Real Leaders

Stedman Graham: It’s the Age of Self-Leadership

Self-leadership is part of the leadership landscape, and you can’t change your circumstances until you first change yourself.

By Stedman Graham

I often say in my speeches that there could not be a better time in the history of our world to be living because, through technology, we have access to a global village.

Just by using our mobile devices and electronics, we can learn, build, develop, and create opportunities. We have the ability to self-empower and have information relevant to our development, identity, and purpose in life — if we understand how to work on ourselves. 

If you’re looking for relevancy, resources, and opportunity, it must start with yourself. Knowing who you are is the first step to your future. This is the pre-work necessary for self-leadership.

Self-leadership is connected to self-discovery, which is connected to constant education. This type of learning about yourself — deep, rich self-experience — develops new learned behaviors that keep you on track for a better, more meaningful existence. It is the successes and failures of self-discovery that lead you forward. 

Often, these words can blur together: self-determination, self-direction, self-empowerment — all ways of saying the same thing: You cannot love anyone else until you first love yourself. This core principle of life is at the heart of self-leadership too. You cannot lead anyone else until you first lead yourself. 

Leadership skills are important at all levels of engagement. It is difficult to have strong leadership without purpose and direction, a process for thinking, improved performance, and continual growth.

The key to self-leadership today is that we should always be in a constant state of growth. Nobody is perfect, and no one is expected to do everything right, but most do not know that — if we can fall down, pick ourselves up, start over and over again, and learn from our failures — we have a chance to reach our potential. It took me years to understand that the process of success is the same for everyone. The difference is some people know it and some people don’t. Everything is a process. 

No matter if you are a CEO, business owner, executive employee, or volunteer worker, we all have the opportunity to improve our lives and build more value in our personal and professional development. The value we give to ourselves is the value the world gives us. The world sees us as we see ourselves. Again, going back to self — you cannot change your circumstances until you first change yourself. 

Self-leadership is part of the leadership landscape.

It sets the tone for strategies for overcoming roadblocks. It helps us become authentic in our journey for success and achievement. It helps us manage, learn from others, and unleash our talents, abilities, and potential. We can improve our lives because we are building from a solid foundation of passion, purpose, and intent. Self-leadership helps us value our time, work on things that matter and that are important to us, and eliminate time wasters. As we eventually learn orders at the highest level of development, our organizational skills increase because we focus on outcomes that make us feel good about ourselves. 

Setting goals based on our vision becomes a process for execution and making things happen that are fulfilling and rewarding. We get to define, plan, and prepare with direction — as opposed to being caught up with external environmental conditions that have little or no meaning, can easily disappear, and cannot be sustained because we are simply reacting. 

In today’s environment, it is so important to have a clear vision of who you want to be and where you want to go.

The next important question to ask yourself is: How are you going to gain enough of the necessary information and experience to achieve your vision? That is a lifelong journey. Clarity today is so important because we have so much information that it can be overwhelming to focus on how to prioritize and put things in sequence and alignment. 

We often have so many options that we cannot minimize distractions. Social media, external world affairs, and day-to-day family challenges all must get done as well as taking care of ourselves. I never thought of those as skills, but in our modern society, it requires a lot of new skill development to navigate everything in our lives. “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do.” — Leroy Eims 

Self-leadership makes you appreciate what you have because everything starts with you.

Happiness doesn’t come from big pieces of great success but from small daily achievements. Your opportunities to achieve what you want always come from small steps, one at a time. You work every day, piece by piece, layer by layer. “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” — Abraham Lincoln

The more we understand these principles, the more we can accomplish in our lives and the more we can help those around us. We can channel the best of who we are to achieve success for ourselves and those we can lead. “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” — Helen Keller 

Self-leadership, to be effective, must answer these questions: What do you enjoy doing most? What gives your life meaning? What gives you peace of mind? What do you look forward to doing more than anything else? What would you do with your life even if you didn’t get paid for it?

Adding a value system to those things most important to you creates more opportunities to go deeper in our development. Self-leadership can be a difficult process and journey because it requires us to look at the positive and negative in our lives. The continuous journey of self-actualization can become a never-ending development process. That’s why it is so important to build in time for ourselves to become more productive and contribute more to ourselves and others. 

Considering all these issues is important to realizing the process of self-leadership. Our ability to evolve will depend on us. It is an inside job.

We keep working on ourselves, we go deeper and deeper in our development, and it does pay off. “You are not your circumstances, but you are your possibilities.” — Pat Healey