Before Leading Others, Lead Yourself

Nosce Te Ipsum – Romon Proverb (“Know thyself”)

One of my clients recently returned from a vacation in France. This was a huge milestone for him. When I started working with him both he and his entire management team were on the verge of being burned out. He hadn’t taken a vacation in years, he was off his exercise program and not sleeping at night. By working through what their strengths and values as a team were, they were able to focus their efforts on mapping out their future. Now they’re not only getting some time off individually, they’re well positioned for growing their business.

The interesting thing about taking his wife to a place where his Blackberry doesn’t work for a week (besides taking three days for the withdrawal symptoms to subside) was that it gave him a chance to think about where the business needed to go next. It seems a little counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? In order to move the company forward, he had to fly to another country and completely disconnect from it.

One of the lessons here is that to grow & improve a company we need to do two things: really understand what the company (and the people in it, including ourselves) is and isn’t good at, and we need to give ourselves the time and space to think about it where we’re going.

Does this apply to individuals as well? Well sure. It makes sense that to lead others, select and develop the best available employees, continually improve the company, develop life-long relationships with valuable clients, stay focused on the most important things, manage schedules and budgets, we should do same things for ourselves first .

In order to lead others we need to lead ourselves.

What does that mean?

  • When we have a clear idea who we are and where we want to go with our own lives, then we can really understand how vision affects the focus, alignment, and execution muscles of a company. Setting goals and being organized around them means that you can speak authentically to setting goals and leading a team, organization, or company to meet those goals. When you can speak honestly about what you want, you can speak honestly and sincerely about where the company is going and why.Bonus points when your personal goals compliment and align with your company goals. If not, then what are you doing there?
  • When we can have a clear and honest communication and awareness with our own emotions, values, beliefs, culture, behaviours and how they affect how we see the world, then we can have clear and honest communication with others.Bonus points if you understand that “Communication is what the listener does”, and can adjust your communication to the style that is most effective for your audience at the time.
  • Driving innovation, learning, and focus into an organization happens faster and deeper when we walk the talk in our own lives. Continually learning, reading, taking courses, listening, improving ourselves means that we’ll drive the same behaviour into the people who work for us and for them. Who doesn’t share a good book or great idea that just stimulated them?Bonus points if you’ve recently taken a course, read or listened to a new book, subscribed to a podcast, learned to scan your industry trade magazines, met new people at a trade show or professional conference, volunteered in the community, or travelled.
  • Masters in business administration and master of engineering management degree programs have taken this into account and made leadership a primary part of the curriculum.

Be the best in the world at one thing, and likely you will be good at other things as well. People that excel in on thing world usually excel in all areas of their life – families, hobbies, etc. They’ve learned the discipline and focus needed for success, and they don’t accept anything less than high standards in all areas of their life.

Nor should they.

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with

4 thoughts on “Before Leading Others, Lead Yourself

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