By Amy Taylor
As business owners, we tend to think about leadership in terms of leading a team of others. However, in order to effectively lead a team, you must first be able to lead yourself.
Rebecca Barnes, entrepreneur and publisher of Prince William Living, has daily practices she implements to make sure she’s being the best self-leader she can be.
“I do self-checks often — mentally, physically and emotionally. I also surround myself with people who are attuned to how I function. If I’m not ‘myself’ they let me know. If my work is slipping or my mood is different, they see it and are free to tell me, without fear of repercussions. Then it’s up to me to make adjustments,” Barnes said.
In order to practice self-leadership, you first need to understand what it is. Self-leadership starts with self-awareness. Having good insight about what’s going on inside your head will give you a solid foundation for self-leadership. What are your intentions? What are your values? What triggers you? When changes arise,
do you roll with the punches or do you have trouble adapting?
Once you get to know yourself well, the second major component of self-leadership is self-regulation. It’s critical to check in with yourself often to see where you are mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. When some aspect of your life isn’t going well, you need to identify the problem and seek the right help to move forward.
Motivation is a major part of self-leadership. You need to be confident in your strengths and abilities. You have to be comfortable identifying your weaknesses and working to improve them. The strongest motivation comes from feeling like you have a mission in life or a calling. Try to stay away from motivators like material possessions or impressing other people. When your motivation is tied to the opinions of
others, you risk doing more harm than good to your self-esteem. There will always be someone who has a negative opinion about what you’re doing, and you can’t let those opinions drag you down.
Social skills will allow you to lead others. Get really good at finding common ground with those around you. Building a rapport with those in your network and managing relationships is integral to building a solid business.
Why Is Self-Leadership Important?
Self-leadership is critical for your success in the business world and also your general well-being. Being a good self-leader helps you better regulate your own actions and gives you an appreciation of other people.
When you are in tune with yourself, you are less likely to get sidetracked by external factors. Your motivations come from within and you have a solid sense of self, so things that don’t truly matter to your business, like the next bright shiny object or the negative opinions of a few naysayers, won’t derail you.
Being able to lead yourself sets you up for long-term success. By being aligned with your purpose and knowing what really drives you, you can keep your eyes on the prize and avoid distractions along the way.
Finally, self-leadership shows others you are worthy of their trust as a leader.
“If you aren’t leading yourself, why would anyone follow you?” said Barnes.
What Skills Can You Sharpen?
Self-leadership isn’t intrinsic to everyone. There are skills you can work on to become a better self-leader.
“Ask yourself these questions: How does my body feel right now? Am I tired? Hungry? Restless? Decide what you need to do to resolve any issues. Where is your head? Are you focused or distracted? Where is your heart? Are you happy, sad, angry? Again, decide what you need to do to resolve any issues. If you do this three times a day, — morning, midday and night — you will soon do it automatically,” Barnes said.
To sharpen your self-leadership skills, you can practice the following:
- Accountability – Practice being responsible for your actions and reactions. Everyone makes mistakes, but when you do, you need to take ownership, learn from them and make it right.
- Self-discipline – Checking in with yourself and taking action isn’t always easy. It requires discipline to build a daily practice.
- Integrity – Being honest with yourself will help you be a better leader to yourself and others.
- Curiosity – Recognize that everything you’ve learned in your life may not be correct. Being curious allows you to unlearn things that don’t serve you well and relearn other things. Question everything and never stop learning.
- Humility – Unless you’re stranded on a deserted island, you accomplish things with the help of others. Recognizing this and staying humble will help you be a better self-leader.
When you begin practicing self-leadership, you will notice a better sense of self, stronger direction in your business and respect from your colleagues. Like any other skill, self-leadership takes practice, so be kind to yourself along your journey.
Amy Taylor (Ataylor@princewilliamliving.com) is a freelance writer and editor. She earned her BLS in English from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.