Many people fail to realise that their capacity to successfully lead themselves is a critical precondition to their ability to sustainably lead others. Consequently, they focus on and spend a disproportionate amount of effort, time and other resources on external factors. Yes, external factors, such as other people, situations and processes are necessary variables to be considered in the overall leadership matrix. However, if we focus entirely on them as the source of the solution to issues, we may end up shirking in responsibility and lose originality in initiative.
What is self-leadership? Bryant and Kazan defined self-leadership as “…the practice on intentionally influencing your thinking, feelings and actions towards your objectives.” They also defined it as “.. having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions and behaviour on the way to getting there.”
Self-leadership is about your personal influences on yourself as you determine what should be done in the course of your daily routines. This process involves:
- Monitoring and understanding your feelings and thoughts as they relate to the happenings around you,
- Identifying and eliminating counterproductive feelings and thoughts,
- Developing a framework for wise speech and actions,
- Execution of wise preemptive or responsive actions as regards the happenings.
The process itself will lead to success only if it is built on the following at every moment of decision making:
- A wise understanding of time-tested fundamental principles of living a purposeful life,
- Enlightened self-awareness,
- Conscious self-control,
The above presupposes you must learn and adopt to the principles of responsible living even at the risk of losing certain benefits that may arise from wrongdoings. It also involves the acceptance of a sense of personal responsibility in which the individual has the requisite self-confidence to take control of their affairs; It is about seeing the larger and long-term picture of issues beyond the immediate happenings.
Self-leaders: Self-leaders asses each and every situation and event that confronts them against certain core beliefs and principles to which they hold themselves. Their response is determined by how the situation stands against their well thought-out and internalized beliefs. Self-leaders focus on always doing the right things and not necessarily the convenient things. They are continuously working to ensure that there is full congruence between what they strive and project to be with what others see, think and believe them to be. This congruence is what makes self-leaders the ultimate leaders of others as they earn, attract and enjoy the trust, confidence and loyalty of others.
Self-leaders are markedly different from others in the way they conduct themselves. For instance.
- The first distinguishing feature of self-leaders is their immense sense of duty and responsibility in whatever they do or commit to do.
- They are good and patient listeners,
- They are reflective,
- Whilst they have the capacity to take decisions on their feet whenever necessary, they would generally, rather take their time whenever it is possible to ensure that a final decision arrived at is wise and would stand the tests of time,
- They are concerned with what is right and what is wrong in any situation. They are as interested in the end they hope to achieve as they are in the means they adopt to achieve the ends.
- Their approach to and strategies for different problems may differ from one situation to another, but their fundamental ways remain consistent and even predictable,
- They always have a long-term perspective to issues,
- They are wise and creative,
- They engage and consult with others from minor to major issues,
- They can communicate with others very well, etc.
There are many self-leaders around us. From ordinary people unknown beyond their circle of friends and families, to corporate, national and international leaders. There are people of various professions and callings; from different religious and ethnic backgrounds; different age groups and demographics that have proven themselves as worthy self-leaders.
Think of a friend, a neighbor, a colleague or a national leader that you can call a self-leader. Think through their traits and characteristics.
Benefits of self-leadership: Self-leadership is the bedrock on which every success needs to be built upon if it to be achieved honourably and sustainably.
- Self-leadership is required to develop character and build a positive identity,
- Our value as individuals is the positive impact and opportunities our self-leadership provides to our families, neighbours, friends, nation and the world,
- Self-leadership enhances our sense of personal responsibility,
- Self-leadership develops our self-control and discipline,
- Self-leadership necessitates continuous improvement of personal technical and social skills,
- Successful self-leadership is the basis of influence and leadership of others, etc.
How do you become a self-leader?
Self-Discovery: The first stage to successful self-leadership is self-discovery. We have to understand ourselves first before we can work effectively. We must understand our intellectual limits and emotional triggers as well as how we can control and channel both wisely.
Continuously Self-Improvement: We are really never fully formed. But we can continuously improve on our capacities and ways through learning. We should be able to monitor ourselves and get feedback from others. With these, we can learn how to build our knowledge on professional issues as well as improve in our social ways of getting things done.
Self-Mastery: Self-discovery and continuous self-improvement must ultimately lead to self-mastery. It is our self-mastery, through self-control and discipline, that converts our knowledge, skills and actions into results.
To become leaders of others, successful self-leaders just up their game in what they were already learned and comfortable. Where they were alert to their own emotions, they become empathetic with others’; Where they understand their own realities, they get to understand the realities of others; Where they are sincere and truthful to themselves, they engage with others on the basis of truth and sincerity of purpose; Where they worked hard and smart on their personal issues, they also are able to get others to work hard and smart on common issues. Where they were motivated to do what they needed to do in respect of their own duties, they are able to get others to put in their best and more in their duties as well…
To succeed in leading others, therefore, first succeed in leading yourself.