(855) SLI-LEAD / (855) 754-5323

The 7 Essential Elements of Leading Yourself

The 7 Essential Elements of Leading Yourself

Thu, August 16th, 2012

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself
-Leo Tolstoy

Failure to Lead Self

    Most of the corruption and disruption in corporations is the result of leaders’ failure to lead themselves. Most leaders have a high drive for ambition and a low drive for mediocrity. They are usually fast paced and task oriented. Most of the time they have a need to be right, and in fact, concerning their company, they usually are right.

Like Alexander the Great in ancient times, they want to conquer their own known world. And like Alexander, they often fail to conquer themselves. Alexander established an empire that stretched from Greece to India and spread the Greek culture throughout the known world at that time. Yet, he could not control himself and his excess; his sexual appetite, explosive temper, increased paranoia, and mad drinking. His comprehensive power became quickly corrupted. His psychological state was characterized with delusions of grandeur as he sought to be worshipped as a living god.

The Seven Essential Elements of Leading Yourself

So how do you lead yourself? It requires a willingness to practice these seven essential elements:

Ask Yourself Questions

  • What gifts have I received from others today?
  • What gifts have I given to others today?
  • What did I say or do that caused unnecessary pain for others?
  • How did I serve others? In joy and peace or anger and worry?

Leading yourself starts with your willingness to ask questions about how you think, feel, do and say.

Be Silent

Most people are not really interested in honest feedback. Many times they are asking for feedback in order to receive affirmation. When they are surprised at the feedback, they tend to rationalize the responses, justify their actions, and even get angry at the comments. People around them learn not to provide accurate feedback.

            Start with silence and listen to understand so that others will be encouraged to share with you. The silence must continue inside your head as well. Suspend judgment and listen. The silence must not only come from your lips and inner voice but also from your body language. You share meaning in your body language. If your voice is silent, but your facial gestures or hand movements indicate disapproval, you are not going to get honest feedback in the future.

What parts of your day include silence and reflection?


Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability is the willingness to be out in the open as a human leader. That vulnerability brings transparency, genuineness, and authenticity to the life principles you hold dear. Only through the journey of self-discovery can you maximize your strengths and minimize your weakness as a leader. You can only lead others as far as you are willing to go.


Hear from the Community

Power in the hands of any imperfect human being ultimately will be self-destructive without accountability. Leaders have the uncanny ability to receive revelations that provide special insights concerning a problem or a special vision to go forward. However, the trusted community can provide you with the right interpretation of that revelation.

Communities create an environment where the leader can think through the implications of their decisions and their impending actions. Basically, a community is a group of people who have a shared interest in your success.


Love Preparation

Preparation means that you are always growing and learning. Education just doesn’t when you when you leave the classroom in your twenties. It also continues when you read the works of great thinkers on leadership, biographies about great leaders, and critically assess your own strengths and weaknesses through training events, forums, and psychological tools that enhance performance.

If you could choose any resource that would expand your leadership competence in this period, what resources, vehicles, or tools would you use?


Develop New Habits

Our thinking about life will eventually show in our actions in life. Our individual actions in life will accumulate to create a pattern of living. Our pattern of living will provide a long-lasting imprint of character. And that imprint of character will often determine our future fate. I am not alone in this conviction. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

Habits are habit forming.  So start small to ensure success. Write down the counter-productive habits in your life. State clearly in one sentence what new habits you would like to create to eradicate the old negative habit. Stay diligent with his new habit for thirty days. Share with your professional community, and especially your chosen trusted partners in your journey as a leader, your desire and your game plan.

How often do you ask for feedback on your leadership effectiveness and from whom?


Commit for the Long Term

Servant Leaders are committed to people and process. They are not looking for short-term gains at the expense of long-term benefits. People need time to trust. The CEO needs time to understand. If leadership is simply the art of influence, or applied power, one can rely on positional power to coerce followers or manipulate other leaders to do what you want.

But Servant Leadership is applied power with a moral imperative. And the moral imperative within leadership is to serve for the sake of others. Fulfilling that vision moves leaders from transactional relationships with their coworkers to transformational relationships that will improve them and you.

Closing Thoughts

Hundreds of books speak to the critical need for self-awareness. This is because the biggest obstacle of leadership truly is us, ourselves. Once we know that truth, and are willing to grow and learn, we are 90 percent on the way to being a successful leader!

Think about your imperfections and flaws as a leader. How aware are you of your weaknesses? What are your weaknesses?



Dr. Tony Baron is an internationally recognized speaker, writer, and consultant on the subject of transforming organizations and their leadership so they can be profitable, people-oriented, and dynamically committed to improving the communities they serve. He serves as the President of Servant Leadership Institute in San Diego, CA


Leave a Comment