In every group, there seems to be someone who knows exactly what to say, rapidly recounts the most amazing experiences and acts like they have it all together. You know exactly who I am talking about. I bet at least one or two people immediately come to mind.
Early in my leadership, I used to be jealous of these people. I wanted to be like them, talk like them, and do things as they did. What I learned as I got to know these people is they didn’t have it all together; they just learned how to make it seem like they did.
The truth is everyone wants to be perceived as smart and successful. We all want to be admired, respected, and listened to by others. But this can be a sticky trap if we are not careful. It can shift our focus from the real work that needs to be done and incorrectly emphasizes others. Thus, we live our lives from the outside in instead of the inside out.
MY BEST ADVICE TO CURRENT AND ASPIRING LEADERS IS THIS: FIX YOURSELF BEFORE YOU TRY TO FIX OTHERS.
I believe there are five ways you can ensure you are always living from the inside out:
1. Embrace personal disciplines. Being a disciplined person isn’t a negative thing—at least it doesn’t have to be. If you want to be a better runner, you follow a training plan. If you're going to earn a degree, you follow the curriculum plan. So why do we think leadership is any different? Whether you’re leading yourself or others, discipline is a defined plan that results in continuous improvement.
2. Don’t be defensive. Be willing to accept that you won’t always have the best ideas, the right answers and that you will make mistakes. So what? The point is to reach your intended destination. If you always have to be the smartest person in the room, you’re in trouble.
3. Find a mentor. I really can’t stress this enough. You need someone in your life that will help you see what you can’t see. We all have blind spots. Opening yourself to personal and professional coaching from others who can speak wisdom into your life, will take you places you’d never imagined before.
4. Never stop learning. There is something that happens when you consistently put yourself in a position where you need to learn something new. Leadership is a lot like that. Whatever got you to where you are today will not take you where you want to go. At every level of leadership, you’ll need to evolve as a person and leader. Growth isn’t always fun, but it will keep you humble.
5. Listen actively. No one likes the person in the group who has an answer for everything. The leaders I admire are the ones who listen the most. They ask great questions—even of the people who report to them. They adapt based on feedback from others because they recognize they don’t need to be the source of all ideas and strategy.
IF YOU CAN’T LEAD YOURSELF, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO LEAD OTHERS.
If you want to help others grow, you must be a growing person. And if you're going to lead through change, you must recognize the first person who needs to change is yourself. A leader who is disciplined in the areas of self-knowledge and personal growth will be someone others want to follow.
The road you are walking down is full of uncertainty, fear, and doubt. You need a compass, not a map, because where you’re going, you’ve never been before. If you can master yourself, you will be able to lead others effectively and help the people around you release the full potential of their divine design.