When most of us think of “leadership”, we think of ways to direct and control other people.
This is because when we were children and we did something stupid with our friends, one of the first things our parents said to us was “Don’t be a follower! Be a leader”. This somehow implied that the stupid decision wasn’t originally our idea.
This was usually followed up by an illuminating, but surprisingly demoralizing question: “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too just because they did it!?” It’s from conversations like these that people form their idea of leadership: one person has a plan and other people follow it.
People don’t randomly choose who to follow.
Successful leaders have certain traits–whether they’re consciously aware of them or not–which enables them to polarize group energy and direct it on an objective. The ability to do this isn’t a matter of right or wrong. It’s amoral power.
Remember: both Gandhi and Hitler were effective leaders. The only difference was the core values they operated from and their own leadership style.
“Who then is a leader? There have been countless people through history that led people but were inhumane and destructive. Does that still make them leaders? In my mind, a leader is someone who does more than just lead people. They have to be driven by the right motivation and make a positive impact on the people around them.”
Great leaders have used their power for good and evil. But before they conquered the world, they had to conquer themselves and develop their own personal leadership philosophy.
People rarely talk about personal leadership but without it, you’ll never be able to lead other people. More importantly, without it, you’ll never be able to lead yourself.
Becoming The Leader Of Your Life: Personal Leadership Philosophy
I always tell people that they should read books on leadership even if they are not in a position of leadership or have no desire to ever be a leader.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, employee, or gig worker, you need to learn what it takes to be a great leader so you can build your own personal leadership philosophy.
This is because you need to be good at leading yourself through the world.
You may never be the manager of a team or a general in command of a force, you will always be the CEO of your life and the captain of your destiny.
You’re responsible for your actions. You’re either punished or rewarded by the quality of your decision-making. You must avoid disaster while simultaneously maximizing the returns on your time and energy. All of this requires personal leadership.
When you get yourself into trouble, it’s because you let your emotions lead your actions. While there are times when this is appropriate, your emotions don’t consider what’s best for the long term. They only consider what’s best for now.
If you want to succeed, applying leadership principles to your life gives you the self-control to commit to actions that will pay off years from now.
In this post, I will explore my own leadership philosophy, how I developed it, and help you become the leader of your life. While my leadership philosophy is personal, I believe that everyone can benefit from it. Even if you don’t agree with all of the guiding principles I’ve laid out here, you can still use this to develop your own personal leadership philosophy.
The 4 Principles Of An Effective Personal Philosophy: How To Be The Successful Leader Of Your Life
The 1st Principle Of My Personal Leadership Philosophy: Direction
It’s not enough to have a goal. You also need something that you’re running away from.
You simultaneously need something you’re running towards and something that you’re trying to escape.
When I was an alcoholic with little money and even less self-respect, I wanted to be better. I started to run in the direction of a better life. I made the decision to go back to school and stop drinking, but I did this because I was tired of where I was in life. I was running away from failure as much as I was running towards success.
I was tired of being broke, having no prospects for the future, and not being respected. There was a lot of pain in my life due to being a grown man who was only worth 10 dollars an hour (before tax) and who spent that money excessively drinking away his problems. This was my pain point. This is what I was running away from.
I wanted to be respected and admired. I wanted to be clean and healthy. I wanted to earn money and accomplish something of note in my life. This is what I was running towards.
This is no different than a general leading his forces away from a position of danger to one where they hold the advantage. Avoidance of a problem works in tandem with seeking a solution. When these approaches are combined, the results are beyond impressive.
The 2nd Principle Of My Personal Leadership Philosophy: Responsibility
The leader who won’t take responsibility won’t be the leader for very long.
I used to do private tutoring and teaching in the sciences and mathematics. Whenever my students did well and wanted to thank me for helping them improve their grades or grasp a subject, I always told them: “Your successes are yours. Your failures are mine.”
As a leader, you must always take responsibility. Even if it isn’t your fault. In fact, those are the times that it’s even more important for you to take responsibility. When leading yourself, never blame anything for your situation but yourself.
Although physics is a math-heavy discipline (in fact, all physics majors get a minor in mathematics by default), I was a terrible math student. I used to blame my school or my home life, but what good did it do me? I was still bad at math and it was affecting what I could do with my life. Once I stopped finding things to blame and making excuses, I was able to get to work at improving my mediocre math skills.
I did the same thing with my alcoholism. I blamed genetics, my background, and my personality. Even though they all had an effect on my drinking habits, I could not lead myself out of the problems my relationship with alcohol was creating. I had to stop placing blame and instead focus on solving the problem. This meant taking responsibility.
To lead yourself is to control yourself and this can only be accomplished when you blame no one but yourself.
“They all say you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, since failure is an integral part of success; if you want to succeed, you simply have to go from failure to failure without giving up. Next to that, we can also find a very popular view on failure saying that you can usually learn much more from your failures than you can from your successes. Both statements are true in a way.”
The 3rd Principle of My Personal Leadership Philosophy: Honesty
Honesty is difficult for people.
Not only does it force them to face their problems, but it also forces them to make a decision.
Honest living removes all excuses. Honest living forces you to decide if you REALLY want to fix the problem or if you’re just paying lip service to the sexy idea of “self-improvement”.
It was challenging to admit to myself that I was a porn and alcohol addict, but it wasn’t until I identified the problems that I could do something about them. I had to admit to myself that I was nothing with no prospects for the future. I had to look at myself in the mirror and accept that I’d become a loser.
It wasn’t just about admitting what I was. I also had to admit to myself what I wanted. Once I was honest with myself, I could lead myself. I refused to live my life with “sour grapes syndrome”.
Sour grapes syndrome comes from an old tale. In that story, a fox is walking along in the forest when he spots a juicy bunch of grapes hanging from a branch. He leaps upward and tries to snatch the fruit between his teeth but he misses. He tries a second time and misses again. After a third miss, he gives up and slinks away, muttering, “They’re probably sour anyway.”
This is how many people respond. Rather than face their shortcomings, they twist them to become their preferences. Rather than work on being more, they learn to accept being less. This is a lie that steals ambition and devours potential. I had many problems, but I was not willing to lie to myself.
I accepted what I was. I accepted who I wanted to become. Then I got to work leading myself through the transition from the former to the latter.
The 4th Principle Of My Personal Leadership Philosophy: Decisiveness
Good leaders understand that it’s better to be proactive than reactive.
I make a small chunk of change each month from my books and programs, but I had to decide to sit down every day and work on them. I’m in decent physical shape, but I had to decide to eat well and train. Nothing worthwhile in your life simply happens. It requires you to make a decision and then support that decision with disciplined action.
This may seem obvious, but many people live like they’re just going to wake up to their dream life one day. Or they’re waiting for their big break or some grand adventure. The next thing you know, they’re 35 with no accomplishments and no stories other than the latest *insert latest Netflix series here* they just binge-watched.
I don’t know your specific talents, hobbies, or interests. I don’t know anything about your goals or aspirations. What I know is that without a conscious decision followed by definitive action, you won’t get anything out of life besides what’s leftover–and that’s usually not that great, hence why it’s what remains after the hustlers are finished.
If you don’t take ownership of yourself and what you want, someone else will and their decision almost certainly won’t be in your favor. This is how people spend their entire lives in dead-end jobs and relationships. The person who takes control will make decisions based on what’s best for themselves–not for the person who wants more out of life.
You don’t make decisions because you’re afraid. You’re afraid of intent.
Somewhere along the course of your life, you got the idea that it was better to hope for a specific outcome rather than try to manifest it. This is because when you aim for a specific outcome, there’s always a chance that you won’t get it.
Maybe some good things did happen without you trying, but it’s much more likely that good things will happen if you try to make them happen.
“Every day we make series of choices that lead us closer to our goals or even further away. Making better, healthier choices, may lead to better results in the long run. But we shouldn’t forget that we don’t have control over the circumstances.
Bad things happen, unexpected things happen, and no matter how carefully we make decisions, there’s still risk involved. Instead of being paralyzed by it, we can choose to feel liberated and understand that life can never be predicted.”
A Summary Of The 4 Principles Of My Personal Leadership Philosophy
It doesn’t matter what your core values and motivations are. These four principles are the bedrock of any personal leadership philosophy.
The rest is up to you.