Of the many definitions people use to describe leadership, one of my favorite definitions is “the ability to influence and motivate others toward a common vision or goal.” I like it because of two words: influence and motivation.

I like influence because it has nothing to do with titles or ego. Of the many aspiring leaders I have worked with over the years, it was refreshing to see them discover that they influenced others by their positive actions; words; high standards; and simple, honest relational connections and competence. People were watching these leaders’ behavior and followed suit because they liked what they saw.

I like motivation because when the right key gets turned and a person’s motivation is truly unlocked, it propels them forward through challenge and hard times to get closer to the vision and goals they aspire to achieve. I hope I’m leading others in this way.

But now, let me turn this inside out to explore how leaders can lead themselves. First, you don’t exactly need to influence yourself. You already have the power to change and make action in your own life. Sometimes you act, sometimes you don’t. The key to leading yourself, then, is motivation. How are you motivating yourself to keep growing and becoming more of a leader worth following?

The journey of leadership begins inside each of us as we explore and learn more about our motivations, our fears, our values, our internal drive, and so on.  We need to tend the roots of our DoKnowBe Tree to ensure they are healthy.

One of the biggest leadership mistakes is believing that your followers demand or expect perfection from you. I don’t believe that to be true because any right-minded person knows humans can’t be perfect. I do believe followers desire honesty, excellence, growth, and forward movement toward a worthwhile goal. So let’s practice these traits and help those we lead practice them also.

Since caring for our root system is so important to being a person worth following, how do we tend to our root system, continually fertilize it, weed it, and so on when we live in a culture that promotes full workloads and busy lives? It can be very difficult to find time to reflect on who we are—our strengths, weaknesses, habits, values, and such, and yet it is desperately needed.

Setting aside time for self-reflection is absolutely essential for a leader’s growth and development—both as a person and as a leader. When we take that time, we see more clearly what is going on and what we need to do. When we slow down to process what we are seeing, doing, and learning, we discover more about ourselves, can tap further into our great strengths, and can address potential gaps.

As you go about your day, I hope that you will set up a meeting with yourself to evaluate and grow in your leadership practices. In the words of Rick Warren, “The moment you stop learning, you stop leading.” That is why we do the hard root work to strengthen our BE, build what we KNOW, and shape what we DO in order to be a leader worth following.

Lead on,

Image by Jonathan Lidbeck. Used under CC by 2.0 license.