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You Can’t Lead Without Self-Development

  • POSTED ON MAY 30, 2019

I believe every human is a potential leader. Taking ownership of who you are and how you show up to your life every day is an act of leadership. By owning your story and your journey, you are leading others, inspiring them to do the same, and showing them that being in the driving seat of your life is possible.

It’s an old-school view that only people who have people “below” them are leaders. As Dee Hock, founder and CEO of Emeritus Visa International says, “Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers, and free your people to do the same. All else is trivial.”

Imagine the leaders of our organisations and our governments taking time to lead themselves, and from that place leading their superiors and peers, not in a dominant way, but in a self-expressive, self-trusting, self-caring, self-believing kind of way. Imagine U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron really connecting to his internal strengths, seeing his resourcefulness and his creativity rather than, as so many politicians do, stepping into a cookie-cutter approach to being at Number 10 Downing Street.

It would take a new kind of thinking, one that starts with what we already have internally and then looks outwards at where our strengths might be useful in the world. D.C. might find at his core that his true passion is growing organic vegetables. If he stepped into that, we might see a decrease in vitamin deficiencies across the country — heck, we might even see a reduction in the use of food banks. He’d stand empowered and confident in the face of pressures from his money-hungry friends. What a strange twist of events that would be.

Anyway, enough of that example. I’ve developed a framework for successful leadership based on Dee Hock’s approach to leadership. It goes like this:

  • Step 1: Spend 50% of your time self-caring (e.g., taming your gremlins, practicing gratitude, getting still, accessing your creative brain, giving yourself time to be playful, visioning what you want for your future, visioning what you want for the future of the world, stepping outside your comfort zone, trying before you’re ready, being okay with uncertainty).
  • Step 2: Spend 20% leading those with authority over you (by showing up in your full power to meetings and in communications, and by owning your skills even if those who have authority over you want something else from you — essentially, working hard not to mould yourself, and instead owning your strengths).
  • Step 3: Spend 15% leading your peers (by sharing ideas of what it means to lead yourself, by collaborating on a level deeper than egos and personal agendas, and by recognising the combination of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).
  • Step 4: Spend the rest of the time inspiring your “subordinates” to step into their own leadership (and just see what happens when you do that — magic!)

Steps 2, 3 and 4 can’t happen without Step 1. We can’t show up fully, authentically, kindly and without ego or fear for those with authority over us, for our peers or for those we have some authority over without doing Step 1 first.

So I invite you to take a look at where you fit within the framework, and whether you are paying enough attention (50% of your attention to be precise) to the way you are leading yourself.

And I want to hear from you! Let me know what you think, and let me know about your experiences of leading yourself and others.

Written By

Hannah Massarella

Having spent much of her career in the not for profit sector, Hannah experienced first hand the toll front line support work can take on a person’s health and well being. Hannah believes giving your all to a cause or a desire to change the world, without taking due care of personal well-being, can lead to burn out. As a Certified Professional Co-active Coach, Hannah believes that self-development is not a luxury, it’s our responsibility if we want to have the impact we were born to have. She specializes in coaching female leaders by helping them connect deeply to their purpose, values and desires. She inspires them to use that connection and resonance to positively change the world.

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