In circles where leadership is often discussed, it tends to be focused squarely on leading in a specific capacity: business. We talk about being good bosses and managers. We talk about leading teams to success. There’s a lot to be said for professional leadership: it’s invaluable and I’ve already devoted a lot of time to the topic myself.
When we think about professional success and professional leadership, we can’t just think about it as just leading other people. Our definition of leadership has to expand to include ourselves.
I’m talking about personal leadership.
What is Personal Leadership?
Personal leadership is the ability to direct yourself in the way you want your life to go. You can lead yourself, define and achieve your goals, and plan the road to get there. It’s being able to clearly articulate what you want your life to be and having the drive to go for it. It’s having personal accountability.
Personal leadership is applying general leadership skills to your personal life so that you can best achieve an ideal future for yourself.
Applying Personal Leadership to Professional Success
1) Manage & focus your energy.
In your personal life, how well do you manage and focus your energy? When I think of energy, my mind goes to rest, and that is certainly an aspect of it. More important to leadership is energy as it relates to focus. Are we acting in ways that are effective and clear? Is there a purpose behind what we do?
For ourselves, we have to be able to channel our energy into only productive pursuits. It’s so easy to become side-tracked and distracted by things that won’t actually matter in the end.
Then, if we can master the art of focusing our energy and take that into other leadership roles, we’ll find that it will help us manage energy on a larger scale. We’ll be able to present a clear vision to our team, our employees, and anyone we work with. It will be easier to delegate and map out grander paths with more complicated processes, systems, and people working together.
2) Value systems of support.
Personal leadership makes it sound like it’s something that we do by ourselves, but that’s far from the truth. As leaders, we recognize the inherent value in the people around us and that we can’t, in fact, do it by ourselves. It’s difficult to make decisions in a vacuum. We need the opinions and input of trusted individuals around us when at critical junctures in life. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding those right people to trust and confide in.
While it comes to applying these support systems to our professional lives, it comes down to being able to open up. If you close yourself off and don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable sometimes—not because you are inadequate or weak, but because you value other people and want to let them in—you can’t grow as a leader and your team can’t grow, either.
For your career in general, no matter what field you work in, networks matter. It’s not just about being able to manage a team and have relationships with them, it’s about being able to form and nurture meaningful connections with other professionals.
If you don’t value systems of support in the first place, it’s going to be hard for you to prioritize something like that at all.
3) Create an intentional mindset.
Lastly, personal leadership calls for a mindset of intentionality. When we’re in the routine of something: a relationship, a job, a goal, whatever it may be...it’s easy to lose intentionality. If we want to succeed as a leader, we have to be intentional about everything. It starts with our attitudes. Are we waking up every morning with the resolve to be positive and productive? Are we making our senses fine-tuned to our goals so that we can be agile?
Being intentional means that we don’t fall into a rut. We don’t allow ourselves to wake up years down the line, suddenly surprised when we haven’t made headway towards our dreams or when a relationship falls apart.
Intentional living is the key not only to good leadership but to successful careers and solid relationships. We just can’t do without it.