Personal leadership is at the core of almost everything I do, from starting a business, to helping individuals and organizations, to speaking and coaching. I even joke that personal development is a hobby of mine. So, when someone asked me, “But … what exactly is personal leadership?” I felt a little surprised. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important it is to dig into this concept.
The phrase “personal leadership” is kind of deceptively simple at first. Sure, we all know what the words “personal” and “leadership” mean when they’re separate. When they’re brought together, it’s easy to define them contextually and think “personal leadership is leading my person.” Which, is kind of true, but also just skimming the surface of this leadership theory and practice.
In her book, “The Inner Edge: The Ten Practices of Personal Leadership,” author Joelle Jay (also a Renoite!), defines it as “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.’”
Another author, Joel Farcht, defines the concept in his book Building Personal Leadership, as 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.”
And what’s my definition? I believe that personal leadership is the ultimate inside job. It’s about becoming intimately familiar with yourself, your light, and your dark. It’s about exploring your reality, belief system and identity. It’s about introspection and finding the core of your being. It’s about defining your dreams, and going hard or going rogue to achieve them.
3 Acts Of Personal Leadership
Ultimately, I think we can breakdown personal leadership into three foundational actions:
- Defining your future on your terms
To be the best leader of yourself, you need to know where you’re going. Part of personal leadership is setting your own course based on a deep, intrinsic knowledge of what makes you, you.
- Putting on your own oxygen first
You know how on an airplane (remember airplanes?), they would tell you to put your own oxygen mask first in the case of an accident? It’s the same with personal leadership. You need to put your development, your needs and your health first. I like what Jay says about doing this in a “positive, unselfish way.” Putting yourself first doesn’t mean harming others. In fact, it’s the opposite. When you take care of yourself, you are most able to give back to others and the world.
- Going hard, and going rogue
Once you know who you are and where you’re going, then you’re able to chart a course to get there. Sometimes, that means working within the parameters of your job, your education or your community. Sometimes it means going rogue, challenging convention, breaking rules and pursuing your calling. In either case, when you know how to lead yourself, you know how to get where you need to go.
Why It Matters
It’s easy to see why radical acts of personal leadership can transform an individual’s life—but what about an organization? In my experience, when companies, nonprofits and governmental agencies empower their people to become the best leaders of themselves, they see incredible results. When individuals can align with their highest selves, and get clear on who they are, what they can offer, and what they want, they can live and lead with purpose. And purpose is what keeps employees engaged and excited.
3 Ways To Practice Today
OK, so now that we’re on the same page about what it means, here are five ways you can start practicing it today.
- Start journaling. Recording your thoughts, feelings, and experiences is one of the best ways I know of to get to know yourself. This is the first step to developing your personal leadership.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Did the idea of starting a journal make you recoil? Lean into that feeling, rather than pulling away from it. In fact, it’s good practice to examine the moments when you feel afraid, unsettled or just a little bit “off.” They can reveal some deeper truths about yourself and allow you to push through to the next level.
- Get an accountability buddy. Think through your network of peers or mentors. Who would be a person that you could pair up with to walk on a path of personal leadership together? Reach out to that person, in fact send them this blog, and see if these ideas resonate with them. Can’t think of anyone? Connect with me on Insta, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I’m all about helping others on their personal leadership journey.
Personal leadership is the greatest gift you can give to yourself, your family, your friends, your community and ultimately the world. By connecting with our highest selves and purpose, we’re more able to lift others up, too.
Keep crushing it, and we’ll talk soon.