To Be a Leader, Start With Yourself

Scientists anywhere will tell you the importance of trial runs. Before you launch a rocket to the moon or distribute a new medicine to thousands of people, you start small to make sure it works. Before you put it on a large stage, you first have to master it on a smaller scale.

The same principle can be applied to leadership: before you can lead other people, you have to learn how to lead yourself. It’s an idea known as values-based leadership, largely created by management professor and best-selling author Harry Kraemer. In Harry’s world, you are the guinea pig to test your ideas and to put yourself in the right mindset to be a successful leader. Leadership doesn’t depend on your job title or where you fall in your company’s organization chart; it relies on your ability to influence and engage other people.

To learn to lead yourself, Harry suggests four principles that every future leader must develop in themselves:

Self-reflection. Being a leader means being able to step back and ask yourself difficult questions. What are your values? What do you stand for? What is your purpose? What kind of leader do you want to be? Find time to slow down and be honest with yourself about where you are and where you want to be. Daily self-reflection can help you improve each day and keep you in line so that your daily actions match your long-term goals and purposes. Self-reflection sets the foundation for strong leadership and allows you to do solidify your beliefs and make sure you are following through on your promises.

Balance. Good leaders don’t try to be right, they try to do the right thing. More important than having all the answers themselves is being respected. To make the right decision, you need to look at things from a variety of perspectives. After all, if you always do things according to your own view, you may be forgetting a number of other important outlooks. Don’t be afraid to get opinions from other people and to ask for help and guidance when necessary. The final decision comes down to you as the leader, but it can do you well to be informed and make a balanced choice.

True self-confidence. This can often get confused with being arrogant or egotistical, but true self-confidence is accepting you who are and owning your skills and your flaws. Leaders who are truly self-confident know where they stand and work to improve themselves every day. Many people in the business world may act confident without actually being self-confident. Harry recommends asking yourself if you have reached a point in your life where you feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know” or “I was wrong” — that’s the sign of true self-confidence.

Genuine humility. Humility goes hand in hand with self-confidence. Even if you have reached a great milestone in your career, don’t forget where you came from and everyone who helped you reach your goals. Almost every current executive started their career in a cubicle or bullpen — don’t forget that cube and how far you have come. If you are self-centered or egotistical, people won’t be able to relate or connect with you, which negates your ability to be an effective leader. Remembering where you came from and creating connections with people who are now in those situations can be hugely beneficial in being a successful leader.

Once you have mastered these four principles, your leadership ability will grow exponentially. However, it doesn’t stop after you’ve gone through the steps just once — you must be constantly evaluating your progress and ensuring you are staying on the humble, balanced path to being an effective leader.

How do you build values-based leadership?

Jacob Morgan is a best-selling author, speaker, and futurist. His new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to his newsletter or visit TheFutureOrganization.

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