If you cannot lead yourself well, you are not leading others well.

There was a deafening hush in the ballroom. As I looked around, 800 business leaders sat eagerly waiting for the speaker to begin. Eyes were filled with anticipation. Eager smiles dotted faces throughout the crowd.

People were shifting in their seats much as a seven year old when waiting for her cake to be served. As the speaker stepped to the podium, all eyes riveted on him waiting for a new story. A new strategy. A new hope – something that would cause a paradigm shift in their thinking and catapult them into greater success. He spoke softly and with strength… “If you are not leading yourself first, you cannot lead others well.” The thundering silence was overwhelming as we searched to figure out the meaning…

Leading ourselves how? Personally? Professionally? Physically? Intellectually? Thoughts raced through my mind. I settled on this one – “I’m a pretty good leader. My companies have done well. So I must be leading myself well. I’ve done pretty good for myself.” Our brains love patterns and organization so we have a tendency to settle on our first thought.

The speakers use of pause was brilliant. It seemed like an eternity before he spoke again. “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less. There is an Afghan Proverb that says, ‘If you think you are leading but nobody is following, then you’re only taking a walk.’ ” Laughter filled the room. It reminded me of a joke I knew… then suddenly it hit me – the butt of the joke I had just thought about is ‘self” which led me to realize that I was also the butt of the proverb – I was the one out taking a walk! I thought I was leading but when I thought about who was following, my list wasn’t very long. In fact, it was miserably short. And the reason they were following me was because they had to. I was a positional leader – the lowest level of leader. They only followed because they had to. In truth, I wasn’t even following me…

I wasn’t even following me? Whoa. What did that mean? It meant a quick inventory was needed – reflection – of my life and my self-discipline – or lack thereof. Not completing things I start. Not doing what I say I am going to do. Not honoring my word. Not staying on target. Not fulfilling my promises. Not letting my yes be yes and my no be no. Simply doing whatever I thought was good at the time – not knowing what was really right – or knowing but not doing it anyway. Indeed – it was all about… me.

One of Zig Ziglar’s favorite sayings was, “You can have everything you want in life, if you will just help enough other people get what they want. John Maxwell calls it “adding value to people.” Einstein said, “Don’t seek to be a success, seek to be of value.” Some call it the Golden Rule – do unto others what you want them to do unto you. The Bible urges us to “die to self and live for others.” Where was the “living for others” in my life? I was living for me. I was clearly not leading myself correctly. At best I was managing others – not leading them. It wasn’t quite that selfish, but it seemed like it… maybe it was…

Leading is not only a matter of the mind, but also of the heart. Actually, I believe it is more of the heart than mind. You need to know what to do and how to do it, but even more, you need to apply that knowledge – you need to do it. In this journey we are walking together toward becoming a Level Five leader. We will explore what a leader really is, where we are in the process, why we aspire to become a Level Five leader, what it takes to get to there, and most importantly, help one another get there. I am not going to leave you hanging without the knowledge to get where you want to go, but more importantly, I am going to help you apply the knowledge to become the best leader you can become. I’m going to walk with you side-by-side until we cross that finish line. If you’re really, really, really interested in becoming the best leader you can possibly be – at work, home, church, wherever – then come on this journey with me. I’m willing to commit to being here for you and assist you to your greatest height. Are you willing to commit to growing and achieving great things, and doing the homework to get there?

You are fearfully and wonderfully made and have the seeds of greatness planted deep inside of you. My job is to coach it out – your job is to learn, grow, and apply it. That’s what Positive Accountability is all about – getting to your definition of success. I’m here for you. Are you willing to dive in? At the end of each blog, like a good coach, I will ask two questions – one is a Reflection oriented question and the other is an Action oriented question. It’s your homework – your application of the principles. If you commit to thinking about and answering these questions, you will grow farther and faster toward your ultimate goal. Really. Also, take some time to read my other blog posts (and my book). There is good insight there for getting to where you really want to go. Finally, take some time to give your comments, your thoughts. I am always amazed and excited how much I learn from everyone. You have great things to add – you really do. Join the conversation, ask questions, tell of your heart and your experience. You won’t be disappointed.

Reflection: Where are you in leading yourself? Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how self-disciplined you are. And be honest. Be candid. Be brutal. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s where you are. Just rate yourself. List specific things.

Action: What can you do specifically and immediately to start moving toward becoming more self-disciplined? Write down the top 10 answers and decide to do what it takes to get on target. Too overwhelmed? Take the #1 item and work on it alone… then #2, and so on… find an accountability partner and walk together.

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