Four Steps to Lead Ourselves

The Women’s Roundtable is setting its course to Thrive in 2015-16.  Growth, Excellence, Motivation and Strength (GEMS) are the core values we live by as women, as leaders and as WRT members.

Growth is to THRIVE, to develop successfully, to flourish or succeed. This month our focus is on personal growth. In order to lead ourselves well, we set our sights on the only person on the planet we can change — ourselves.

Now, if you’re like me, you’d much rather focus on what needs to be fixed in that woman sitting next to you.  I KNOW!  You and me both!  BUT, alas, it is not to be. The bad news is that we can’t fix what’s wrong in others or force them to get in line and follow our lead.  The good news is that we can inspire them by our journey and, almost by magic, when we grow we find others relating to us differently and following our lead more often. That’s what I call a win win!

So, now, on to the hard work.  Have you ever noticed that the hardest person to lead can be yourself?  Leading yourself starts with becoming self-aware. Self-awareness is when we know that we react a certain way when under certain circumstances. But the NEXT step is the key to growth.  It’s what actually causes us to act differently next time.

So what IS the secret then? The technical term is self-management. Learning to wrestle with yourself is a skill that will take you a LONG distance in a direction you actually want to go. We’ve all done it. In fact, we do it all the time. For example, how do you fit into that outfit you love that is one size too small in time for the next big event? You lead yourself out the door to the gym or the jogging path and you say no to yourself when you want to fall head first into that chocolate cake.

Yep, we do it already but why is it so HARD and how do we get better at it?


Scientific Fact: All neurological information (sensory input) travels from your brain stem through your limbic cortex (emotional center of your brain) before reaching the frontal lobe (logical center of your brain).

Ugh. Those emotions really do make it hard, even if you don’t consider yourself a person driven by your emotions. This is why getting rid of bad habits or making changes, even beneficial changes, is difficult.

You can stuff it, deny it, cover it up or mask it but IT starts out as an emotion and without proper attention you will spend your life in knee-jerk reactions to people, events, and chocolate cakes instead of making intentional choices.  Reactions do not produce thriving leaders or, for that matter, even happy followers.  Reactions make slaves and that means someone or something else has control of you. What we want is freedom but what we keep getting is NOT what we want.

For a brief moment let’s look a at the bigger picture.  What about our world & our communities? In case you blame the lack of self-management in our society on ‘kids nowadays’ OR on the old guard who can’t let go of the past, let me interject, this struggle for self-management is not new NOR is it passé.  Nope. Sorry Boomers & X’ers, it isn’t the Millennials’ fault.  Sorry Millennials, we haven’t evolved to the state of ‘Post Self-Management’.  There really isn’t an App for that.

This difficulty is very human in its origin and has plagued a multitude of generations and societies. I say “a MULTITUDE” because there are quotes addressing it from philosophers, military & religious leaders in ancient texts and up through history to the most current dissertations on leadership, business and personal development. (See a collection of quotes below.)

Now back to the only person we can change.  How DO we gain control over our most powerful adversary, ourselves?


Step One:  Dr. Robert Rohm of Personality Insights of Atlanta, GA and a mentor of mine says, “You can’t BEWARE until you are aware”.   Ah, there we go again. Self-awareness and self-management are a tight knit pair. You must know what is going on inside your head and why.  What triggers you? What emotions are you having?  Before you can make a decision to respond instead of react to life you need to know yourself even better than you do right now.

Step Two: Realize that the path to thriving isn’t really a path. You never arrive and get to quit growing. Growth in its very nature is ongoing. It’s a lifelong process that keeps cycling back around to self-awareness.

Step Three: So that all this ‘self-awareness’ doesn’t become narcissism, practice humility.  Ouch!  Really?  Aren’t leaders supposed to be confident and in charge?  Well, yes, BUT I guess we need to define terms at this juncture.  It has been said that humility is not to think less of yourself, but to think rightly of yourself.  It is to live in the tension of believing in your value and believing in the value of others.  It isn’t an either or proposition.  Either I’m valuable and therefore superior to everyone else or I’m a doormat and everyone else is superior to me.

  • Doormat NOT EQUAL to humility.
  • Delusions of grandeur NOT EQUAL to leadership.
  • Live in the tension.  There is room in this great big world for you to be you and others to be themselves.  Embracing that will cause a LOT of growth and might be a bit painful but definitely is not fatal (just the opposite, in fact).

Step Four: Embrace your inner student and buy a good book on self-management strategies; you’ll find them under the heading of Emotional Intelligence.  There are plenty out there.  Here’s one we like:  If you’re impatient go straight to Chapter 6 “Self-Management Strategies”. Or, better yet, wrestle with that emotion until you can escort it out of the limbic system into your frontal lobe and make it do what you tell it to do.  It’s worth it.  

Congratulations on all the ways you currently lead yourself.  I have not doubt there are experts and novices both stumbling upon this blog post.  But wherever we fall on the self-management continuum my hope is that we continue to grow. May each of us become aware so we can beware, celebrate growth as a lifelong process, practice humility by valuing ourselves and others, and embrace our inner student.

In short, may you THRIVE.


Famous Quotes on the topic of Leading Yourself:

“The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.”

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change


“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”

Eleanor Roosevelt


“I am very happy because I have conquered myself. And not the world. I am very happy because I have loved the world. And not myself.”

Sri Chinmoy


Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

― Proverbs 16:31-33  Bible New International Version


Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.

― Proverbs 25:27-28 Bible New International Version


Punishment may make us obey the orders we are given, but at best it will only teach an obedience to authority, not a self-control which enhances our self-respect.

―Bruno   Bettelheim


It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.



For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.



What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.



Rule your mind or it will rule you.