Having the ability to lead yourself is one of the most important characteristics a leader can have, yet it seems to be the one we neglect the most when it comes to learning about leadership. It doesn’t take long to figure out why we do this. After all, it’s a whole lot more appealing to read a book on leading others than it is to lead yourself. Changing other people’s behavior is far more satisfying than changing our own.
Carefully crafted words may temporarily change my behavior, but a purposely lived life will leave an imprint on my soul. The people who have impacted me the most have one thing in common- their lives back up their words. (And those that don’t, don’t influence me for very long.)
When I look back just five years ago, there are specific people and organizations I’ve stopped listening to and allowing to influence me because they couldn’t lead themselves in the same way they were attempting to lead others. The opposite is true as well. There are leaders and organizations I was once very skeptical of and now how greater respect for because I’ve seen them stay true to who they are and not change with pressure.
I’m not looking for perfection in leadership, but I am looking for integrity in leadership. I’m not expecting leaders to never make a mistake, but when they do, I expect them to say so and make it right. I do expect leaders to know themselves well enough that they don’t change based on popularity. And I do expect them to have a clear understanding of what they are doing and why they are trying to do it.
A tool I’ve found to help me in this is simply understanding my personality better. Basic? Yes. But let me ask you, does your schedule line up with the way you are naturally wired or are you forcing yourself to turn into someone you’re not on the weekdays (or weekends)? This was me for the longest time. For some reason (societal pressure?), I spent way too much time trying to compensate for what I thought was lacking. Being an introvert, I spent way too much time in extrovert activities that led to insecurity and depression. I was trying to live a life I wasn’t meant to live and then beating myself for not being that person. Pretty messed up, huh?
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that I didn’t know myself well enough to lead myself. I could get fired up and passionate about something for a little while, but it didn’t last. It faded away because the way in which I was trying to execute those passions and ideas wasn’t sustainable to who I was and how I was built. To lead yourself well you have to know yourself well.
How are you wired? What can you change in your schedule this week to help you live and lead better?
The first step may be in knowing whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Here’s an article that helps explains the science behind it.