There are enough books on leadership to fill an entire university library. A really big state university with branch campuses.
You could read articles on leadership twelve hours a day for a month and still have only scratched the surface of what’s been written.
Cue up the teleclasses, seminars and workshops on the subject and you could be in so-called leadership training for the rest of your career.
Yes, a lot has been written on how to lead.
But very little is written on who you need to lead first.
Because in order to lead others, the first person you need to lead is the hardest-headed, most recalcitrant not listening stubborn jackass you’ve ever met.
Oh, yeah, I absolutely mean you.
And I’m particularly talking about when you get in your own way. When you make things harder than they need to be. When you catastrophize and struggle.
Whether you’re twenty-two years old and in your first job out of college, or sixty-two and CEO of a multi-million dollar business, the most important job you’ve got is to lead your own damn self.
I’ve seen leaders fail when they are deaf, dumb and blind to their own strengths and weaknesses, their resilience and vulnerabilities, their energy and their Achilles heels.
They think that if they ignore knowing themselves fully and pretend that they’ve got all the answers and have it locked, then no one else will notice that at their core…they’re scared out of their wits.
If I told you the number of people confess to me that they are terrified someone is going to find out that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing and making it up as fast as they can, you wouldn’t believe me.
Or maybe you would, because maybe you say that to yourself all the time.
This is what we call The Imposter Syndrome, and it’s widespread and pernicious, which is a total SAT way to say sneaky and harmful. It sneaks up on you when you are so self-deprecating that you say things like, “You know, I’d be better off sorting the mail – that’s really what I’m cut out for” or “I totally lucked into this job.”
Or when you bluster and rage and create an inner circle of yes-people who shut out any voices saying anything you might not want to hear.
The cure for The Imposter Syndrome is – like many things – information and awareness. Information about who you truly are when you are at your best – you can get this from self-reflection, the feedback from trusted peers or even careful and objective readings of your past performance reviews.
This leads to the awareness of times you’ve been challenged and persevered. To the times you’ve asked for help and gotten it. To when you’ve expected failure and found success. Or expected success and found learning.
This knowledge makes you a better person – more open, more understanding, more inquisitive, more inspired and inspiring.
And much more confident in and of yourself.
Which is what all the books, seminars and tapes tell us is vital to being a great leader.
You know, it takes a strong person to look themselves in the eye and ask, “Am I the best possible version of myself in this moment?” But when you get to the point of your journey of self-discovery where the answer is almost always “Yes”, then you’ve really done something meaningful and important.
That’s when you really step into your leadership of others.