Leadership is an oft discussed topic, but mainly in the context of work. What does leadership mean in terms of one’s personal life? Is it even relevant for our personal lives?
Let’s think about this for a minute. If leadership at work means acting congruent with your values and morals, serving others and the larger mission, and enabling positive change, it seems like the same criteria can apply to one’s personal life.
I know I don’t typically think of leadership in my personal life, that is, how I conduct myself outside of work. I also think many of us compartmentalize the two, with our personal life containing the majority of our emotional life. Does leadership apply to our emotional life?
You bet it does.
It may not feel that way, since most of the time, when we feel an emotion, we treat that emotion as a sacred, immutable, incontrovertible thing. Sacred and incontrovertible it is. Immutable, maybe not so much. In other words, we do need to respect that “we can’t help how we feel” but we can influence how long and how intensely we feel that way. The ability to manage those emotions is important because our emotions are, well, irrational by definition. And when I’m being irrational, no matter how well founded the reason, the less likely I am to exhibit leadership, personal or otherwise.
How can our emotions be scared and incontrovertible but changeable? Our emotions are sacred and incontrovertible because we are essentially driven by our emotions and shadow beliefs, whether we choose to acknowledge them roiling within or not. This comprises our emotional make-up, and that deserves respect and recognition. But if I have a shadow belief that I’m not good enough or not lovable, these beliefs will drive my actions (I may not risk conflict with a loved one or apply for that top notch job) but also my emotions (if someone is disrespectful, dismissive or complimentary of someone else I may freak out). Those actions will tend to produce the reaction I most fear (failure or disengagement) thereby validating my shadow belief. Note that I created that reality. It did not necessarily exist before I acted on my shadow belief.
So while our emotions deserve our respect and recognition, it doesn’t mean we have to give them the keys to the city. Like an unruly two year old, we can soothe that wild beast by acknowledgement and recognition, without rolling over for them. This is where change can occur. We can bring those beliefs to light and to question them. For instance, “that behavior toward me was not loving, but that does not mean that I’m not lovable.” We can also provide an antidote to that belief, “…and since I’m inherently lovable like everyone else on the planet, I’m going to love myself first and foremost rather than depend on others to feel validated.”
You are your own change agent and in doing so, you retain your personal power both within and outside your inner world. In doing so, you can then make a choice as to how to react that is consistent with your values, morals and best self, and that is of service to others.
In my book, that is personal leadership. What is your definition?