4 Steps for Self-Leadership

Ultimately, how we lead ourselves becomes the shining example of how we lead others.

When the San Francisco 49ers were getting ready to play in Super Bowl XVI, Head Coach Bill Walsh decided to take a rest on the floor of the locker room. It was kind of a strange place to take a nap before a big game. But Walsh was ready. Dressed in his coaching gear, he wanted to send a message of calmness, business as usual. Laying on the floor in the locker room was not happenstance. Like all things with Walsh, it was tactical, planned, and purposeful. He wanted his team relaxed, so he relaxed.  Walsh knew that how he behaved signaled the way those he led would behave. The picture demonstrates the art of self-leading and should serve as a reminder for all of us.

Before we can lead others, we must learn how we can lead ourselves. Ultimately, how we lead ourselves becomes the shining example of how we lead others. We need to set the example, not be an example, so we must constantly work on fine-tuning our individual leadership skills so that we can impact others. 

Self-management is the ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check. When times get tough, everyone looks to the leader. When that leader is calm and under control, there is better communication, a clearer vision, and a sense of normalcy within the team.   

How we self-lead is critical. Here are 4 steps we should all practice each day to improve our self-leadership abilities:

  1. Control our emotions. We cannot react to every situation as if our hair is on fire.  We must think of ourselves as grandmaster Chess players. Thinking with great poise and calmness allows us to keep our emotions in balance. 

  2. Be adaptable. How we as leaders handle change is how our followers will adapt. We must embrace it, be fluid with our thinking, and never get upset when we need to pivot. 

  3. It’s all about achievement. We must have a standard of excellence that we hold everyone accountable to — including ourselves. When we strive for learning how to improve, we create a culture that strives for excellence, not one that’s complacent.

  4. Be a positive voice. We must find the good in people, situations, and events. This is an incredibly valuable competency, as it can build resilience and set the stage for innovation and opportunity.

In that photo and through the course of his leadership life, Coach Walsh practiced all four of these self-leadership components each day. 

We’d be wise to do the same. 


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