Before you can lead others, before you can lead even one other person, you must be able to lead yourself.
In large part leadership is about helping others succeed. It may sound selfish but you must help yourself succeed before you attempt to help someone else succeed.
It is a good idea to periodically stop and evaluate yourself in a number of areas to see how effectively you’re really leading yourself. (I know I write about this almost incessantly but this is yet another area where a mentor or coach can make a huge difference for you)
One area you may want to evaluate yourself is how well you’re able to control your emotions. Authentic Servant Leaders are generally passionate people but they don’t use their passion as an excuse to lose control of their emotions. We will all lose control of our emotions from time to time (it’s called being human) but great leaders don’t make emotional decisions. They will delay a decision just a bit to let their emotions settle down enough so that their decision is a sound, realistic, thoughtful decision.
Leadership is about people, we manage stuff, budgets, inventories, etc. but we lead people. Authentic Servant Leaders frequently evaluate their success in the area of building relationships with their people. They know that every human interaction leaves an emotional wake, people feel either better or worse. There is no such thing as a “neutral” human interaction so the best leaders consider what they want their emotional wake to be, positive or negative. You can leave people feeling better about themselves and the situation or you can leave them feeling worse. It’s a leadership decision that too many leaders never make, they just interact and whatever happens is just how it is.
How well do you choose your words? Your words matter, little changes in the words you use can make a big difference, in how you feel about yourself and in how others feel about you as a leader. Evaluate from time to time if you could have said something more effectively, more positively, or with more impact. Perhaps you said something that didn’t need to be said at all or perhaps you just couldn’t summon up the courage to say something that really needed to be said.
Leading yourself well requires that you understand the power behind your words. If you’re consistently regretting your choice of words then it’s a good bet that you’re not yet ready to lead others.
Do you have the time to lead? People who lead themselves well are almost hyper-conscious about how they use their time. They use time management tools like block time and prioritized task lists to make sure they are actually productive and not merely busy. They control their calendar, they see the use of time as an investment and they invest it in high return activities.
Authentic Servant Leadership at it’s core is about giving a piece of yourself in service to others. Before you begin to give of yourself make sure that what you’re giving is truly worth receiving.