Twelve Rules for Self-Leadership

Last week I shared my Twelve Rules for Self-Management with you, and it was very heartening to see them get copied and reposted on several sites. Self-discipline is something we can all use more of! Mahalo nui to Ho‘ohana Community bloggers Lisa Haneberg, Stacy Brice, Phil Gerbyshak, Jason Haley and Skip Angel for sharing my post.

I had promised you I would follow up with my Rules for Self-Leadership this week, and they follow.

A Preface: Management and Leadership are not interchangeable words for me. We need both of them, for in part, management tends to be more internally focused (within a company, within an industry, within a person) whereas leadership is more externally focused on the future-forward actions you will take in the greater context of industry, community, or society. They have commonality to be sure, for instance, both are about capitalizing on human capacity, however they are defined by the differences we value in them: Management tends to be about systems and processes, whereas Leadership is more about ideas and experiments.

I believe there is both art and discipline in each, and I think of these rules as the discipline which helps reveal the great capacity of the art. Thus last time, twelve suggestions to help you self-manage, with a more disciplined you newly able to reveal your art. Now, twelve to help you self-lead, so a more disciplined you is newly able to reveal the art in others, those who choose you to lead them.

12 Rules for Self-Leadership

1. Set goals for your life; not just for your job. What we think of as “meaning of life” goals affect your lifestyle outside of work too, and you get whole-life context, not just work-life, each feeding off the other.

2. Practice discretion constantly, and lead with the example of how your own good behavior does get great results. Otherwise, why should anyone follow you when you lead?

3. Take initiative. Volunteer to be first. Be daring, bold, brave and fearless, willing to fall down, fail, and get up again for another round. Starting with vulnerability has this amazing way of making us stronger when all is done.

4. Be humble and give away the credit. Going before others is only part of leading; you have to go with them too. Therefore, they’ve got to want you around!

5. Learn to love ideas and experiments. Turn them into pilot programs that preface impulsive decisions. Everything was impossible until the first person did it.

6. Live in wonder. Wonder why, and prize “Why not?” as your favorite question. Be insatiably curious, and question everything.

7. There are some things you don’t take liberty with no matter how innovative you are when you lead. For instance, to have integrity means to tell the truth. To be ethical is to do the right thing. These are not fuzzy concepts.

8. Believe that beauty exists in everything and in everyone, and then go about finding it. You’ll be amazed how little you have to invent and much is waiting to be displayed.

9. Actively reject pessimism and be an optimist. Say you have zero tolerance for negativity and self-fulfilling prophecies of doubt, and mean it.

10. Champion change. As the saying goes, those who do what they’ve always done, will get what they’ve always gotten. The only things they do get more of are apathy, complacency, and boredom.

11. Be a lifelong learner, and be a fanatic about it. Surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something, learning what your triggers are.

12. Care for and about people. Compassion and empathy become you, and keep you ever-connected to your humanity. People will choose you to lead them.

Last week: Twelve Rules for Self-Management

From Say Leadership Coaching: Management versus Leadership

Related Posts:

Manage with aloha, Lead with aloha

Heifetz and Milburn on Leadership

The Effect of a Leader, Starbucks style
“Catch a Rising Star”—yours


  1. says

    JJL LP2 Post5: Bust the Myths

    Preface: This posting is part of our JJL Learning Project #2: Learn to Lead with your Strengths, a two-book read and learn project. Links to all previous posts appear at the end of this article. Anxious to get past the

  2. says

    What a magnificent list.
    Numbers 2 and 4 are my favorites. They have that great “lead from where you are” feel to them.

  3. says

    Thank you Reg. Whenever I read number 4 I think of a few people who inspired it on my list; one is a Chef named James whose proudest moments would be when he could march his sous chefs out of the kitchen for a standing ovation in our restaurant’s dining room. He would never take the credit for the magnificence he very lovingly taught them to create. They were his greatest “dish.”

  4. says

    Twelve Rules for Self Leadership

    Now, if THAT doesn’t make your Friday, check yer’ pulse!
    Also take a look at a related post from Rosa, entitled Twelve Rules for Self-Management.