“Lead yourself first, then lead others.”
Be the leader.
Many of us want to become the leaders of tomorrow. We want to progress at work and climb the corporate ladder, following a path that is stipulated by our ideas of what is required to reach that goal. We read books on management and we take courses to show us the steps.
However, what I personally came to realise is that there is an essential step we should take before all of this and that is that we must awaken the internal leader within ourselves, first.
Are you the leader in your own life?
I recently became much more aware of myself in a way that I wasn’t before. I am still discovering many new aspects of this new self and believe that this will continue until the end of time. This might sound a little esoteric to you if you have not started your personal journey of delving deeper into the “how am I leading my life?” question for your life. For the purposes of what I am focussing on here you should pay attention to the word “leading” in that question.
Let’s step back and explore the surface of our every day life first by looking at an analogy: When you plan to go scuba diving in the ocean, you always start by getting into the dive boat and then cruise on the surface, until you get to the diving spot. Whilst in the boat you make decisions about the weather, the tide, the expectation of what is next and and so on.
I came to realise something about my life that you might relate to as well and that is that we do our everyday chores and routines, without really thinking much of it. We just do what has to be done. We talk to who we need to talk to, we perform our daily jobs, we eat, we sleep and wake up to do it all again. That is it, if not all the time, this is how we operate most of the time.
How I see it, is that we never really leave the surface of our life. We never (or hardly ever) dive to deeper levels of the ocean of life and many of us don’t even dip our toes into the water. We tend to stay in the diving boat, even if it makes us feel somewhat seasick.
I started to become aware of some questions within myself about how can I achieve more of what I would really like to do with my life (I was feeling seasick at this stage..). This questioning is really what set it all in motion for me and this is what started my personal journey of questioning whether I was “leading” my life or just “following a path of what seemed to be that of less resistance with a deceptive air of certainty”.
Why change it if it works?
You may already be leading your own life rather than following a path of less resistance and deceptive certainty, which means that you already have the leader within you taking action and you probably also have many people following your example. I admire that, if that is you. However, for me I was still following the path of less resistance (or of what appeared to be the path in front of me), following a standard predefined recipe I learnt many years ago and never questioned or took the time to change, grow or progress in any major way.
How do you know if you are leading or following?
How do you know if you are “leading your own life” or “following the path of less resistance and deceptive certainty”?
I started to ask myself some questions which helped me to raise my awareness about myself and this helped me to decide whether I was leading my own life or just absentmindedly following a preset path.
Here are some of the types of questions that came up for me:
- Do I do what I think others expect me to do?
I was very guilty of doing this and when I really started to question this, I realised that what I thought others expected, was most of the time simply a thought I had. It was not real.
- Do I question the status quo and take a different path to see where it leads?
I became very interested in learning about my beliefs about a lot of things. I read and analysed my beliefs – kept some, and got rid of some. This gradually helped me do a lot more “leading” than “following” in my life.
- Do I first choose what is right for me before choosing what might be right for others?
This is not about being selfish. If you are not the best version of yourself, you can never be your best for others.
- Do I stop for a few minutes and just absorb the moment?
This was and still is the most powerful way to align the leader within yourself every day. Set the compass for the day. Appreciate the present moment.
Some of my experience has been that because I was not actively leading my own life but rather following a path I thought was my path, I was actually making my life more difficult in some areas. I wasn’t in my “flow” (a topic for another day!) but this meant I was also not leading my own life towards progress and fulfilment but rather following a path I was not really enjoying.
Waking up the leader.
To be the leader, you need to start to dip your toes in the water, this will start the process of giving control back to the leader within your own life. You are waking up the leader who has probably fallen asleep inside you while your awareness was dimmed.
The key to becoming a leader for others, is to be a leader to yourself first. However this is not about suddenly making big changes and jumping in the water and going 40m below the surface, but rather about becoming more aware of the existence of different perspectives about everything you encounter every day. It is also about making deliberate and conscious decisions about your goals for yourself and focus on getting those goals realised by questioning your direction every day. It is about doing what is right for you first, then others will follow.
A way to wake up the leader inside of you is to focus yourself on clear daily goals. This will not only move you towards the deeper fulfilment within yourself but having your internal leader awake and on this journey with you means you will have your dive buddy alert and awake for life. This will allow you to explore the deeper, calmer and more abundant waters in the ocean of life. True leaders are divers below the choppy surf – they lead with certainty and calmness – they lead themselves first and then others follow.
Once you are the leader who leads your life, you will find that you are automatically also the leader for others.
A few more words.
I want to emphasise that becoming more aware of the leader within you is a journey and a way of life. It is not a quick fix (although changes can be instant) but rather a mindset that needs coaching and nurturing. Be patient yet persistent in your quest to build a strong leader within you. You only have one life, you can just as well be the leader of that life.
I mentioned that I am still on this journey of building a stronger leader within myself, but I can certainly say that this journey is more fulfilling, exciting and rewarding than any predefined path I have been on in the past. Enjoy this process of re-discovering the leader within your life again.
Start your own journey?
Learn more about the BAE Leadership Program for Business Professionals who want to discover their inner leader and be an effective external leader to others.
This program is designed for Business Professionals who want to discover their inner leader and be an effective external leader to others.