The 4 Pillars Of Self Leadership

posted by Darren Mitchell December 1, 2016 0 comments


The great John Maxwell says that leadership is influence and influence is leadership – this is so true. Whilst many leaders believe they can influence, a large percentage of them do so through positional leadership. That is, they are the Manager, and therefore will tell their team what to do, hence believing that they are influencing. This is not necessarily true, they are merely directing. When it comes to leadership, the leader must earn the right to lead his/her people through developing trust, especially if they are seeking sustainable success. Importantly, prior to being able to lead the team, they must be able to successfully lead themselves. Because all leadership starts from self leadership, and when a leader is able to successfully lead themselves, there is congruence when it comes to leading their team.

There are countless examples of leaders who ‘appeared’ to have it all together from the outside, and yet fell short in terms of their ability to influence the team and drive the results. A prime example was a leader who I worked with many years ago who found it very difficult to make decisions for themselves on relatively small things. They suffered from that insidious condition, procrastination. And so when it came to leading the team, they would constantly ‘advise’ their team to make quicker decisions, to ‘get on with it’, and amusingly say ‘stop procrastinating!!’ This, as you can imagine, did not end well, because there was an incongruence between their self leadership and approach, and the leadership of the team. And unfortunately the leaders’ credibility and reputation was adversely affected. It was the classic example of ‘do as I say, and not as I do’. Not exactly a successful blueprint for sustainable growth and results.

As mentioned previously, simply because you have been placed in a leadership role, this does not guarantee you to be a leader – you must earn the right to lead your people, because one of the cornerstones of a great leader is that people choose and want to follow the leader, they are not forced to. Great leaders understand that effective leadership of others begins with effective leadership of self, and effective leadership of self is founded on 4 core pillars – the 4 Pillars of Self Leadership:

Pillar 1 – Authenticity

Have you ever met someone for the very first time and you get the feeling that something is not quite right? That they are no genuine? From a 1st impressions perspective, we have very little time to create the 1st impression; for many, only a matter of seconds. It is so important to create a great first impression, or at least stack the odds in your favour, understanding that you will not be a match with everyone. And the quickest way I have found to create that 1st impression is to be authentic. In other words, what you see is what you get, not pretending to be anyone else. A great leader has a genuine grounded level of authenticity, and no matter who they are speaking with, they are the same. There is no ‘showmanship’, no ‘faking it till you make it’, just a genuineness that creates an environment where people feel safe and calm. This authenticity stems from the leader being 100% crystal clear on what they stand for. They know their values, what is important to them, they have clearly set standards of excellence and behaviour, and they consistently execute against those standards. And with this comes a level of calmness and groundedness that allows them to deal with any situation that arises. They are very clear on their identity and therefore extremely comfortable with who they are. What do you stand for? What are your top 5 values, and what standards of excellence and behaviour have you set for yourself? Do the exercise – you may be pleasantly surprised with what you discover. If you would like help with this, send me a note to darren@darrenmitchell.com.au

Pillar 2 – Simplicity

In over 20 years working in the corporate environment, I was constantly amused at the number of people who would take the simple and attempt to make it as complex as possible. It was almost as though it was a badge of honour or a mark of accomplishment if an idea could be made as complex as possible. How ridiculous. Great leaders do the complete opposite. They take the complex and convert it to simplicity – which not surprisingly increases their effectiveness and ability to communicate the message. A personal example I have used many times – when I first began my career in sales, I presented to my Sales Manager on the virtues, features and benefits of the company. I had 20 minutes to deliver the presentation and worked extremely hard to gather as much information as possible, because I was desperate to impress. I was very satisfied with myself as I had put together 80 slides for the presentation! Ridiculous. My Sales Manager gave me very sound counsel which I still use today; simplify, simplify and simplify some more. He asked me to deliver the presentation again the next week, but with half the number of slides, then the week after, with half the slides again. So it went until I was able to deliver the same 20 minute presentation with only 4 slides and I realised that I didn’t actually need the slides at all. Simplicity. So, with what you are focused on right now, look for ways to simplify it. How can you deliver that message in half the words, or in half the time. How can you break down that complex project into simple chunks. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pillar 3 – Language

Our life is like a thermostat, and what ever temperature we have set, that is the limit we place on ourself. Very rarely do we outperform the image we have of ourself. And often the image is set based on the beliefs we have, and these beliefs are formed from the language we use. When I say language, this is both the language we use to speak to others, but even more importantly, the language we use when speaking to ourself. The self talk. Great leaders have powerful and empowering self talk. It always comes from the perspective of possibilities and not limitations. For you, is the glass half full, or half empty? When you look at the sky, do you focus on the blue sky or do you notice the clouds? With your self talk, is there hesitation, followed by ‘I can’t do this…’? or is there certainty and ‘I can do this…’? You see, great self leadership starts with great self talk. The language you use will create a series of events that will result in what you say coming to pass. This is your Reticular Activating System (RAS) at work. Be very clear on your language, particularly with yourself. Now many may be thinking ‘well that is all about ego’. No, it isn’t actually. The fact is, we all have an ego, and there is nothing wrong with that. Positive self talk, combined with authenticity, will create a healthy ego and confidence. Be very specific with the language you use.

Pillar 4 – Failure & Success

I know it’s a generalisation – most people want to be successful. I am yet to meet a person whose main goal in life is to be a complete failure!! However, what many people want is success with no experience of failure – they want smooth sailing and the easy road. There can be no such thing. Life is about contrast – there can be no light without darkness, no day without night, no right without wrong, and no success without failure. In order to climb the mountain, there must be a valley to pass through. In order to experience success, you must experience failure. And failure can be a harsh word, because it creates the impression that you have not achieved something. Just look at our school system, or the corporate world!! I believe the only way to fail, is to give up and quit. Great leaders understand that ‘failure’ delivers experience, and over time, wisdom, and is a necessary stepping stone to success. They know that in order to climb the mountain, they must pass through the valley – they just won’t camp in the valley. So please understand, that in order to achieve success, you must experience some level of failure (or challenge). And know that through experiencing failure, your confidence can actually improve. This is the 4th pillar of self leadership.

As I’ve said many times, leadership comes with great responsibility, and whilst I believe everyone has the capability to be a leader, not everyone chooses to take on the responsibility. Those who do, who focus first on themselves and their self leadership, more often than not, find themselves becoming great leaders of people, exerting high levels of influence and creating sustainable and outstanding results. If you want to be a great leader, become a great leader of self first.

To your continued leadership success.


If you want to know how you can better lead your sales team, send me an email at darren@darrenmitchell.com.au

If we haven’t already connected via LinkedIn, I would love to connect. Please click this link to send me an invitation.

Also, be sure to download a FREE copy of my e-Book “Lead With Influence – The 7 Strategic Keys to Unleash Your Sales Leadership Potential”. Click on the link to the right of this page to download a copy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post – I greatly appreciate it, and welcome comments and feedback. Please feel free to comment below, to follow me on LinkedIn, or to connect via Twitter, or Facebook.

Darren specialises in working with Sales Leaders to create, implement & embed a sales leadership game plan that will deliver outstanding and sustainable sales & revenue results. He is also the founder of the Australian Sales Leadership Network, a LinkedIn Group for sales leaders to share insights, strategies, resources and best practices, in order to build high quality, engaged and successful sales teams, delivering profitable and sustainable sales results. To apply to join, please click this link.

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