Dee Hock, the founder of the credit card company Visa, suggested this about those preparing to lead others: “If you look to lead, invest at least 40 percent of your time managing yourself.” It doesn’t occur to many leaders that before you are capable of leading others, you must first lead yourself.
Leading yourself requires a unique set of disciplines. Among the most important of these commitments is holding yourself accountable to the values, beliefs, and goals you set for yourself. No double standards when it comes to displaying what you say is your true north.
Next, leaders who lead themselves work hard to establish permanent routines for personal productivity, like dedicating the time and energy to focus on the priorities that really matter. Highly productive leaders also incorporate the time to reflect and remain off-task. These chunks of time allow ideas to marinate, as well as make room for conversations important to others.
Leading yourself also requires learning how to manage your emotions so you can respond to almost anything in a reasoned and collected manner. Being ready to calmly tackle anything unpredictable that comes your way requires practice, which is what good leaders do.
Responding evenly to others is helped by keeping matters in perspective, which is yet another quality the best leaders work hard at. We can’t project the optimism and positive attitude others need from us unless we truly have the capacity to keep things in perspective. This requires thinking deeply about the larger realities of life (health, happiness, life purpose, etc.) and keeping them top-of-mind at all times. Not easy.
Mastering self-leadership is all about putting your own house in order before attempting to improve someone else’s house. Those we lead know instantly whether we have incorporated the disciplines and commitments in our lives which reflect self-leadership. By working on ourselves first, others grant us the right to help them achieve more. Leadership starts with you.