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

How To Take Personal Responsibility

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”

Life is always full of choices and what you make of them and how you interpret your life events ultimately determines your experience. You can either approach your life with an attitude of responsibility or with an attitude of excuse. If you are always waiting for right time or set of circumstances that make it possible to do something, you will be forever postponing your happiness waiting for the ‘ if only’ and allow yourself impacted by forces that are external to you.

When you believe that regardless of what you do, external forces will dictate your future, it can be quite disempowering and keeps you stuck in self-destructive cycle of victimhood. People who operate from this mindset generally buy into ideas such as ‘I am a victim’, ‘I am entitled to things’ or ‘my past pretty much reflects my future’ and so on. This keeps them in a state of powerlessness relative to themselves and their life. From the state of victim hood, one cannot make the required effort to overcome their unfavourable circumstances. When you fail to take the responsibility for the part you are playing in the outcomes you are getting, you cannot seek and create opportunities that are right for your success.

On the contrary, When you take responsibility for the part you play in your outcomes, you get to choose how you respond to people, situations, circumstances, and things in your life. Taking personal responsibility can be quite self-empowering where you can take the action and risks that you need in order to ensure that you achieve the results you desire. Then the future will be what you make of it and you can be in control of your life experiences. So, if you want to view your life events or future situations in positive light and in terms of seeking and creating opportunities, you should develop the ability to take personal responsibility for your actions, decisions, choices, habits and thoughts.

With responsibility comes the willingness to work hard and to make a genuine effort to improve yourself by learning from your mistakes, failures and rejections. This state of empowerment builds your capability for facing and owning potential consequences of any choice you make.

What it means to take personal responsibility?

Responsibility is combination of words ‘response’ and ‘ability’ or in other words, your ability to respond to your environment. Truly accepting responsibility means not falling prey to victim mentality, not succumbing to your fears or insecurities and not falling into the trap of regretting past choices, decisions or actions. This means breaking free from anything that holds you back or that which makes you feel mentally or emotionally powerless. Recognising that the outcome of your life is a product of your decisions is what accepting personal responsibility all about. The choice you make either moves you closer to your desired outcomes and experiences or holds you back. Being responsible is to be accountable for the choices you make so that you can choose to create or seek solutions and create new opportunities for your personal or professional goals instead of blaming others or situations, complaining, and making excuses.

The real meaning of taking responsibility is to take ownership of your behaviour, choices, actions or decisions and their consequences. And also for your poor choices, mistakes or failures. It also involves moving beyond yourself and taking action to help people or situations around you that call for assistance. Not facing consequences for your wrong action or shifting blame to someone or something else for your misdeeds may sometimes work to your advantage but only in the short-term. This poor choice will eventually catch up with you and might cause you more damage down the road than stepping up to the situation. Responsibility is more to do with how effectively you can manage yourself when the opportunity to make a choice presents itself.

Responsibility breeds Empowerment

Many people have the desire to show off their successes but pass the buck when something is bound to fail. Failing to accept responsibility not only lowers your self-esteem and self-worth but also makes you view your life as having little or no value. On the contrary, responsibility breeds empowerment and boosts your personal or professional performance. By accepting responsibility and your role in problems, you can focus more on problem-solving, you can get more work done and gain power to initiate change. You develop the ability to create and respond instead of passively reacting to it.

With personal responsibility, you can own your life’s choices and decisions no matter how flawed or imperfect they may be. Owning your imperfections, flaws or mistakes leaves lot of room for self-improvement and gives space for plenty of opportunities to grow and develop. Whereas irresponsibility keeps you stuck in the patterns of self-victimisation. When you become accountable for your thoughts, feelings, habits and well-being, you can choose to make changes towards reaching your highest potential. Taking responsibility is empowering because it encourages solution-based thinking that can lead to creative ideas to help you solve your problems more effectively.

Personal responsibility also has to do with your daily habits, those you keep, the ones you break and those you build by choice and decisive action. When you begin to see the bigger picture of your actions and their consequences, you can change your habits or daily routines and create more helpful habits in order to decrease stress, increase productivity, or better time-management and increased job satisfaction. And builds trust with people.

Why Do We Deny Responsibility?

Taking personal responsibility of our life and circumstances gives us personal power to achieve our goals, but it is not always pleasant to shoulder it when those circumstances are unfavourable or completely out of our control. Personal responsibility brings up thoughts associated with work and commitment of some sort that drives many to avoid whenever possible. We all like to live without limiting our personal choices. Often when those choices are limited or when things don’t quite go as we had expected, we complain, blame everything and everyone, try to make excuses and shun responsibility to our own detriment. Also the other reasons being

• Lack of self-awareness or being disconnected from our deepest wants, goals, values or needs.

• Low self-esteem or belief that we aren’t really important or of value.

• Mistaken beliefs absorbed through our social, cultural or personal environments.

• Dependency on others’ judgment and assessment of things.

• Unwillingness to learn from our mistakes, failures or weaknesses or to improve ourselves.

• Lack of courage and commitment to follow-through our goals and objectives.

• Inability to focus on solution-based way of thinking or on creating opportunities to move forward with our goals.

• Approaching the problems from a source of weakness or victim mindset.

How to take Personal Responsibility

Learning to take responsibility is the key to self-management and self-growth. It represents your ability to make changes and choices about your work, health and well-being in a positive manner. Personal responsibility is also important in how we react to stress or certain lifestyle choices we make that trigger stress. Here are some ways to become more accountable and responsible in your personal or professional endeavours.

Practice self-awareness

When you have greater self-awareness of the choices that can be made and the impact your choices or decisions can have on those around you, you will be able to create more personal responsibility. Gain clarity so you are well aware of the things you should be doing and how they should be done both in personal or your professional goals. If others’ expectations are unclear, it is better to communicate and seek feedback to avoid assumptions. Be aware of your fears and explore the possible causes of it. If you feel you were not successful at a task, reflect on what you could have done differently to create better outcome. Another way to develop personal responsibility is to ask questions that focus on your potential actions. For instance, you can ask yourself as to how you can get accustomed to change or to new ways of doing things? How can you get a particular task completed on time? How can you solve the problem? Lay out your goals and the necessary tasks that will help you solve the problem. This will help you in becoming more accountable and proactive in taking required action-steps to make the necessary improvements.

Set Personal Boundaries

Do not over-commit yourself or take on too much. Know that certain things are out of your control and you cannot do everything. Consider your workload before agreeing to another task or role. Ask yourself as to whether or not you will be able to accomplish additional work and do it to the best of your ability. It is hard to maintain personal responsibility when you take on more than you can handle even if you think that it could pay off on the end with a reward. Taking on more than you can handle not only distracts you from your core responsibilities but also leads to compromising your work performance.

Saying ‘no’ can help you in setting boundaries that are needed for you to be able to uphold your responsibilities and achieve your goals. And also commit to staying true to a set of values and run your decisions through them as a check for consistency before enacting the decision in order to stay accountable.

Be Honest With Yourself

It is often very difficult to accept your own fault when it comes negative outcomes or poor decisions. Being honest with yourself and others about your wants and needs creates clarity with those around you. Being honest also involves admitting to your mistakes and the consequences. Offer a genuine apology to those affected by your actions, choices or decisions. Do what you can to minimise the consequences for others and look for ways to make some amends for your actions. Take responsibility for your own behaviour and admit your failure-to-act when you should have done so. You will achieve more success when you are fully honest with yourself and those around you in your personal or professional environments.

Stop Procrastinating On Your Tasks

Slacking, hiding from work, doing unimportant tasks, or putting off breeds irresponsibility and creates a negative self-image. To develop personal responsibility, keep yourself organised by using whatever avenue works best for yourself instead of procrastinating your goals and responsibilities. Don’t put your personal and professional obligations until the last minute. By leaving little time for your important tasks, the final output will be always short of what you are really capable of as you’ve insufficient time to deliver quality results. Be aware of the root causes to your habit of procrastination and work towards ocercoming it.

Be Your authentic-self

While it’s easy to blame others and act helpless, it’s difficult to take risks and stand up for the things that you believe are right. Many of us take poor decisions or choices in order to appease our impulses when we are presented with choices. When you recognise that your choices led to negative consequences, you feel empowered knowing that you can make better choices moving forward instead of beating yourself up. To be responsible doesn’t mean doing things that someone else expects you to do. It means doing things that you believe what you think is right by trusting your own judgment and not rely on others to make those judgments for you. Be self-directed and motivated to stand up for the things that you believe are right and make choices from your true authentic-self.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and have the self-control to be responsible to what you commit. You also have to develop personal restraint to be able to say no to tasks that are beyond your scope of knowledge despite your eagerness to prove yourself. Recognise that you don’t know everything and know that you can reach out for help during times of uncertainty. Instead of blaming external factors, taking responsibility for yourself by advocating for your needs and owning the areas of your weaknesses can make you more focused on solutions rather than on problems.

Focus On Solution-Based Thinking

Acknowledge that you are fully responsible for the situation you are in irrespective of whether you played a large or small role in creating the circumstances that led to a particular problem. By openly acknowledging how your choices and decisions have led you to that very moment helps you to focus on solutions to overcome them. What did I do, or not do, which may have contributed to this problem? How are others affected by this problem or my choices or decisions? How am I affected by this situation? How did I contribute to the problem? How is this situation of my own making? Having taken the ownership of the situation you can figure out which part of the problem you were responsible or have control in solving. Identifying your role and owning it can help you to work around the problem and initiate the required changes to improve your situation and resolve the problem.

So, what does personal responsibility mean to you? How personally responsible are you? Do you hold yourself accountable for your choices and decisions? What comes to your mind regarding some of your own past mistakes? Do you consider yourself as a victim or a victor?What have you done recently to create opportunities to move forward with your dreams or goals? Is there someone on your mind who deserves an authentic apology? Do you take personal responsibility to make things happen? What’s getting in the way of you seeking or creating opportunities for yourself? What changes can you initiate today to become more personally responsible? If your words or thoughts are hindering your progress, what could you possibly choose to do?

Challenge yourself by asking yourself the above questions to find new ways to become more responsible in making progress.

To conclude,

To take responsibility for your life circumstances requires objective thinking, embracing difficult situations while acknowledging your failures and mistakes. It also requires seeing opportunities within every problem or circumstance you find yourself in. It also requires self-discipline and above all else making a commitment to continuous improvement. With practice, you will develop this new and empowering habit that will help you to make the most of every situation. Commit yourself to implementing positive changes, quit making excuses, blaming others or situations and let go of your complaining.

Be accountable, define goals, generate ideas, prioritise, plan, create more opportunities to make things happen. Take responsibility for your own actions whilst holding others accountable for theirs. Do not indulge in self-pity and start living your life with more intention and purpose.

“ In the long-run, our lives are shaped by ourselves and the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt