A while back I pointed out that successful people are leaders. But what if you don’t see yourself as a leader? How can you start to become one?

The military is one organization that excels at creating leadership. They have to be. For them creating top notch leadership is critical to their success as an organization. For them leadership is literally a life and death issue. Their approach is to break people down first and then build them back up. They accomplish this through an intensive indoctrination period that involves high stress, intense physical activity, and harsh psychological pressure to break down the ego.

What if joining the military is not your cup of tea? Can you still learn to be a leader?

Fortunately the answer is yes. But you have to start at the beginning.

Leading Yourself

The starting point for all leadership is learning how to lead yourself. The military teaches that in order to be a good leader you must first be a good follower. And that is especially true in our society where the military ultimately answers to civilian control. But the principle also applies to life in general.

Even Jesus said that in order to be a leader you had to first learn how to serve others. Check out his words about leadership:

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”

And leading yourself is the first step toward serving others. Most folks miss this point. They want to jump right into leadership without laying the proper foundation and end up bungling the job.

But you are different. You are willing to do what it takes to lay the proper foundation. You are on your way to becoming a masterful leader of yourself so that you can best serve others and ultimately become a very skilled leader of others.

Here are seven things that will get you well on your road toward leading yourself:

  • Exhibit Self Control – In order to successfully lead yourself you must get a grip on your more extreme passions. Do you have a tendency to get disproportionately angry and lash out at people when things don’t go your way? You must learn to control it. Are your spending habits burying you in debt? You must learn to control it. Are you not where you want to be physically because you always go for that sweet dessert? You must learn to control your appetite.The first step in learning to lead ourselves is exercising self control and steering our passions into things that are beneficial and not destructive.
  • Live Wisely – This point goes hand in glove with the first one. In order to lead yourself you must learn to live wisely. Wise living means learning to make good choices. These are choices that propel you forward in life and don’t bog you down. Wisdom is the successful application of knowledge. And that means that in order to lead yourself you must take on the responsibility to learn all you can about leadership. Then, after you’ve acquired the knowledge, apply it to your life. As you exercise self control and build a track record of living wisely, the next step will naturally follow.
  • Build a Good Reputation – There’s a proverb that says, “Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold.” While it is true there are some people who’s reputation is not justified, the truth has a way of making itself known. If you want to become a successful leader, you must consider your reputation in the community. Are you known as person who is trustworthy? Do you keep your word? Are you dependable? These things are indicators of how well you are doing leading yourself.
  • Be Hospitable – If the road to leadership passes through servanthood then one of the best ways to get there is through being welcoming to others. Certainly one way is to welcome people into your own home. But it can even be much more simple than that. You can offer invitations to people to join you in most any activity. Try it out. When you are heading out to lunch with your usual bunch at work, invite someone different to join you. If you see someone looking for a seat at a theater or conference (or even church) offer up the empty seats beside you without making them ask, “Are these seats taken?”
  • Share What You Know – Again this goes back to being a servant to others. Do you have unique experiences that have given you wisdom in a particular area? Share that with others. As you share what you know others will begin to look to you and you will find that you will become a source of wisdom that folks seek out. The trick here is to share with the right spirit. Don’t be condescending or give your information with strings attached. Share your wisdom freely and the rewards will eventually come back to you far greater quantities than if you demanded something up front.
  • Be Gentle – This falls in the general category of “Be nice.” If you do find you have to correct someone who has messed up, learn to do it gently. Gently dealings with others is a key indicator of personal self control. If you have a habit of machine gunning folks around you for minor perceived offences, then you probably have some work to do in this area. As a point of confession this is an area that I find I must put significant effort to keep improving on in my own life. Gentleness is not something that comes naturally to me.
  • Love Peace – If you find that discord and strife naturally follow you around, it may be a sign that you have some work to do in this area. By loving peace I mean something larger and much more personal than being anti-war. The peace loving I am talking about is not at all political. Instead it involves sowing seeds of harmony, tranquility, or serenity around you. Loving peace means that you don’t annoy others, drive them to distraction, or fill them with anxiety. Sometimes loving peace can be as simple as being quiet and still.

So there you have it. 7 ways to start leading yourself.

And as a special bonus I’ll give you one more tip. Don’t Obsess About Money. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. There is a fine line between being responsible with our finances and becoming a lover of money. When we cross over that line we are lacking self control and we are less able to lead ourselves toward success.


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