Leadership from the Inside-Out

Great achievements are often attributed to a great individual leader.  We can easily make a list of military leaders who have led troops into battle against insurmountable odds and emerged victorious.  Ask anyone to name five coaches who have built a legacy of winning championships year after year.  Better yet, the History Channel and ESPN will do this for us with their “Greatest of All Time” programming.  We have a fascination with learning how these leaders tick and understanding their stories of what helped make them such great leaders and accomplish so much in the face of great challenges.  What we hear is often unbelievable and always inspiring.  As a leadership junkie, I am always up for a story about a great leader’s journey.

After sitting in those uncomfortable hotel ballroom chairs for decades as an audience member listening to countless live talks, annual sales conference keynote speakers and industry presentations delivered by great leaders from all walks of life, there is no doubt the stories told leave us in awe of individual accomplishments and inspired by the human spirit and uplifting energy emitted from the stage.

In contrast, however, the stories combined with the lights, the music, the energy, often the tears, and the standing ovations can leave the audience with a secondary feeling of inadequacy and if one’s mind is allowed to drift off course might start a self-talk conversation something like this.  “Wow my life is a mess compared to what this person has accomplished…”  Of course, this is NOT what the speaker nor the organization that hired the speaker wants as an outcome, right?

My current thoughts on leadership are focused not on the outcome or accomplishment of great leaders but instead on the importance of our own inner-workings and management of self-leadership or what I call “Leadership from the Inside Out”

Self-leadership demands constant attention and tending.  There is no performance review looming.  The individual and the manager are one in the same.  It’s easy to lower the bar and be okay with it because there is no external scorecard for everyone to see.  However, self-leadership, if well managed, delivers greater focus, clear intentions, specific actions and based on my personal experience, maximum outcomes and higher achievement.  Merge accomplished self-leaders with great organizational leaders and the argument can be made that those battles are won, winning legacies are created and more stage-worthy stories of success have been be written.

Below are six self-leadership concepts I have implemented to achieve greater results for myself often against what initially I perceived as insurmountable challenges.  I have used these actions to set my beliefs, to frame my intentions, to develop my plan of action.  The results have always produced greater outcomes in my life.


YES I CAN (versus Can I?)

You must start with a YES I CAN attitude and keep that mindset always. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.  You may need time to believe deeply in yourself but you have to get there and if you keep telling yourself YES I CAN then you will get there.  It is critical to maintain the believe that nothing will stop you from believing you can achieve the outcome you desire.  Of course, it won’t be easy, nor should you expect it to be.  Remember you are pushing yourself to greater accomplishments.

I WILL (versus I’ll Try)

Writing down the commitment that you WILL achieve your goal and keeping this written word in your eye’s view at all times keeps the positive message in place and ensures you have the re-enforcement needed to keep going.  There will be times when you see obstacles emerge that might seem insurmountable.  Plans will need to be adjusted and you will question yourself for trying.  Remember you didn’t set out to TRY.  Continue to say I WILL.

I AM (versus I want to be)

See yourself doing the new skill, having achieved the goal and in your mind’s movie that shows you with the outcome you desire.  If it is winning a new customer, see yourself closing the briefcase with the signed agreement inside.  If it is opening a new retail business, see yourself in front of the store front with a neon “open for business” sign flashing.  Go ahead and claim it in advance of having it by saying I AM working with that new customer or I AM operating that new store with countless happy, repeat customers.  Become the person on the other side of the accomplishment in advance of getting there.  It will be a fun meeting when you meet each other in the reality of your desired outcome.

I DID (soak it in)

Celebrate the success (even the little ones along the way) to re-enforce reaching the next rung on the endless ladder of your journey.  Many years ago, I decided to train for a 10k road race.  I was never a runner and had no idea how I would complete 6.2 miles, but I committed to do it and had to find a way.  I started the first day of training at the end of my driveway.  My first goal was to get to the neighbor’s mailbox (100 feet away), then the next one, and so on. Before long, I was running a mile, then two then four.  The race that seemed out of reach was achievable and the little successes were many along the way.  Yes I celebrated that first mailbox with a huge fist pump and did the same crossing the finish line of the race a few months later.

I REVISE (no autopilot)

Every accomplishment has its unique set of circumstances, ingredients, timing, and other characteristics as part of it.  We must always take as much as possible from every endeavor (win or lose) and use this knowledge going forward.  We must also stay keenly aware that every new challenge will be somewhat different, even if we are in a role where we repeat as much as possible or leverage a process.  I have learned in my sales experience that no deal is won the same way twice.  Review and revise as part of the self-leadership process.  This will serve you well.

I REPEAT and REUSE (and we have a good habit)

When you are ready to go after the next opportunity or challenge, take what worked for you and reuse it.  Self-leadership is transferable to any situation. Use it to lower your golf handicap, learn a new language, start a new business/career, build stronger relationships, etc.

Great leaders give us some much inspiration.  Their accomplishments motivate us to be better, to do more, to chase the impossible, to get stronger, work harder, serve our customers better and work as a team to reach new heights of performance. The BEST leaders recognize great self-leaders and create environments for collective GREATNESS.

Let’s focus on our Self-Leadership and watch what happens with our personal possibilities!


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