Lead Yourself Before Leading Others

I have known a whole lot of people who, for one reason or another, aspired to lead others. Some struggled with leading others because their motives for wanting to lead others were, shall we say, less than noble. 

But a good many of them with absolutely noble motives still struggled because they forgot step one in the process of leading others. That step involves leading yourself exceptionally well. 

As a leader you are the model of successful behavior for the people you lead. They are far more likely to do what you do than they are to do what you say. You can tell them to have a positive attitude but if your attitude is less than stellar then theirs will be too. You can tell them that punctuality is important but if you show up whenever you want then you can expect much the same out of your people.

And please, don’t tell me you’ve “earned the right” to show up whenever you want. Don’t tell me you’ve worked for the special privileges you’ve given yourself. 

As a leader what you have earned is the right to model successful behavior. You’ve earned the right to think, speak and act in the identical manner that you expect your people to think, speak, and act. 

Here’s a reality of leadership that many people miss. If your people have a bad attitude the first place to look for the source of that bad attitude is the mirror. Your people will often reflect the attitudes they see in you. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can hide it from them. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. 

If you can’t control your emotions, your attitude, your actions, your feelings, your thoughts, and your interactions with other people, then don’t expect anyone who follows you to control any of those things either. 

Leadership is not about telling people what to do or how to behave. It is about showing them. 

If you have aspirations to lead others well then you must first lead yourself exceptionally well. Forgetting that, or convincing yourself that you can skip that step will cause you, and the people you are trying to lead, nothing but trouble. 

Your people will not follow, in fact, they cannot make the emotional attachment required to actually follow. You will fall into the trap of trying to manage them and then the real problems begin. 

Don’t do that to your people or yourself. Learn to lead yourself and you’ll find leading others to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. 

3 thoughts on “Lead Yourself Before Leading Others

  1. Ideally, if our internal promotional system works as it should, our future managers are informal leaders long before they are eligible for promotion. Our promotional process should identify informal leaders and make them formal managers in the organization. I want new hires who are informal leaders with their work ethic, attitude, dress, and customer service. I want them to set the bar for their colleagues. And when the time comes, I want to promote them. Chances are, their leadership will continue as they move up in the organization as a formal leader and manager.

    Having said all of this, I do have to hire some people who will never promote. Not everyone in the organization will have the opportunity to move up, and I need some people who will be content as a worker bee. (They can still lead, informally).

    1. You’re absolutely right. Not everyone wants to lead, not everyone needs to lead. That said, in a good many organizations much of the day to day leadership is done through those informal leaders. Proof, that you do not need a title or position to lead!

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