Leadership Begins With Leading Yourself

Leadership Begins With Leading Yourself

Amy Snow 6 min read

Warm Up

Are you a travel agent or a tour guide?

When you lead, be a tour guide. Take others where you have first been yourself. Show them the ropes, what you have learned, the ins and outs, the ups and downs. Lead by showing…a “come along with me” mentality. You cannot take someone where you have never been. You cannot give what you do not have.

“How we lead ourselves in life impacts how we lead those around us.” Michael Hyatt


If we’re honest, we know that the hardest person to lead is ourselves. That’s why it’s been said that the highest form of leadership and the hardest form of leadership is self-leadership. Why is it that we can be our own worst enemy and can often disqualify ourselves? The reason is two-fold.

First, we have the uncanny ability to size up every other person in the world except ourselves. It’s much easier to see the faults or shortcomings in someone else, isn’t it? But it is so important that we have a realistic picture of where our difficulties and weaknesses lie. Otherwise, there is no way to lead ourselves well, let alone lead others with integrity.

Secondly, we usually are harder on other people than we are on ourselves. We tend to judge others according to their actions—cut and dry. But when it comes to judging ourselves, we judge by our intentions. So even if we do the wrong thing, we let ourselves off the hook if we believe our motives were good.

Have you ever been at practice and gotten on a teammate’s case because they were giving a half-hearted effort or just seemed to be in a bad mood that was impacting everyone? Then later your coach was on you for your attitude which internally irritated you.

“What’s his deal?” you may have thought. “I was helping a friend in need last night…I was up late studying”…or some other excuse you’re telling yourself to give yourself the “right” to behave that way.

We often don’t see it, but this is when we need to hold up a mirror to our own behavior. We can often let ourselves off the hook for the same behavior we’re holding against someone else. As a leader, we need to evaluate ourselves first.

We also see this in Scripture.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 3-5

Taking responsibility for your life is a key to leading your life.

Practice as hard as you play on the day of competition. Work hard, with a good attitude, whether someone is watching or not. Respect and encourage your teammates. Be coachable. Live a life that is consistent on and off the field. Work as hard in the classroom as you do in your sport. Treat your family, friends, and classmates with respect and kindness like you do your teammates.

Start with you.

Invest in yourself by growing yourself…as a person, as an athlete, as a leader. That is the highest form of leadership. It’s also the hardest. But you can do it! Begin by leading yourself and others will want to follow you and your example.

“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others, as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” –Thomas J. Watson


Ways to improve your self-leadership:

  1. Learn to follow. As a leader, if you are a good follower, you will lead well. If you have never been a follower, willingly submit yourself to the leadership of someone else & follow well. You will learn humility and be a more effective leader. Try volunteering as an option or allow a teammate to lead a drill/session.

  2. Develop self-discipline – This begins when we do what we should, no matter how we feel about it. Remember that the secret to your success is in your daily agenda. What do you need to start doing consistently, on a daily basis? What do you need to stop doing that’s hurting your success? List them out.

  3. Practice patience – Very few things that are worthwhile in life come quickly. Leaders can be an impatient lot. Remember the point of leadership isn’t to cross the finish line first, but to bring others along with you. Who can you build into and bring with you? List their names and make a plan for how you will start to build into them.

  4. Seek accountability – Be careful of a false sense of security thinking “it could never happen to me”. Having no accountability in our personal life will lead to problems in our public life. Effective accountability begins way BEFORE we take action. It starts with getting advice from others. Who do you admire and respect that you can seek advice from?

Ask 5-10 friends, coaches, colleagues and family members to evaluate you on how well you take advice.

Each of the following is worth the number beside it:

  1. You don’t want advice
  2. You don’t object to advice.
  3. You welcome advice.
  4. You actively seek advice
  5. You often follow the advice given.

Average the scores you get. If your average is below a 4, you need to improve in this area. A place to begin is to seek advice from others when you are in the process of gathering information BEFORE you make decisions.

“Leading yourself well means that you hold yourself to a higher standard of accountability than others do. Why? Because you are held responsible not only for your own actions, but also for those of the people you lead. Leadership is a trust, not a right.” - John Maxwell

5. Suggested Reading: Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni; The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player and Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn by John Maxwell; Energy Bus by Jon Gordon

To learn more about Amy’s one-on-one or group coaching for current athletes and athletes in transition, as well as her leadership training, go to www.amysnowcoaching.com.