‘Oh, really? But, how can you call me a leader? I am not a boss or manager or even a supervisor! I am not even a leader in my group of friends!’
Now, isn’t that how some of us feel? Then, how can we reconcile with the title of this blog?
What if we don’t have the responsibility to lead anyone? Then, how can one be a leader? The point I am making is that each one of us is a leader in our own right. We can certainly be our own leader. That is self-leadership!
Very intriguing thought! Have you ever considered yourself to be a leader of yourself? You think, you reflect, you motivate yourself, you set goals for yourself, you monitor your progress towards your goals, you problem solve, and so on. You also assess yourself all the time, don’t you? You have aspirations that you will rise to the top, that you will do something wonderful one day, that you should get your degree and get working to excel in your field of endeavor, that whatever your passion, you are able to achieve the very best. Now with all that within your repertoire, can’t you say that, indeed, you are a leader?
Self-leadership takes the view that in order to succeed in the world around us, we have to gain mastery over our internal world- our private world of our emotions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, fears, strengths, weaknesses, etc… How do we do that?
Have you heard of Emotional Intelligence? We may be very intelligent in the conventional IQ sense, which means we have done well at university, are able to problem solve, and have been very successful at solving academic and technical problems at work, school and home. However, come a stressful or novel situation, we tend to fly off the handle, get totally frazzled, become emotional and tear up, and/or basically, lose it. In such a situation, what good would be our intelligence if we are unable to control our emotions and instead of solving the problem and accomplishing our goal, we ruin the situation as a result? Probably, zilch!
So, a critical part of self-leadership would be self-awareness, self-monitoring, self-management, and self-control, and also awareness and understanding of other’s emotions. Being able to empathize with others is a great hallmark for being successful at what we do. These skills together are termed Emotional Intelligence. Makes sense? Even the most intelligent folks cannot achieve much if they have little control over their own emotions. These emotions could be anything from fear, anxiety, jealousy, and sadness to anger, over excitement, over confidence, and over-zealous behavior. Awareness of our emotions, knowing how we react to situations, and control over these feelings, attitude, thoughts, and behavior are a must if we are to follow our thinking and planning and work towards being successful. Moreover, understanding why the other person was rude or stressed, or jealous, or sad or even happy, is critical to know how to deal with this person. Easy said than done, right? And one may ask, why should I be concerned with why the other person displayed the emotion they did?
Simple! Because we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in a social world where we are in constant interaction with folks. We discuss, plan, advise, scold, inform, ask, question. We love, hold, hug, hate, dislike. We laugh, tease, joke, etc. What impact has all our interactions on ourselves and others? What impact has their emotions and behavior on us? How can we monitor the effects of other’s behavior on us such that we are able to control ourselves and be a leader of oneself? Self-awareness is ever so important!
For a leader of others, all these are paramount skills to have. However, for a leader of oneself, these skills are as significant, if not more! Think about it! What was the last time you were going to nail a job, but you got nervous answering a question, and you became flustered, losing the job? Do you ever wonder what kind of raise you may have acquired had you not been rude to your boss? Do you remember the last time you were making a presentation, you blew it because you had a panic episode? Do you wish you had never gotten so angry at your spouse, that she or he called it quits?
Self-leadership is about knowing what needs to be done and accomplishing your goals. Yes, you are a leader and you better know it! Self-leadership is one aspect of leadership. But, I am sure you have also been responsible for influencing, guiding, motivating, leading your friends, classmates or family towards accomplishing a task- whether it was making a meal at home, driving your friends to an important meeting, providing valuable ideas for a class project, or driving a sick friend to the hospital.
So, this is another aspect of leadership– that of influencing others and helping them accomplish goals. I will mouse away my thoughts on this in my next blog!
Take care and happy self-leading!!