How to cultivate Self-leadership

Managing themselves well is what made History’s great achievers. When it comes to living the life of your dreams or achieving your goals, it is important that you set the direction for your life and make your decisions rather than constantly being impacted by external influences. There are various opinions, voices and messages trying to influence and give you the direction on a daily basis. It is very easy to get so caught up in daily demands of life that we tend to get influenced by such external opinions and become reactive rather than leading and managing our own lives. Management of any sorts, be it your work, business, academia or personal life needs you to be internally focused. How well you can manage others and yourself mostly depends upon how well you are able to lead yourself in your personal or professional areas. So, when it comes to making all of those decisions or choices in life, it comes down to the leadership in your own life to handle all of those decisions and situations.

Self-leadership is the key in determining the direction you want to take and to become more of the person you are striving to become. Also when it comes to cultivating leadership skills, most of the times, we talk about from the standpoint of leading others or those working under us. But all true leadership does begin from within and manifests through your effectiveness in managing yourself, in building collaborative relationships, through interactions and daily decision-making process of your personal and professional life. It is always important to lead yourself first, before you can lead a team, organisation or group of people.

What is Self-leadership?

Self-leadership is an intentional process of influencing your thinking, feeling and behaviours to achieve your objectives thereby increasing the positive impact you can have in the world around you. Self-leadership is not self-absorption, but is the process of growing inwardly to contribute outwardly. The difference between leadership and self-leadership is that leadership focuses on how one influences others whereas self-leadership is about observing and managing oneself and most importantly, it is being aware of who you are, what you want to achieve along with your abilities to influence your communication, emotions and behaviours in achieving them.

What determines your self-leadership?

While there are many aspects of self-leadership that are needed to strengthen our lives as leaders, here are some important aspects that determine self-leadership.

Self-awareness: It is the ability to acknowledge, understand and be conscious of one’s own values, perspectives , strengths, weaknesses, and emotional needs. Your level of self-awareness determines your self-leadership potential.

Self-management: The ability to manage one’s talents, nurture and harness one’s own passion, abilities, emotions and leadership capacity in decision-making.

Self-regulation: The ability to regulate or control your emotions. To self-regulate is to take a pause between the feelings that arise in a situation and the action you choose to take

Others-awareness and management. The ability to acknowledge and recognise the passion, strengths, weaknesses, abilities and needs of others. The ability to motivate others in achieving their goals.

Integrity: It is the quality of adhering to moral and ethical principles. It comes with an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of your actions, words, decisions, measures, expectations, methods and outcomes.

Accountability: Being responsible for your thoughts, decisions, emotions, behaviours and actions is a quality of self-leadership.

Self-discipline: To manage your mental and emotional state and a strong personal will.

Self-control: Ability to stay emotionally focused and to control feelings, thoughts and behaviours in challenging circumstances.

Self-motivation and focus in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Self-reflection: Ability to reflect on the thought patterns, feelings or perceptions that hold you back from achieving your full potential.

Why it is important to develop Self-leadership?

Many of us don’t realise that to lead others, we must be able to lead ourselves first. Not able to lead your own self makes you more vulnerable to all kinds of errors, often at your own hands and as a result you not only self-sabotage, but negatively impact those whom you lead. Good self-leadership not only creates the environment of clarity, purpose, responsibility, engagement and collaboration but also builds trust and confidence. It enables you to be more productive in your professional endeavours.

Being strongly opinionated or thinking that you are always right forces people to see your way and as a result, you miss out on other perspectives. Feelings of insecurity often hinder your others’ awareness and as you will be more self-absorbed about how you are perceived by others. Also, it becomes hard to appreciate others and give their due credit because you see it as a threat to your own possible influence. Developing self-leadership reduces your feelings of insecurity and reduces know-it-all thinking. Being rigid or close-minded leads to putting others down or dismiss other perspectives or alternatives. By cultivating effective self-leadership, you can be open to range of possibilities, you can avoid self-defeating beliefs, and build trust to collaborate with others in order to achieve your desired goals and can lead others more effectively. Without a strong sense of self-leadership, you can feel of out of control, overwhelmed and confused.

How to cultivate self-leadership?

To cultivate effective self-leadership, you must carve out your direction by aligning with your desired goals and know when to change course. You can achieve this by developing deep understanding of yourself. What are your most valuable strengths and weaknesses? How do you learn and work with others? What are your most deeply held values? And in what type of work environment can you make the greatest contribution?

To cultivate self-leadership, begin by asking yourself these questions:

What are my strengths?”

To accurately identify your strengths, use feedback analysis. Every time you make a key decision, write down the outcome you expect. Several months later, compare the actual results with your expected results. Look for patterns in what you’re seeing: What results are you skilled at generating? What abilities do you need to enhance in order to get the results you want? What unproductive habits are preventing you from creating the outcomes you desire? Which are your core strength areas? In identifying opportunities for improvement, don’t waste time cultivating skill areas where you have little competence. Instead, concentrate on—and build on—your strengths.

“What is my Purpose?”

To clarify your purpose, develop a deep and profound understanding of what you could focus on moving forward. We all know what we want. We all have goals, dreams, and aspirations. However, are these things what you really want? Or are they simply things that others want for you? Or is it rather because you have been conditioned by your peers and by society to pursue these things? Consider your strengths, preferred work style, and values. Based on these qualities, in what kind of work environment would you fit in best? What kind of life roles do you enjoy living? Given your passions, experiences and abilities, what’s your true life’s purpose? What do you feel are best suited to your core strengths? Set meaningful goals that serve your purpose.

“What are my values?”

Core values act like a compass that helps you stay on track and focused on the most important things in your life. As leaders, you can overcome honest mistakes or a wrong decision, but recovering from ethical compromise is near to impossible. Values lead you to greater degree of insight and understanding of your own self. Prioritise your core values by reflecting on these questions: What are your ethics? How empathetic are you towards others? What do you see as your most important responsibilities for living a worthy, ethical life? Does your organization’s ethics resonate with your own values? Are your decisions aligned with your personal values? Are you authentic or are you a people pleaser? Do you prioritise being honest with others ? Just as honesty is essential to develop effective self-leadership, so is integrity.

What is my self-awareness?”

Improve your awareness of how you are being received by others or how your work affects the team or organisation as a whole. How well do you know yourself? How deeply do you understand your strengths, motivations or flaws? What do you need to improve? What thoughts are holding you back? What is your narrative identify? You should be aware of how your work and actions that affect those around you. In what ways do you work best? Do you process information most effectively by reading it, or by hearing others discuss it? Do you accomplish the most by working with other people, or by working alone? Do you perform best while making decisions, or while advising others on key matters? Are you in top form when things get stressful, or do you function optimally in a highly predictable environment? Being aware allows you to make adjustments for tendencies that are self-defeating.

What is my self-talk?”

Self-talk shapes our relationship to ourselves. If you self-talk is filled with frustration, pessimism, apathy or if your self-talk of the perfectionist, it cause you to lose to your destructive self and leads to poor decisions and making choices that serve short-term goals. Your biggest challenge while in the pursuit of self-leadership, of course, comes in the form of negative self-talk. It’s natural for us to have these kinds of thoughts when facing an uncertain future. But you experience lapses where you begin doubting yourself. Quickly recognise those moments for what they are. What is your self-talk? Does it enhance ‘Can-do’ attitude? Is your self-talk helpful In correcting your faults and weaknesses? Shift your focus to positive self-talk by using words like ‘can’, ‘will’ and ‘yet’.

What is my decision-making framework?

Everyday offers the opportunity to make a decision. Effective self-leadership depends on your ability to make right decisions and to learn from wrong ones. No matter how big or small a decision is, it is important to have a clear intention for why you are choosing a specific course of action. For instance, one of the reasons for indecisiveness might be fear. Figure out the reasons behind those fears to recognise triggers that cloud your mind. Is it a fear of failure? Or fear of missing out? Or is it because of your insecurities? Are you basing your decisions on your assumptions or facts? Do not allow others’ agenda to sway you from making the choice that’s right for you. Identity alternatives to seek others’ view points. Listen to arguments and probe for understanding. There may be valid perspectives you hadn’t considered, which could pave way for right course of action. Looking for alternatives creates different points of view, new insights and new choices.

“What is my Emotional-quotient?”

Your emotional-quotient is the direct measure of your leadership skill. People with high emotional intelligence make good leaders as they are able to understand what motivates others and relate to them in a positive manner. Assess your emotional quotient to know your emotional strengths and weaknesses. Examine how you react to stressful situations. How do you react when someone or a situation doesn’t measure up to your expectations? What specific people or circumstances trigger you on an emotional level? How do you respond to pressure situations? Do you interpret the situations based on facts? Or is it possible that your perspective of the situation has triggered your emotions? Learning what triggers your emotions and which emotions are driving your behaviour can help you achieve emotional stability. Attending to unhappy emotions by a way of communication and expressing fully what you feel, you can free yourself of unhappy emotions and improve your emotional quotient.

To conclude,

Self-leadership is life-long process of self-development and self-reflection. It is a never-ending work in progress that draws on continuous self-understanding. Apply the above strategies to overcome your insecurities, self-defeating habits, and limiting beliefs to maintain healthy and successful working relationships and to manage your workloads, opportunities and challenges.

• Practice regular reflection on the above questions to gain better awareness of your emotions, your motivations, and your challenges. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses.

• Take time to gain awareness of who you are, your purpose, and your priorities. Create a clear direction for future and keep yourself inspired and motivated.

• Become solution-oriented. Seek multiple perspectives and develop understanding of alternative views.

• Be clear about your values and practice them with integrity despite social, emotional and peer pressure.

• Shift your focus to positive self-talk and purposeful goals.

• Accept responsibility for your actions and decisions.

“Self-leadership is about awareness, tolerance, and not letting your own tendencies limit your potential.”- Scott Belsky

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