Know Yourself to be a Better Leader
MY WIFE AND I OFTEN GET A LAUGH OUT OF HOW DIFFERENT we are from each other. She lives for parties—in fact, the longer she is at a party, bouncing around talking to people and laughing, the more energetic she becomes. On the other hand, if you watch me at a party, it would be similar to watching a balloon lose all its air—minus the bouncing around the room part. My energy is sucked away when I’m in large gatherings of people, especially if I don’t know them well.
I think the best marriages are made when two people understand what fills the tank of their spouse, and when they each do everything they can to make sure it stays filled. And I think the best leaders know what gives them energy, and they know what drains it away.
I’m in my forties, and I’m just now beginning to figure myself out. I’m realizing that to be whole and healthy, there are certain things I need:
- I need to give. A lifestyle of generosity keeps me focused on others more than myself.
- I need to know I’m succeeding. When I don’t know if I’m doing the right things or doing them well enough, I begin to feel off balance.
- I need to design and build. If there is an alternate universe, I’m pretty sure I’m an architect over there. I love to dabble in engineering or designing, and then to build or manage the project to completion. Sometimes this might be a deck, other times it might be an organizational change, or occasionally it will be a multimillion-dollar building project.
- I need quiet time. I’m not a person who prays on my knees for a specific amount of time each day. I try to whisper prayers to God and listen to his voice all day long. Quiet time in the car, in my office, or at home helps me do this.
- I need eight to nine hours of sleep a night, and every now and then a good twelve-hour night. I envy people who can live on less sleep, but that ain’t me.
- I need quality time with my kids. When they were younger, I spent time with them because they needed it. As they get older, I gain as much by my time with them as they do. They challenge me, inspire me, and make me laugh.
- I need a few friends: people who let me be me, who understand my quirks, who laugh with me (not at me), and who know I’m not mad when I’m quiet.
- I need to write. Writing is a passion. When I can’t find the time to write, I feel mentally constipated. When I have time to write, everything in my brain flows more freely. (Probably not the best analogy, but I’m guessing you know what I mean.)
It is my guess that your list is much different from mine. Perhaps you love food and need to prepare or enjoy an amazing meal on occasion. Maybe you regain energy by spending regular time in nature. Perhaps it is music that refills your tank. Or maybe you need to start something new from scratch and watch it soar.
You won’t always get what you need. No one does. There are many seasons when I have to ask God for grace to get through a period of too little rest or too much work. But when I’m feeling stressed or tense, it’s often because I’m not paying attention to my list.
You might feel like this exercise is a bit self-focused. Maybe it is, but I believe God has wired each of us uniquely, and we have to know what we need if we are going to lead others effectively. To be the person I need to be for my kids, my wife, my job, and my friends, there are certain things I need.
It is important to figure out what it is that you really need to be the person God wants you to be. Some of this is learned over time and from experience, but you can also make a list with the help of friends and family who know you best.
If you are going to lead others with strength, then you must lead from a place of strength—and that requires knowing yourself.
This post is from Chapter 4 of my book "Fairness Is Overrated & 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace."