“To thine own self be true,” said Polonius in the play Hamlet, by Shakespeare. It is highly likely that Shakespeare had not intended for his character to be the spokesperson for humanity on the subject of living one’s truth (indeed, he was portrayed frequently as a foolish old “goat”.)
Nonetheless, his ramblings remain legendary; renowned through the ages for their wisdom. This quote epitomizes the essence of leading oneself first: i.e. practicing personal leadership. To lead ourselves first means that we can differentiate our values without holding any attachment to another person’s idea of whom we are supposed to be. When we are true to ourselves, we know ourselves and we understand our place in the grand scheme of things. We have discovered our unique purpose and we regularly tap into our intuition in order to make decisions of all kinds. We are successfully practicing “me” management in every situation or challenge.
When we think of “leadership skills”, we usually associate these with individuals who are in a management or supervisory role. Leadership rhetoric has its roots in a variety of management theories espoused over the ages. What is missing, however, is the idea of taking charge of oneself. It has been commonplace to think of a leader in terms of “position”, generally associated with being in charge of others. However, a title on a business card or a placard on a desk or door does not automatically make someone a leader. It may give the impression of self-importance and achievement, however, the title alone is not enough. Neither is a job description that notes functions associated with managing people.
The importance of practicing personal leadership is everyone’s personal responsibility. Attaching importance to what we do for a living is often recognized as a yardstick for measuring success. However, the manner in which we conduct ourselves has far greater significance and impact in the long-term. Therefore, the meaning of leadership denotes character, above all else. It has nothing to do with a job title.
Definition of leadership
A leader is someone who recognizes that character is the greatest test of true leadership. A leader is someone who is clear about their values and applies them on a regular basis. In other words, having values and living by one’s values are two distinctive propositions. This has very little to do with moving up the management ladder into a leadership role. Furthermore, one doesn’t have to be in a workplace to be a leader.
Be the best version of you with others
Honing this specific talent is more noteworthy, because human beings progress further in life by mastering the capacity to appreciate, relate to and communicate with the vast array of personalities, cultures and demographics, without judgment or discrimination. A business title conveying “leader” is no proof of having acquired this gift.
Experience the totality of the moment
According to physics, the earth’s average orbital speed is around 30,000 mph. Our planet is spinning so fast, yet we don’t even feel it. One could say the same thing about numerous interactions that occur on a daily basis. Do we truly experience them? It is an interesting dichotomy, although the reality is that it is precisely because of the speed at which we live, we happen upon human encounters that have a fascinating potential to provide a quantum leap in our own learning, yet we shrug them off. Rarely do we stop to consider their impact.
Leading yourself first in your organization, your career and your life requires commitment, desire and discipline. Recognizing the true essence of leadership is the first step. We are experiencing a unique period in our history where it is possible for anyone to be thrust into the spotlight, either through our own efforts or via the plethora of social media. Therefore, at any given moment, we have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership on a daily basis, regardless of vocation or position, in all that we do.
Michelle Ray is the author of “Lead Yourself First”, coming soon!