John Maxwell is quoted as saying, “Leadership is simply about influencing people. Nothing more, nothing less.” This is a powerful notion and true statement about leadership. As I think about this quote and “Irrefutable Law” as Maxwell puts it, I have a follow-up question. How do you lead yourself? Because honestly, if you want to influence and lead others, you have to start with yourself.
What a 21-Day Fast Taught Me About Leadership
I’m currently in the middle of a 21 day fast. In fact, it’s over today! Which is great for me. Now, this fast is not from all food, it is only from sweets. My sugar tooth was getting the best of me for a while so I decided to quit dessert for 21 days and see what would happen.
Today is day 21 and while I do miss sweets, it has been a great experience. The experience is teaching me to hold myself back and build up self-control in my life. I’ve even lost about 5 pounds.
But the weight loss isn’t the point. Leading myself is the point. To be a leader the first person we need to lead is ourselves. Practicing self-control and discipline with dessert is just one example of influencing and leading myself to change my behavior.
Leadership Requires Consistency and Follow-Through
In order to change your behaviors and change, you have to be consistent. In my case, I had to follow through on my commitment to not eat sweets for 21 days. Being a real leader requires both of these ingredients. Being a leader that influences is a leader that is consistent and follows through on commitments.
To lead and influence others we have to start with ourselves. This is a scary place to start but it is the right place to start. If you don’t do these things you aren’t leading. This means being consistent and following through on our commitments. The next thing I learned is leadership and influence require sacrifice.
Leadership Requires Sacrifice
To improve our leadership we have to start with ourselves. C.S. Lewis once said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Thinking of ourselves less seems simple, but this is the beginning of sacrifice. If this is hard for you, begin to lead your life by making small sacrifices.
When we give up little things like dessert, we are being less selfish and learning to sacrifice. Albeit a small sacrifice in this case. Practice making small sacrifices today so you can make big sacrifices that really matter tomorrow. This mentality will lead to amazing results.
If I can give up sweets for 21 days, then I probably can read a leadership book for 21 days, quit watching TV for 21 days, or some other sacrifice. This sacrifice in my own life is beginning to take effect if only a little. But this influence will carry into other aspects of life and leadership. This is where the cumulative effect becomes so important in leadership.
Leadership Requires Time
If you or I read a book or pray for 3 days, how much influence will that have on our lives? Is there any lasting impact? Unlikely. Leadership requires doing something or not doing something for a long period of time for it to take effect. This cumulative effect of small sacrifices and consistent follow-through is a phenomenal way to lead yourself to a better place in life.
Over time the direction we are choosing to go begin to take shape and will only encourage our consistency and commitment. When people see these changes, we begin to influence their lives. People sit up and pay attention when others around them are consistently growing and changing. But until you take this next step, not many will follow.
Leadership Requires Clear Direction and Purpose
Sometimes direction and purpose take some time to discover. This is why this leadership requirement is farther down the list. Practicing the other requirements will help you land here. But until you truly find direction and purpose it will be a challenge to lead yourself to where you want to go. And you won’t be able to lead others either.
When you have clear direction and purpose in life, amazing things happen. You begin to follow a purpose and lead yourself to where you want to go, creating a clear path. When others see the direction you are going and the purpose behind it, you will influence them to follow.
There is no question, followers will not follow a leader for long if he or she has no purpose and direction or loses it. But when these leadership requirements are put together, others will follow. Here’s why.
When You Lead Your Life In These Ways, Others Will Follow
To lead your life and to have any hope of others following you, you have to have a clear purpose and direction. As you pursue this purpose and direction in your life being consistent and following through on your commitments will begin to create a cumulative effect of change and movement toward your purpose.
This purpose driven leading of your own life is attractive. When you begin to see the effect living this way has on your life, you will be driven to continue down this path. When people see the effects it has on your life they will want to follow. They will want a piece of this drive and consistency.
This is where sacrifice becomes key. As you lead more people, you will have to sacrifice more of your desires to lead others. When you practice sacrifice in your own life, when called open to sacrifice for others it will be much easier. This pattern of purpose, consistency, cumulative change and sacrifice will make you an amazing leader of your life and the lives of others.