A Leader of One

7 Mar

Everyone is a leader – even if it’s just a leader of one.

This concept can be hard to grasp when the word leader immediately conjures up images of Presidents, famous CEOs, military heroes,  Mel Gibson in Braveheart, Denzel Washington in basically every movie.

But the truth is that any good leader (and every great leader) begins by learning self-awareness and self-management.  You can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself.  You can’t expect honesty, integrity, credibility, passion, dedication, long hours, creativity, innovation from others if you aren’t displaying those traits yourself.

I heard a marathon speaker recently.  He was talking about pacing yourself and proper nutrition and how to avoid injuries.  But somehow it didn’t jive with  me.  Something vital was lacking.  So afterward, I researched his bio (geek that I am), and discovered that he’s never run a marathon himself.  Sure, he had the theoretical knowledge.  But he’s never gotten up at 4 am to run the streets of Miami in 90% humidity.  He’s never cruised the hills of Western PA praying for an end to the mile-long hills.  He’s never watched the sun rise over the Boston skyline, the fog lift from the San Francisco Bay or the waves pound the beaches of Mexico and felt simultaneously alive and depleted.  He’s never rounded the final bend to a finish line with sweat pouring, crowds cheering, and knowing that the end (in a life where so many things never end) is finally there.   Why would I follow someone who hasn’t been where I’ve been, andwho hasn’t trained the way I’ve trained?

Leading yourself is the first pivotal building block towards leading others.  Personal integrity means doing the right thing even when you aren’t being observed.  Communicate well.  Listen more than you speak.  Manage your time rather than letting it manage you.  Don’t be a sluggard.  Ask tough questions of yourself.  Ask others to ask you those same tough questions.  Set goals and make actionable steps towards meeting them.

Lead yourself wisely. Have fun.  Respect yourself the way you would (and should) respect any follower.  Don’t shy away from tough love. And don’t be surprised when your leadership sphere expands naturally as other seeks to copy your self-management style.

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