Being A Leader Is Not About Leading Others

lifeartisan leadershipIn the general population, when we consider the term leader, we usually associate this with leading others.  Leadership can be defined as the ability to “move” or “direct” or “guide”.  When I reflected on this and in my own life, I figured that leadership is not about leading others.  Or at least, it does not begin with leading others.  It has an origin, it must start somewhere.  So where does leadership start?

When I think of leadership, the first thing that comes to mind is me.  I am not thinking about leading others, I am thinking about how do I lead me?  How do I lead me purely in my own being-ness?  How do I become self-sufficient?  It’s a question that I’ve contemplated on and a goal that I’ve been working on for many years.  A lot of it has to do with the desire for freedom and being unencumbered.  The question that came to my mind is that if all I have is me and the clothes on my back and nothing else, how will I look after me without relying on anyone or anything outside of myself?  The answer that came is “be sovereign”.  Be a master unto thyself.

Leadership starts with the self.

How do I master myself?  Well, it is quite a long process and I am a work in progress.  The 12 attributes I am expressing here are what I experienced as the basic principles and foundation of self mastery.  It is a result of a lot of exploration and discoveries, of roller coaster rides and exhilarating adventures…  The breadth and depth of human emotions and swimming in it to get the pure jewel of experience from it.  For simplicity, I’ve numbered the attributes in the order of how I experienced them.  Most of these are parallel experiences.

Simply, being a leader to myself means being sovereign in ALL areas of my life.

Mastering the self involves….

1. A high degree of self awareness.

Know who you are first.  Know what you want/don’t want, what your inner motivations are, and what triggers you to react and respond in a certain way.  Understand where your thoughts come from, why you think the way you do, and the origins of your beliefs.  What are your values and principles?  Where do they come from?  Know what makes you do what you do, and what makes you…You.

And further… know what you are.  Are you only one-dimensional?  How many aspects and layers of you are there?

When you know who you are, you will understand how others are too.  When you understand who and what you are, you will know and understand where others are coming from.  You will get them.

The most basic lesson in self awareness is about compassion.  You will need to learn compassion… towards yourself.  It is about being kind to yourself and embracing all of who you are, aspects of yourself you both like and dislike.  When you have learned compassion, then you can empathise with others.  Through the process of self awareness and compassion, you will know what it’s like to be in another’s shoes.

2. Commitment to focus and work on your inner growth… for life.

Your self awareness and inner growth is a life-long process of self-education and change.  It is not an easy process.  In fact, change is quite painful when you resist it.  But when you not only allow, but also welcome change, the process can be liberating.  You will even have fun with it.

Commit to polishing yourself and stretching yourself.  This also means testing and stretching your boundaries and your tolerance level.  When a certain experience have become easy, or in other words, when you’ve mastered a certain experience, create a challenge for yourself to test your capabilities.  This is what I call drama.  I love drama!  It’s why we are here, to create the most wondrous drama we can ever imagine.

3. Commitment to be your authentic self… at all times.

Walk your talk.  Be truly honest with yourself.  If possible, dissect your motivations and reasons through a microscope.  Be honest with what you truly want and who you are, then BE it.  Express who you are to the world.

We are very good at lying to ourselves without our conscious knowledge.  Be mindful with where your reasons for why you do what you do come from.  Regardless of where it’s from, acknowledge it.  Our seeming weakness may make us appear less than who we are, but there is great strength in showing our vulnerability.  This is about walking in our authenticity.

Yes, we apply different ways of communicating and relating depending on the situation and people we relate to, but are we coming from our authentic self each time we express ourselves?  Think about it.

4. Having a vision of You and knowing your purpose.

This ties in with knowing who you are, what you want; which you will only discover through exploration and discovery, through life experience.  You cannot know what you want if you live in a box.  Have courage and explore the world.  Life is a playground meant to be played in.

Having a vision of what you would like yourself to be is having an image in your mind of you as you see yourself in the best picture of you you can ever imagine.  This is what you hold in your heart-mind’s eye, your utmost potential.  Having a clear purpose of what you’re here for gives you direction and meaning.

Aim for the highest vision of you you can ever imagine… and live your purpose each day.

5. The ability to self lead.

This means you can coach yourself; you can direct, guide and influence yourself without relying on others to prompt you.  This also means you can motivate and inspire yourself without expecting external factors to motivate and inspire you.  Your motivation and inspiration comes from within.  Your deep self-awareness, vision and purpose is the fuel to your motivation and inspiration.

Do not wait for circumstances to change.  Do not wait for others to decide for you.  If change doesn’t happen, initiate it yourself.

I never had a coach, mentor or model to look up to.  All I had was a vision of me in my heart and the drive and commitment to follow through what I intended to achieve.  It’s been said that you cannot have all qualities in one person.  I disagree.  What if you can?  What if you commit to your own self mastery and work towards opening these qualities within yourself?

My guides and teachers were the books I deliberately searched for… and life itself.  A book could lead me to another book and so on.  Your teacher doesn’t need to be a person.  It could be the plants, animals, the weather, a movie, or a book.

6. The ability to self manage.

How well do you manage yourself?  How do you manage your health and your physical body?  How do you manage your energy?

We are constantly being stimulated by our environment.  What is the environment?  It is everything – people, nature, elements, events, the cosmos.  Being able to manage the self means you can regulate the energies and emotions that you experience through your body, and handle this in a way where you can use your energy and your emotions intelligently when you are interacting with others and with your environment.

You use emotions, both yours and others, to respond and interact in an informed way, with your environment.

Self management also means you have developed a framework on how you prioritize your activities; and therefore, play with time.

7. Self sufficiency.

Be resourceful.  Each of us have internal resources that we can draw from, whether it’s to generate ideas or solve problems.  Practice on the self generation of inner insights.  Do not rely too much or solely on external sources of information.  You can use external information to trigger your own insights; but always, always go with your own knowing and intuition.

This ties in with self management.  How do you self energise?  Do you rely on external factors to energise you?

8. Being free and opening up to a world of creativity.

Freedom is about being boundless.  Freedom is about smashing the limits that you believe you have.  And in turn, it opens up your world of creativity.  Each and every single one of us has a gift that is unique to each individual.  When you know you are limitless, the possibilities that you have are endless.

We are surrounded by creativity.  It is just a matter of being open to it.  When you are free, you are in the flow of creation, of creativity.  You will access the ideas that you are meant to generate.

9. The ability to execute and implement ideas.

Do not falter or hesitate, or second guess yourself.  Be decisive when making decisions regardless of whether it’s easy or difficult.  When you come from a place of authenticity and integrity, you implement your ideas from this space.  This is about trusting yourself.

It is well and good to be creative and have great ideas, but self mastery involves being able to execute and implement your ideas.  This is about merging your abstract, creative self, with your structured, logical self.  The merging of the right and left hemispheres of our brain.  The merging of the female and the male aspects of ourselves.

10. Taking responsibility for your own actions and outcomes.

When you’re sovereign, you own your actions and your choices.  You know that you have chosen the thoughts that you focus on.  You have chosen to believe what you believe.  And you have chosen your decisions and chosen the actions to execute based on your decisions.  Choice is voluntary.  It is never an unconscious event.  But we pretend that we don’t have a choice.  We believe it is easier to lay the responsibility of our circumstances on someone else.  Because, acknowledging that we are the creator of our present circumstance, is too painful.

Your current circumstances are created by your past decisions.  Likewise, creating your future outcomes are based on the decisions you make now.

Take responsibility for your own actions, and for the outcomes of your decisions.

11. Passion, energy and drive.

Live life to its fullest.  Do not live your life in half measures.  Again, do not hesitate or falter.  Be bold.  Live your life guided by your own vision and purpose… not by the vision and purpose of others.  Your vision and purpose is unique to you, only; just like each one of us have our own vision and purpose unique to each of us.

Finding our passion is sometimes not easy.  Each individual is born with different degrees of fire within our core.  But what is common in us is that we are born with a sense of curiosity.  It is coded in our cells.  Do what you love to do.  Spend more time and effort into doing what you enjoy doing, even if it doesn’t make sense in how society defines what is reasonable and logical.

Passion and curiosity is what started me on this journey towards self discovery.  Each adventure and discovery serves to energise me.  Do what energises you.  When you focus on doing what energises you, you build on your fuel.  Draw your energy from a source that is self sustainable.  Where and what is your source of energy?

12. Wisdom.

Let go of musts and shoulds, even the musts in this list.  This is only a guideline, a template.  Find your own wisdom.  Relax a little, or a lot.  Partake in a little bit of humour, laugh at yourself.  There are times you will be distracted and it might appear that you have lost your way or forgotten some of the principles, and what you set out to do.  Go back to basics, always go back to the self and into your authenticity.  Your authentic self will never lead you astray.  If for a moment, you take some time and listen to the whispers of your authentic self, it gives you a glimmer of the jewel that you are.

Isn’t self-leadership the same as self- mastery?  What is self-mastery?  Look around you.  Look within yourself.  Self mastery is when you become all aspects of you, when you have merged and integrated all of who you are.  When you look within you, what do you see?  When you look at others, what do you see?  Are we really different from each other?  Or is it that the differences that we see is seen from our lens of awareness?  Each one of us has varying degrees of self awareness.  Some are more aware than others and therefore they see more.

We don’t need leaders.  All we need to do is step up to our authentic selves.


The truth is, we don’t need leaders.  But we can help guide each other.  If we are sovereign, we can self-lead.  One who is sovereign marches to the beat of their own drum and follows the inner song and calling of the heart.  Others who have not realised their own song are attracted to this, and follow.  A sovereign does not like to follow nor does one like to lead… others.  A sovereign’s only aim is to lead the self.


If and when you are placed in a position where you are called to lead others… whether it’s a team of people reporting to you, or you’re involved in a project with others, or you’re managing your household or coordinating an event with your friends, or even when you’re guiding others on how to surf the wave of life gracefully…  The same self-leadership principles can be applied.  And this can only be a guide because you have to understand that not everyone is the same.  Not everyone will have the same level of motivation or energy or drive as you have.

Your values and your principles is your template of your highest vision of you, as an individual.  From this framework, see how it can be applied to more than you, to more than one individual.

When you are self leading and have mastery in your life, there is no incongruency between how you relate with other people and how you relate with yourself, regardless of the situation.  You are being and walking in your own authenticity.

A “leader” is a guide, a scout.

If one must lead, then from my perspective, my vision of a leader is one who is a guide, a scout.  A leader must see far into the distance.  And when the leader looks at the people that they are a part of, the leader knows that each one is just as the leader is; just  as the leader is each one of the people.  The leader is intimate with the self, and with this wisdom, is intimate with all selves in the people.  How then can this leader not know how to guide the people?

© 2015 Nina Barcenilla, All Rights Reserved

One thought on “Being A Leader Is Not About Leading Others

  1. Pingback: Allowing Employees To Choose Their Working Hours and How They Want To Work | life artisan

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