3 Ways to Lead Yourself Before Leading Others


It happens, and yet, we often are not sure why. We did not intend it, necessarily, but we ended up in a place we did not desire, but now have to reckon with it in our lives.

Like a bottle floating in the ocean and ending up on a foreign shore, we landed in an unwanted destination without any effort. We just rode the currents.


About 10 days ago, I had the privilege of helping my son move from Colorado to South Carolina. It is a sobering thing to see all your “treasures” in a box on wheels. We left Colorado at 8:30 am and got to his new home almost 28 hours later. 

It was a long drive. And one of the elements that made it both long and challenging were the crosswinds hitting the truck as we worked our way across some of the plains. If I took my hands off the wheel for even a second, the gusts were pushing the vehicle into the shoulder.

I had to fight the wheel at times just to stay in my lane. If I did not pay earnest attention, I was liable to drift.

Drift happening to our lives

Life is that way. Have  you ever felt drift in your own life? That you are busy, but not sure what you are accomplishing? The treacherous nature of drift is that it happens slowly, in small increments, over time. It is not easily noticed.

I have recently felt as if I have been in some drift in my own life and I do not like it. I would much rather be intentionally making decisions and then deliberately living them out. I am a steward of the life God has entrusted to me and I do not want to waste or squander it.

Have you ever thought about the fact of how critical it is in your leading of others that you lead yourself first? It is like the Stephen Covey example of keeping your ax sharpened. You can look super productive swinging your ax at a tree, but if the blade is not sharp, there is ample energy but little to show for it.

I recently read an encouraging article about self leadership. The gospel does call me to serve others, love others, and put others ahead of myself. And I agree with all of that. But if you look in John 15, Jesus is the vine and we are branches. And why does Jesus use this analogy? Because my tendency is to self-effort my way through the Christian life, when in actuality, my life to others is meant to be an overflow of what the gospel is doing in my own life.

Me connected to Jesus.

In fact, Colossians 3:12-14 commands me to “put on” in order to “be” for another. In other words, certain things have to happen in me before they can overflow out of me. That to me is the idea of self leadership. Carefully looking at myself through the lens of truth, living my life intentionally, so that I might have maximal impact on others.

Feeling those crosswinds against the moving truck forced me to recalibrate. What does it mean to calibrate?

kal-uh-breyt: to plan or devise something carefully so as to have a precise use, application, or appeal.

So to recalibrate my driving meant I had to keep checking my steering to the road ahead of me to ensure that I was progressing to where I desired.

Tools for self leadership

Drift happens way to easily in my life and so I have put into place some protocols to assist in my own self leadership. There are many others, for sure, but these provide a foundation for me.

Here is a process of self leadership that will push back against that natural tendency to drift. It will force you to be more deliberate and intentional in your own life in order to effectively lead others in their own lives.

1. Write a personal mission statement

If you have not done this, this is where you need to start. There are plenty of resources on the web. My own mission statement lists the key areas in which I want to have influence and what I want to accomplish with each. It can have multiple facets, but it needs to be short enough to recall easily.

Here is one statement from my own: to sacrificially love and pursue my wife as Jesus loves and pursues His church and help her achieve her desires, goals and dreams.

It took me a while to write my own, but it was such a powerful exercise. Why? Because it keeps in front of me what I believe God would have as a bulls-eye in my life. In order to accomplish this piece of my own purpose statement, I must be in order to do.

Self leadership.

2. Set goals

It is great to have a personal mission or purpose statement, but it loses its value quickly if you are not regularly asking the question, “HOW am I going to get there? What specific actions will I take right now?”

Goals add clarity and strategy to otherwise generic living.

I have learned in my own life that I am quite proficient at feeling good about the fact that I recognize areas of improvement. As if thinking about where I need to grow is equivalent to actual growth. 

I try to keep it uncomplicated for myself. I endeavor to find just one thing I could to that would help me lead myself more effectively. One for me that I have recently blogged about is the purchase of a journal to start writing in once a week about “big ideas.” This has assisted me in my own growth more than I anticipated. Taking 30-45 minutes weekly to journal about my own self leadership has spurred all kinds of new ideas.

It is been like a pruning for my mind.

Or to go back to the statement I shared about my marriage – one way I can accomplish this pursuit of my wife is to simply be more intentional about getting out with her. Weekly dates, even if it is just a Walmart run. This past Saturday it meant doing breakfast at a local cafe because we have no free evenings coming up.

3. Build your week

Next, I try to build a week ahead of me that has more intentionality than a glance each morning of what is due or where I need to be. When that is what happens, I am not exhibiting self leadership. I am simply being reactive, not proactive.

Here is how I build my week:

  1. Get something like Wunderlist to manage what needs to be done. Simple and uncluttered.
  2. Review my personal mission statement – this keeps me focused on my roles.
  3. Review the purpose, mission, and vision statements of my employer. In my instance, it is my church. This helps ensure I am doing those things in my own life that are perpetuating the success of our ministry. Being busy about the right things.
  4. Review my job description. I do not do this every week, but I get in such ruts at times that I overlook key areas of self development. What is expected of me?
  5. Think through connections. What guys do I need to get with for coffee or lunch? This keeps me developing myself for investment purposes.
  6. Divide my week, by days, into 2-3 big rocks (must get gone) and 5-7 little rocks (should be done) per day. This helps ensure that 1) my day does not get overrun with small stuff, and 2) that I am not overwhelmed with 50 things to get done. I prune my list.
  7. What am I reading? This is a must for self leadership. I believe you simply cannot grow effectively if you are not reading.

Yes, I know what you might be thinking. “I don’t have time to do that every week!” Exactly my point. For me, not doing this is one of the very reasons why I drift in my life and do not exhibit more self leadership. My busyness overtakes being proactive.

It takes time each week, but I feel so much more intentional when I do it. And way more equipped.

Leading others does demand that I lead myself first. Because if I am drifting from the shore of my own life and end up on some castaway beach, how in the world am I going to help another get to their destination? And like anything else in life, I can certainly take what is good about self leadership and turn it into self worship, the leadership of me for me. This is not about me leading me.

To be honest, self leadership is not all glamorous and sometimes has a sense of drudgery about it. See past the mundane-ness and see it as a way to better steward your life for King Jesus and His purposes. It will give you clarity, strategy, intentionality, momentum, and purpose.

Then lead others.




2 thoughts on “3 Ways to Lead Yourself Before Leading Others

  1. Strong! I like it. I smell quite a bit of Covey in here which I love. I’m still reading through his 7 Habits book (going very slowly on purpose).

    I enjoyed Wunderlist; however, I felt that the app caused me to lose some of the items I had put in. Instead now I use:

    KanbanFlow — this Kanban (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development)) style allows me to see everything I’m doing.

    Swipes – I love this app because it allows me to keep the current tasks in front of me while snoozing all the rest until I want to think about them.

    Also, I’ve gone back to using Reminders on my iPhone. I use this primarily for Prayer Lists because even if you get into your phone and do other things, when you check the lock screen, the reminders stay there. I love that.

    Great tips for self-management! I need to plan the rest of my week now. 🙂

  2. Yo Nick, thanks for reading my post and thanks for the suggestions on Apps! I have been playing around with Swipes and really like its functionality – especially being able to integrate with Evernote. I might be making a migration from Wunderlist to Swipes! Never have come across this. Super easy platform but seems to have a lot of power to it. I appreciate the suggestion! I think I could be a full time productivity app tester and be loving life. I guess that would then go against actually getting things done. 🙂

    Thanks for the comment.

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