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“It’s never crowded along the extra mile.”go the extra mile it's never crowded

That quote on leadership comes from best-selling author and speaker Wayne Dyer. And if you stop to think about it, it’s probably pretty darn quiet along that extra mile. It’s often the distance where the qualities and actions of leaders are set apart from the rest of the pack.

Leadership development continues to be a hot topic across industries. In my experience the focus is typically on how to become an effective leader of others, which is extremely important. But when considering all the aspects of leadership, there’s more to it.

Leadership is a way of being and a set of skills that you can develop regardless of title.  Have you thought about what it means to lead yourself?  Even if you don’t have a leadership title within your organization, you are still a leader – a self-leader.

But what exactly is self leadership?

Self-leadership describes how you lead your own life – setting your course, following it, and correcting as you go. Life and business are often intertwined, so it also reflects how you work with clients, colleagues, and the leadership in your organization.  It’s that extra mile.  It’s something that needs continual focus at the individual contributor and emerging leadership levels of your organization.

Below are some core qualities self-leader:

  • Enthusiasm for learning.  Almost all people I’ve met who are great self-leaders are learning enthusiasts. They keep up with trends in their industry, are well-read, and love to learn and share new information. I’ve also noticed that they usually surround themselves with others who are also learning enthusiasts.
  • Goals for life and business.  Because many of us live in a combined world of the personal and professional, setting goals for business and life are critical. Self leaders take that a step further by monitoring those goals and correcting the course when needed. One idea is to create a vision board; it allows you to dream big and visualize what you want your life to be. Secondly, create a goal board – this can be a white board of your yearly goals, broken down into quarterly or monthly goals. As a manager or individual contributor, how are you communicating and monitoring goal progress – outside of the typical performance evaluation?
  • Willingness to let go.  Self leaders have learned where to direct their time and energy, and where to delegate. This action allows you to better lead in your areas of strength. It also allows you to create collaborative relationships with your colleagues.
  • Discipline.  Self leaders create plans and schedules; they also stick to them. For example, discipline may mean designating blocks of time for creative work, or a scheduled time to check email and return phone calls. It could also mean shutting down at a certain time each evening, or a willingness to say no to non-essential work (or life) activities.
  • Focus.  Focus and discipline often go together. It’s a fact that our brains can only truly focus on one thing at a time to do a task well. This is even more critical when the task involves creative thinking or problem solving (rather than a rote task). Self-leaders have developed the skill of selecting what they want to focus on and tuning out the rest for a set amount of time. They do their best work and create better results.

Along with these core qualities, self-leadership also involves skills or certain behaviors that set the self-leader apart.  Below are five critical skills that you can hone in your career. Practice using one of them in that next interaction with a client, colleague, or manager:

  • Define what you’re known for in your organization. This is your personal brand, and everyone has one. Make a list of a few things that bring you the most satisfaction at work. These are usually things you do well – and that others need to know. Take those strengths and turn them into a statement about what do you, so that you can easily describe it the next time someone asks.
  • Speak up. Be sure to speak up early and often in that next meeting or conference call. It’s important to be visible and contribute in a way that shows your value.
  • Be concise.  When you are concise, you show confidence. Confidence breeds success. The fewer words you use to make your point, the more power your words have. This applies to emails, voicemails, and conversations.
  • Use the language of your business.  Every profession and industry has a unique language. Part of your influence comes from knowing your business well and speaking its language. Also take time to become knowledgeable about areas of the company or industry outside of your immediate realm.
  • Build and leverage your network. This one never gets old! Make sure you are consistently building your network relationships within your company and industry. Join an industry association and become involved – it’s a great way to build those important relationships.  

What would it mean to your career to go the extra mile, developing the core qualities and skills of a self-leader?
Visit for more information about custom training solutions and professional development services offered by Impact Instruction Group.  Amy Franko also works with national companies and organizations on their emerging women leader programs, teaching concepts from the international best-sellers Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and See Jane Lead.

© 2013 Impact Instruction Group

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