Why Leadership Starts with Leading Yourself

Every year billions of dollars are invested worldwide in leadership programs or expensive MBA’s. However, despite all of that, the truth is that we are facing a major leadership crisis: Recent research pointed out that 77% of leaders nowadays think they do well, but 82% of their employees disagree with this statement. Conclusion? There is a major gap between the money spent on leadership and the results! The reason for that is that most leadership programs teach us how to manage our organizations but not how to manage ourselves.

Good news! You can immediately stop investing in expensive leadership & MBA programs, because leadership starts with the mind. The reasoning behind this is, is quite simple: If you do not understand yourself, if you do not have awareness of yourself, you are not able to lead yourself, your people or your organization. If you do not start in the mind of the leader, it’s like you start building a house from the roof instead of first taking care of its fundamentals. Moreover, research has pointed out that there are 3 mental qualities that stand out as being foundational for leaders today: Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion. These “MSC of Leadership” qualities all work together and enrich each other.

Over the past few decades work-life has changed radically. Whereas we used to have working conditions where our attention could easier focus on the task at hand, we are now experiencing distractions and information overload all the time. In this attention economy the concept of mindfulness has gained more and more influence, whereas it used to have a rather fluffy reputation. Since the 2 key qualities of mindfulness are focus and awareness, it helps us to be more mentally agile and effective. Mindful leadership therefore means being present with your people, which enables you to really connect with them. In addition, mindfulness increases your self-awareness and therefore your personal impact.

Selflessness means to be more concerned with the well-being of others than your own well-being. Bringing a big ego into your way of leading makes you very vulnerable for criticism, makes it easy to manipulate you, narrows your vision and even corrupts your behavior. In other words, your ego puts you in a bubble, so the most important task of a leader is to keep his ego in check! Moreover, lots of studies have proven that selfless leaders are perceived as stronger & better leaders, enabling others and achieving better results. Selfless leadership strongly enhances engagement, sense of belongingness, team citizenship behaviors, sense of recognition and innovation. Conclusion? A lot of today’s typical challenges in organizations can be solved with selfless leadership!

Compassion is often confused with empathy. Whereas empathy means feeling what another one feels, compassion goes a step further and involves action. Compassion is the intention to be of benefit to others, by alleviating a person’s suffering from a situation. Compassion is often regarded as something soft but can be hard. It means doing the right thing for someone, even thought that’s not a pleasant thing (for instance laying someone off). A compassionate action, however, is sustainable on the long run.

Research has pointed out that compassionate leadership cultures make people act more in the common good of the organization and beyond. They make people feel more valued and have more dignity and pride about the organization’s culture. And finally, organizations with more compassionate cultures and leaders have stronger connections between people, stronger collaboration, higher trust, enhanced loyalty and lower employee turnover.

Do you feel inspired to engage in a workshop or training on self-leadership after reading this article? Beopledd can compose a program according to your needs, including the basics of mindfulness, selflessness & compassion. During and after the workshop interaction and self-learning are stimulated with various exercises and a personal compass. Don’t hesitate to contact Raf Vanzeer, who will be happy to learn more about your specific needs!

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