As a leader, your primary focus is most likely focused on leading others. You spend countless hours researching, practicing, and optimizing how you motivate, engage, and develop your teams. And rightfully so, as these are the primary responsibilities of a leader. 

However, while leaders have a responsibility to lead others, one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of leadership is leading yourself effectively. 

The importance of this concept is perfectly illustrated by two common phrases: “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and “put your own oxygen mask on first.” Both ring true when it comes to personal leadership. If you aren’t taking care of yourself and practicing self-leadership, how can you possibly lead others successfully? 

Here are three tips to help you better lead yourself, and in turn, better lead others… 

1. Reflect on how you are leading yourself

You invest in your people day in and day out, but how often do you follow your own guidance? Take some time to reflect on the following: 

  • Do I have the resources needed to do my best?  
  • Do I feel balanced, motivated, and energized by my work?  
  • If not, what needs to change? Who can help me make that change? 

Leading yourself starts with radical self-awareness. Periodically re-assess whether you are practicing what you preach when it comes to exemplary leadership behaviors. 

2. Get out of the endless spin cycle

With the demands and fast pace of leading in today’s environment, it’s easy to get caught in a never-ending spin cycle of mounting priorities, calls, emails, and fires to put out. But consistently operating in this reactive state leads to clouded judgment, hasty decisionmaking, undue stress, and unexpected consequences. 

Carve out time to stop, think, reflect, and recalibrate your approach. Even just 10-15 minutes can provide much-needed white space to get grounded. Use this time to: 

  • Practice scenario planning for key upcoming decisions and initiatives 
  • Gain pertinent context and outside perspectives 
  • Weigh potential outcomes, risks, and contingency plans

This strategic pause helps you get out of the weeds and lead yourself from a vision-driven, intentional mindset rather than an overwhelming, tactical one. 

3. Build your leadership support system

No great leader achieves sustained success entirely alone. Having the right support system in your corner is invaluable for personal growth, leadership effectiveness, and overall well-being. Take inventory of your current career scaffolding and ask yourself: 

  • Who supports and challenges me in healthy ways? Who provides an outside perspective when I need it most? 
  • Are there mentors, coaches, or advisors who could provide additional guidance specific to my goals? 
  • What about personal support at home? Does my family and/or friend network have my back? 

Proactively cultivating a strong personal board of directors pays dividends. An executive coach can be an especially powerful resource to help you elevate your self-leadership capabilities while navigating the intense demands and high-stakes decisions executives face daily. 

Leading Yourself First to Lead Others Better

Ultimately, exceptional leadership starts with leading yourself first. By practicing self-reflection, mental white space, and surrounding yourself with trusted guides, you’ll show up as a more grounded, intentional, and effective leader for your team. The investment in your own self-leadership paves the way for positive ripple effects across your organization. 

Additional resources to help you lead yourself and others more effectively…

Journeys in Leadership: Video Series 

How to Integrate Coaching into Your Leadership Style 

Building Emotional Intelligence in Leaders 

The Power of Stakeholder Feedback: A Gift for CEOs 

What is Executive Coaching? Benefits & Examples