Personal leadership is self-awareness, clarity about what motivates you and the ability to put it all into meaningful action. I think most of us would agree that this is an optimal state that we all yearn for. But sometimes it’s hard to tell when we’re truly in charge of ourselves. We may see assume we’re taking responsibility for our experiences because we’re adults, but the quality of our choices may tell another story.
When Alain arrived at our first session, he shared that he was feeling like a failure at home and work because he was not showing true leadership. This mattered deeply to him and he was clearly determined to conquer whatever was not working. He believed he was taking full responsibility but he was not achieving the results he wanted. He learned that the leadership skills he wanted to show outwardly began with his relationship with himself. He had to learn how to lead, listen, accept and validate himself before he could do it for anyone else.
How to Know if You Are Taking Full Responsibility
Listen to your thoughts and words. Do you find yourself thinking and saying things, such as:
- “Life is hard. Life is unfair.”
- “I just have to get through this.”
- “I have no choice.”
- “I am not as committed to this relationship as I once was.”
- “I feel my life is out of control.”
- “I don’t have the luxury of making choices for myself.”
These statements indicate that you see life as something that happens TO you, as a series of obstacles to be endured or survived. It doesn’t have to be this way!
As you read the list, did you notice that the statements are about feelings? Those of us who tend to be passive often react to our feelings. When we feel threatened, we back off. When we feel challenged, we take the safe route. When we don’t feel like doing the hard things necessary to achieve our goals, we avoid them. And then we tell ourselves, “It’s okay, there’s a good reason for not doing this”—unaware that this choice is a way to avoid a feeling we don’t like.
Observe Your Actions
Regardless of what you say, what you actually do is a powerful indicator of your commitment to taking a leadership role in your life.
Do you tend to wait until a decision is made for you? Perhaps you regularly ask others for advice and hesitate to take action until someone else has approved. Are you complaining a lot without taking a step in any direction?
You Already Know the Effects of Maintaining the Status Quo
Staying in these patterns almost guarantees you will miss out on what makes life meaningful. When you make this choice, you are living someone else’s version of your life. Taking this “safe” route and doing what you feel is expected rather than what is best for you, often results in increased anxiety, loss of self-respect and burnout. People-pleasing has a cost.
Every time you make a decision based on fear of letting someone down or agree to take on more when your body is telling you to do less, you are ignoring yourself. You are treating yourself as “less than” and taking away your own power. This feeds a cycle of self-doubt and passivity. Why do anything if you don’t count?
The good news is that you can strengthen your personal leadership skills and take charge of your decision-making. You can learn to make choices that will increase your energy and self-confidence.
Growth or Safety: Transforming Your Life Begins Inside You
Abraham Maslow wrote that “You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety.”
There are indeed two ways to go: safety or growth. You choose one or the other with each decision you make, whether you are aware of it or not.
There are many days when all of us feel the urge to step back to safety and choose the options we know the best. They feel familiar, perhaps even comfortable, despite the uncomfortable consequences we know they will bring about. The irony is that these “comfortable” decisions are not the best choices for us, or even the safest.
Do you want to choose growth? Great! That means taking full responsibility for yourself, inside and out. You will begin to align your actions with your personal leadership development plan and when you do this, you will feel lighter and more alive.
Freedom = Responsibility
There is freedom in taking personal responsibility. Tapping into your personal leadership gives you the space to grow. You will be free to make choices despite the fear you may feel; free to consider different ways of looking at your life. You will find that life is actually a series of opportunities rather than stressors. Every event, choice, feeling or experience can be an exciting time to practice becoming the best version of yourself. Every new action strengthens your inner muscle—no matter the outcome. You will be able to conquer old fears and achieve what you once thought impossible.
With this mindset, you can make the most of every situation.
Do you want to change this pattern? Do you want to take charge of yourself—fully?
1. Accept Imperfection Ahead
Perfection is not required to develop this skill, and nobody is the perfect personal leader 100% of the time. Personal leadership is a process of monitoring, reflecting and choosing every step of the way.
You may wonder, “Will this be a mistake?” Well, it might be, but any new action leads to another opportunity for growth. Failure is required for growth. We learn by making mistakes, not by staying safe.
2. BE the Person You Want to Be
Be bold and allow yourself to be the person you want to be. Don’t wait for anyone’s approval or permission. At first, this may feel uncomfortable, but with consistent effort, this will become your new normal. What you once considered scary and uncomfortable will now feel right.
3. BE the Creative Source for Your Own Life
Get out of your head and dive deep into your own inspiration, intuition and creativity. Ask yourself what matters to you. Slow down and listen to this most precious resource. What are you being called to do?
4. BE Truthful with Yourself and Others
Always listen to your truth and give it space. Be truthful with others as well; this will get you more of what you truly want and less of what you don’t. You are worth speaking up for and worth being heard.
5. BE Non-judgmental Toward Yourself and Others
Non-judgment supports you in being fully present in the moment. Judgment leads you into a stream of negative and limiting thoughts.
6. BE Prepared for Others to Disagree with You
This is how you know you are stepping into your personal leadership. If someone disagrees with you, this means you have successfully stood up for what you want or believe.
7. BE Willing to Learn
Embrace your learning process. Accept that stumbles will occur. When an action doesn’t produce the result you expect, ask yourself: “What can I learn from this? What can I do differently next time?” Look at the world with a beginner’s mind just like when you were a toddler: be curious, open, fresh, flexible and receptive.
8. BE Committed to Doing What Is Right, Not What Is Easy
There will be times when making a decision will be difficult. Stay true to the person you have decided you want to be.
9. Look for Beauty Everywhere
Slow down and notice your surroundings; the beauty you are looking for is already here if you take the time to look. See the kindness in others, cloud formations in the sky, flowerbeds, freshly fallen snow, kids playing… the list is endless. This small action will remind you that you have choices and strengthen your resolve to carry on even when life gets hard—because even in hard places, there is beauty.
10. Practice Saying “No”
Saying “no” may be hard, but it is critical to say it when it’s the right decision for you. Limits allow for more space, more loving and more self-respect. Claim your right to say “no”.
11. Take Risks
What new steps can you take that will move you further along your path? If it feels comfortable, then it is not new. Take action on completing something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
12. Work on Your Limiting Beliefs
Take time to uncover your limiting beliefs. Once you see them clearly, take steps to neutralize them. Your transformation rests on your willingness to leave your limiting beliefs behind and accept your innate worth.
Give Yourself this Gift
Working on and building your personal leadership skills is a gift that will reward you for the rest of your life. You will be your best friend and truest ally.
You may find as you take the steps above that it is difficult to clearly see the obstacles holding you back. Or you may find it hard to allow yourself to dream—to be free of limiting beliefs. If you are having these experiences, take opposite action: no matter how uncomfortable, turn towards what you want. Over and over again. And the next steps will come.