Self-examine and lead yourself first

Paul Raggio

By Paul Raggio

This past year, Lisa and I have addressed several groups in our SCV community, sharing our thoughts on leadership. This is our passion, promoting servant leadership and coaching on the skills to create exceptional leaders. And the starting point for molding any outstanding leader is self. Focus on leading yourself first before you step into the arena and lead others. People do what they see:  Consider children mimicking parents, students mirroring teachers, office staff projecting the CEO. That’s why the principle of leadership by example is so compelling. 

Monte Wyatt, the best-selling author of “Pulling Profits Out of the Hat,” encourages leaders to self-exam and explore these five areas: Be conscious of the words you use; adapt to others; choose your attitude and mindset; always be learning; and know your priorities.

Be conscious of the words you use. Words matter in meetings, emails, social media, constituent engagements. How and what you say and write matter. The tone you use to deliver the words matters. The body language you display when offering the words matters. The emotion you attach to the words you provide matters. People do what they see, and they hear, listen, and watch the words you use and mainly how you deliver them. A leader’s words are the connective tissue between vision and action. If you want positive action, then be conscious of the words you use.

Adapt to others. We’ve been taught since preschool, treat others the way we want to be treated. If you want to be treated well, then you better treat others well. There’s an adaptation to this rule that creates better outcomes for leaders, and that’s subscribing to the platinum rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated. This meaningful philosophy rightfully puts the burden on the leader to know and understand their followers. A key element of leadership is making an emotional connection. An emotional connection creates trust, and trust is the cement required for loyalty. If you want to make an emotional connection, follow the platinum rule, and adapt to others.

Choose your attitude and mindset. Abundance beats scarcity, positivity beats negativity.  Leaders say and demonstrate an “I can” attitude rather than an “I can’t attitude.” Even under the most challenging conditions, leaders express optimism and encouragement, not pessimism and disincentive. This must be a leader’s mindset, not some of the time, all the time. People do what they see and when a leader projects optimism and encouragement, inspired followers produce. 

Always be learning. Curiosity, inquisitiveness and ingenuity are human attributes that lead to unbelievable accomplishments. My father is a space pioneer. He led the design teams that created our first string of interplanetary spacecraft that started discovering our solar system. If not for the curiosity, inquisitiveness and ingenuity of the team he led, a man never would have set foot on the moon, let alone soar in space. Leaders are constantly learning and satiating their bottomless curiosity. People do what they see, and when a leader is curious and inquisitive, followers ingeniously solve the most complex problems.

Know your priorities. Chaos, opaqueness and directionlessness are the antitheses of leadership. Leaders envision time, distance, space, and results and translate them into a vision for followers. They prioritize activities best meeting the operating conditions, minimizing risk and optimizing outcomes. They acknowledge scarce resources and rank courses of action that achieve the mission. Leaders know their priorities and directly, clearly, purposefully, and inspirationally communicate them to their followers. People do what they see and, when leaders prioritize, followers act with conviction.

No matter where you are on the leadership spectrum, whether you’re the President of the United States, a multibillion-dollar conglomerate CEO, state governor, college president, city mayor, business owner, school principal, church pastor, nonprofit executive director or leadership and executive business coach, self-examine and lead yourself first! And when you do, be conscious of the words you use, adapt to others, choose your attitude and mindset, always be learning and know your priorities.

 This is how you lead, think, plan and act. Now let’s get after it.

Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.

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