On leading yourself

If the world’s foremost authorities on leadership were to choose the most challenging aspect of leadership development, it will, undoubtedly, be managing or leading yourself. One can’t hope to lead others if they can’t lead themselves well. Stephen Covey, in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” highlighted that private victory precedes public victory.

My apologies if that sounds like a sweeping generalization but think about it — you can’t hope to participate and place in the top 100 of a triathlon next month if you’re 70 lbs overweight today. Can you? As the adage goes, “you’ve got to learn to crawl before you walk.”

From my experience, leading yourself is work in progress. It’s essentially your life’s work, probably the most important one. The big idea isn’t to make it perfect but striving to be better each day. If you fail one day, don’t sweat it, try the next day again and so on. You have to be patient with yourself.

Here’s the best part, you don’t have to figure out the way forward yourself. There are personal growth principles that you can learn, study, and apply to be on course to master yourself. And if that’s too much of a commitment, consider the following eight skills you must practice if you hope to achieve a private victory of any magnitude.

1. Integrity/Honesty: Behaves in an honest, fair, and ethical manner. Shows consistency in words and actions while modelling a high standard of ethics. 

2. Interpersonal Skills: Treats others with courtesy, sensitivity, and respect. Considers and responds appropriately to the needs and feelings of different people in different situations.

3. Continual Learning: Assesses and recognizes own strengths and weaknesses; pursues self-development.

4. Resilience: Deals effectively with pressure; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity. The individual also recovers quickly from setbacks.

5. Oral Communication: Makes clear and convincing oral presentations. Listens effectively; clarifies information as needed.

6. Written Communication: Writes in a clear, concise, organized, and convincing manner for the intended audience.

7. Flexibility: Is open to change and new information; rapidly adapts to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles.

8. Problem Solving: Identifies and analyzes problems; weighs relevance and accuracy of information; generates and evaluates alternative solutions; makes recommendations.

The eight skills above are learnable and highly actionable. They should be treated as core competencies one must master before they’re ready for the next level — managing projects.

Of course, the list isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of personal development. As I mentioned before there are universal principles one can learn and study to go deeper (and learn the “how” as the list above essentially points out the “what”) since developing yourself is a lifelong practice.

For now, start where you are with what you have.

P.S. If you do wish to go deeper, hire a coach. It’s the best investment you will ever make. Alternatively, we can connect to explore how can we work together.

P. P.S. You can read more about the 5 Leadership Competencies here.

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