When you think of leadership development, what comes to mind?

For most, the concept of leadership development involves the process of building leaders of other people—creating a connection between managers and the front line.  Topics in a leadership development course might include communication, conflict management and delegation, to name a few.

It’s not often though that we stop to look in the mirror. Have you thought about what it means to lead yourself? That’s self leadership, and it’s the most important pillar in the leadership development process.

One of the best ways to foster innovation and performance is through autonomy. Even if you don’t have a leadership title within your organization, you are still a self-leader.

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. Self-leadership is something that needs continual focus at the individual contributor and emerging leadership levels of your organization.

What does it take to become a self leader? Below are five core qualities of self-leadership that anyone can hone:

  • 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.Case in point. Bill Gates is said to read about 50 books a year, and he credits that for providing him an advantage.
  • 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. Those who exercise self leadership take that a step further by monitoring those goals and correcting the course when needed. One idea I incorporate in my own life is to create a vision board. It allows me to dream big and visualize what I want my 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 formal performance evaluations?
  • 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.
  • Plans and schedules. 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 and discipline. 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 creating 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.

For more tips on becoming your best leader, watch my short video on crafting a bold vision.

 

You can also download my ebook, Leadership Lessons.

 


Also published on Medium.

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