Leadership begins by leading yourself

This article was written by me for my college newsletter as a reflection of volunteering for and attending the Student Leadership Conference ’21 held at college. I thought I’d share it here — why not?

I embarked on a quest three months ago, a quest to learn what authentic leadership is. Leadership always intrigued me or, quite honestly, intimidated me. I have seen leaders, intelligent, bright, enthusiastic people, who everyone listens to, follows and respects. What they say is the path and what they do is the virtue. I’ve followed leaders and I still do — beginning with my class prefect in school, my wonderful boss at work, wise spiritual gurus and then favourites like Warren Buffet or Ratan Tata. They have always inspired me. I wanted to be like them — impactful and powerful. At some point, I also wanted to change the world. But then reality would hit and I would silence my desirous mind. For me, leadership remained a glittering dream and never a living reality — until these three months ago.

When I registered for the Student Leadership Conference, I came across the three themes — Believe in Yourself, Build Yourself and Brand Yourself. It all sounded interesting — interestingly funny because the words believe, build and, the brand is great. But yourself? Isn’t leadership about doing all of that to others? This was the genesis of how I started to rethink leadership, what it meant for me and how I understood it in daily life.

Here is what I think today: Leadership is definitely about being the light everyone wants to follow. But it begins with kindling the being: yourself! It starts with understanding yourself and leading yourself. It grows when you nurture yourself and become the best version of yourself. We often look at leadership as an outer quality. We look with awe at what the greatest leaders in the world can do, say and create. But we do not understand who they are and what makes them who they are. Perhaps we will never know because our business is to know ourselves first — our feelings, personalities, abilities, and more. Leadership is not something you can adopt; it has to come from within yourself — your empowered, whole and peaceful self. My favourite author, Robin Sharma, writes in his book “The Leader Who Had No Title” — Lead yourself first. Only then you will get to a place as a person where you can lead other people. Devote yourself to becoming so incredibly strong on the inside that you appear failure-proof from the outside. Work really hard on yourself so that all the buried treasure slumbering deep within you begins to reveal itself to every element of the world around you. That, I believe, is the key! Does leadership sound intimidating when you understand this? Does Believe in Yourself, Build Yourself and Brand Yourself make better sense now? Does it not feel powerful to know that all you need to do is connect with yourself and work with yourself? It certainly feels powerful to me. Because now, leadership is what I do in my daily reality. I am leading my life with a commitment to go inward.

The conference experience presented me with beautiful everyday adventures where I feel proud of my strengths, hopeful about my weaknesses, aware of my feelings, and more captivated by my interests. I feel so much more confident knowing that my existence has meaning and that I can add value to the people around me in the simplest ways. I now feel more present and happy to be around people and be proactive. I find my cup is almost full and almost ready to flow over. I have redefined leadership for myself. I am no longer sleepless about whether or not I can shake or change the world.

Leadership is no longer about worrying if the world will take me seriously if I take action. Leadership for me is simply about showing up as the best version of myself I can be today and acting with this version in mind. It’s about ‘doer-ship’ — serving the world with the best I am and the best I have.

Edited by Magdalena Goledzinowska, PhD
Leadership Academy Architect at Centennial Leadership Academy

I am a Marketing enthusiast, Post Graduate Global Business Management student and a curious bug who loves to read and share my thoughts!