In my coaching with leaders and aspiring leaders to develop their personal leadership skills they often find that articulating their own personal vision and priorities is a far more difficult process than doing so for their organisation.
However it is important to learn how to effectively lead yourself to improve performance and wellbeing because this in turn strengthens your ability to effectively lead others.
I enjoyed reading this perspective on personal leadership together with some practical strategies by Executive Coach and author, Joelle K Jay, first published in Forbes magazine.
What Is Personal Leadership?
The way I define personal leadership is: to achieve what you want to achieve and lead the life you want to live.
The emphasis in personal leadership is on the word “lead.” Many people are just living their lives; many fewer are actually leading them. You have the opportunity to take the lead in your life – to make yourself a priority and pursue a grander vision for yourself.
Personal leadership helps you formulate your vision for the future, so you can define where you want to be and take action to get from here to there. It’s about making yourself your top priority and not feeling guilty about it. Because when you invest in personal leadership, you see the benefits in every area of your life: at work, at home, in relationships and in health. You become the best version of yourself and learn to lead from the inside out.
Strategies For Fostering Personal Leadership
Some clients come to me because they are overworked and overwhelmed. They feel like they’ll never get caught up or have enough time for their career, their families or themselves. They tell me, “I try and try, but I don’t get ahead, and I never seem to get the recognition I want.”
Others are the overachievers I call “tired, wired and inspired.” They have big dreams, and they are motivated to go after them. But even though working hard, they’re not always working on what moves the needle the most.
In either case – whether they’re overstressed or overstretched – what they need most to get to a sense of productivity and well-being is to practice personal leadership.
You may be ready for that now, too. Everyone has a different path to personal leadership. Start from wherever you are right now.
Here are your first three steps.
Step 1: Embrace Both/And
Making time for personal leadership opens you up to new possibilities. You may not see them now, when you’re working furiously and juggling day-to-day pressures. But know that you can have all the things you want: a successful career, good health, quality time with your family, hobbies, travel. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation; it can be both/and. As a way of beginning your personal leadership practice, open up to the possibility that you can both manage the situation you’re in right now and also lead your way to a more powerful future.
Step 2: Reflect Before Acting
I earned my Ph.D. with an emphasis in reflection, and I strongly believe in taking the time to sit, reflect and plan before taking action. Reflection is simple, free and readily available. It’s similar to meditation in that it’s easy to understand but requires practice. Now that your mind is open to new possibilities, just sit quietly with your thoughts and a notebook, and ask yourself: What’s working? What’s not working? What do I want to change?
Step 3: Get Clear
With a clear both/and mindset and an opportunity for reflection, now you can move forward to get clarity on your vision. If I had to distill personal leadership down to one question, it would be: What do you want? You can break this down even further into: What do you want out of this specific project? What do you want out of your current job? What do you want out of life overall?
Get clarity on this so you can focus your priorities. You need to be able to see it and say it. Research shows that just writing down your goals makes it more likely that you’ll achieve them.
I often think of a woman who participated in our leadership development program. She was a top-performing salesperson, and her company wanted to help nurture and grow her career, but she was burnt out. At the time, her favorite saying was, “I’m 58 years old. How soon can I retire?”
But as she started to clarify her vision, priorities and goals, she realized why she was exhausted. She was working nonstop and neglecting a lot that was important to her. When she paused to reflect, she defined what she wanted out of life. She wanted to feel rested, healthy and happy again. She wanted to spend time with her husband and her kids, who were getting older. And she wanted to be one of the top salespeople in her company, along with the compensation that came with that position.
By gaining clarity, she was able to see a new path forward. She didn’t have to choose just one priority and ignore the rest. She learned to leverage her strengths, align her actions with her values and build a supportive team around her to maximize her time and focus on all of her goals. This process gave her the momentum she needed; after completing the program, she was honored as one of the top 3% of salespeople in her company.
Now she says, “I’m only 58 years old. Why would I retire?”
This is the power of personal leadership. It reveals what you truly want and allows you to honor all of yourself, so you can experience the fullness of your potential – that is, so you, too, can achieve what you want to achieve, and lead the life you want to live.