The biggest shift I’ve seen in business over the last handful of years is the rise of “do it yourself” leadership. As companies have streamlined by reducing mid-tier management, people are finding themselves in the situation of having to make more and more decisions on their own and take on more responsibility in the process. There’s a lot of opportunity in this change.
Are You a Leader?
When I asked this question to several people, a vast number of the people who responded spoke as if saying yes to that question (Are you a leader?) was the same as somehow bragging or thinking of yourself as more important than anyone else. This caught me by surprise. I thought that everyone would prefer to think of themselves as a leader, even if they’re leading from an individual contributor position.
At the same time, I’m fairly certain that organizations need their front line employees to work from the leadership mindset more often. As that middle level of management is now mostly gone, that means people higher up in organizations are being forced to oversee more and more people. Imagine having to know the details of hundreds of employees’ work scenarios and keep track of all that while still maintaining the company’s objectives. It’s a lot to handle.
The Rise of Personal Leadership
The good news is that a mix of elements can help everyone make this environment work rather well.
First, let me say that “personal leadership” is for everyone. We lead ourselves first. That happens with or without other people following our direction. Personal leadership is the practice of aligning your mission to the larger mission of your organization, and then setting your own goals and projects and practices into alignment with that.
Before we even talk about leading others or how personal leadership makes it easier for organizations to act and react faster and more decisively, we have to look at the “Unit of One,” the self. Let me ask a handful of questions:
- Do you know your own personal mission? Why are you doing what you do and who do you want to serve?
- Do your goals align with that mission?
- Is your day built around projects that serve those goals?
- Do you practice and grow your capabilities so that you can accomplish those projects and goals?
- Do you assume responsibility and take ownership of what needs doing?
Personal leadership is the work of pursuing achievement of your mission, goals, and projects in the service of those you seek to serve. Whether you work for yourself or a large corporation, you start here. You ask those five questions. You work from a plan and that plan guides your actions.
Imagine Personal Leaders Working With You
I don’t know what your work environment is like right now but imagine working with a bunch of people who worked from this perspective:
- My mission is ___ . I serve ___ .
- My goals are _____. They align with my mission.
- My days are built around projects that will help me attain these goals are _____.
- I work on capabilities like ___ to improve my chances to complete these projects and reach my goals.
- I take responsibility for my mission. I own my days.
Who wouldn’t want a workforce filled with people who feel this way?
The Big Pushback
“But other people aren’t like that. I can be as much of a leader as I want, but _____ isn’t and he never will be.”
You can only lead yourself. The rest of leadership is the act of convincing others that your needs align with theirs. Finding a way to align is the work of leaders. Others might not use the same formula above to live their lives, but you can bet that you’ll stand out if you’re working from that mindset and others aren’t.
Imagine what quarterly reviews would look like if you worked from those five simple concepts. Imagine how daily check-ins could tell you quite quickly whether you’re on the right path. That’s what I think is so great about the concept of personal leadership. If an organization aligns around this really simple (but not easy) process, everything gets easier to talk about, more clear, and it becomes obvious where things are out of alignment.
And it works in all directions. You can tell quite quickly if the boss is pushing against and away from the mission, goals, projects, and practice that will lead you to success, and you might just feel empowered to talk about it with that boss.
Ready to Lead?
Whether or not anyone else is ready to assume the responsibilities of personal leadership, YOU can start and build up the capabilities to accomplish more in your days. Over at Owner Media, we’ve started the 20 Minute Plan JUMPSTART to help folks build a personal leadership framework. The results have been great, and I’m excited to see what people have reported as success in their own lives and businesses.
This is the year of Personal Leadership, when more and more people realize that it’s their job to take ownership of what matters in their lives and work, and where they find the tools to do so.
Wishing you great success with this, and as always, jump into my free newsletter for even more on topics like this.