I’m a huge believer that exceptional leaders are ones who practice self leadership. These are the leaders who recognise that self leadership is not just about personal growth. It’s also a means to improve how they lead others. I call this Personal Leadership Mastery and it goes way beyond just building leadership soft skills.
I’d like you to close your eyes for a moment. Picture in your mind a leader that you hold in high regard. Someone whom you’ve worked with. A person who inspires you to greater heights and for whom you’ll go the extra mile. What is it about them that you admire and respect ?
During my career, I’ve had the good fortune to work with several such leaders. And I’m willing to bet, that like me, your leader role models inspire you not only by what they’ve achieved, but also how they’ve done it.
Develop your leadership self awareness
Without self awareness a leader is like a pilot flying blind without critical data from his navigation dashboard. Think of self awareness as your leadership dashboard. It forms the fundamental bedrock to developing personal leadership mastery.
Are you clear about your values as a leader ? Do you have an in depth understanding of, and are your playing to your strengths ? What is your leadership identity ? Relationships, yes even those at work, are built on trust and connection. If you’re not clear about what you stand for, you could come across as disingenuous which will negatively impact your leadership influence and effectiveness.
Similarly, are you aware of your leadership blindspots and vulnerabilities ? Several weeks ago, I wrote about how a lack of awareness around your leadership derailers can topple even the best leaders. Do you know what yours are ?
Manage your mind
In my opinion, this is an area that is sorely lacking in many leadership development programs. Your thoughts affect your feelings. And your feelings drive your behaviour. Change your thoughts and it will change your behaviour.
Often times, it’s what we think about ourselves that undermines our confidence. And that lack of self belief undermines our leadership success. You may have the functional or technical know how to do the job well, but it’s your confidence that will help you excel as a leader.
Personal leadership mastery includes managing your mind and your thoughts to grow your confidence and resilience. You need to know your mindset barriers before you can learn how to manage them. And that includes finding ways to strengthen your mental toughness to perform well even under stressful conditions.
I say this often to the people I work with – You are not your work, and your work is not you. I may be stating the obvious, but it’s surprising how often we disregard this. You bring your best self to work when you’re happy with your life outside work. There is no work and life. There is life.
Leaders who practice self leadership are clear about their overall priorities. They organise their lives around what matters most to them. They are clear about how work fits in, and they make intentional choices to reduce overwhelm. In my previous article about building greater resilience, I wrote about the importance of self care to refuel daily energy levels. This is all part of personal leadership mastery.
Managing yourself also includes managing your career. Be clear what you want and own your career path. Know your strengths, know what work energises you. Then find the sweet spot that aligns them both. If you’re going to spend the bulk of your life working, isn’t this worth figuring out ?
The word ‘leader’ immediately brings up the notion that you’re in charge. In charge of setting the vision, delivering a goal or directing a team. But we often forget that first and foremost, we are in charge of ourselves.
A leader’s success or failure begins with self leadership. Developing your personal leadership mastery will help you lead with greater authenticity, confidence and resilience to grow your leadership influence and impact. Which is ultimately what delivers results.