“He that would govern others, first should be the master of himself.”

–Philip Massinger, English dramatist, 1583 – 1640


  • Where are you headed?
  • Are you living an intentional life on the path that is right for you?
  • Who has determined that path?
  • Are you leading yourself well?

When we think of leadership, our thoughts often turn to leading other people. We rarely, if ever, think of leading ourselves.

What qualifies a person to lead? Many studies have revealed that very few leaders are deemed effective or worthy of their positions. The term “leadership crisis” is often used to describe a prevalent situation in our world today—in which many leaders are seeking to be served rather than serving those they have the privilege of leading.

If we want to be effective as leaders, perhaps, as Philip Massinger said, we should first focus on leading ourselves.

Faulty Assumptions about Self-Leadership

As a student in exceptional business degree programs and as an executive with incredible organizations such as Michelin, Inc., and Macy’s, Inc., I rarely had conversations about or received training on the importance of leading myself.

While my education and training were excellent, they focused primarily on leading and managing others. There appeared to be an assumption that the most difficult part of leadership was leading others and assisting them in maximizing their potential.

There also seemed to be an assumption that leading ourselves was relatively easy, and we should be capable of it without help. It quickly became clear to me that most of us struggle to lead ourselves well, and this adversely affects our ability to effectively lead others.

The Benefits of Intentionally Leading Your Life

A clear understanding of how to lead yourself well equips you to maximize your life and positively affects those around you.

Another benefit is a renewed level of energy and focus, which could ultimately contribute to fulfillment and improved results in the organizations you own, work for and serve.

There is a strong business case for following the advice of Jim Rohn, a great author and leader:

“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.

If you work hard on the job, you’ll make a living.

If you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.”

When we hear “fortune,” we tend to think of money. However, fortune can also be about peace, joy and satisfaction with a life well-lived.

How to Lead Yourself

Look at your conditioning

How should you lead yourself or work on yourself? Start today by gaining clarity on conditioning that might be adversely affecting your ability to lead effectively.

Conditioning often reveals itself in the form of habits that negatively affect a leader’s ability to motivate, inspire and hold others accountable. Investing in personal and professional development can provide knowledge of self, which is essential to becoming a leader who positively affects the lives of individuals they lead and serve.

Accept responsibility

I have worked with all sorts of people, but one thing has always been clear when I encounter people who refuse to take responsibility or accept constructive feedback and change—the attitudes, morale and motivation levels surrounding them are poor. Their performance and that of their team is low or mediocre.

Look in the mirror and determine where you are. After you acknowledge where that is—good or bad—determine what you can and will do to take yourself to the next level.

Decide what can you do to be the very best version of yourself. You will be glad you did, and those around you probably will as well.

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