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Leadership Begins With You
By Dee Hock

Many well-known thought leaders of our day suggest that one’s energy should largely be allocated to investing in and leading self.

The author, founder and former CEO of Visa Card, Dee Hock, who is considered by many to be an exemplary model and teacher on leadership, contests that leaders need to analyze how much time and energy they devote in leading those below them, over them (vertically), their peers (horizontally), and themselves.

Hock’s suggestion is that leaders should invest fifty-percent of their focus onself-leadership, and the remaining fifty-percent should be in leading others. Maximizing self-leadership requires self-awareness, introspection and ultimately transforming the lens in which you see the world around you.

Below are indicators that we’re not being intentional about self-leadership.

  • Not practicing self-awareness
  • Making everything about us
  • Procrastinating instead of taking action
  • Judging quickly, instead of suspending judgment
  • Camping out in the arena of self-doubt, instead of self-worth
  • Becoming self-righteous, instead of putting ego at bay
  • Allowing fear to keep you from your highest potential.

How are you doing these days with leading self?

Here are just a few friendly reminders to equip you on your journey of self-leadership:

Strive to be 'Others-Centered'

“Really believe in your heart of hearts that your fundamental purpose, the reason for being, is to enlarge the lives of others. Your life will be enlarged also. And all of the other things we have been taught to concentrate on will take care of themselves.” – Pete Thigpen

A big part of leadership is that you constantly have to remind yourself, that it ISN’T about me. It’s about others. It’s about serving the mission of the organization.

In my early 20s I worked in Europe, and throughout my time there I would tour ornate castles and beautiful landmarks. One landmark we visited was a 14th Century church in Italy where our guide was a lovely elderly nun, with infectious energy and an engaging personality. After the tour I commented how I appreciated her energy and focused interest in us.

What she said to me next (in broken English) has resonated with me to this day. She said, “When I walk into a room, it’s not ‘here I AM,’ it’s ‘there YOU are.’” It’s not about me. It’s about others.

Leading self requires that you make it about others. Your success as a leader happens, in part, when you are ‘others-centered.’

Avoid Approval Addiction

One of the challenges of leading self can be the unhealthy desire to seek approval from others. This can derail us from being our authentic self. It causes us to become masters in the art of impression management. Approval Addiction pulls us in.

The reality is that we are not the passive victims of others’ opinions. Their opinions are powerless until we validate them. The reality is that no one’s approval will impact us unless we grant it credibility.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Leading self requires a healthy balance of authenticity, while managing the temptation to cross the line into approval addiction.

Focus on Making a Difference

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” - John Maxwell

Intentional self-leadership requires us to put more focus on what we are FOR (making a difference), than what we are AGAINST (trying to be right or just make a point).

For instance, telling somebody they are wrong is not the same thing as leading them and inspiring them to do what’s right. We shouldn’t be content with just pointing out what others are doing wrong. Instead, our role is to inspire people to do what’s right.

Let's be honest, we all want to make a difference…and not just for ourselves. At the end of our lives, we want someone to say, “My life is a little fuller and richer, my world is a little bigger, I’m a better human being because this person walked the planet.”

I dare you. Wake up tomorrow morning and ask this adventurous question, “What can I do today to make a difference in the world?”

Know Thyself

Identity theft is the leading crime in America today; in some cases it is an epidemic or crisis. There’s another crisis in self-leadership, and that’s identity crisis. It happens when one wraps his or her identity around an outcome, event, and/or title/role.

For example, some psychologists indicate that one of the most important aspects to any high performance is the ability to separate one’s personhood from any particular result. Similarly, effective leaders are greater than any individual outcome. Their sense of self-worth is separate from ‘the deal.’

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean we take a laissez-faire approach to our work. It simply means that we separate our worth from the outcome. Self-leadership in this case means our value and worth is not tied to a particular outcome.

Treasure Your Time, Eliminate Hurry

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time.” - Scott Peck

The American cardiologist, Meyer Friedman coined the phrase ‘hurry sickness.’ He defines it as “above all, a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time, frequently in the face of opposition, real or imagined, from other persons.”

Leading self requires you to properly align your priorities and treasure your time, or someone else will. We must be ruthless in setting up the appropriate boundaries to ensure others aren’t dictating our priorities. Those you care for the most deserve your best.

This week, how will you be more purposeful about self-leadership? Here are some things to consider when leading self this week: (NOTE: All of these are calls YOU make, and when you add them up, they create your life.)

  • What will you feed your mind?
  • What thoughts will you dwell on?
  • Who will you allow to influence your inner life and choices?
  • How will you spend your time?
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