Why You Are Often Your Own Worst Leader And What You Should Do About It

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Before anyone can become a great leader, one must at least be able to lead oneself towards good outcomes across a variety of situations and people. Since this is difficult to achieve well given limited time and attention, people can often be their own worst leader.

Self-control is the foundation to your leadership skills. To increase willpower and self-control, you can try to:

Find opportunities that are mentally and/or physically challenging for you. To build self-mastery, the military put me through bootcamp. I had to operate across challenging situations that tested the limits of what I though I was able to do. I had to practice generate willpower and sustaining it through days filled with physical burdens without sleep and shelter.

Find opportunities to cooperate with people you don’t like or aren’t comfortable with. Bootcamp forced me to depend on people that I didn’t always like. Bootcamp forced me to reflect and think about myself and my relationship with the world. I learned how to control my body language, what I do, and what I say when emotions are high and teamwork sustains our existence.

Find opportunities that drive you towards outcomes that are meaningful for you. The only thing that kept me going was the idea that I wanted to prove myself and see how I can maximize my contribution or minimize my detraction from the success of the team. This was the expected outcome that drove me to put up with the difficulties of real life. The people who quit bootcamp usually didn’t prioritize this outcome. If you find yourself struggling to keep up with challenging work with people you may not like, it means you either need to dig deeper to search for meaning in the outcomes to motivate you, or move on to something that is meaningful for you. Victor Frankl writes in “Man’s Search For Meaning” that finding meaning in the difficulties in life enables people to pull through. Having and finding meaning enables people to overcome the difficulties.

Self-Mastery is the foundation to leadership development. It means waking up on time every day. It means being able to fulfill your promises when you are tired. It means learning to identify and control your emotions. If you can begin to master yourself, you have that much more potential to earn the trust of others and influence them.

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