Leadership Starts With One

I recently came across an article in a magazine that I thought was spot on to achieve true leadership. It starts with self-development. Without that someone is just managing. When someone falls into management mode things can get stressful… business doesn’t grow as fast as you would like, lack of loyalty, lack of buy-in and cooperation from constituents. The article was written by Glenn Gutek – a consultant for professional workplace improvement. I hope that you can take something from this article and use in your personal life as well as your work environment as i did.  Hope you enjoy!

Great Leadership Starts With Leading an Organization of One

All leadership begins with “self leadership.” Before a leader can aspire to lead a thriving enterprise, he must first master leading an organization of one.

Tom and Susan are partners in the same firm and produce at a very high level. Over the past five years, Susan has not only outpaced Tom but also many of her senior partners. What is most surprising about Susan’s performance is that her ascent to excellence was slow in coming, and Tom was very reluctant to open the doors of partnership to Susan after her lackluster performance during her initial years in the firm.

Out of curiosity, Tom summoned the courage to investigate the root causes of Susan’s consistent growth. What Tom observed and discovered was that Susan had an incredible ability to do what needed to be done when it needed to be done. She seemed to respond appropriately to the right opportunities and dismiss the less-relevant distractions. Tom shared with his partners that Susan “leads herself with discipline and precision.”

What made an impression for Tom were the practices Susan engaged in to help her have a sense of what needed to be done. A leader engages in certain practices or disciplines to produce that result when required.  Self leadership employs intentional action in advance to ensure the right action happens when necessary.

Although some people are more naturally disciplined than others, for those who struggle with discipline, it can help to create the structures that promote greater “professional will.” To begin, consider the following five disciplines of self leadership:

1. Control Time

The most basic expression of self-discipline is controlling your time in such a way that you are focused on your “highest and best” use. Your leadership effectiveness is limited when you allow others to set too much of the agenda and spend your time on the trails of rabbits. There is a wealth of material available to assist with time management, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel; however, there are some practices you can intentionally engage in that will promote a greater ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done:

  • Time Blocking: Predetermine blocks of time allocated for your most important activities.
  • Landing the Plane: Do not allow meetings and conversations to extend beyond the appropriate time limit.
  • Time Cop: Give your assistant or colleague some authority to assist you in executing your calendar.
  • Power Sprints: Protect one-hour blocks of uninterrupted time to execute your most complex work.

2. Fuel Energy

Leadership is an energy-intensive endeavor. One of the primary reasons why leaders often sweep unsolved problems under the carpet is a lack of energy. It is imperative to sustain the appropriate levels of energy to intercept entropy at its earliest stages.

The disciplines most commonly associated with fueling energy often involve diet, exercise, and sleep habits. Beyond these practices, build into your schedule opportunities to engage in things that put wind in your sails. What are the activities that energize you and ignite your curiosity and passion? Below are some practices that you may want to be sure your calendar allows time to proactively pursue:

  • Reading, which helps you think bigger thoughts
  • Travel, which helps you see a bigger world
  • Networking, which helps you learn from other businesses

3. Temper Emotions

So much business literature will reference the all-important aspect of “passion.” There is no argument that passion is essential to effective leadership; passion is the natural reservoir of energy that propels a leader forward in the face of adversity. However, at times it is critical to practice the discipline of being “dispassionate.”

The discipline of being dispassionate allows a leader to protect the environment from becoming toxic and avoid engaging in the wrong battles. A leader should fuel his energy by investing in his passion but also keep things from running off the rails by not pouring gas on a volatile situation.  Below are few techniques that you can practice in advance to promote appropriate dispassion:

  • Ask questions.
  • Define the problem.
  • Spend more time on solutions.
  • Take deep breaths before speaking.

4. Focus Words

Just about every teenager wanting a driver’s license has most likely read a copy of the book, Rules of the Road. Unfortunately, once we graduate from grade school, there are no qualifying tests to ensure we have a license to speak. The most commonly used tool in the arsenal of a leader is his words. Far too often we lack the right words at the right time. Why wouldn’t the wise leader make time to practice the discipline of focusing his words for the greatest amount of impact?

The discipline of crafting or outlining scripts for crucial situations will assist in making sure that the words that flow from your mouth achieve the purpose of the right words at exactly the right time. Being prepared in advance with a script or outline, such as the following, is a wonderful exercise in self leadership:

  • Vision: A brief outline that calibrates key players on the vision of the organization
  • Conflict: A brief outline that defuses hostility and allow people to work the problem
  • Correction: A brief outline that identifies problem behavior and promotes improvement

5. Use Power

The fifth important discipline that must be an ongoing practice for a leader is disciplining power, particularly as it relates to knowing where the source of authority comes from. Are you building your power base from the positional role in the organization or your credibility with the people you lead?

As the industrial revolution comes to a close and we give birth to the “personal age,” it is becoming clear that the authority of a leader rests in the relationships he forms with the people he leads. The risk most often encountered when influencing people where there is a personal relationship is not maintaining the authority to exercise power. One practice that can assist in maintaining authority is identifying those with whom you need to come out from behind the desk and those with whom you must stay behind the desk:

  • Out from behind the desk: Individuals with the maturity to be clear on your authority
  • Stay behind the desk: Individuals who need you to maintain your position of authority

All leadership begins with self leadership. Practice the disciplines in each of the five areas of self leadership and you will find you possess an uncanny ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

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One thought on “Leadership Starts With One

  1. As I grow more and more into a leadership/business owner role, I realize the truth in the statement that if we want to lead others we must first be able to lead ourselves. When you’re responsible for motivating others, you have to have extra motivation, organization and communication skills to accomplish this–much more than it would take to simply motivate and lead yourself.

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