Love is a verb.
We know true love by actions, not feelings.
People can’t really know how we feel – they gauge our love by what we do.
Love in action is proportional to our self-love.
“[Love] is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” – Brenè Brown
We can’t give what we don’t have.
Leadership is a verb.
We know true leadership by actions, not words.
When we describe a great leader we talk about what they do.
How they respond to adversity.
How they treat people.
How they earn trust.
How they get results.
We can only lead others as much as we lead ourselves.
And just like love, leadership flows from the inside out.
When we neglect the actions that generate self-respect we struggle to act in ways that generate other-respect. Sooner or later our self-doubt and incongruity will come to the surface. We can only operate as a divided self for so long before we lose our ability to hold the tension and do something we regret.
We can’t be available and take the right course of action if our inner resources are depleted. We can’t lift others up when we’re bottomed out.
Healthy leadership needs wholehearted leaders.
That’s why it’s so important for leaders to cultivate their inner lives. As difficult as that is to do in our distracted, hyperactive world we must find ways to carve out the time. As Dr. Stephen Covey noted we must learn to “put first things first”.
And sometimes that means putting me first.
Wait a minute, isn’t leadership supposed to be about serving others?
Me-first leadership isn’t selfish or narcissistic.
It means caring for our body, mind and heart so that we have the resources, energy, confidence and capacity to give our best and do our best.
Body – The attention our body needs – e.g., sleep/rest, nutrition, exercise – things that nourish and energize your body, that replenish your resources.
Mind – The attention our mind needs – e.g., learning, hobbies, meditation – things that clear and refresh your mind, that spark your imagination.
Heart – The attention our heart needs – e.g., relationships, retreats, fun – things that heal and restore your spirit, that make you come alive.
It’s the opposite of selfish.
It just might be the most giving thing we can do.
So if your heart’s desire is to be the best leader you can be and make a difference over the long haul then make me-time a priority. Put it on your schedule. Learn to say no to others so you can say yes to you.
Treat yourself with the same compassion, forgiveness, care and support that you give to the people you lead. Maybe even a little more. Create an abundance in your own life that naturally flows to others.
Because leaders are at their best when they lead from all three of these dimensions.
And you can’t give out what you don’t put in.