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How to lead yourself

It’s taken me a while to become comfortable in my own skin as a leader. I’ve always had a leader role, but I haven’t always performed well. I’ve always wanted to help people, but I haven’t always made them a priority. I’ve always been a hard worker, but I didn’t necessarily work on the right …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
It’s taken me a while to become comfortable in my own skin as a leader. I’ve always had a leader role, but I haven’t always performed well. I’ve always wanted to help people, but I haven’t always made them a priority. I’ve always been a hard worker, but I didn’t necessarily work on the right things.  Truth be told, I needed to work on leading myself better if I wanted to grow as a leader.
 
What I’ve learned is that, unless you’re able to lead yourself, you won’t be effective in leading others. You can certainly inspire them or entertain them, but to take them places they can’t go by themselves, they have to want to follow you. And like it or not, your example speaks louder than your words. Your example impacts your followers’ desire to follow you and it impacts the model of work they adopt. My hard work begets hard work in those following me.
 
I like to compare leading yourself to riding a bicycle. To go anywhere, you have to remember four principles:
 

1) Kickstand principle:  You don’t go anywhere on a bicycle with your kickstand down. You have to kick it up and get on the bike. This is the only way to defeat the law of inertia. Leaders have to purpose to get going. The have to put themselves in motion.  Steven Covey calls this the habit of proactivity.

So many people are waiting for God to tell them what to do. God is usually waiting for us to look at what he already told us to do and start doing something, anything. If you feel immobilized in life with a question mark over your head, I recommend reading Isaiah 58 or 61 and starting there.

2) Handlebar principle:  The next thing you do before you even begin to peddle is to grab the handlebars and begin pointing in a given direction. You may only be able to see to the end of the street, but you immediately begin to steer that way.

 
To lead yourself, you have to at least figure out what your day looks like and begin there. Or better yet begin by visualizing a month or a year and begin filling out your calendar. To lead really well, you’ll spend time thinking about where you want to go. Leaders spend time planning a route in their head and visualizing it, even after they’ve gotten going.

3) Peddle principle:   Putting your feet on the peddles and beginning to push is work. No one leads themselves or others without doing work. Sometimes peddling can be exhausting. Going up a steep hill can make you want to get off the bike and walk. But peddling is what gives you the momentum you need to steer someplace. Stop doing the work and you stop leading.

Many young people struggle with this principle. They are OK getting started, but when the steep hills and long stretches come, they tire and want to stop. Leaders who stop leading themselves may have willing followers behind them, but they can’t take them anywhere.

4) Balance Principle:   When you first start riding a bike, balance is something you learn. Once you succeed at balancing and make it second nature, you rarely have to think about it anymore. That’s how a person is who looks at their time, establishes priorities, and then lives according to those priorities.

If your friends and family are important to you, you spend time with them. If a project is important to you, you compile a list of action items and devote time to completing them. To stay on a bike, you continually adjust and re-balance along the twists and turns of your route. Similarly, if a project is going to require extended hard work, you evaluate how to balance the time available to you.  If it will require financial sacrifice, you balance that against your other priorities.

One of the reasons so many institutions are experiencing a crisis of leadership these days is that their leaders never really learned how it to lead themselves.  Apply these four principles to leading yourself and you take an important first step in positioning yourself to lead others.*

Set a good example of self leadership and people who want to go where you’re going may go along with you. Some may even want to follow you. In a future blog, I’ll list four principles that you’ll need to move from leading yourself to leading others.

*Three of the four principles correlate to Steve Coveys first three of seven habits of highly effective people.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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