Frederick the Great reigned over Prussia from 1740 to 1786. The Hohenzollern king is best known for the popular story about his encounter with an old man.
While sauntering the outskirts of town one evening, King Frederick spotted a bent frame walking towards him. Every step he took revealed the dense network of wrinkles that lined his face from forehead to jaw.
As both men inched toward each other, Frederick stopped to asked the old man, “Who are you?”
“I am a king,” came the reply.
At that moment, Frederick went mute and then erupted with a cynic laughter. “A king!” he chuckled. “Over what kingdom do you reign?”
“Over myself,” the old man said, straightening up a bit to show some bravado.
The lesson was subtle yet potent. The old man wasn’t a known monarch in his time. He wasn’t draped in royalty. Heck, he probably hasn’t seen the insides of a palace before.
But he was a leader where it mattered; in his own life.
When we define leadership today, the keyword we quote is influence. And if I were to ask you, “influence over what?” you will likely say “influence over people”.
While leadership equals influence—positive influence on people and systems—most leaders or budding leaders never put themselves in the picture.
What if I told you that leadership is not about people? At least not at first.
What if I told you that the truest form of leadership is leadership of self?
Most people dream of leading other people but they often forget the first recipient of their leadership; themselves.
Personal leadership is the real deal when it comes to developing your leadership acumen. No successful man or woman leads without first leading themselves.
If you want to be a transformational leader, your first point of call is not to seek positions. It is to lead yourself.
You can only lead others where you have led yourself.
You see, I so much believe in the words of the Bible. They remain a huge inspiration for my life and work.
If you don’t mind, I’ll draw a few lines from scripture to add weight to my point.
The writer of proverbs said, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” — Proverbs 16:32(NKJV)
In 21st century English, that means a person who embodies virtues such as self-control, self-discipline and sobriety is better off than an award-winning, Forbes-profiled CEO who lacks these qualities.
The writer goes again, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”— Proverbs 25:28 (KJV)
So, the award-winning CEO who lacks personal leadership is like a city without walls.
In ancient times, it is hard to imagine a city without walls. Fenceless cities are disasters waiting to happen. They are easy preys waiting to be taken.
Therefore, when you launch your leadership journey without developing the ability to lead yourself, you’re a ticking time bomb. Your unpreparedness will be evident. Your untamed excesses will be magnified and you will lose credibility real fast.
Not many failed leaders ever get the chance to build their credibility from the ground up again. You want to avoid being that kind of a leader.
So, how do you lead yourself?
Look out for my next post. I’ll be sharing 5 time-tested principles for leading yourself and developing the moral authority to lead others.