As Daniel Goleman points out in his bestseller, Emotional Intelligence; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, “exceptional leaders distinguish themselves because of superior self-leadership.” If you want to be a great leader, that’s where you need to start.
Fortunately, with sufficient commitment, anyone can improve or slowly enhance their leadership skills via improving their self-leadership. We’ll show you how shortly. First, though, what is self-leadership?
Self-leadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. It’s a clear and accurate understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and potential.
Developmental psychologist Susan Cook-Greuter compares it to mature adulthood. Before mature adulthood, humans project authority onto other people, groups, and institutions. We only feel “mature” because we can command other people to act in ways that please or appear correct to us. Mature adulthood is when you stop exercising authority through other people and instead begin to take responsibility for all your actions and behaviors.
The five main characteristics of self-leadership are self-awareness, motivation, empathy, social skills, and self-regulation.
As we mentioned earlier, superior self-leadership qualities separate you from the rest. If you’re looking to distinguish yourself in the office or any other crowded and competitive environment, your self-leadership qualities can be the biggest difference between you and the others.
Secondly, self-leadership and leadership development complement each other. If you want to become a great leader of people, you first need to be able to lead yourself and build the foundations required to exercise leadership. Leading others, for example, requires that you possess the skills to produce direction, alignment, and commitment. You’re much better equipped to achieve this in a group if you already possess the same qualities on a personal level.
Self-awareness means having a complete understanding of yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and beliefs, emotions, and motivations? What are your goals in life? When you develop an understanding of these elements, you become self-aware. You’ll be able to recognize where your thoughts and emotions are leading you and make changes as necessary.
Self-reflection is similar to looking at yourself in the mirror and describing what you see. It is a way of assessing oneself, including your ways of working, and thought processes. The reason you need self-reflection is because it helps you to review the effectiveness of your day-to-day decisions so that you can improve where necessary – an invaluable leadership quality.
Self-discipline is the ability to control your feelings and emotions. The reason you want to be able to control your feelings and emotions is that it gives you the power to stick to your decisions and follow them through, regardless of challenges. Self-discipline can also help you overcome addictions, procrastination, and laziness.
Self-leadership also requires that you become a master of communication. Two things are particularly important – listening and dealing with feedback. In regard to listening, you need to develop active listening skills. Most people listen with the intent to reply, in active listening, you listen to understand. As for feedback, you must learn to accept accolades as well as criticism.
Finally, all great leaders also understand the importance of investing in oneself. It’s only by appreciating the need to invest in yourself that you can understand the value of investing in your team. Self-investment essentially means partaking in activities that promise to bring more clarity, focus, and joy to your life.
If you’re serious about improving your self-leadership skills, whether for personal growth or career advancement, now is the time to get started. Here’s one resource to consider, a 30-day leadership guide with 10 minute-a-day reflections to help you improve your self-leadership.
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