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Mastering the Main Foundation of Leadership: Leading Yourself Well

The Essence of Leadership 

Leaders cast a vision, mission, and path for success around a concept and then influence others to join them on the journey to success for the benefit of all who are involved. Leaders can visualize and communicate the end goal clearly, identify and facilitate the path to success, and encourage others along the way. They establish and embody the culture of an organization by demonstrating corporate core values as they interact with colleagues, employees, and customers. Their vision and influence are apparent across the organization which encourages and facilitates growth and success of the organization. 


The Misconception of Leadership: Beyond Big Personalities 

The news is filled with examples of leaders in the world of technology both on the global level as well as here in Huntsville. Those leaders that make the news are usually very colorful people with big personalities and very strong opinions. Their visions play out in the news as new products and technologies are introduced with great fanfare or as they describe the path for company growth into ever increasing technological areas. Since famous leaders capture society’s attention, the perception is that all leaders must possess big and often unique personalities. It is often overlooked that the underlying principle of self-leadership existed long before these leaders rose to greatness in the public eye. No new technology, well-written paper, or motivational speech will be effective at inspiring a team to reach success unless the leader first sets the example of being the type of team member required to achieve success. Self-leadership establishes the vision, disciplines, and accountability that produce personal success. Others who desire success will try to replicate these characteristics in their lives to experience similar results and may even seek out to be on a team with those who exhibit successful self-leadership. Great leaders understand the power of leading by example because the demonstrated ability of self-leadership, which translates to success at all levels, is at its core. 


Self-Leadership: The Core of Personal Success 

Self-leadership in the workplace is the ability to guide personal beliefs and behaviors based on a vision for the desired career goals and objectives in a manner that also enables the organization to achieve success. We operate in the obvious confines of day-to-day life (e.g. pay bills, exercise, set alarm for work, etc.) but too often we don’t take the time to cast a vision for our personal career path, explore boundaries and associated consequences for being on the wrong path, and evaluate progress toward our goals. To accomplish this, we must intentionally devote time and energy to set goals, establish core values, perform self-assessments, and ultimately hold ourselves accountable for progress or lack thereof. Mastering self-leadership skills builds self-confidence in our ability to lead others and garners confidence from others to follow our lead. For example, a leader with personal accountability for being on time and prepared for meetings earns the right to hold others accountable when they are chronically late and unprepared. When a leader is committed to being a great leader by example first, their vision, creative ideas, and motivational speeches will not only be well received but will also inspire others to be committed to the path for success established by the leader. 


Nurturing Self-Leadership in the Workplace 

People often try to rise to a position of leadership based on their skill and popularity while neglecting their character. Popular belief indicates that character is derived from environmental factors, which may be true to some extent, but ultimately every person establishes their own standards for how they act and interact with others daily. The successful self-leader assesses their personal character in the areas of self-discipline, core values, self-identity, and emotional security and initiates appropriate adjustments when self-observations indicate undesirable performance. Developing self-discipline enables execution of the elements required for success even when they are not the most desirable or exciting parts of the process. Core values provide boundaries for operation which result in consistent performance across a wide variety of circumstances, especially when challenges arise. A realistic self-identity establishes an honest view of personal abilities and personality traits while providing a healthy perspective of those observed in others. Being emotionally secure and intelligent helps prevent poor decisions and interactions with others by removing the confusion and complications that result from emotionally charged exchanges. Growth in these areas does not occur without personal study and application of successful leadership skills through honest self-evaluations accompanied by improvement plans. 


Building the Foundation: Self-Leadership in Action 

The foundation of every good leader is successfully demonstrated self-leadership through healthy interactions and relationships with team members during the execution of tasks. Before a leader spends time trying to develop a flowery or motivational speech, the art of self-leadership must be mastered and demonstrated to the team, and in the view of neighboring teams in larger organizations, to gain the respect, trust, and confidence of others. Living out these skills and actions is a daily choice and requires discipline, self-assessment, continual learning, and dedication for maturation. Whether you are leading a team or are a team member, mastering the skills of self-leadership will put the entire team in a better position for success. When the focus is on self-leadership first, we each become the teammate we want to spend our day working alongside which in-turn invites others into a healthy and successful working relationship. 


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