You’re Not the Boss of Me: Taking Leadership Personally




There is a person with whom you spend more time than any other, a person who has more influence over you, and more ability to interfere with or to support your growth than anyone else. This ever-present companion is your own self.

  Dr. Pamela Butler, Clinical Psychologist


What is Leadership?

As I said in my last blog, ‘The Art of Courageous Authentic Leadership’, leadership is about leading and leading describes the dynamic, ever-changing, fluid and flowing relationship between the person leading and those who are following.  Even simpler, leading is the art of influence.

Before we’re able to ‘artfully’ lead anyone else, we need to focus on leading ourselves, which is why we need to take leading very personally.

So, this isn’t a blog about the leadership of others.  It’s a brief exploration into something more fundamental, profound and powerful – the leading of self or self-leadership.

As the opening quote suggests, our greatest potential source of leadership and influence comes not from an external leader, but from within ourselves.


What is Self-Leadership?

In their book, Self-Leadership: Leading Yourself To Personal Excellence, Christopher Neck and Charles Manz broadly define self-leadership as “the process of influencing oneself to establish the self-direction and self-motivation needed to perform”.


Our Capacity for Developing the Skill of Authentic Personal Leadership

Christopher Baan et al state, “personal leadership capacities are our internal resources that help us navigate our personal and professional lives with flexibility and adaptability based upon congruency of mind, body, spirit and heart”.


Baan et al suggest the 7 key personal leadership capacities are:

  1. Being PresentBeing fully aware and awake in the present moment – physically, mentally, and spiritually. This includes connecting oneself to others, the environment and circumstances
  2. Whole Self-AwarenessOur life-long capacity to observe how we’re thinking, relating, feeling, sensing and judging. It includes perceptions beyond cognition, such as intuition.
  3. Suspension & Letting GoOur ability to actively experience and observe a thought, assumption, judgment, habitual pattern, emotion or sensation like fear, confusion and conflict and then refraining from immediately reacting or responding to the situation that stimulated it.
  4. Compassion – Involves our ability to reflect upon ourselves and others without judgment, but with recognition and trust that others are doing the best that they can in any given situation.
  5. Intentional Aligned with Higher Purpose Focusing on aligning our deepest personal passion and the greatest needs of the world,
  6. Whole System AwarenessOur capacity to quickly switch between different perspectives, scales and worldviews to see the big picture, interconnections within the system, and being able to scale down to small details.
  7. Personal Power Our ability to use our energy and drive to manifest wise actions in the world for the greater good, while being aware of one’s influences on a situation.

And all of these are firmly grounded in having a great sense of humour and the ongoing ability to deal with the paradoxes of life.


Does all of this feel like just too much work?

I don’t know about you but at first read I felt absolutely exhausted and that was before I even contemplated exercising any of these capacities in my life.

However, then I remembered something Charlotte Millar of the WWF has been quoted as saying:  “The level and depth of change that we seek to bring about in the world is directly related to the scale of change we are willing to undergo ourselves”.

Time to put my money where my mouth is!


“We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It’s about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives”

George Leonard




Baan C., Long P., Pearlman D., (2011), Cultivating personal leadership capacities to facilitate collaboration in Strategic Sustainable Development Towards an authentic approach to facilitation,$file/BTH2011Pearlman.pdf   accessed March 25, 2015

Neck C.P., Manz C., (1998), Self-Leadership: Leading Yourself To Personal Excellence   and

Igniting Your Passion Through Clarity of Purpose & Focused Action

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