When it comes to leading on the edge, first ask yourself: What kind of a gift do you want to be?
At first blush, personal leadership may seem self-serving. After all, aren’t we supposed to be serving the organization? Isn’t our role to lead everyone else?
Well, yes and no. Certainly the most emphasized aspects of leadership tend to be external – as in leading a company, leading an project, or leading a team. But personal leadership is another aspect to leadership that is equally important. Again, it’s about leading the self, which is the source of a leader’s success.
First, let’s take a look at what personal leadership is: Personal leadership is ability to define a direction for your life and leadership, and to move in that direction with consistency and clarity over time. In a positive, unselfish way, personal leadership means putting yourself first. Literally speaking, personal means “about you;” leadership means “coming first.” When you practice personal leadership, you “lead from the ‘inside out.” The process involves asking yourself, “How do Ineed to be and act and think in order to be my best?” – a kind of self-driven style well-suited to dedicated leaders who will carry business into the future.
When it comes to efficiently leading others, leading ourselves is critical – just look at the effects of neglecting the leader behind the work. Employee depletion, disengagement, and attrition cost the business world dearly. As Gallup researchers Rath and Clifton report,
This rampant negativity is not only disheartening, it’s expensive: It costs the U.S. economy between $250 and $300 billion every year in lost productivity alone. When you add workplace injury, illness, turnover, absences, and fraud, the cost could surpass $1 trillion per year, or nearly 10% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These costs are not specific to the United States; they exist to varying degrees in every country, industry, and organization we have studied.
As reported by the American Society for Training and Development, “The cost of replacing a senior executive averages about five times his or her annual salary” For economic reasons alone, organizations have a vested interest in encouraging the aspects of leadership that sustain and support the leaders themselves.
Of course, that’s only part of the picture. Personal leadership doesn’t just save companies money. It taps into that part of the human soul that longs to add meaning to life. As Stephen Covey writes, “Deep within each one of us there is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution – to really matter, to really make a difference.”
As a leader you have many gifts to offer, and the real gift you have to give is yourself. What kind of a gift do you want to be?
By practicing personal leadership, you will discover what’s truly possible for yourself as a leader. Suddenly “leadership” won’t be just part of your job. It will become a way of life.
Related: Five Practices for Leading from Within