Sunday, August 9, 2009

Keys To Leading Yourself

by John Maxwell

The truth is that to be successful in any endeavor, we need to learn how to get out of our own way. That’s as true for leaders as it is for anyone else. Because I have known for many years that the toughest person to lead is me, I have taken steps to help me to do that. By practicing the following four things, I have tried to lead myself well as a prerequisite to leading others.

1. Learn Followership
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen remarked, “Civilization is always in danger when those who have never learned to obey are given the right to command.” Only a leader who has followed well knows how to lead others well. Good leadership requires an understanding of the world that followers lived in. Connecting with your people becomes possible because you have walked in their shoes. You know what it means to be under authority and thus have a better sense of how authority should be exercised. In contrast, leaders who have never followed well or submitted to authority tend to be prideful, unrealistic, rigid, and autocratic.

If those words describe your leadership you need to do some soul searching. Arrogant leaders are rarely effective in the long run. They alienate their followers, their colleagues, and their leaders. Learn to submit to another person’s leadership and to follow well, and you will become a more humble—and effective—leader.

2. Develop Self-discipline
It’s said that one day Frederick the Great of Prussia was walking on the outskirts of Berlin when he encountered a very old man walking ramrod straight in the opposite direction.

“Who are you?” Frederick asked his subject.
“I am a king,” replied the old man.
“A king!” laughed Frederick. “over what kingdom do you reign?”
“Over myself,” was the proud old man’s reply.

Each of us is “monarch” of our own lives. We are responsible for ruling our actions and decisions. To make consistently good decisions, to take the right action when needed, and to refrain from the wrong actions requires character and self-discipline. To do otherwise is to lose control of ourselves—to do or say things we regret, to miss opportunities we are given, to spend ourselves into debt. As King Solomon remarked, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

In “Decision of Character,” British essayist John Foster writes, “:A man without decision of character can never be said to belong to himself. He belongs to whatever can make a captive of him.” When we are foolish, we want to conquer the world. When we are wise, we want to conquer ourselves. That begins when we do what we should no matter how we feel about it.
(To be continued next week)

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