If you’ve ever been on a plane, you’ve heard the following from flight attendants: In the event of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first. After all, if we don’t first help ourselves, how can we help others?
The same applies for leadership. In order to be a great leader of others, you have to first take care of yourself. Everyone wants to know how to move up the corporate ladder, but they don’t realize that it really starts internally, with you. That’s where self-leadership comes in. To learn more about the concept, Robyn Ward, an esteemed leadership and performance coach, CEO of FounderForward, and of course, part of The FQ pack shared her thoughts. She’s spent more than two decades working alongside founders and executives, and she knows what makes a peak performer. Here are five tips she shared about investing in yourself to become a better leader:
- Self-care. People don’t leave companies; they leave managers. So, if you don’t show up as a happy, healthy person, it will impact others. Self-care is the key to manifesting anything in life, notes Robyn. “There is this new thing that self-care is rosé on Sundays with a bath. Not to say that I don’t like rosé and a bath, but that’s not all self-care is. Self-care is consciously built into everything you do throughout your day. It is the physical, mental, and spiritual rituals built into your life.”
- Self-awareness. If you want to be the best leader and best person you can be, self-awareness is key. However, it doesn’t come easy and it’s a big blind spot for lots of people. “Being self-aware is knowing who we are and how we show up, what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are,” says Robyn. “It’s the core of authenticity — and authenticity leads to trust.”
- Self-improvement. Embrace the person you are, but also be on the lookout for ways to evolve. The leader you are today is not necessarily the leader you need to be to advance in your career. Robyn recommends taking an intentional approach: “Every human should be intentionally growing. Set three to five KPI growth agendas for the year. Ask yourself, ‘What are a few things I need to work on to get to SVP?’” She also suggests having an “accountability partner” who helps you stay on track. This can be a partner, a friend, or even a career coach.
- Self-management. At a certain point, how you show up each day is more important than how smart or experienced you are. You can learn a million skills, but if you’re not able to handle the grind, you won’t be able to put them to good use. Robyn puts self-management into two buckets: time and attention. “Work smarter, not harder — and as much as you manage your time, also manage your mindset,” she advises. “EQ has been found to be two times as important as IQ. Great managers have a high EQ, so it’s key to work on your emotional intelligence. Think about how you manage your thoughts and your feelings, both at work and at home. You can do this by journaling, so you’re more in touch with your emotions.”
- Self-reflection. The most successful leaders build self reflection into their lives. According to Harvard Business Review, people who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23 percent better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. As Robyn notes, “Take time at the end of the day, month, or year to reflect on how you showed up.” Our lives are so busy, and it can be tempting to let this exercise fall to the wayside, but Robyn stresses how important it is: “I remind people how much productivity you’re losing by not reflecting. You’re not just reflecting on what you’ve done, but also how you’re thinking and feeling. Also, you’re a mirror for your team, regardless of the level you’re at. Think about how much you will elevate your team by instituting time for self-reflection.”
Everyone wants to grow, to stretch and learn, but our default is often to operate on autopilot. Instead, let’s get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Look in the mirror, ask yourself the tough questions, and be honest with your answers. Ask yourself, “Am I the best that I can be?” Once you get used to doing it, you’ll probably even start to enjoy the ritual. Self-leadership may not sound as fun as rosé and a bubble bath, but it’s certainly more rewarding! After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.