Is there any way a person can be an effective leader of people and not be adept at self-leadership? It seems not. Yet aren't there countless examples of well-known leaders who have proven to be hugely effective at leading large enterprises and masses of humanity, but who have failed in their personal lives?
Ironically, while being so outwardly effective, some of these leadership icons have dramatically failed at self leadership. How could this be? Their own personal demons decieved them. Many had drug and alcohol problems. Health issues. Poor interpersonal relationships. Emotional troubles. Legal run-ins. Financial disasters. Spiritual and meaning-of-life quandaries.
They won the outer game of leadership, but failed to compete effectively at the inner game of self-leadership. There was a disconnect between their public selves and their "real" selves. They had the acting game going, but not the personal integrity game.
In reality then, were they such great leaders? Outwardly, yes. They achieved greatly. They handled terrible adversity and crisis. They came through under steep pressure. They got the job done.
But at what price? And at what loss of unrealized potential?
Could they have been better leaders if they had developed better personal foundations? Would they have been more robust and more believable leaders? Would their followers have been more adept at change, achievement and self-leadership had these leaders handled their own personal deficits and been better role models?
The answer is a resounding YES. Clearly, leaders often lead well in spite of their personal shortcomings.
However, there are great achievers in every arena in life who have led lop-sided lives. The writer who does nothing but write. The actor who lives to act. The musician who is lost in the world of music. Almost everyone we admire for being a high-achiever has an extreme side to them. To reach the pinnacle of achievement, they had to give up other life areas, and hence, became unbalanced to a degree.
An apocryphal story goes that an audience member came up to a world famous violinist after a concert performance and gushed, "Oh, you are so wonderful! I would give half my life to play as well as you!" To that the musician replied, "Thank you. I have."
No one holds these performer's non-holistic lives against them. In truth, this very non-integrated aspect of personal development is what allowed them to be great. They focused on one specialized aspect of performance until they became masters. This explains the prevalence of personal idiosyncrasies and eccentricities in the gifted artist. Yet, these people became masters at self-leadership in their chosen discipline. Their self-leadership just happened to be in a very specialized niche.
How does this speak to self-leadership in business?
Managers and executives are leaders of other people as well as leaders of themselves. That is the essential difference. They have a deep responsibility to others on many levels.
For a leader to be personally unbalanced, out of integrity, display poor personal habits, have less than professional appearances, engage in questionable ethics and have overall personal failings that impact their work, is to be less the leader they could be.
I postulate that the beginning and end of leadership begins with the self. To lead others well, we must first lead ourselves well. To be an authentic leader, we have to first be made of the right stuff. That right stuff is formed by developmental work on personal leadership foundations.
I encourage you to learn more about self-leadership and establish this as the core of your executive effectiveness.