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What is Self Leadership?

Updated on December 5, 2008

Lead yourself first before you lead others

        Self-leadership – we don’t always think about or talk about it much in contrast to the frequent reference to leadership in organizations. When we talk about leadership, the usual reaction or thought that comes to mind is the act of leading others or leading the organization or community.

         What does self-leadership mean? I was reflecting on this the other day and a model popped into my head. If I see myself as having a higher self and a regular/normal self, then when I exercise self-leadership, I am looking to my higher self as a role model for how I, the regular/normal self would like to act or behave. My higher self represents my high ideals, my deepest values about how I should conduct myself, how I should treat others, the work standards I set for myself, my life & career aspirations, etc. My regular/normal self is my usual daily self that I bring to work or to school, at home or wherever it is that I usually spend my time. Sometimes our days are on a high, where we feel we are living our highest selves, but I’m willing to wager that a lot of people don’t live up to their highest selves every day. Those lucky souls who do or think they do - get in touch with me! Share your bliss with the community.

         So, to exercise self-leadership means to let your higher self lead your regular self. Look to your higher self as a model for how you would like to act and behave on a daily basis. Set this as a standard or yardstick for you to lead yourself.

         Do I have to be able to lead myself before I lead others? I say yes, because if you cannot follow your own lead, how could you expect others to follow your lead? If you cannot meet your own standards, then expecting others to meet the standards you set for them is hypocritical. Of course in reality, not everything is as crystal clear. You may not be living up to your higher self all the time despite the intent to do so, and you may still be leading others on a project or your team or your organization. The idea is to ask if you are leading yourself as much as you would like to, before or when you are leading other people (be it your team, a project team, or teams of people). This should hopefully prompt you to think about exercising good self-leadership when or before you want to exercise good people leadership.

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