When people embark on change of any kind, they often struggle with sustaining positive change over a long period of time. Often I get asked, "How do you maintain a positive change without feeling like you are constantly struggling with yourself?" I always answer with, “By leading yourself.”
What many people fail to realize is that anyone can lead. Anyone can become leader because the first person to lead is the self. One of the greatest myths in our society is that leadership is tied to a position or a title. Individuals can improve their life and the lives of others by focusing on first and for most leading themselves. The greatest motivational principle of all time is people do what people see. When people see you modelling excellence than they are more likely to model it as well. This true in families, organizations, and communities.
When we are able to lead ourselves, we are able to lead others through demonstration as opposed to proclamation. I believe that everyone on earth has the potential to be a productive change agent leader. I believe in an open system of leadership as opposed to a closed system of leadership. In an open system, every individual is a leader and leads by example. Every person takes responsibility for his/her own individual actions and ensures he/she is creating positive change in his/her life. Modeling this type of behavior allows other people to recognize the positive change. Therefore, want to embrace the concept as well because they witness the benefits of living from a responsibility mindset (focusing on the solution; creating positive change) rather than a victim mindset (focusing on blaming, justifying, accusing). The open system builds leadership capacity throughout families, businesses, organizations and society. As a result of living from a place of personal responsibility, everyone is accountable and becomes a leader in our culture of change.
In a Closed System, at the top of a family, business, company, organization or society, there is one person who leads. The leader attempts to empower others people but does not allow others the space or the opportunity to become leaders. When this leader leaves (for whatever reason), the family, business, organization or society struggles to adapt and thrive because the leader, whom everyone relied on to lead them, is gone. Too many times I have witnessed families, businesses, organizations and specific positions in society struggle because a powerful individual has left due to retirement, transfer, or promotion. When one individual holds all the power and responsibility, regardless of his/her effectiveness as a leader, positive change is difficult. This is why it is essential for leaders to duplicate their skills and ability in others. Once leaders take the time to develop others, they multiply the effect. Developing others is relatively easy. I have learned a five step process that can be used in any environment.
Step 1 – I do it. Every person that wants to develop others must be able to model it.
Step 2 – I do it and you watch me do it.
Step 3 – You do it and I watch you. I teach, mentor and coach you along.
Step 4 – You do it on your own.
Step 5 – You teach someone else how to do it. This is where the multiplication effect takes place.
Beside taking the responsibility of developing others, successful leaders are reflective practitioners. They create powerful habits that serve them and ultimately others. They create a structure and system that works toward continuous improvement. These leaders understand that stability does not exist. They know that we are either moving forward or we are moving backward, but we are never just in a place of stability. Successful leaders exercise their responsibility mindset by building positive habits into their daily life.
This is possible because they take the time to consistently reflect on who they are and what they are working towards. One common practice of responsible leaders is that they take 15-30 minutes every evening to reflect on the events of the day and ask themselves key questions. What worked? What didn’t work? Would others follow me today? Did I do one thing that will help me achieve my vision? For successful leaders, this practice is as routine as brushing their teeth or take a shower every morning. It has become a powerful habit.