Have you learned self-leadership?

Psychologists often say that self-awareness first begins when we’re toddlers. Seeing ourselves in the mirror, we eventually move from pointing at our reflection to using those fingers to examine our own features. Self-confidence also begins as early as our first steps. For some, it comes naturally. For others it’s a struggle, but with experience, we know it can be developed.

Self-leadership; however, is a purely adult skill, and it’s possible you’ve never even heard of it. For employees, self-leadership is about learning to internalize what they want and need. There is much confusion about how those wants and needs should be expressed, and to whom they should be expressed to.

Leadership Lessons

In my 30-plus years of leadership, whether as a United States Marine, a businessperson, or as a father, I’ve heard these phrases repeatedly: “I need this.” “I want that.” Someone is looking to someone else to provide them with something. It’s an external question. And that’s the problem with it.

Success comes when people internalize wants and needs rather than externalizing them. Externalizing wants and needs is learned behavior from childhood, because it probably worked! As a grown up, it sends a clear signal that equates to “You’re not ready.” For a raise. For a promotion. For a job itself.

When you ask “I need” or “I want” internally, you’re actually setting goals! With clear goals, you can then develop strategies to accomplish them. These strategies may involve getting help or buy-in from others. We all need support, after all. If an employee comes to you saying they “want” to be promoted, how would you react? Compare that to an employee who tells you their goal is to lead, or to have more responsibility. Wouldn’t you agree there’s much more to work with?

Commodity or Asset?

Having a strategy or a plan to accomplish goals allows for tangible measurements so that they know when or what they’ve achieved. This puts them in a position of, finally, self-leadership. Bingo!

An employee who doesn’t internalize their wants and needs is actually seeing themselves as a commodity available to be traded to the highest bidder. In many cases, their company is glad to see them go. An employee who views themselves as an asset capable of generating success takes the steps necessary toward self-leadership.

“I want” or “I need” should be replaced with “I will.”  Instead of “I want a raise” replace it with “I will earn a raise.”  “I need a vacation” is replaced with “I will take a vacation”. 

“I want” or “I need” is wishful thinking.  “I will” is proactive thinking. 

This mentality, when acted upon, causes others to react to you and places you in the position of self-leadership, which leads to life success.  Self-leadership also assists you in making career decisions that align with your wants and needs over time. 

Building a Career

Just as important, self-leadership will allow you to read your emotional gauges.  We all have different wants or needs.  When these wants and needs are not met we tend to lose our temper, feel sad or upset.  We get emotional.  It is good to feel passionate about your abilities, contributions and performance, but you must step outside of these feelings and assess if you are still on track to achieve your plan.  Remember that you have strategies you’ve developed.  Stick to your plan despite how you feel.  Hopefully, you have measurements that allow you to view your performance that will help you.  This is career building.

This has been another article in our “From the desk of” series, special content created just for you, from our CEO Brad Eller. Share it as you wish, in the form of a link, or informally. The intent is to help your people align their career goals with the everyday needs of the organization, creating value.

This is 2nd post in our Leadership Series. If you missed the first one, click this link: What do you want me to do?