“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.” — Louisa May Alcott
Personal leadership is a powerful thing.
In fact, Peter Drucker said personal leadership is “the only leadership that’s going to matter in the 21st century.”
According to Bill Butler, personal leadership extracts your potential and polishes it.
What makes personal leadership so powerful is that it applies to you. It’s personal. It’s you at your best. Personal leadership is a way to lead yourself from the inside out and apply proven business skills to get more out of life.
In The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership, Joelle K. Jay shares insights into why and how personal leadership is one of your most powerful tools for achieving more meaning and creating the life you want.
What Is Personal Leadership
In Building Personal Leadership, Joel Farcht defines personal leadership as follows:
“Personal leadership is the self-confident ability to crystalize your thinking and establish an exact direction for your own life, to commit yourself to moving in that direction, and then to take determined action to acquire, accomplish, or become whatever you identify as the ultimate goal in your life.”
Design, Create, and Achieve Your Ideal Life
When you decide to lead a life of action, you write your story forward. You become the director of your life. You become the artist that throws the paint on the canvas of your future.
“Personal leadership is your commitment to take the lead in your own life. You take the opportunity to design, create, and achieve your ideal ways of living and leading.
In a positive, unselfish way, personal leadership means putting yourself first. Literally speaking, personal means ‘about you’; leadership means ‘coming first.’”
Lead Yourself from the Inside Out
Personal leadership is the kindling within. When you fan the inner flame, you unleash what you’re capable of.
“When you practice personal leadership, you lead from the inside out. The process involves asking yourself, ‘How do I need to be and act and think in order to be my best?’ — a kind of self-driven style well-suited to dedicated leaders like you who will carry business into the future.
In order to do that, you must periodically turn away from the concerns of the day — the people, the problems, and the pressure — to explore and discover your inner edge.”
Apply Business Skills to Your Personal Life
You can use the same practices that businesses use to survive and thrive and evolve over time.
“To practice personal leadership, you apply the principles of leadership that make business a success … to yourself. For example, leading in business involves having a compelling vision, developing strategies, and inspiring people to use their talents to meet a goal for improved business results. Leading yourself means applying these same principles of leadership to your role as a leader and your life.
You, too, need a compelling vision and a strategy for reaching it. You need a team supporting you. You need results, as well as a sense of contribution and purpose. The difference is that personal leadership doesn’t just make for better business, it makes for better leadership. It makes for a better you.”
Inspiration, Not Perspiration
Personal leadership is a smarter kind of personal growth and path of personal excellence.
“As a leader, you must learn to lead yourself to stay effective. When you practice personal leadership, you use every ounce of your potential with inspiration instead of perspiration, synergy instead of sacrifice, and wisdom instead of work.”
Characteristics of Personal Leadership
What makes personal leadership different from other forms of leadership? Jay says “personal leadership is distinguished by its focus on the individual and an appreciation for who you are.”
Respectful. Personal leadership respects the extraordinary value of each human being. It does not, as many models do, tell you to be like someone else.
Reflective. Personal leadership means thinking about what you’re doing, in a spirit of wholeheartedness, openness, and responsibility.
Renewing. A 2000 report from McKinsey and the Society for Organizational Development reported that ‘the most important tool for leading 21st century change is the leader’s self.’ Unlike a take-no-prisoner approach to leadership, personal leadership offers an element of renewal– a way for leaders to slow down and advance in a powerful yet sustainable way. When you are overworked, overtaxed, and overtired, you burn out. When you are rested, rewarded, and renewed, you excel.
Rewarding. No matter what you do for a living, your work can be rewarding. Personal leadership offers you the chance to create true prosperity — the kind of happiness that comes not just from financial gain but also from the richness of life.
Raising the Bar. A focus on slowing down and thinking about oneself might seem at odds with traditional business goals of speed, profitability, and results. On the contrary, there is no correlation between success and hours worked. There is however, a strong correction between your ability to product and the joy you take in your work. Those who practice personal leadership don’t just meet expectations: they exceed them.
The Benefits of Personal Leadership for You
Why should you consider practicing persona leadership.
According to Jay, “personal leadership gives you a host of ways to do more, faster, and better.”
You Are More Efficient and Productive. You learn to do things the way they come naturally so you can be productive without being so busy. You learn to use your mind well. You manage your focus instead of your time, and your energy instead of your effort. The result? You achieve more with less. You experience quality work and quality time at once.
You Feel Motivated and Inspired. Practicing personal leadership means you not only know what you do well, you know why you’re doing it in the first place. Work isn’t just work anymore. It’s your chance to contribute your talents to people and ideas in which you believe.
You Experience a Life of Joy and Fulfillment. One important aspect of personal leadership is the ability to connect, not separate, the different parts of your life. You can still be committed to your work, but your commitment supports your personal life. You can still devote yourself to your personal interests, but your devotion is integrated with your work. You don’t have to trade one for the other, and so you move from distress to de-stress.
Reconnecting with your sense of self does more than enliven your work. It makes life more rewarding. You see through the well-documented myth that money alone can buy happiness. Don’t worry—you don’t have to give up the gains of success. You just get to experience the rewards of joy and fulfillment as well.
You Get Your Life Back. When you learn to lead yourself, you find more free time, choice, and control. Practice personal leadership, you learn that you can have it all without doing it all. You learn to put first things first and to let things happen instead of making them happen. Then at last you can achieve your ambitions while still saving something for yourself.
You Get Better Results. It may seem that personal leadership has an awful lot to do with you. Indeed it does. But your success as a leader also produces better results for your business. As you focus on your inner edge, you become more effective on your outer edge. As you improve yourself, you improve your team, your organization, your company, and your results.
The Benefits of Personal Leadership for Business
Personal leadership isn’t just a game changer for life. It helps with business, too.
“In a time when leaders are gasping for breath, personal leadership breathes in new life. Businesses that honor the development and well-being of their leaders experience the following: higher customer satisfaction, lower turnover, higher productivity, increased creativity, integrity, resilience, speed, quality, and innovation.
Study after study show the importance of high-performance leadership in business. Engagement alone, just one results of personal leadership, accounts for an 18 percent advantage in earnings-per share for organizations over their competitors.
A study of the top 20 companies for leadership development showed that companies that emphasize leadership development gain higher profitability long-term. The bottom line: Personal leadership is smart business.”
Love what you’re capable of.
If you always thought leadership was for other people, or if leadership was all about leading others, take a fresh look at where true leadership really starts.
If you want to lead others, you need to lead yourself first.
Expand your sphere of influence from the inside out.