Leading yourself …

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The first step in articulating your leadership philosophy is determining how you’ll lead yourself. Nobody is going to follow you if you don’t know where you’re going (except out of curiosity).

This aspect of leadership is tricky. It requires introspection and a frank, honest conversation with yourself to understand where you’re headed and how you want to get there.

To start that discussion, there are four areas you must explore:

1. Finding your internal motivation

Why do you get out of bed every morning (alarm clocks, crying kids, or an overfull bladder are not  acceptable answers here)? Why are you excited to drive to the office? The answers to these two questions can help you articulate a leadership maxim.

2. Charting your path

What are your professional goals? What will your epitaph say? Grim, I know. But at the end of it all when you become worm food, what will you want the summation of your career to be?

Allow me to assist you in developing your maxim on this one Mad Libs style. Simply fill in the blanks for this sentence: “(Your name) stood for (BLANK) and we’ll never forget (BLANK) about him/her.” Imagine someone is reading that statement as your eulogy. Once you’ve reflected on that and filled it in, you have a good start on a maxim for this point.

3. Stating how you’ll move down your path

We’re human. We make mistakes. Having guardrails on the path of our lives helps keep us on track. Sure, we’ll run into those guardrails occasionally (and sometimes find ourselves crashing through them and ending up in the ravine on the side of the road). The important thing is to put those guardrails in place and adhere to them as much as we’re able.

4. Inspiring yourself

Life will knock you down. It’ll kick you in the teeth. It’ll spit on you and call you names. The big question is how will you pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fight?

As a leader, your team is looking to you in these situations. There won’t always be someone there to lift you back up. You sometimes have to find that inspiration within. This maxim is all about creating an anchor phrase for yourself that you can use to reignite the fire in your belly.

My maxim on this comes from Ernest Hemingway: “Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Every time I’ve had the wind knocked out of my sails, I find myself referring to that quote to remind myself that I don’t stop fighting and I need to get back up. What phrase, quote, or image will you use as your anchor?

That summarizes the leading yourself aspect of leadership. Is it holistic? No. Is it a great way to start articulating your leadership philosophy? Absolutely!