Great leaders have inspired millions of people throughout history. Likewise, today’s great business leaders at all levels motivate employees to transform their enterprises and help them reach new heights of accomplishment. They instill confidence that enables their followers to achieve what others might consider impossible.
But it’s easy to forget or fail to note at all, that these leaders have one other thing in common: They all had to lead themselves before leading others.
Leading oneself to inspire one’s own heart and discipline one’s own ego is the first step any great leader takes before embarking on a great leadership role. The backgrounds of all great leaders reveal struggles that molded their character, helping them conquer fears and doubts, and making them more passionate and resilient.
The drive to achieve greater things starts with a fire that we light within ourselves. It starts in our core and becomes a reflection of our values. And it can ignite other fires.
"Learn to lead yourself before leading others."
Think about it for a moment: How can we inspire others if we don’t inspire ourselves? How can we drive others to greatness if we can’t seek it within ourselves? How can we expect more from others who are willing to follow us if we don’t expect more from ourselves?
We often forget that before we lead by example, we must exemplify to ourselves what we expect from others. These individual challenges are the most testing of all because we often have to go through them alone, and each learning experience is a battle.
In business, I hear people say that leadership is only for managers who have direct reports. This enduring attitude assumes that one can’t lead without a hierarchical relationship.
However, we should treat every opportunity as something worthy of leadership regardless of our role, responsibility or position.
"You don’t need to manage people in order to lead."
Why think of leadership as being like retirement, something we wait for when we are young and without rank? As in formal education and the pursuit of lifelong learning, it is never too early and never too late to lead.
Eventually, when you are trusted with a position of authority, the authentic test of leadership will be at the forefront. When hundreds or thousands look to you for direction and guidance, there will be no place to hide, no room for doubt and no time for experimenting.
Professional golfers treat every practice putt like the one they need to win the tournament. Likewise, we must practice leadership at all times —and as early and as often as possible.
"Leadership of the one, is more about leadership presence."
It is an attitude we practice in every role we are engaged in, in every business decision that comes in front of us, whether we are the ones making the decision or not—a luxury we will not have when we are in the driver’s seat.
I believe strongly that leading the one is as important as leading many because all our journeys start there.
This story originally appeared on turnali.com.