Personal Development: Being a Self-ish Leader
Take it and Make it Personal
If you’re someone who views “personal development” as a check-the-box requirement on an annual performance plan I’m going to stop you right there. That attitude is at its best self-limiting. At its worst, it’s a sure road to nowhere. Here’s why:
Personal development consists of activities that develop a person’s capabilities and potential, builds human capital, facilitates employability, and enhances quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations.
I know that’s a mouthful to say (or a run-on sentence), but tell me — who wouldn’t want to do the above? (I pulled this great definition straight from Wikipedia, by the way.) And what leader wouldn’t want all that for their people and business? Far from being a bothersome or meaningless task – or a luxury you just can’t afford to have, it’s actually the biggest tool you have in your leadership toolkit. Please consider, right now, to make the commitment to use your personal development to your full advantage. DO IT!
If it helps, frame it up the same way you would physical fitness. Even if we don’t practice it, we all know that a regular, balanced exercise plan followed consistently over time can keep a body in pretty good shape. Depending on the intensity and frequency of workouts (and your overall lifestyle), it can even keep a body in tip-top shape. Why not think about your personal development in the same way? In fact, our Mind, Body and Spirit are all essential parts of our personal development.
It’s Just Good Business
It’s not a selfish endeavor to devote your finite time and energy resources to develop “capabilities and potential, human capital… and enhance quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations.” It’s just good business, plain and simple. A wise old coach I used to work with told me something a long time ago that’s stayed with me to this day:
“When you have breakthroughs Mark, then your people can have breakthroughs.”
It’s pretty straightforward — if you want your team to develop to full potential, with all of the benefits that reaps for all members – you must role model this discipline for them. When we limit ourselves we limit those we lead. Where you’re stuck is where your people are stuck. Sometimes that’s because you may not want to confront the situation, say the hard truth and admit YOU are THE roadblock to better results. It’s not your people- it’s the person looking back at you in the mirror.
I hear “change is hard” and “I’m just stuck” a lot in my coaching practice and consulting on strategic development. In one sense I agree totally. It takes a lot of effort, rigor and new work. We have to be more conscious and awake which innately brings with it more or new responsibility and choice. That isn’t always easy. However, the “choice to choose” is responsibility at its core. Embrace change or hold it at arm’s length, it’s your choice. You just don’t get to expect different outcomes.
My belief is that commitment to change is different than the effort it takes to truly change. However, without the commitment it is impossible to have any lasting changes become new habits (yo-yo diets are just one example). People will change if they are able to lock down into their very essence and focus on the value that change brings them. If somebody wants a boat really badly, they change their commitment to saving money quite easily and — voila! There is a new boat and a new SUV to pull it sitting in their driveway. Was that hard change? Not really. The hard change comes when you have to make payments on both the boat and SUV or eventually sell them at a loss because you don’t use them or can’t afford them.
My belief is that commitment to change is different than the effort it takes to truly change.
What is Self-ish Leadership?
Being selfish has bad connotations for us, but although you may not like the term, the concept is very sound. If you truly commit to developing yourself as a leader and keep that commitment a priority, it’s not selfish behavior. In fact, putting your personal development high on your priority list is the best thing you could do for everyone who depends on you. Remember, if you don’t have breakthroughs, then your team won’t have them either.
Self-ish leaders put in whatever time and work it takes to develop themselves to their highest potential. On that journey they learn so many valuable, profound truths- what they really want, what’s best for those they lead, and then they get up every day and make those things happen. This “self-ish” journey never ends- the further along you get in your development, the “freer” you are to move forward confidently and proactively while accepting full accountability for the outcomes.
I’ll wrap this up with one of the key tenets of Active Influence — the reality of influencing others consciously and appropriately requires that we understand ourselves and the influence we have on our own actions, thoughts and our own personal power to act. And I’ll challenge you to answer this question:
How self-ish are you willing to be to make yourself the absolute best leader you can be?