The most important person you will lead is yourself. The most neglected person you will lead is yourself. The hardest person you will lead is yourself.
Being a great manager starts with leading yourself first. This might sound strange or a little backwards. You might be thinking, “I thought the manager was supposed to the lead their team or business first?”. That is a fair thought, but the most important and first person a manager needs to lead is themselves.
The way I like to think about is best illustrated by an experience you have every time you fly on the plane. Each time we fly, while waiting on the tarmac to take off, we all sit through the flight safety instructions. Whether by video or live demonstration, we learn how to be safe on the flight and what to do if something unexpected happens. There is segment in the flight instructions when you are instructed what to do in the event the plan loses cabin pressure. Do you remember this part?
You are instructed that oxygen masks will drop and then you are told what to do next. You are not told to help everyone around you first to the neglect of yourself. You are instructed to put your oxygen mask on first and then help others. Why is that the case?
This is important because if you do not put your oxygen mask on first, you will pass out. If you are passed out, your ability to help those around you will be zero.
The same is true for a manager. If you do not invest to “lead me first” then you run the risk of being a passed out manager. If you are a passed out manager, your ability to develop your team and deliver business results will be marginalized and at risk.
A passed out manager could look like this:
- You are burned out mentally, physically, spiritually and/or emotionally
- You do not understand yourself so you can lead yourself effectively
- Your emotional intelligence skills are low and you do not have a good understanding of self-awareness, social-awareness and self-regulation
- You are not growing. You are not stretching yourself. You are not pushing yourself the learn new ways to think or new practices to exercise as a manager
- You are dominated by the tyranny of the urgent and cannot seem to get anything important done
- You are disengaged and started to wonder why you ever chose to be a manager in the first place. You have lost your connection with your manager “why”
This is why the role of a manager starts with “lead me first”. Leading yourself first and leading yourself well will position you to more effectively lead in the other (2) focus areas and lead from a position of strength.
Here are a few examples of actions you can take to “lead me first”:
- Read a book. Listen to a podcast on your drive home. Drive actions that challenge the way you think and introduce you to new ways you can think about how you manage
- Pick (1) area of management you want to learn more about and build a plan around growing your understanding and application in that area
- Take a personality assessment so you can drive your own self-understanding. My favorite assessment to use is the Enneagram. There are several free versions available. Doing this will help you understand yourself at a deeper level so you can more effectively lead yourself
- Take a PTO day to get refueled. Pay attention to the dashboard of your life and notice when warning lights are going off
- Dive into understanding emotional intelligence and where you have opportunities to develop these skills at a more advanced level
There are many ways you can “lead yourself first”. The most important aspect of this is to create a plan, drive action and follow through. This will not happen on accident.
Here is access to our YouTube playlist discussing the (3) focus areas of a manager. Check these out for additional insights — Playlist Link