When you look up the word “leadership” in the dictionary, it is defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” In other words, leadership is almost always associated with the act of inspiring and guiding others. But what if we thought of leadership in a slightly different way. Instead of leadership being an outward focus on others, what if we focused on being a great leader of our own life first?
Whether the focus in on others or yourself, self-leadership is about being true to oneself and intentionally choosing to show your best self for every situation. Some situations call for your serious side, others for your happy side, and still others for your compassionate and considerate side. Being a great leader of your own life means being self-aware and genuine. When we guide ourselves in this way, we also draw out more authenticity among and between those around us, whether family members, friends, or even an entire organization.
Presumably, we all created a life design because of a passion to make a difference, to have a positive impact, to do something meaningful, and probably most of all, to lead a happy life. As the Dalai Lama XIV told us “Happiness is not something ready-made, it comes from your own actions.” But sometimes, in the course of everyday stresses, time crunches and pressures, we lose sight of the passions, motivations, and ambitions we’ve written into our own life design. In these times, we must all be leaders and guide ourselves to the transformed life we seek. When we can see this transformation clearly in our mind first, we can much more urgently commit ourselves to living our life design.
Yet even if our hopes, desires, and dreams are crystal clear, we will run up against the unexpected. Think of any journey you take. While you may plan and lay out the road ahead, there most often will be surprises along the way. Some of these surprises are wonderful and add delight … and some of them cause frustration, and may even create a sense of fear. That is the same with the journey of self-transformation that we are undertaking in our own life design. For some, it stimulates excitement and anticipation, and for others it can conjure fear and anxiety.
Just like being a leader for others, being a leader of your own life means navigating these highs and lows, the ups and the downs, the joy and the pain. But most importantly, it is about a continual recommitment to live the new design you’ve created for yourself. And interestingly, when you change yourself you also end up inspiring change in others. So perhaps we don’t need to throw out the standard definition of leadership but just add a word or two. Leadership – the action of first intentionally guiding your own life that expands to include guiding a group of people or an organization.
Leading a life of happiness is not ready-made, it comes from reconnecting with your inspirational life design again and again. And if you want to be a true leader of your organization or even a small portion of the world, start by being a leader of your own life design first.