Self-leaders are people who are eager to learn, to participate and to contribute. They don’t just turn up to make up the numbers or to clock in a day’s work. Instead, they want to be active contributors, always learning more and becoming increasingly efficient. Willing self-leaders make effective and valued team members, acting as an inspiration and support, not only to other team members but also to team leaders.
In life we can be followers, leaders or self-leaders. We can also move between each category, depending on what task or project we are undertaking.
We are followers when:
- our intent and passion is not yet matched by our skills and sufficient training.
- we acknowledge that we need to be led.
- we don’t know the terrain well enough.
- we are not confident of being able to deal with all the challenges that present themselves on the route.
We are followers when we are in the apprenticeship stage of our journeys. It is only when we master our craft and learn how to use all the tools of the trade that we become leaders.
- we match our passion with training and experience which enables us to be confident in our own ability to lead others.
Between following and leading is the self-leading phase. As we progress in our training and learn the skills we need to know, we advance in knowledge and ability. However, to become self-leaders we must make the decision to adopt self-leading behaviour; many of us don’t and remain forever in the ‘follower’ phase. This is not a problem if we are content to remain at a certain point in our journey, or prefer to advance at a more gradual pace. If, on the other hand, we are hungry to learn more and want to advance at a faster pace, then we move from follower into self-leading mode. When we do this we:
- make a conscious decision to observe and manage our own progress
- start taking responsibility for our actions, our behaviour, our skills level and our commitment.
In business and on expeditions Pat Falvey have always sought to have self-leaders on his teams. An example of an excellent self-leader was his partner on many expeditions, Clare O’Leary. When they were going to the South Pole, Clare took charge of sorting their diet and medical requirements. She was confident in her own ability and Pat was confident that, no matter what task she was given, she would have the ability to fulfil it. She led in certain areas and he, as team leader, was happy to accept this. A lot of people don’t want to take such responsibility and a lot of leaders don’t allow self-leaders the freedom to take the reins in certain areas because it challenges them and because they don’t trust their team members sufficiently.
Self-leading demands a high level of honesty with yourself. If we are not totally honest about our aspirations and our limits, then it becomes harder to fully self-lead. When we are self-leading effectively, we remain open to learning new and better approaches as we increase our knowledge and skill set. Integral to self-leading is the willingness and desire to engage very consciously with the process and this is reflected in our desire to contribute our own ideas and suggestions as self-leaders. As we go from being followers to being self-leaders, we learn to move from an emotional to a more rational response to the challenges that face us. It is only when we learn to be effective self-leaders that we can move on to leading others.
- Self-leaders are excellent followers because they are actively engaged in the process of learning and gaining knowledge and skills
- Self-leaders support the leader in a meaningful, constructive way which makes for more effective and productive teamwork
- When you self-lead you grow in confidence
Learn more about how to move from being a follower to becoming a self-leader in You Have The Power: Explore The Mindset You Need To Realise Your Dreams.