What is Self-Leadership?
Leaders spend a lot of time focusing on external factors. Processes, people, targets. We’re constantly trying to shape and influence these external factors to bring us closer to our goals and objectives. But how often do you spend time focusing on you?
Would it surprise you if I said that you would see better results if you spent more time on yourself and less time focusing on all of these external factors?
Many of my clients see great results from focusing on self-leadership. Changing their focus allows them to flourish as a leader, align their values and strengths with their purpose, and get the best out of themselves and their teams by focusing on what’s important to them.
Developing a better sense of self is incredibly grounding. It helps you navigate difficult situations with less stress and negative emotion – because you have a higher level of emotional intelligence. Self-leadership doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes effort on your part, but the results are definitely worth it.
The Four Pillars of Self-Leadership
These are the four elements that together make up the concept of self-leadership. They all complement each other very well, but to be a successful self-leader you need to develop in all four areas. Let’s take a look at each of them in more detail:
Self-Leadership Pillar 1: Self-Discovery
To be great leaders, we have to understand ourselves. It might sound silly. I mean you are you – how can you not know yourself?
But it’s surprising how when we don’t take the time to get in touch with ourselves, we lose sight of who we really are. And when I talk about who you really are, I mean the real you. Not the pretend you, that you carry around to make the world think you’re okay.
When we’re caught up in the busy work of doing, we often either don’t notice subtle shifts in ourselves. Or, we become so focused on the work that we don’t realise when it’s leading us away from who we really are and what we truly value.
At our core, we all have a set of beliefs and values that make us who we are. In a nutshell, your values guide your approach to life and relationships, and discovering them and uncovering what makes you tick can reveal some surprising things. Being the best leaders we can be means identifying what these values are and then living and leading in accordance with them.
When you understand what’s important to you, what energises you, what you believe in, and where you want to be; you can make leadership decisions with confidence. Think of all the great leaders in history. They’re often considered great because they had the courage to stand up for what they believed in. But to get there, first they had to be 100% clear on what exactly it was that they believed in.
Self-Leadership Pillar 2: Self-Acceptance
Self-Acceptance is about being completely honest with yourself and accepting it without self-criticism or self-sabotage. All too often, we focus on the negatives about ourselves. Perhaps you feel that your career isn’t progressing fast enough, you’re drained with the amount of ‘stuff’ you have to do, or you’re not capable of driving the results you want to see.
Self-acceptance is about recognising where things aren’t going the way you’d like, understanding your part in that and then accepting it. You can recognise where you could do things better without beating yourself up for not already being perfect.
Perfectionism is overrated and technically impossible. Self-acceptance isn’t about accepting where you might have failed and shrugging your shoulders and carrying on exactly as before. Instead, it’s about taking responsibility for your feelings and actions, accepting what is and isn’t possible to change and developing a plan to handle things differently in the future. It’s accepting that you are good enough already, but that everyone can always strive to be a little better.
Importantly, self-acceptance isn’t just about accepting your flaws. It’s also about accepting and owning your strengths. While most people find it easy to point out their flaws, many of us struggle to openly identify our strengths. When you can honestly identify what you’re good at, you can leverage that to get better results.
When you achieve self-acceptance, your growth comes from a less stressful place. You’re focusing on growth in the areas that matter to you, knowing that it’s essential to grow but also being comfortable with where you are right now.
Self-Leadership Pillar 3: Self-Management
Leaders who can self-manage are more productive, more focused and more able to work independently. But what exactly is self-management?
Self-management and self-discipline are closely linked. It involves holding yourself accountable and ensuring you manage your time and resources effectively.
Self-management isn’t about overworking or pushing yourself too hard. Your greatest resources are your own time and energy. Self-managing means maintaining a good balance and prioritising the right things.
Poor self-management leads to constant firefighting, stress, and burnout.
Making time for self-development is all part of good self-management, as is ensuring that you don’t allow yourself to be distracted when completing important tasks for work.
Self-management requires self-awareness. You need to understand what habits you already have so that you can replace less desirable habits with more desirable ones. For example, if you’re in the habit of checking your phone every half an hour, it’s likely to be disrupting your focus.
Instead, retrain yourself to break the habit and replace it with a practice of blocking your time. This allows for deep focus when you need it, and will enable you to be a much more effective leader in the long run.
Self-management also means controlling impulses – when you want to react instead of respond. To do this effectively, you need first to be self-aware of what triggers your behaviours and able to apply self-management to remain centred and calm.
Reflection is an essential part of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Taking the time to self-reflect regularly keeps you in tune with your priorities and values, and helps you identify where your opportunities for improvement and growth are.
Self-management builds on self-discovery and self-acceptance by developing positive discipline to work on the things that align with your strengths and values.
Self-Leadership Pillar 4: Self-Growth
Self-Leadership is all about personal growth and becoming a better leader. It’s about being completely honest with yourself, but it isn’t about self-criticism. It’s about recognising what you’re doing, what is and isn’t working, and how you can make positive changes.
It develops a leader’s sense of accountability and responsibility for the right things.
Self-growth is about striving to continuously improve yourself. It requires being open to feedback and creating a development plan to keep you accountable and on track. Committing to self-growth can make a positive impact in your career and helps you to lead by example for those around you.
To harness the power of self-growth, you need a passion for learning and a sense of curiosity. Great leaders are curious, always asking questions and learning about their industry and themselves. Curiosity helps you close any knowledge gaps, which makes you more competent. It also inspires you to find new ways to solve old problems.
The work you do for the previous three pillars to identify your values, strengths, and priorities will guide your learning so that it naturally ignites your passion and curiosity.
Another large part of self-growth is learning how to embrace failure. Developing a growth mindset allows you to focus on the outcomes without getting frustrated by failure. Recognising failure for the learning opportunity it provides, allows you to flourish and succeed faster.
Taking the next steps towards self-leadership
These four pillars form the basis of my leadership work, and each one is equally important.
They complement and build upon each other to develop you into the best possible leader you can be.
Remember, you can’t accept yourself until you know yourself. You can’t manage yourself until you accept yourself. And when you’ve mastered those three things, you’ll be able to develop yourself in a laser-focused way that energises and inspires you and those around you.
My new online course Find the Real You launches at the end of October 2019, and is based on this self-leadership model. With a limited number of spaces available, they will be offered on a first come first served basis.
Add your name to the VIP list and be the first to know when enrolment is open. PLUS to get you started, I’ll also send you a FREE copy of my ‘Inner Guide to Finding the Real You’ straight to your inbox.