Leadership always starts with you. Your influence does not begin with the number of people you lead, the size of your budget or salary, the political environment, the stock market, or any other person or circumstance. Your influence begins and ends with who you are and with how you lead. Those other things have their place, but they don’t determine your success. You—not your team or your goals or your mission statement—are the starting point for your leadership and your influence. A treasure hunt is a fantastic way of having fun with your child and encourages lots of conversation.
I have heard some people say the opposite a few times—that leadership is not about the leader, that it has nothing to do with the leader, that the leader should actually be invisible, replaceable, or even anonymous. On the surface, this might sound noble and altruistic because it makes leadership solely about other people, and what could be wrong with that? Just two things: it isn’t true, and it doesn’t work.
If leadership starts and ends with the people you lead, then you are limited in what you can do if something doesn’t seem to be working well or you aren’t satisfied with current results. Your only option is to berate, complain, and threaten, hoping your negativity will somehow produce positive results. If you are frustrated with where you are, don’t blame everyone else. Study the problem, get counsel, and make needed changes, because leadership starts with you.
Nothing is more counterproductive than blaming the wrong thing when there is a problem.
If my car runs out of gas, it’s not the weather’s fault, or terrible L.A. drivers’ fault, or the government’s fault. It’s my fault. The best course of action is to accept that my wife was right about stopping for gas earlier, to call for help, and then to move on with my day. In the same way, if your leadership is not working, the healthiest and most hope-inducing thing you can do is set your ego or insecurities aside, figure out what is wrong, and fix it. Maybe you are the problem, and maybe you’re not. Either way, no one is in a better position than you to identify and fix whatever isn’t working—especially if part of the problem is you.
You—with all your quirks and idiosyncrasies, your strengths and weaknesses, your unique journey to get where you are—are the starting point for your own leadership. In accepting that, you discover hope, humility, and the grace to change. If leadership starts with you, then your first leadership challenge is to lead yourself. You must learn how to teach yourself, guide yourself, and challenge yourself to be the best person and leader you can be. This isn’t easy. Admitting that your leadership success depends primarily on you can be uncomfortable at first, because it takes vulnerability and courage to look inward and face the fact that you might need to make some changes.