How many of you are great at giving advice, but not so great at following your own?
Ahhhh yes, that old chestnut. The one where we’re better at giving than applying. And yet, should we spot others who do that, we have many labels for such people. The casual observer, an outsider looking in, the armchair critic, and some labels not quite as kind. If you’re like me then you’ll know all too well that feeling we experience at the precise moment we spot this behaviour in ourselves. DOH!
Before I go on, I know that there’s a gazillion different interpretations of leadership. And I wonder if the word has become synonymous just with people in business? What about everyday life? Mums and Dads are leaders right? Captains of local sports teams are leaders too. And that person who organises the annual fundraiser? I reckon they’re leadership material as well. So to all of you who lead and advise in some way shape or form, I ask you, how well do you lead yourself?
When I was young I had the right aptitude for a management/leadership career. A mentor in my early years said to me “never ask anyone to do anything you’re not prepared to do yourself”. Sage advice, and a pivotal moment in me developing an attitude toward being an encourager, not a dictator. Leading requires an understanding of what’s involved.
Self-leadership though is a different kettle of fish. By spending time on improving ourselves we gain the added benefit of helping those around us. I am not perfect and I don’t try to be. I am a progressionist, not a perfectionist. I aim for 80% perfect and 100% done. To my coaching clients I will admit that sometimes what they struggle with, I struggle with too. That level of honesty and transparency encourages the both of us to keep trying. I lead the way not only for myself, but so my clients can see the way before them. I focus on empowering people in ways that have clearly benefited myself or others. Mental, physical, and spiritual.
I self-lead well and am proud of how I do so. But it’s not easy. I’ve caught me out not walking the talk on more than one occasion, and am likely to again in my future. I break this personal cycle by pointing out the elephant in my lounge room. Aloud I’ll say what I’ve seen, reminding me of how best to move past it. “Hey Simon, your own advice? This is the time you need to follow it”.
There’s also one very important thing I learned about self-leadership. It’s so bloody easy to fall into what I call the “two types” trap. I once allowed myself to become one type of person for those I gave to, and another type for me. I was too focussed on the notion I couldn’t lead others if I didn’t do it perfectly. Beating myself up much? Oh hell yes! Through that I learned the importance of kindness toward ourselves. Being a leader or an advisor is challenging, and comes with great responsibility. But it’s damn well important we back off the task master approach and give ourselves permission to have flaws. Shock horror scandal! We’re human!
Leading ourselves well is all about having the courage to try, the compassion to comfort ourselves should we fail, and the creativity to think about our situations in different ways. We are not our heroes. We can aspire to be, but there’s only ever going to be one superman or wonder woman. Look up to them, emulate them, embrace them, but always be yourself.
By leading ourselves as best we can, sticking to our values, and being willing to take responsibility, it makes us better leaders for others. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a CEO, a coach, a small business person, or a nurse. If your position is one where advice and leadership are often called for, then be the best version of that leadership for yourself too.