Leadership Starts With You

How often do you work on yourself to develop your leadership and personal growth? Do you do more than is expected? Do you do more than you are paid for? If you do, then you are well on your way to becoming a highly effective leader.

As an engineer and then developing into an engineering leader from 1999 to 2009, most of the work I did on myself happened when I was at work. Or, in other words, most of my personal development happened when I was being paid to do it.

That is the case with a lot of developing engineers/managers in my industry. It is probably the same in yours. It wasn’t until 2011 when I moved to Scotland to become an engineering production manager, that I actually started working on myself outside of work time.

1. Work On Yourself With Purpose

Highly effective leaders work on themselves with purpose, and they purposefully do it both inside of work and outside of work. They work on their leadership development and personal growth, and they do this every day so it becomes a habit.

I have personal experience that making it a habit to work on your leadership development and personal growth daily, can be amazing for your life and career. That is what I want to help you and many others do, so you can become highly effective leaders.

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It wasn’t until I started to work on myself with purpose that I discovered my passion for leadership development and personal growth. I could feel myself getting better as a leader, and I could see the teams I was leading getting better too.

I was reading leadership books and sharing what I had learned. When I worked for Siemens in 2015, I put together leadership videos that I would upload onto the Siemens social network (they are still there today). When I did this I received a lot of messages from people all over the world thanking me.

I even received an award for doing it. Nobody had asked me to make the videos, I was just so passionate about the subject and I wanted to help people.

The more videos I made, the more people I helped, and the more people I helped, the more videos I made. It was helping people that was my real passion. That it when I learned: leadership starts with me, but it is not about me. It is about others, and helping others.

2. Leadership Starts With You

Throughout my career, I received lots of “leadership training”, but the training seemed to be more about the business we were working for, rather than the people we worked with. I was never taught that leadership starts with us, but it was about others.

I was never taught that leadership was about serving others, and not the other way around. I was never taught that leadership is influence, and nothing else.

I found out that leadership is about others, about serving others, and that leadership is influence when I worked on myself and did my own leadership development.

My own discoveries about leadership and personal growth, and sharing them with the teams I led in my career is the reason I have written other articles on these topics.

I want to share my knowledge on a broader scale and influence as many people as possible. I want to help you discover your very own leadership and personal growth path, and set you on your journey.

You couldn’t imagine just how much content is already available to you that will help you with your leadership development and personal growth.

But, because most people only focus on their personal development during work time, they do not make the discovery of this content for themselves. The content they are mainly exposed to is what their companies supply to them. In my experience this content is not focussed on the right things. I want to help change that.

It wasn’t until 2009 when I worked in Liverpool for their train operator that the engineering team received any kind of leadership training. As I have said earlier, it wasn’t the best training but at least it was something.

Before 2009, the leaders I reported into hadn’t received any kind of training. They were just doing the best job they could to lead/manage us. Most of the time they did a great job, and they became good through learning from their own mistakes.

The training we started to receive in 2009 focussed on how to get the best results for the train operator. It was a three day away day in a hotel and I think we focussed on people for half a day. The rest of the time we focussed on trains, and how we could reduce delays in service.

3. Focus On The Right Things

When really we should have focussed on trains for half a day, and the rest of the time focussing on our people. But, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and I didn’t know what I know now.

Organisations who provide leadership development to their employees must include personal growth, and teach exactly what leadership is all about….others.

But, that doesn’t mean that you just rely on your organisation’s leadership development training. In fact, far from it. You must work on yourself every day with purpose. When working on yourself, focus in the areas of leadership development and personal growth.

The material and content that is at your fingertips are: leadership books, leadership blogs, leadership you tube videos, and lots more. Whatever platform you prefer to consume this content is up to you. Just make yourself a promise that you will do it, as this really matters.

Whatever industry you currently work in, or want to move into in the future, the leadership principles are all the same. What you should be learning are the leadership techniques that will help you no matter what circumstance or situation you are in.

A lot of people only focus on and practice principles that will only help them in one certain circumstance. We need to realise that leadership is not text book, it is a timeless principle and there are many of them. Leadership is difficult and cannot be learned overnight. It is a lifelong journey of constant learning.

When I started to work on my leadership development and learning the different leadership principles, I thought to myself that a lot of the principles wouldn’t work in my team, or my industry. The reason for that was because I had not yet been in a situation where this principle was required.

4. Keep Learning Every Day

So, I didn’t learn about it. For example, when I was first confronted by one of my team members for the way I spoke to them in 2011. I didn’t know how to handle the confrontation, which was totally justified by the way.

So, I confronted him back and changed the subject to the work he had done that day and that I was disappointed in him.

This was totally the wrong thing to do on my behalf. I made one of my team feel even worse, and caused even more stress for him. It was my role to help him, not hurt him.

The principle I should have used was: listening. I should have listened to what was on his mind, if I agreed then I should have apologised and worked out how to move forward in a win-win for both of us.

From then on, I vowed to myself that I would constantly learn about all leadership principles. This is lifelong learning and there is no way I will become an expert in all of them. But, I know how to handle almost every situation a lot better than I could.

My recommendation to you is to read at least thirty minutes a day (an hour really) on leadership development. Or watch leadership videos that last up to thirty minutes (an hour really). Do this every day and you will be so thankful you did it, trust me.

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What you are doing is investing time every day in yourself. Investing in yourself requires discipline and sacrifice. Do you have the discipline, and what are you willing to sacrifice?

Remember, work on yourself with purpose.

Nobody in this world is a “natural born leader.” I truly believe that everybody is born with the potential to become a highly effective leader.

The people who become highly effective leaders, do so because they work on themselves every day, and develop the potential they were born with. The low performing leaders, or the people who do not want to become leaders do not work on themselves. So, therefore their potential is wasted. It is your decision.

Do you want to become a highly effective leader, help others to develop their potential and follow you, or do you want to stay where you are right now?

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

22 thoughts on “Leadership Starts With You

  1. I agree that we all have the potential to be great leaders if we just put in the effort. Personal development should be like drinking the morning cup of coffee, to be done as a routine.

    I think the misconception is still out there that we are only “leaders” in a work environment and not in our daily lives. However, we are all leaders some place in the our daily chain and should learn to be great at it.

    I will definitely check out your e-book as I try to invest in myself, after all I am my the best investment 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Cornelia,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased you found the article valuable.

      Persona development certainly should become a routine and a habit. Freeing up time to be able to work on ourselves every day is so important. We are leaders in all areas of life and we must practice our leadership skills every day too as part of our personal growth.

      I hope you enjoy the e-book.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. More people should read your articles. All of them are so useful. Especially this one! As a leader you must always work on yourself, every day, I couldn’t agree more! My immediate boss is great. One negative point about him is that he is insensitive, but I can talk to him, and we have a good relationship. Another superior who I don’t deal with that often, but have to from time to time is different. I work in a school. My other boss used to be a teacher and when she was promoted, I thought that she she’d be great for the job, not only because we got on well, but more so because she knew what it was like to be a teacher, she could relate. Well, I was wrong, from the day she got promoted, she turned into a strict burocrat, she hardly spoke to me and the few times she does it is to reprimand me, what “a good teacher ” should do and bla bla bla. When I raise the topic of a student who has been missing classes and how needs help, she turns it against me because I haven’t done the necessary paperwork. She drives me absolutely nuts! She really has to read this article.
    Sorry for the little rant 😉 Your articles always make me realize how important they are when I think of situations at the work place.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this article useful and helpful, makes it all worth while.

      You are right, as leaders we must be working on ourselves every day. Even if it is for a matter of minutes, as long as you are growing. It could be reading part of a book, listening to an audio, watching a personal growth video or talking to a mentor.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom,

    I think there are people out there that just go to work and do their job. Not realizing how important it is to work on their growth and development in order to be the best leader they can be. If you are trying to work on your development, it can be easier to do so inside of work rather than outside of work. But trying to stretch yourself and grow will help you not only be an effective leader but will help you in all aspects of your life.

    -Amanda

    1. Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable.

      You are right, it is so important to work on our growth and development every single day. It doesn’t have to be for hours every day, it can be for a matter of minutes but as long as we are growing every day.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom! Great article on Leadership! I truly believe Leadership Starts With You! And I love the 4 tips you share to accomplish being a leader. I’m curious about your ebook?
    I think I want to download it so thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Alyse,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found this a great article.

      I really hope you do download the ebook because it will help you a lot. You can also get my new book “Manager To Leader” on Amazon. I published it on 31st Jan so it is still pretty new.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Another reinforcing article Tom.

    As much as I like to think that experience covers the vast majority of bases, making an effort to continually learn and adapt to change with that has proven to be invaluable.

    I not long ago undertook a Leadership Assessment Review with Korn Ferry and it was quite revealing in terms of highlighting both personal strengths as well as areas to focus on. Never to old as they say so always good to take stock and refocus.

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this another reinforcing article.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences with your leadership assessment review. I have taken a lot of those reviews and they can be very revealing. You think you’re doing well in a certain area and then the review tells you you’re wrong 🙂

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hi Tom … my first experience of personal development was in the corporate World too (about 1976) and I was introduced to NLP around 1980 and took it to master level. Through the NLP training, I developed a personal development habit. I agree entirely with your 4 points here. I might emphasise the need to be flexible, which is alluded to in your third point, especially when working with other people.

    In my management training (also early 80s) I was taught that there are extremes of management behaviour:
    – Autocratic – one extreme is a leader who only consults their own knowledge and wisdom ignoring all others.
    – Abdication – the other extreme is a leader who takes little or no responsibility by delegating everything and not making themselves available.

    In my opinion, abdication is never useful and autocratic behaviour is rarely useful; certainly not as habitual behaviour. However, between the extremes, there is any number of variations on the theme any of which can be useful depending on circumstances. There are times when telling people what to do is efficient and effective but most times it is best to consult and involve others in decisions. Using your words, focusing on the right things is paramount to all parties making the most of their relationships. Listening then honestly and respectfully appraising a situation is a key skill.

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thank you for your detailed comment.

      I am so appreciative of you sharing your experiences in the personal development world. There will be a lot of people who will read this article and will be able to relate to you and learn from you just as much as they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Another great article Tom! I am always learning new things about leadership from all the posts on your website.

    As people in leadership roles, we forget to listen to what or how our team feels and this is the most important part of being a true leader. It was so selfless of you to have realized later that you should have listened (in the example you talked about).

    I think that I will recommend my upper management to read some of your articles to get better in their respective roles. I, myself have been in management for a couple of years but as you said, it is a lifelong learning process. Every now and then, I learn how to better lead my team.

    What would you say about those “leaders” who lead to “boss’ people around?

    1. Hi Sasha,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this a great article.

      It means a lot to me when you say you are learning a lot about leadership from my articles, it makes writing them all worth while. I really hope you inspire your leadership teams to read my articles, and even recommend them to get in touch with me if they want to discuss anything they read. I can help them a lot more by talking to them.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. I think keeping your focus is such an underrated and undervalued asset to have in this conversation. Well written article here. Thank your for this.

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this a well written article.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Leadership start with you… love that man and so true.

    I read this post and I see so many similarities between what you are teaching about leadership and achieving success in general.

    It starts with you, and the personal development and growth that you engage in. Keep learning every day is so crucial.

    So many people get comfortable and comfortable is the enemy of success and personal growth. You have to stay uncomfortable and keep pushing on at all times.

    I am sure you have read the 7 habits of highly successful people? Lots of what you are saying and teaching forms part of the basis for that book. Just started reading it again.

    Really great stuff man.

    Noticed you said you live in Scotland now, its on my bucket list as a place to visit!

    Cheers

    1. Hi Robb,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found this article valuable.

      Leadership starts with you, you are right that this very true. We need to become the most valuable person and leader we can be, so we can add value to our people. We cannot give what we don’t have.

      I don’t live in Scotland anymore but I can highly recommend it as a country to visit. It is a beautiful country.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Tom,

    It’s true that businesses usually only teach about the products when they “Train” new leaders. At my last management position, we had monthly training sessions that was all about the new products. We would sample products, talk about them, how we’re going to sell them and that was it. It was never about the people. Sure, we had HR come in sometimes and they would talk about coaching staff, but it was for correcting bad behavior. We never learned how to talk to the staff, how to praise them, or anything else.

    I learned, that in order for me to communicate better with my staff, that I had needed to learn outside of work. I read books, I watched YouTube…any way that would teach me how to be a better manager was important. Not that it did me any good now, since I don’t work there anymore. But, it was a good experience nonetheless.

    But, your articles are spot on when it comes to teaching how to be better. It’s hard at first, but after learning and trying, you’re better for it!

    Thanks for sharing this! Good stuff!

    Katrina

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s my pleasure to share this article and it feels great that you found it valuable.

      You have the right idea. Learning outside of work is so important for leaders. We need to educate ourselves as education doesn’t stop when we leave school. Education is a lifelong journey. Keep educating yourself on leadership and if you need any help with it then please contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. Once again, great post. I love your lead question. In fact, Napoleon Hill has a book called the Law of Success in which he discusses the absolute necessity of working on yourself and the law of doing more than expected and more than you get paid for. Going the extra mile makes such a difference in terms of how your employer views you. You will definitely get compensated for it.

    1. Hi Shalisha,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this another great article, means a lot.

      I have Napoleon Hill’s books too and they are a great tool to reference when we need some inspiration. It is so important to work on ourselves and develop ourselves to be the best leader and best person we can be for the good of our people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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