Lead yourself first
How can you lead others if you can’t lead yourself
As a coach I regularly work with brilliant executives who are not maximising their own potential. They have often had their head down, busy delivering great work, but have missed the chance along the way to invest in their own development. What’s more, they haven’t even thought about the need to lead themselves or to take time to focus on what they need to succeed.
Learning to lead yourself is one of the most important attributes an effective leader can have. At first glance, this might seem counterintuitive, but in reality, being acutely aware of your own skills, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities is essential for true leadership efficacy. Just as you nurture and develop your team, fostering your own growth is equally important
“Exceptional leaders distinguish themselves because of superior self-leadership.”
(Daniel Goleman, ‘Emotional Intelligence’)
To lead others you need to provide a safe, challenging and open environment in which your people can grow and flourish and test themselves to be the best they can be. Only then can they deliver the results you need them to deliver.
How can your people be their best if you are not at your best.
This lies at the heart of leading yourself.
Self-awareness is at the core of being able to lead yourself – the ability to understand your emotions, drivers, and reactions. Great managers are self-aware enough to understand where they are at, what they are great at, what biases they may have, what their weak spots are and when they need to stop and think through issues and situations.
When you can do this, you not only take ownership of your actions and make conscious steps towards improvements, you also create a more consistent and safe environment for your team as you lead in a consistent and informed way.
Do you take the time to pause and be intentional about your response?
How do I get better at leading myself
Leading yourself is simple but it is not easy. The challenge for leaders is to give yourself the time to lead yourself. This takes discipline in our often busy and hectic schedules. We recommend you follow these four key steps.
1. Make time to Reflect
Just as you allocate time to helping others develop, you need to make time for yourself. You need time to reflect, to look back on what you have learned and to really think about where your opportunities for growth lie. You need time to do this for it to be effective.
Schedule Quiet time
Don’t assume you will get quiet time in your busy schedule. Make it an event and book time in your diary for reflection and development. Scheduling just 1 hour each week can make a difference.
Questions to ask yourself
Use your quiet time to reflect by asking yourself some of these questions:
- What did I learn this week
- What went well
- Where can I improve
- What do I want to know more about
- What should I do more of
- What should I do less of
- What surprised me about myself this week
- How do I link in with new ways of thinking
- Who can I learn from
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2. Get feedback from trusted sources
We are never alone on our journey to self-leadership and getting feedback from colleagues, partners, and others we trust can help us to learn more about ourselves and how our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities can manifest themselves. It sometimes takes courage but armed with this information you can develop strategies and learning opportunities that will help you to change what you need to and focus on those areas you wish to continue to develop and grow. I always maintain that feedback is just another source of data. It is a gift and the more we lean into asking for it, the more likely we are to take it on board and DO something with it.
3. Consciously plan for and implement development activities for yourself
Don’t feel guilty allocating time for your own development, instead of spending all of your time on things you think you should be doing make sure development opportunities are built into your work diary. Just as you budget for and schedule in time for your people to undertake development activities, you need to schedule your own development.
Building your own skills as a leader is as critical to the success of your business as building the skills of your team. It is not a luxury but a necessity.
Some ideas to consider include:
- Join new forums
- Enrol in self-development courses and seminars
- Obtain a mentor or business coach
- Collect all those articles that caught your eye and take the time to read them (hey congrats on reading this far!)
4. Maintain your curiosity
As leaders it is very easy to keep doing the same things and to focus on doing what has worked for us in the past.
The greatest gift to yourself as a leader is to remain curious about new ways of working, about new technologies and what they can deliver and perhaps, most importantly of all, how you can do things differently. Great leaders often bring new ideas to their team, discuss new ways to do things and create curiosity in their own teams. Have you thought about, I was reading about, let's look into X and what it could do, let’s explore …
This takes us back to making time to reflect; take time to read about different businesses, technologies, leadership styles, new ways of engaging people, how the world works. Build this into your development plan and allow yourself to learn and grow both as a leader and as a person.
Retain your curiosity and keep looking for the possible. Keep curious about your own journey and learnings and where you want to go next. Lead yourself into the future. Being intentional about your own career is the new black.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” - Aristotle.
Leadership Resource - Brave Feminine Leadership Podcast Episode #67 with Peter Harmer discussing his leadership lessons over a highly successful career. Peter Harmer is currently a non-executive director with Commonwealth Bank, nib Group, AUB Group and an Advisory Council Member for Bain & Company. Listen here.
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