6 Steps to Becoming a Better Leader
If your work is not aligned with your values, take a deeper look to find work that is.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I've coached professionals facing a number of challenges. In every scenario, we began by looking within. This strategy is often met with skepticism. After all, what do your insides have to do with leading a team or meeting business objectives? Actually… a lot!
Let me tell you a story…
I once had a client we'll call him "Joe." He knew more management techniques and strategies than most business school professors, but he was struggling to lead his team. Productivity and morale were down and a key team member had left. Joe was low on energy and wondering if maybe he wasn't cut out to lead.
By turning his focus inward, Joe uncovered his leader within, which he had been ignoring in favour of external advice and guidelines. By following the "experts" he overlooked his inner strengths that fired him up and made him Joe. Everything changed once he tapped into that. By bringing his unique strengths forward he became confident he could identify the advice that was best for him. His newfound energy began to rub off on his team -- productivity and collaboration picked up.
By leading himself first, Joe became a stronger leader to his team. How can you make this happen for you?
First, remember that you matter. When you tap into your core self, you tap into a powerful guidance system that fuels you like nothing else. You are empowered to align your core strengths with the work that you do and set meaningful goals that bring your unique value front and center. You become energized in a way that inspires others and helps them see their own unique value and strengths.
It's exhausting trying to be someone you're not. That energy is far better spent creating the life you truly want. There are actions you can take to start transforming your life, even when you're running on empty.
1. Let go of "shoulds."
"Should" is one of the most dangerous words in our inner dialogue. Stop trying to live up to others' expectations or advice. What do you truly want? What fires you up? Reprogram those thoughts. Free yourself from trying to look good, get it all right or performing for others. Settle into your own expression of self and learn and grow from what life is offering.
Related: Are You 'Should-ing' All Over Your Career?
2. Take responsibility.
You create your world through the choices you make. Take full responsibility for your world and commit to creating from it. You can sit back and let life happen, or you can start making real choices for yourself. When you put yourself in the driver's seat, those circumstances outside your control have far less power over you.
3. Get to know yourself.
What are your core values? What drives you and gives you a sense of purpose? Do the work to truly get to know your core self and unique strengths, then try to bring more of that forward, every day. Find ways to align it all with the work that you do. If your work is not aligned with your values, take a deeper look to find work that is. Ask yourself, "What is my most useful contribution in this moment?" Align with that.
Related: Why You Must Really Know Yourself Before Starting a Business
4. Accept all of yourself.
Once you know yourself, accept yourself -- all of yourself, your shadow and your light. Stop trying to change who you are. Instead, work to strengthen who you are and to continually take yourself to the next level. When you aren't at home with you, it's difficult to make grounded decisions that truly work for you. Work to be more present with yourself, just as you are.
5. Embrace challenges
You can spend a lifetime fighting every little roadblock, or you can conquer them by embracing them for what they are: opportunities to grow. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn something new, either about your field or about yourself. Find the lesson and you will always succeed.
Related: 7 Challenges Successful People Overcome
6. Let go of limiting beliefs that no longer serve you.
When you imagine your ideal life or career, what intrusive thoughts get in the way? Let go of those! They zap your energy to keep you "safe" in your comfort zone. Stop letting them author your life story. Claim your own authorship. When you do your inner work and "clean up the basement" you bring wholeness to your world. Every moment is an opportunity to write or rewrite your story in a way that is nourishing and life affirming.
The truth is, everyone is a natural leader. But you cannot lead naturally if you aren't leading yourself first. Turn your focus inward. Get to know yourself so that you can get control of yourself, your path and your choices. Leadership… will follow.