The concept of Leadership is most often looked at within the context of those within our teams or sphere of influence.  Rarely though do we reflect on the most often obscure member of the team…ourselves.  If true leadership is caught and not taught, then it’s imperative that we learn to lead ourselves first before we can hope to have a lasting impact on others.

The prospect of leading ourselves is not an easy one to consider because it forces us to face our frailties and imperfections.  Facing personal imperfection can be disheartening at best and sometimes paralyzing. This may be in part, because of society’s preoccupation with perfection. Imperfections, however, are part and parcel of humanity.  The following considerations can help to guide us through the process of self-leadership within the reality limitation.

  • Underst and the big picture

Realizing that imperfections are not unique to us but are shared by humanity as a whole can help relieve any subconscious pain associated with personal flaws. Underst anding that even great people had and have flaws has helped me look at my failures and flaws as opportunities for learning and growth. A universal perspective has the ability to change failure and flaw from a negative destination and label to a positive vehicle and a ladder.

  • Acknowledgement and Acceptance

The first step to dealing with any problem is to accept that there is a problem in the first place. In the case of self-leadership, being able to acknowledge and accept that we are imperfect despite our best efforts is a great place to start. Learning to come to terms with my flaws has not been easy especially in light of my perfectionist tendencies. However, the more I acknowledge and work on them, the more I grow and become more effective in my sphere of influence.

  • Self Discovery

For centuries, mirrors have been invaluable in providing humanity with a reflection of what we look like to the world around us. That reflection can either be exhilarating in the case of a positive picture or depressing if the image is negative. Either way, a mirror affords a person an opportunity to capitalize on the good and compensate for the bad. In the case of self-leadership, objective feedback from people around us can be a mirror providing the much-needed reflection of who we are as the world sees us and not as we like to think of ourselves. Self-assessment tools, as well as people’s personal stories, all assist in providing a reflection of who we are, and one is well served if they regularly view themselves through these.

  • Subduing Pride

Most of us may not generally think of ourselves as arrogant. However, when it comes to issues concerning our person, we do not readily give up our sense of self-importance.  Like an addict, it’s easy to give excuses such as “… I know what I am doing…,” “I can change when I want to,” “I’m not as bad as that,” “I’m fine,”  and, “it wasn’t my fault,” instead of facing our flaws and failures. However, critical to self-leadership is the ability to accept that we are not as great as we think we are, thus there is plenty of room for improvement.

  • Be aware of Internal realities

Internal realities are the residual issues we carry over from our past experiences that determine how we interact with the world. These can take the form of past losses, frustration, trauma and disappointments. The critical thing to note with these issues, though they may not be very obvious, is their influence is usually very significant. In his article on self-leadership, Bill Hybels asserts that leaders who disregard their interior reality often make decisions that are detrimental for the people they lead for the most part unaware of the driving force behind their poor decisions.

Having considered all of the above, naturally, the next logical step is to work towards fixing the identified problem/flaw within the shortest time possible. Unfortunately, this may not always be possible in the case of self-leadership as it may involve unlearning old habits and learning new ones, which take time. In some cases, because of underlying internal realities, there may be a need to take a few steps back before going forward.  Part of my growth process involved coming to terms with some painful aspects of my past that were fueling my cynicism which in turn was affecting my ability to lead effectively. 

The key is to remember that while there are countless others going through a similar process, the journey is very personal.  That to be human is to be flawed and that failure is not a label or a destination but a vehicle for getting ahead.

Naomi Manjolo