Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world. As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”
We can consider these impactful words when it comes to leadership today. Developing the art of leading ourselves, our personal leadership, becomes a critical step before we can lead others on the path to greatness and success. Human nature takes us directly to the act of “doing,” to affect change by focusing on everything outside of us and the environment we hope to impact. Yet any change starts within. I spent over a decade as a management consultant working globally with clients on change initiatives to do with people, process, and technology along with leadership development initiatives. So often the initial conversations were focused on the shortfalls of the organization, resources, and the desired end-state. Little attention was given to the internal state of the leader and the team, instead of being considered as the key ingredient for success. Change was managed from the outside in versus the inside out. As the world enters another quarter of a continuous state of change and transformation, leaders must develop a complete inner-centeredness in order to ride the storms their teams and organizations may have to go through.
Personal leadership requires us to care for our physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental wellbeing. It asks us to show up fully for ourselves in this life. My sport of mountaineering taught me how critical this all was early on over a decade ago when I joined an expedition team to climb Mt. Rainer, the tallest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range. This was my first proper climb and glacier travel experience. While the expedition was led in a course-like setting, each climber needed to arrive prepared for the adventure ahead in every aspect. I joined a team of 11 strangers, and three guides. Immediately we would be placed into rope teams of threes and fours and entrust our life and safety in one another. Not only was it critical for the guide to exude personal leadership, but for each team member to as well. If anyone arrived unprepared, it would compromise the lives and safety of the entire team.
On the mountain, it’s easy to see and feel the importance of personal leadership when your life is literally tied to another human, and, in this case, strangers. I had prepared for eight months beforehand for the expedition; my hope was each team member had done the same. In business, it’s easier to lose sight of our connection and interdependence, but it is there, just as it is on a rope team. For a leader, their team is their lifeline. They cannot lead the company alone.
3 Ways We Can Develop the Art of Personal Leadership
Everything in this life starts with a commitment. Commit to your own care of your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental wellbeing. Commit to being your highest and best self and sharing that with others and operating life from this space. It will take strong determination to follow through with this commitment over time, and require you to truly be in tune with yourself to have awareness of when things are off-balance in any of these areas. Commitment is the start of being a conscious leader, one who is fully aware first and foremost of themselves, which allows them to have this level of awareness with others and how they run their business and make decisions. The world needs good leaders more than ever. It needs conscious leaders who can lead from a place of total awareness and wellbeing, able to prioritize the same values and commitment for their teams, customers, and organizations as a whole.
2. Don’t Let Yourself Down
Once you are committed, hold yourself accountable. Develop practices that prioritize these aspects of your life. While it’s hard to let others down, the hardest person to let down is ourselves. It’s when we experience the highest levels of disappointment and dissatisfaction. When we remain accountable to ourselves and take full responsibility for our actions, emotions, and way of being, we also remove relying on anything outside of ourselves to make us feel whole or happy. We ultimately come to the realization we hold the key to reaching our highest potential. It’s easy to have high expectations of others, but we must hold ourselves to those same standards first. We cannot expect from others what we are not willing to do ourselves.
So if you commit to your physical wellbeing, for example, hold yourself accountable to those 20-30 minutes of movement 3-5 times per week, or whatever your practice consists of. The more we develop practices to tune into our mind, body, and spirit, we are able to assess how we are actually doing in order to course-correct along the way. This all requires self-accountability.
3. Invest in Your Growth
Keeping a healthy balance and state of physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental wellbeing takes an investment of time and also potentially outside support. We can hold ourselves accountable for our commitment, but we don’t have to go at it alone. There is no shame in hiring a therapist, coach, trainer, or taking a course or reading books to help along the journey if we know there are areas where we need additional guidance, knowledge, or support. Personal leadership is a lifelong journey and while there is a starting point, there is not an endpoint. Part of the beauty of this adventure called life is growth. The only constant is change. So we have the opportunity for continued growth and development as individuals over the course of our life if we are willing. If you think of some of the most innovative companies of our time, you can also look to their commitment to growth and expansion of possibility throughout your own journey.
Many leaders are feeling an overwhelming level of pressure as they ride the waves of this pandemic and are challenged to lead their teams virtually. In this environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the interdependence and connection of the team and organization as a whole. More than ever it’s critical the overall well-being of the leader and team is prioritized to navigate and get through these stormy times. It requires the commitment and accountability of each individual. Leaders embodying personal leadership will help their teams feel this shared sense of responsibility and accountability. To go back to my earlier metaphor, together on the rope team, there is a commitment to show up fully prepared and responsible first for yourself, and for your team as a whole. Building an understanding that you are each other’s lifeline, and if one of you stumbles, there is full awareness to pick up the slack and carry on, not letting each other fall. It opens the doors to responsive versus reactive leadership and decision making, while also fostering a culture of continuous growth. It encourages change from the inside out, knowing all we can control is ourselves and a willingness to show up fully for ourselves and our teams.
Georgina Miranda has helped people, companies, and societies transform for their highest and best good across the world for over a decade. She is a social entrepreneur, adventure athlete, international speaker, writer, transformation coach, consultant, yogi, mindfulness and energy practitioner, activist, and founder and CEO of She Ventures. She partners with people and companies to enable transformation from the inside out by uncovering and connecting to their wild truth and brilliance. Follow Georgina on Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn.