“Become a virtuous, responsible, awake being, capable of full reciprocity, able to take care of yourself and others, and to thrive while doing so.”
After many years of self-criticism today, I can proudly introduce myself as a highly sensitive person. Having this personality trait within a work environment as a member of a team or as the “leader” of it was not always easy. The gifts and challenges of being “different” put me several times on the spot. I could perceive emotions, intentions, messages between the lines with ease. The search for meaning in projects and the high sense of responsibility gave me direction and expectations. It was essential for me to feel valued and express the same to others. I looked forward to working in an environment of respect, equality, and openness to be at peace. The search for collectivity and commitment to professional development and individual well-being, and my colleagues was my first goal, above any of the company.
That same condition of my personality led me many times to wonder what is required to be a good leader. To try to understand why some people in the hierarchy had more ambition for power than others. I judged why success was frequently recognized as one person only achievement, “the leader,” rather than to acknowledge the work of the team. I use to feel awkwardly navigating in a type of leadership where it was understood there is only one group leader, and the rest must follow—promoting followers for taking their orders and play the “stick and carrot” approach. Wondering and asking myself, if I had the character of the “leader” that seemed to work in my surroundings.
The contradictions between the organizational culture and my scale of values lead me over the years to find the answers. After a period of uncertainty about my identity, I got to hear and embrace the life process that is self-leadership, also called personal leadership. A leadership that is born from within and not by a definition of a job role. The guidance that I consciously sought as a role model in my profession, but could not find it. A leadership that will integrate every area of my life; with my children, my husband, work, and my interpersonal relationships. But, above all, a leadership that will resonate with my authenticity, with who I am.
But what does self-leadership mean? Have you looked in the mirror and asked if you have a leader in you? Have you ever wondered what makes up your personal leadership?
To define my meaning of self-leadership, I gave myself the task of understanding the meaning of leadership that is used today as a collective term, and I found the following in a google search:
“A leader is a person who influences a group of people towards achieving a goal.”
“Someone who guides other people: someone or something that is ahead of others in a career or competition: a powerful person who controls or influences what other people do.”
“A person who runs a group, organization, country.”
Reading them all out loud, I realized that although these definitions give clarity to a role or position, the spirit of a leader is not reflected in any of them. Directing oneself before others and leading by example may seem implicit, but it is something that only a few seem put into practice in their daily lives.
It was this idea that led me to feel more affinity for the leadership proposal offered by Stephen R. Covey in the preface to the book Turn the boat! by L. David Marquet:
Leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential. You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but a human being’s genius, passion, loyalty and tenacious creativity are volunteered only.
Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.
This form of leadership, from my point of view, there is only one way to achieve it, and it is through the journey of self-knowledge that leads anyone to call themselves a leader. It means, if we want others to buy what we are selling, there is no more potent influence than to show them we are committed to managing our lives with integrity. To act with coherence and clarity before others based on the different resources we find in our being (physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, interpersonal, financial) and be responsible for our impact.
This is how the definition I have about personal leadership emerges:
Self-leadership is then:
* A vital process that every human being can freely access at the time he decides.
* It is to know our mission or be in search of the meaning of our life, in its present time and its future.
* It is to cling to the values, beliefs, and principles that build trust, motivate, give direction, and allow evolution.
* It is the public manifestation of our transformation through our positive influence that starts from actions.
* It is the recognition of our inner potential and its impact on the environment.
* It is a process that we can proactively practice to the level that our abilities and consciousness allow us in the present moment.
* A leader cannot be considered successful if he uses criticism, discredit, uses guilt and judgment to manipulate others in a positive direction. Therefore, if we want to advance in our leadership we would have to erode self-criticism and recognize ourselves from a neutral position as human beings.
* A process of personal leadership requires respect, compassion, empathy, humility, courage, curiosity, connection, vision, acceptance, questioning, transformation, care, self-esteem, persistence, and discipline in keeping promises on a day-to-day basis. It is a lifestyle.
* It is a life learning process. It is necessary to invest time and be completely honest in the self-research that the process requires. Read, listen to those who already have a path in this. Questioning helps to grow in consciousness. But the knowledge that is not applied is not power!
* The goal of self-leadership is to navigate with your inner compass, focused, not reactive, even under challenging circumstances. Although resistance is present and persistent, leaders develop sufficient will to move forward and promote well-being.
To summarize, as James M Kouzes and Barry Z say in the book “The Leadership Challenge”:
“You cannot lead others until you have guided yourself through a struggle with different values. When you clarify the principles that will govern your life and the ends you will seek, you give your daily decisions a purpose.”
Tools to start a self-leadership path
The process of personal leadership focuses on paying attention to oneself. Observe and manage thoughts, emotions, actions, and behaviours. How to do it? Where to start?
* Bring awareness to the values and strengths that govern your life. Recognize which of them are imprinted in your actions, your decisions, your motivations. You can start here
* Recognize your emotions. Emotions create actions or omissions. Discover what’s behind every emotion. Here
* Check the beliefs that limit or mobilize you. Knowing them will allow you to reflect on the power you have to choose. Here
* Write about your present, and the personal vision you have about your leadership in each area of your life. Creating your map will guide you to the place where you want to be in the future. Examples Here and Here
* Pay full attention to your body and your mind. The more connected you are with who you are, the more aware you will be of your resistance to the work that requires evolution. Meditation, dance, physical exercise, the arts, connecting with nature are some practices that can support the path to be leaders from the place of being and not doing.
* Be inquisitive. Question yourself all the time and investigate everything that wants to be kept hidden. You can start a coaching process here, or start by asking yourself the following questions:
From the book Leading from the inside out by Samuel D. Rima,
Do we know what our personal mission is as clear as we know our organizational mission? If not, why not?
Do we consistently influence our own lives?
Can we influence ourselves to make the necessary changes to be more productive and effective human leaders and leaders?
Do we have the ability to influence ourselves to change the destructive habits and practices that may be preventing us from reaching our full potential?
How do we examine exactly our behaviours and understand how they reflect or reveal our values?
What would your life be like if you considered yourself a leader and practiced leadership from the inside out?
What obstacles challenge you and, at the same time, make you grow so that you could assume your share of impact on the world?
Where can you start knowing that you have the freedom to decide to be the leader of your life?
Thank you for reading,