Last week's post, What are Leaders Made Of?, covered four elements that make up an effective leader: self-love, self-image, self-leadership, and formal leadership. Of the three, self-leadership is most over-looked and under-rated.
Self-leadership is the ability to set goals that are aligned with your purpose & vision, and to influence yourself to consistently achieve them. It's likely you already know how to be a leader in your own life. You've heard the words and have seen the tools before. But that doesn't mean you practice self-leadership with any consistency. It isn't hard, but it can feel like a lot of work. Like any other process, we resist staying with the structure. And when we stop doing the work -- using the checklists and doing the audits -- our results slide. And each time we quit, it's harder to get back on track.
Most leadership training focuses on how we lead others, not how we lead ourselves. Yet there is so much to be gained from helping people be a leader in their own life -- not just for them, but for your business.
What does self-leadership have to do with improving business reuslts?
Let's start with how self-leadership builds into formal leadership.
As you learn to set goals that are aligned with your purpose and consistently achieve them, you strengthen & develop your character. You learn patience, persistence, and resilience. You practice discipline and develop humility.
Your relationship with yourself becomes stronger. With a healthy sense of self-image and self-love as your foundation, you are less reliant on approval and validation from others. You become more self-aware of how your choices impact your own goals, as well as how they impact others. When your relationship with your self is solid, you build healthier relationships with others -- at home at at work.
When it comes to leadership, the words "do as I say but not as I do" no longer apply (if they ever did). As a leader, people notice everything you do, everything you don't do, everything you say, and everything you don't say. It all matters.
As you develop and strengthen key character traits, you experience more positive emotions. You also learn to handle negative emotions more effectively. As a result, you are less likely to let them trickle down to your team. When you take responsibility, ackowledge failure, and take care of yourself, you empower others to do the same. When you walk the talk, leading by example, others take notice -- and follow your lead.
Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It's a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that doesn't waiver. It is perhaps the most important principle of leadership. Integrity demands truthfulness and honesty -- telling the truth even if the truth is ugly.
When you practice self-leadership, you become someone you can trust by following through on your commitments to yourself. In doing so, you also learn to see and accept the truth about yourself. As you become more honest with yourself, you also become more honest with others.
You also become better at making and keeping commitments to others. Each time you do, you build confidence in your own decision making. Small wins build to bigger ones over time. And when others alert you to gaps in your integrity or in other areas of your character, you receive that feedback whole-heartedly, and as an opportunity for growth.
When you are someone you can trust, you'll inspire others to trust you, too. Trust is defined as 'the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something' (dictionary.com). Trust is given, but also earned. When you become someone that people trust, respect, and can count on, you increase personal power and the ability to lead using influence, rather than be dependent on authority.
As a leader, if you can foster a strong sense of trust within your workplace, you can see a number of benefits, including increased productivity and better morale. You'll have less unwanted turnover, increased engagement, more teamwork, & better problem solving through collaboration. From trust comes attention to detail and increased accountability, leading to improvements in quality & delivery.
From a bottom line, business results standpoint, self-leadership matters.
I believe it matters so much that companies should invest resources in developing self-leadership capabilities, rather than wasting money on teaching formal leadership skills.
The other cool thing about investing in self-leadership development is that you can start anytime.
Traditionally, formal leadership training is reserved for people who are in leadership positions on the organizational chart. We wait until a person is promoted and has had time in the new role before investing in training. We hope the individual learned something about leadership from prior supervisors and other leaders around them, and figure those first mistakes are a good foundation for training. Unfortunately, without the foundation of self-leadership, many leaders do more harm than good, eroding trust to the point that it is impossible to recover.
Developing self-leadership in your team has potential for an immediate, measurable return on your investment. When you approach leadership as a system and leader development as a practice, with tools, processes and measurements to support it, you build leaders by choice rather than by chance.
Why self-leadership? Because the same old thinking brings the same old results. And it's time for a new paradigm.
Cover photo used with permission from 123rf.com.