When I speak with business owners or managers about leadership and I mention that the most important person they will lead is themselves, I’m often met with comments such as; “Hold on, isn’t being a leader all about focusing on our followers?“
To be very clear, No! Leadership is based on how well you lead yourself. From there you can go on to effectively lead others.
According to John Maxwell, “Leadership is Influence: Nothing More, Nothing Less“. We influence others by setting standards, goals and expectations. We speak to them about being motivated, fully engaged and committed to personal and professional development. We want them to take action, to follow through on their word and to show integrity.
We expect many things from our followers. Do we expect those same things from ourselves?
When you look honestly at your own leadership style and behaviour, how do you stack up? Do you walk the talk? Do you practice what you preach?
Are you leading by example?
When you lead with honesty and integrity and ‘walk your talk’, others are happy to be under your influence. It won’t take long for you to build credibility with those you associate with. Followers will soon appear and your leadership will be effective.
So how do we know we are leading by example? It begins with self-awareness, self-belief and a large dose of integrity.
Self-belief is vital to effective leadership. If you don’t believe in yourself you can guarantee that nobody else will. You must know at your core that you can positively influence others. When we believe strongly in ourselves we know what we are capable of, we believe we are the right person for the task at hand. We know ourselves well, and others do too.
We are self-assured enough to be able to accept responsibility when things don’t go so well and to share the credit when we get the results we are after. This self-belief contributes to an authentic, honest style of leadership. One that influences others to buy into your vision and engage fully.
As Warren Bennis says, “You can’t be a leader until you know who you are; it’s as simple as that.“
Self-awareness will let you know how well you are performing and just how you are impacting those around you. Spend a little time consciously observing yourself and your performance and answer the following questions honestly:
Do I know my purpose? Can I share what I believe in one sentence?
Do I know my mission? Can I explain where we are going and how we’re going to get there with my team?
Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?
Do I have the self-belief to be an effective leader?
Do I look for solutions or blame when it comes to difficult situations?
Do I avoid making decisions in any particular area of my leadership?
Do I have a self-improvement action plan?
A great way to take as much as you can from these questions is to ask them of someone who knows you well.
“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” — Thomas J Watson