A leader must be a skilled practitioner, strategic thinker, and navigator of complex group dynamics. In order to guide and inspire others toward growth and success one must first possess the basic qualities of a leader. However, leadership is more than just integrity, influence, discipline, and the ability to cast vision (Ramsey, 2011). It is no secret that countless individuals who fit the “classic” models of leadership also crumbled under the pressures of their positions. The news is full of stories of high-profile leaders who failed miserably at leading in the most important area: self.
Self-leadership can be defined as the ability to walk in integrity, character, and excellence even when no one else is watching. The Bible talks about such leadership when it says, “The Spirit God has given us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). Based on the evidence of 20th and 21st Century leadership failures, it seems that more emphasis is being put on how to lead others than on how to lead “self.”
Self-leadership is so important that leadership expert John Maxwell (2005) says, “One’s success in leading up, down, or from the middle of an organization hinges on their ability to self-manage.” This means that before leadership students learn how to direct others, they should be well versed in how to manage their own emotions, time, energy, thoughts, and personal lives. This is more than just learning how to prioritize the various issues that a leader must juggle. This is about truly “practicing what is preached” in order to lead others into their full potential. The world does not need more leaders who just look the part. What are needed today are men and women of character, integrity, skill, and professionalism who are able to truly lead from the front. This means that these leaders should devote just as much, if not more time and energy into leading themselves as they do leading others. The greatest leader of all time, Jesus Christ, led the way in both word and deed by placing others needs above His own. His ability to lead Himself serves as the greatest example of how this form of leadership can change the world. “He was tempted in every way known to man, yet He did not fall” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). If there is to be any hope for the next generation of leaders, it will be found in following Jesus’ example of self-leadership and instructing others to do the same.
Maxwell, J. (2005). The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence From Anywhere in the Organization. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.
Ramsey, D. (2011). Entreleadership: 20 Years of Practical Wisdom From the Trenches. Howard Books, New York, NY