling that means knocking down the pins. In your organization it will look different and you can get to the goal with the help of some guiding principles.
Over the next five weeks, we’ll take a look at each of the four principles, with one week as an overview. I hope you’ll join me on the journey towards leading yourself well for the benefit of those you love, lead, and serve.