Who are you Leading?

I love to read leadership books, blogs, Facebook posts, advertisements, listen to podcasts, attend lectures. I know it is probably a little weird but I find it motivating. And I have learned a lot while doing so about how to treat people, how to manage, organize, motivate, mentor, protect, grow and become. My current favorite leadership resource is Michael Hyatt. I also love Dave Ramsey, Seth Godin ( a new favorite), Patrick Lencioni (has a leadership book for business and another that applies to families), Sheryl Sandberg and in real life my friend Dave and my friend Ed. To name a few. I have learned and been motivated in some way by all of them and so many others.

Then the other day I was in one of those moods. I had a mishap at work that was throwing me off and I started the negative self talk.  “I am not a leader” “I don’t have a team, why am I wasting my time reading leadership blogs as if I am going anywhere?” “I don’t know what I am doing and the sooner I accept that and get comfortable just following directions the better off I will be.”

Am I the only one who has these days? Actually I was even more negative than that but I try to block the worst stuff. Most of the time I am pretty optimistic but especially on days when I make a mistake or things go wrong, I can get pretty hard on myself. Self-doubt is my friend.

So I decided to go for a run because when I am full of anxiety and nervous energy it seems like the thing to do. And as so often happens on my runs, my mind calms down and God begins to give me that little pep talk I really need. And that day he pointed out a fact that I was missing. I am the leader of myself.

I may not be a manager, I may not have a team under me that I am leading but, there is work that needs to be done and I do it so therefore, I need to lead myself. This applies both to my self-employed work and my other-employment. I can’t tell my boss what to do but I can tell myself what to do, I can choose to be a leader in my own positions or to simply follow orders and complain about management. And if I don’t tell myself what to do in my business, well, there will be no business.

The truth is I loved leadership materials even before I went back to work. Although I always read it under the guise of either my husband’s business or my desire to eventually start my own. Looking back I realize that I was also a leader at home, I led the home. And especially now that I am working I actually do have a little team of people who help me manage our home and family life. (I call my team child and husband.)

(Now I am getting into murky spiritual waters in Christian circles if I say I was the leader of my home or of my husband. So let me just say that in our home John and I are a team, if you would like you can call him the head of the home but he often tells people that his leadership style understands that I am more qualified to do certain things and fill certain roles than he is (for instance I do all the money management) and so he lets me. This isn’t giving up his head of the home role, this is him being a leader. Most of the time we discuss together and make decisions together.)

I lead myself.  This was such a fascinating thought to me. I may not be able to apply the leadership principles I have learned to other people but I can apply them to myself. And I realized that is exactly what I have always done and exactly why I have always loved leadership writings. I lead myself.

(And now I feel the need to put in the caveat that I know God in fact leads me. I lead myself under God’s authority. We Christians are very word conscious aren’t we.)

So what are some leadership lessons I have learned over the years that I can apply to myself at this non-leadership stage of my career and leadership stage of my homemaking. In no particular order here are a few of my favorites that I am always working on:

  • Get up early. I spent years fighting this one. I hate getting up in the morning. But almost without exception you will find that successful people get up early and start their day with planning and quiet time. It took me forever to establish this habit and I continue to fight with myself to maintain it even after years into the habit but it has been one of the most worthwhile of all the leadership tips I have gleaned. (just coincidence that this one is first, still no particular order.)
  • Keep Going. Don’t give up.
  • Control your own schedule, don’t let it control you. Plan. Know what needs to be done and do it. This is the epitome of leading yourself, you must be the one that decides what to do rather than letting others dictate your life and schedule but simply reacting to whatever comes next or whatever email arrives next. I have written a few things on this blog on this topic and it is and area I am continually seeking to improve. I have the concept down but full implementation has not yet been achieved.
  • Don’t give up. Failure is only failure if you quit.
  • Listen. A leader needs to be available to listen to his teams concerns and be willing to address them if necessary. What is my family telling me? What am I telling me? Sometimes we start telling ourselves something isn’t working before we fully acknowledge that truth. It comes in our attitude, self talk, enthusiasm and can even affect our health. Listen to what is going on.
  • Don’t give up. Believe in yourself.
  • Find a mentor. But don’t over think this task. I have come to realize I have lots of mentors.  Every blogger I follow is a mentor, every leader who writes a book is a mentor, co-workers can be mentors. Often the people mentoring you don’t even know they are doing it.  A mentor isn’t someone who just gives to you and you take. Someone who takes time from his or her business or job to help you succeed in yours. That is part of it but, being mentored has its own tasks, we have to listen, ask questions and take action. Being mentored, if you take it seriously, is a part-time job in itself, but since it augments your current work, I find it to be worth the effort. One of many great chapters in Sheryl Sandberg’s, “Lean In” has to do with mentors. I highly recommend checking it out if you are looking for a mentor.
  • Keep going. Don’t give up.
  • Keep growing, learning, pursuing knowledge, personal growth, spiritual growth. I think one of the keys to leadership is realizing you are never fully done. Work, business, home, life is constantly changing and you have to be alert to what is happening around you so you are prepared for whatever comes your way.
  • If you quit, you will never succeed.
  • Positive attitude and positive self talk. Which is something I was not practicing the other day when I started cutting myself down and saying I wasn’t a leader. It happens but we have to guard against it, break the bad habit of negative attitudes and sabotaging negative self-talk. Afterward I came across this affirming post from Michael Hyatt on this very topic.

I think that covers some of my favorite leadership topics. But there are so many more because every leader is different and has specific needs related to their situation. For me, I am leading myself. And this week the lesson I had to remind myself comes from Winston Churchill who said, “Never, never, never give up.”

So I keep going. What leadership lesson are you teaching yourself this week?