Leadership … a trait most of us aspire to possess, but what is it really and how do we develop leadership skills?

Untold millions of words have been written describing leadership, much of it contradictory. I’d rather not contribute to that. Instead I will drill down to what is for me the most critical element.

To achieve your goals you must lead and direct many things, including other people, all with the sole purpose of achieving the desired result. That being said, can there be any doubt about the importance of you leading you?

Let me be clear: If you don’t lead you how can you ever expect to lead anyone else? And what prevents you from doing that? Potentially, many things, but above all your attitude.

I almost missed this last and very important point until one day fate challenged my leadership of me. I went in for a routine medical checkup, and while my doctor and I chatted, he thumbed through my file, stopping when he came to the results of a blood test I had taken earlier.

To my surprise, he said the findings indicated I might have a medical condition serious enough to result in death, or at the very least require surgery, ongoing treatment, and monitoring. Instantly, all thoughts of everything else immediately left my mind. I was laser focused on what he had said, even though there were far more assumptions and questions than facts and answers.

In the days that followed I effectively shut down. Not only was I not “leading” anyone or anything else, I certainly wasn’t leading me. And all for one reason.


How do you change or control your attitude, particularly when much of what you are thinking is coming from your subconscious, seemingly out of your control?

Researching my book The 7 Keys to Change lead me to a few very helpful others including Spiritual Depression: Its Cause and Cure by British doctor and preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He said, “Most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.”

That was me. When I found I might have a problem, my emotions largely took over, ranging from “everything will be okay” to “I’m screwed,” with too much emphasis on the latter, not enough on the former. It was only when I forced my intellect to overrule my emotions that I was able to put things in perspective.

Only then could I once again lead me.

If having a good attitude is the best, most logical course to take, why not just do it? The problem is how to do it, and businessman/author W. Clement Stone offers advice about what he calls “mental vision.”

Paraphrasing, the person who is mentally nearsighted is apt to overlook objects and possibilities that are distant. He pays attention only to the problems immediately at hand and is blind to the opportunities that could be his by thinking and planning in terms of the future. You are nearsighted if you do not make plans, form objectives, and lay the foundation for the future.

On the other hand, the mentally farsighted person is apt to overlook possibilities right before him. He does not see the opportunities at hand. He sees only a dream world of the future, unrelated to the present.

When dealing with my health concerns, I was mentally farsighted in a way that made matters worse. I was focused on a future that statistically was not likely to happen. So then, how to stop this?

There was only one person who could and that was me. I needed to demonstrate leadership, first and foremost by leading me to where I needed to be to deal with my crisis. In other words I needed to talk to myself, not listen to myself. Once I did, I changed from victim to leader with relative ease. It lead me through surgery and treatment to regain my health. Of greater importance, I discovered the essence of leadership within me, as it is within you.

It is far easier to write these words today than it was to live them two years ago, but having done so, I see more clearly how the foundation of leadership begins with the requirement that we first lead ourselves.

Are you ready to do that?