4 Keys to Leading Yourself – and Others

Did you know that you have a family living right in your head? Listen closely and you’ll hear the inner child who still clings to the past. You’ll hear the hysteric protectors who may have long lost their usefulness. You may even get a glimpse of the shadows who keep you hidden from yourself.

In the hustle to gain control and achieve their individual short-sighted goals, these family members can drown out the voice of the self who is the real you, embedded somewhere deep in their midst. Your job in life is to reclaim your position as the captain of your ship, so that you move forward with a clear vision rather than get pulled away from your deeply desired goals.

This is what leadership is all about. And although it’s become the new buzzword, studied and researched from all angles, leading others is remarkably similar to leading ourselves. As such, leadership is an innate quality, because every moment of every day, we’re each called to be the leader of our own lives.

Appreciate Diversity

Get to know the people living inside of you. Where do they come from? How have they benefited you in the past? Was it your early experiences or the long and arduous journey through adolescence that brought them forth? Carl Jung called them our shadows, and said that the process to selfhood lies in integrating them rather than rejecting them. Because unless we do, they continue to live in the vast iceberg that charters the course of our lives.

How does this apply to leading others?

In an era marked by diversity, create a culture of inclusion. Form routines and traditions that help employees learn more about each other in order to overcome the built-in “avoid” response of your fear centers.

Unite Toward a Common Vision

A famous saying goes, “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears.” Indeed, overcoming fears is a continuous battle and requires tremendous willpower, which is a depleting resource. A much more effective way to overcome fears is to let the future draw us in. So take some time to reflect on what this future looks like for you. If everything in life went your way, where would you be 10 or 20 years from now? What would you be doing? And how would you be feeling?

How does this apply to leading others?

Jim Kouzes, coauthor of The Leadership Challenge, says that the most critical task for you as a leader is to shine the light on the future and show your people what it would look like if you worked together toward it.

Form Trusting Relationships

We are a species wired to survive, to thrive, and to make sense of our lives through our relationships with others. We can often take this lightly, sometimes because of early experiences that make us shut down in what self-worth researcher Jennifer Crocker calls our “ego-system.” Or we can get so caught up in our virtual friendships that we neglect the real relationships that stimulate our compassionate systems and lead to mutual benefit.

How does this apply to leading others?

In his book Give and Take, professor Adam Grant shows that success is a by-product of helping others succeed. Whether it’s through sponsoring others on your team or creating partnerships with other companies, consider networks to be your greatest strength.

Lead with Compassion

Most of us beat down on ourselves when we struggle, because we believe we can shame or scare ourselves into succeeding. Few of us turn to self-compassion, because we think that self-compassion is weak and akin to self-pity. However, the research on self-compassion shows that it shifts our neural networks from insecure striving that’s marked by stress and anxiety, to secure striving that leads to greater collaboration and courage to do the right thing.

How does this apply to leading others?

Research at CompassionLab shows that employee retention, engagement, and performance increase when leaders create organizational cultures where employees feel safe, seen, and cared for. What would that look like in your workplace? Leadership in the 21st century is going through what many have referred to as the Great Turning. We see it in groundbreaking approaches such as B-Corp and Conscious Leadership, where forward-thinking organizations are shifting from an ideal of striving employees to one of creating connected and inclusive organizations and communities.

But we’re also seeing this shift at the personal level. We’re beginning to realize that the self is not only interconnected but also divided, suffering in the perpetual struggle to balance its opposing needs. And it’s calling out to us to rise as leaders, and recognize that both the self and our organizations are paradoxical living systems immersed within a common humanity.