You Must Lead Yourself Before You Lead Your Company

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived? Learn how to lead yourself so that you can effectively lead your company.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?    

If you want to be a great entrepreneur, you must pursue your passions. Doing so creates the virtuous circle of passions leading to success leading to passions leading to success. You must also ensure that your passions are controlled and you’re clear about your own personal ethics, because too much passion can lead to dysfunctional behaviors.   

This type of introspection is a core part of writing your own personal leadership philosophy. Simply put, you must carve out the time to figure out how you’re going to lead yourself. Leading yourself isn’t complicated, but it is required if you hope to inspire others and guide your team to collectively achieve your company’s goals.

As I look at leadership across four aspects: leading yourself, leading the thinking, leading your people, and leading a balanced life, the first of those sets the stage to build all the others. To lead yourself, you need to ask yourself five critical questions, and then distill the answers to simple, easy-to-remember (and act upon) “maxims.” A maxim is nothing more than a rule of behavior or conduct.

Why do you get out of bed every day?

You must know what the source of your passion is and remember to gravitate toward work that enables you to pursue that passion daily. For me, my passion is about leading and teaching. It’s no shock that I write about and teach leadership for a living.

How will you shape your future?

This is about defining your personal “end state”. Imagine writing your epitaph and eulogy. What will they say about you and who you were? I hope mine says, “He never stopped learning, teaching, and coaching.”

What guidelines do you live by?

You need to define your personal ethics and boil them down to a simple set of rules. For me, mine is, “What would Nana say?”. For every action, I ask what my grandmother would think about it. If she wouldn’t be happy with my choice, then I don’t do it.

When you fall, how do you pick yourself up?

Entrepreneurship is hard. You likely don’t have a boss or coach there to pick you up and dust you off when you crash. How do you inspire yourself to get back up and get in the fight? For me, a Hemingway quote does the trick: “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

How do you hold yourself accountable?

As an entrepreneur, you’re the one setting the standard. You too must live by that standard. Moving from accountable to responsible is a big step, as being responsible means you hold yourself accountable. For me, a simple reminder to hold myself accountable is “I see it, I own it.” That reminds me to take responsibility for problems I encounter that need to be fixed.

Once you’ve invested the time in introspection and asking yourself these questions, you need to distill those answers down to a few lines on a single piece of paper. They will become your maxims. Keep them. Refer to them often. Live by them, and run your business by them.

Those “leading yourself” maxims will point you in the right direction and empower you to unleash your passions in the right way. These maxims will help you through difficult times and encourage you to achieve your goals.

Once you’ve defined how you’ll lead yourself, you’re truly ready to start leading your organization.

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