The Most Important Thing About Becoming a Better Leader

As leaders who just so happen to have the title of manager, we have learned managing people—controlling people—isn’t really possible. Rather, being a great leader and manager is all about managing ourselves successfully.

We all want to inspire, motivate, and positively impact the people around us.

But there’s something you need to know about the process of managing yourself, becoming better, and being a great leader.

It’s this: Becoming better is never finished.

Becoming a leader is a lifelong process.

Managing your own growth and improvement can be the most rewarding maintenance project you take on.

But honestly, it might be hard to get excited about maintenance.

How do you feel about maintenance? If you don’t particularly enjoy the idea of “maintenance,” you’re not alone. But maybe it’s time to change the way you feel about it.

You may loathe the very thought of having to spend time mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, or getting the oil changed.

But take a deep breath for a moment and reflect on how you feel as you put the lawn mower away, with a well-manicured yard surrounding your home; as you transform a messy kitchen with dirty dishes stacked all around the sink, into a tidy room with cleared, shiny countertops; as you start your car with freshly changed oil, put it into gear and slowly accelerate.

Can you feel it?

Maintenance can bring satisfaction, contentment, and happiness!

It adds meaning to our life.

It even allows us to feel a sense of accomplishment and control that may otherwise be lacking in an overwhelmingly stressful life.

Now just imagine if each day of your life was filled with those positive feelings, rather than disappointment, stress and anxiety.

When you stop to think about it, isn’t life all about maintenance?

Maintenance of stuff: homes, yards, cars.

Maintenance of relationships: spouse, children, parents, friends, work mates.

And yes, maintenance of ourselves: physically, psychologically, emotionally.

In fact, your greatest maintenance project of all has to be “Project You.”

Because without giving attention to that project, how will you ever maintain all the rest?

You can be sure that when you give attention to your maintenance, that is, your own self-coaching and self-management, you will move closer to becoming the manager and leader you want to be.

But, to be honest, just shifting our perspective on maintenance doesn’t make it any less work.

So, if we can find ways to make it easier or even a little more fun, we can make sure we stay in the process long enough to make changes we can be excited about.

Next week, I’ll share a huge tip that will make the process much more enjoyable. For now, check out the self-coaching exercise below.

If you’re ready to take your self-coaching to the next level, check out my newest product for managers here:

Set aside some private time to write-out your responses to the exercise below. Turn off your phone and computer notifications or put your devices away completely. Find a place where you can spend a few minutes without being interrupted.

Because self-coaching is an ongoing maintenance project, looking to the distant future can help us make decisions about the steps we need to take right now. And doing so activates the most powerful part of our brains so the action steps we design will be much more likely to get us the results we want.

Even though this is a lifelong process, to avoid making this exercise too dark, let’s just focus on a closer target.

So, please imagine some day, in the distant future, when you are retiring from your job. All of your team and bosses are gathered around you to celebrate you on your last day, before you leave the building for the last time. You have a reputation of being an amazing manager and a great leader; a career you are proud of.

  1. Your boss steps forward and mentions three of your characteristics they appreciated most, as well as one of your biggest accomplishments. What do you hear them say? Write down the characteristics and the accomplishment.

  2. One of your top employees steps forward next and says, “The things I appreciated most about you as leader are…” Write down 2 to 5 things that you would hear them say.

  3. After that trip to the future, which aspect of your leadership might be the most important for you to focus on now?

  4. What might be the very first action step you can take this week to develop this further?

Commit to yourself that you will take that step by scheduling it in your calendar.

Nate Sleger is a career manager, management coach, and author of The Manager’s Self-Coaching Guide. His course Show Up At Work Like A Superhero has been taken by hundreds of managers worldwide. He currently lives and works in Wisconsin, USA.

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