There have been endless debates on the various challenges a leader faces in the world of business, and what makes a good or bad leader. Looking back to my own leadership experiences, there has always been a common denominator regardless of any success or failure, and that denominator was myself. One of the greatest challenges any leader faces is leading themselves. Before you can successfully lead others you first need to become better at leading yourself. I’ve compiled 6 ways to become a better self-leader so you can better lead your employees, co-workers, families, and friends.
- Identity Vs. Role
Knowing the difference between who you are and what you do is a hard line to determine. If the line gets blurred, one area’s success or failure can overflow to the other. That can cause added stress and lead to you having a poor self-view of yourself.
For instance, your role at work might involve anything from selling specific products or services, to meeting deadlines. If you have a bad month in sales or you missed that deadline it’s easy to look at those failures and get down on yourself. It's best to know who you are as a person in order to be successful in your role. Once you know the difference between the two, it’s easier to bounce back from failures at work.
- Know your strengths while also improving your weaknesses
Everyone has different strengths - the key to success is being able to know what you are good at, while also working on areas that you can improve. It all works like a well-oiled machine! What you are good will help fuel your success while you move forward and develop weaker areas of your life.
For example -when I first started in business school, I was very good at communication and motivating people. Since that was what I was good at, I used it to help develop areas I needed to improve in - such as knowledge and skill. I would talk to professors and classmates to better gain understanding on things, and I used my strengths to help me develop and grow.
- Fail Forward
You have to be okay with failure. Expect it, learn from it, and move on. Too many people put unrealistic expectations on themselves, and once those expectations aren’t met they are devastated. Sometimes it can take a long time to move on from that failure. You have to expect failure early on and realize that it’s normal and expected, then use what you learned as momentum to be better as leader and as a person.
Accepting failure in the sense that it is apart of the process of growth will help you better become a better leader. However, failure is only acceptable if you are learning from the failure. Not all failure is created equal.
- Set aggressive goals
Once you learn to "fail forward" it’s easier to set aggressive goals. Being able to set challenging yet attainable goals is the key to hitting those goals. Once you start hitting those goals it builds confidence, which snowballs into success.
When I scheduled my first 21-hour semester in college, many people thought it was impossible. I knew that even though it would be a challenge, if I attained that goal it would give me the confidence to finish my undergrad, and that would be the momentum I needed to catapult me into my career. I finished that semester with a "B" average, and that led to a 12-hour summer, and another 21-hour semester - which allowed me to graduate on time. If I never set what seemed like an impossible goal, I would have never had the confidence to finish on such a strong note.
- Ask for help
As a self-leader, this is where you take the initiative to get the direction and support you need to achieve a goal. Depending on the amount of competence and commitment you have in a single area, you'll need varying degrees of support and direction from others.
I never would have made it through business school if I didn’t seek out help and support from my friends and professors. Learning to ask for help early on helped me become a better leader by showing that it takes a team to get things done.
Even with all these tips for being a better self-leader, if you don’t have the discipline to get up everyday and actively work on YOU, it will be hard for you to truly grow as a leader and a person. Discipline is one of the most important traits a leader can have. If that discipline doesn’t start with your own life, how are you expected to be able to help the people you lead be disciplined as well?
A basketball player shoots 100 free-throws a day for his shot to become second nature. A piano player practices 3 hours a day to become a great composer. If you don’t have the discipline to stick it out to the finish, you won’t see the results you want.
Leadership starts with yourself! You need to work on the leader in the mirror before you can truly lead others. What you put in is what you get out. If you have the discipline to practice these traits to better self-leadership, you are on your way to becoming a great leader people will want to follow.