When I was prayerfully discerning which career path I would take upon graduation from the United States Naval Academy, I completed the interview process to become a Marine Corps Officer. I nervously sat in a large room where I was drilled with questions from three senior male officers from the Navy and Marine Corps. They specifically asked questions about my time and experiences as a college student—why I made certain choices and scrutinized my performances—and they asked questions about the kind of officer I might become. Several months later, I was elated to find out that I was granted one of the limited slots to become a part of The Few, The Proud, The Marines. When I attended the celebratory reception to welcome my classmates, the new officers, into the Marine Corps fold, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the gentlemen who sat on my interview board. He said there was one word that made me stand out among my peers, “Perseverance.”
My life experiences have shaped and taught me how to press on even when the way is channeling and the times are hard. The road to understanding myself and growing as a leader has been a joyous and difficult one. Throughout the process of learning, I’m steadily embracing the importance of self-leadership. Self-leadership is foundational for determining the character, boundaries, and focus of any effective leader. In short, you have to know who you truly are (apart from what anyone else says), what you truly want (and wrestle with the good and bad motivations of those desires), and what you are willing to do so you can get what you want.
Are you honest? Are you a person of integrity? Are you willing to work hard? How does your desires impact the lives of other people? Do you care about other people or community needs and concerns at all? Is your life all about you?
These were basic questions and conversations the Board of Directors of Leadership LINKS, Inc. discussed when outlining the curriculum for our Summer Leadership Program. One of the board members, Tasya, kicked off the summer learning with a simple instruction about a leader’s responsibility. She shared with the future leaders from the topic: “Leadership Starts with You.”
With more than one hundred years of leadership experience between our board members, we have all grown to understand that, “The first person we ever lead is ourselves.”
Self-leadership. Effectively leading in big things—like starting a new career or ministry opportunity, building or growing an organization, pastoring a church, running a business, teaching and changing the lives of students at a school—often begins with simply disciplines like taking care of our own bodies, exercising our minds, tending to our personal relationships, and intentionally growing in our faith. If we never learn to persevere in those small—yet important—things, then our effectiveness as a leader will be quite slim.
We learn to lead others well by first learning to persevere and lead ourselves. True leadership means understanding that life is not simply about what we selfishly want, but rather about what we have to generously offer the world. It requires sacrifice, commitment, training, and discipline.
When writing about the rights of his leadership as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul uses a metaphor to remind believers of the importance of persevering in their faith to receive an eternal reward for their work.
Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly, I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified from the prize (I Cor. 9:24-27 NIV).
Will you learn to persevere? Train? Discipline? Will you learn to rule yourself?
Here is some more motivation for you:
“You are the sum of all your training.” Thanks for this motivating reminder Under Armour!
How is your self-leadership?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2015