Chris Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson column: Election brings reflection on self-leadership

Given the election was this week, leadership is top of mind.

By Chris Wilkinson

Given the election was this week, leadership is top of mind.

When you think of leadership, what comes to mind for you? Do you see yourself as a leader? Is that simply a yes or no kind of question? Are there situations where you lead, and others where you don’t? Are you a leader at work? At home? When amongst friends? Is leadership a good thing?

What a loaded question! Is leadership a good thing? Why would we ever think leadership is a bad thing? I suppose, if our experience with those termed “leaders” has been negative, that could be why. However, leadership as something we all possess — now that’s interesting to consider.

One common definition of leadership is: the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization. Another is: a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

It’s been written that the five essential qualities of a good leader are: communication, vision, empathy, accountability, and gratitude. It’s also been researched and published that the four most important qualities of a leader are: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

The fact is, we are all leaders. It’s the truth. We are all leaders because there have been times where we’ve led a person, or project, or discussion, or action. We’re just varying degrees of leaders. And yet that’s not even the most important part of leadership. None of the above really matters at the beginning. Because the only question that really matters that we should be asking ourselves is, “How am I leading myself?”. What I mean by that is, are you leading by example yourself. Do you have daily habits that are reflecting a leader? Are you taking total responsibility for your actions, decisions and behaviours?

If you were sitting across from your 10-year-old self and telling your younger self all that you’ve done since, all that you’re doing now, and how you’ve chosen to fill your days, how does that feel to have that conversation? Proud?

When I think of self-leadership these are the key ingredients:

• Taking full self-responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words and actions; who do you want to be seen as?

• Avoiding complaining, but rather thinking in solution-focused terms

• Avoiding blame as much as possible; remember the phrase, ‘I brought myself to this point’

• Avoiding being defensive or taking things too personally; employ some stoicism

• Realizing that no one will spend much time on making you happy, even if they love you to the core (it’s unintentional, they just have their own stuff to worry about), so you need to figure out for yourself what makes you happy, and then start doing more of that

• Trying to improve just a little bit, every single day and week

• Being intentional every day and every week about what it is that you’re here to do; what fulfills you; what have you done in your life that has made you feel purposeful — then do MORE of that!

Leadership is something that is lacking today. While there are some great examples of leadership, there’s a vacuum of leadership sucking up dirt in society. And there’s little so useless as complaining about leadership and other leaders. Be what you want to see.

It starts with self-leadership. Each one of us can step up our game in how we live, love and lead. Take one of the items from the checklist above that resonates most with you and sit with it for even five minutes, with pen and paper. Write down two or three things that you think you could shift that would make you feel like you are living more on purpose in that area, creating more of the self-led person you want to be. You’ll like how it feels.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.”

—Oprah Winfrey