The Toughest Person to Lead
We are all leaders…Every single one of us…But who do you think the toughest person to lead is? Take some time to reflect on this answer.
Who do you think that is?
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the toughest person to lead is ourselves. We don’t need to worry about competition or about what other people are doing…We don’t lose because of other people (although this is the most common excuse). If we don’t win, it’s often because we get in our own way…We come between us and our real potential…We disqualify ourselves…As Walt Kelly provided in his funny animal comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
John Maxwell in his book “The Leadership Handbook” wrote, “During a Q&A session at a conference, someone asked, ‘What has been your greatest challenge as a leader?’ I think my response surprised nearly everyone in the auditorium.
‘Leading me!’ I answered. ‘That’s always been my greatest challenge as a leader.’”
There can’t be a better answer than this one.
It’s been my greatest challenge for me too as a leader…And I am sure it is for you as well (even though you might not have this realization yet). And it’s true for all leaders regardless of who they lead, where they are in their careers and what they accomplish.
We believe that accomplished leaders have it all figured out. But the reality is they have all struggled to lead themselves…sometimes when it’s an unwillingness to make difficult decisions or taking action, sometimes it’s resisting change until they have no other choice, sometimes it’s taking their team in different directions (or providing no direction), sometimes it’s trying to do everything themselves (not delegating well) and many other reasons…I digress for a moment here with an observation in the form of a question…Did you know that most people don’t know how to delegate well?…It’s true and I will tell you why in an interesting post on delegation that I am working on…
Coming back to the post, have you ever wondered or asked yourself, “What is their (whether prospects, clients, team members or some external people) problem? Why don’t they get it? It’s in their best interest.” Most of the time the problem is not them…It is you…It is us…Yes that’s true…Almost all the time…
Even today, many in our industry/profession (and outside of it too) think that activity equals accomplishment…They think being busy is the same as accomplishment…And many are great at creating this illusion or perception…But leaders who aren’t focused aren’t as effective as they could or should be. Thus, I see a lot of unlived potential or unrealized growth all the time …
But why are we our own worst enemies?
John wrote, “We don’t see ourselves as we see others. People seldom see themselves realistically. Human nature seems to endow us with the ability to size up everybody in the world except ourselves. That’s why in my book Winning with People, I start with the Mirror Principle, which advises, ‘The First Person We Must Examine is Ourselves.’ If you don’t look at yourself realistically, you will never understand where your personal difficulties lie. And if you can’t see them, you won’t be able to lead yourself effectively.
We are harder on Others Than We Are on Ourselves. Most people use two totally different sets of criteria for judging themselves versus others. We tend to judge others according to their actions. However, we judge ourselves by our intentions. Even if we do the wrong thing, if we believe our motives(intentions) were good, we let ourselves off the hook. And we are often willing to do that over and over before requiring ourselves to change.”
Isn’t this true?
Aren’t we harder on others than we are on ourselves? Don’t we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions?
We do it many times without even realizing it…And we get in our own way…But to be successful in anything in life, we need to learn how to get out of our own way…Because what stands in the way becomes the way…If we stand in our way, we become the way…
According to John, there are four steps that he has taken to help him with leading himself. I have practiced (and continue to practice) these as well.
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 live 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. Learn to follow well, and you will become a more humble and effective- leader.
2. Develop Self-Discipline
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…
3. Practice Patience
Few worthwhile things in life come quickly. There is no such thing as instant greatness or instant maturity. We are used to instant oatmeal, instant coffee, and microwave popcorn. But becoming a leader doesn’t happen overnight. Microwave leaders don’t have staying power.
Leaders need to remember that the point of leading is not to cross the finish line first. It’s to take people across the finish line with you…Everything that we do at HF (Happyness Factory) rests on the pillar of this principle…taking people (financial professionals and customers) across their finish lines.
4. Seek Accountability
People who lead themselves well know a secret: they can’t trust themselves. Good leaders know that power can be seductive, and they know their own fallibility. There is a false sense of security. I see many who think they are incapable of getting in their own way. And it is often lonely at the top or whatever place you think you are. Therefore, get someone or people (community…this is the work we do at HRAC, a mastery school for real financial professionals) to hold you accountable to yourself and to others.
As John wrote, “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 do no matter how we feel about it.”