Self-Leadership – When you show up in your career and life as the leader that you are within.

Imagine that you have a career that you enjoy and look forward to each day when you wake up. And, let’s be real, there will be days when that’s not exactly the case, but you really like what you get to do. It feels like a true “fit” for you.

You’ve made intentional decisions throughout your career about the positions you’ve applied for, the people that you work for and with, and the projects that you volunteer your time. You’ve asked for what you want and need, whether that be training, a raise, time off, or other resources. You have a career goal, and you know what you’re moving toward. You’ve cultivated great professional relationships along the way, and your colleagues and community respect you, and you respect them. Wouldn’t that be great?

When you put thought into what is meaningful in your career and how you want to show up and contribute, then take actionable steps in that direction, that is, self-leadership. This is the case whether you are employed at a corporation, are a contract employee, are salaried or hourly. It doesn’t matter. You may work for someone else, but you OWN your career.

Expand your view of leadership and consider how you “lead” in your company. Are you the “go-to” person for something? How about in your community? Have you taken the reigns of a campaign for your favorite non-profit? At home, are you the glue that holds the family together? These are all examples of self-leadership. Whether or not you have the title, the office, or the paycheck, you ARE a leader.

The first step to becoming a leader in your career is to DECIDE.

But what do you do after that? How do you continue to increase your self-leadership in your career and life? I’m glad you asked!

Here are 3 essential tips to become a better leader for YOU!

1. Always seek Clarity. To own your career, you have to know what you are moving toward; have a career plan. I like to say, ‘You can’t hit a bull’s eye without a target.” To do that, have an open mind and be curious about what may be out in front of you in your career. Are there jobs that you’d like to explore? Skills that you’d like to acquire? People that you’d like to shadow? Career Development is very much like an exploration, and you are in charge of what you explore. Seek things that move you outside of your comfort zone and stretch you to a new level of professional and personal growth.

To start this process, make a list. Think of every possibility that sounds interesting or exciting. NO judgment, just write it down. Make it a challenge to think of as many things as possible, not whether you can do it or not right now. Refine the list into 3 buckets. The first bucket is the items that you have a great deal of interest in. The second bucket is items that you are interested in, but not as interested as the items in the first bucket. The third bucket is things you came up with that you may have a mild interest in. Divide your list equally among all 3 buckets. Then prioritize each bucket, one through…whatever. This will give you a starting point for continued exploration!

2. Understand Your Responsibility. This means you take responsibility for your thoughts, for your words, and for your actions. It takes a great deal of discipline to take responsibility for your thoughts. Are your thoughts focused on what has happened in the past, or are they focused on the future and your potential? A leader leads forward, not backward, and you need to lead your thoughts in that direction as well. Become aware of when your thinking isn’t supporting you. This takes courage, discipline, and plenty of repetition.

Taking responsibility for your words means the words you say externally to others and also that you speak up for yourself but in a way that is assertive, not aggressive, and certainly not passive-aggressive. When you are responsible for your words, you think before you speak, and you have a purpose for your communication. You seek to build relationships, not be right or the “know it all” in every conversation. You intentionally move your communication with other people forward. It’s also taking responsibility for your internal words or communication. When does your inner dialogue go off into “nasty-land?” We say horrible things to ourselves that we would never say to another human being! When you are responsible for your words, you become aware when this happens (not if), and you gently redirect your thinking.

Taking responsibility for your actions. Not everything will always work out the way you want it to. Whether you have done something intentionally or unintentionally, that was a misstep, and it means that you have to take responsibility for it. It means that you reflect on (1) what you did, (2) what the consequence was, and (3) what you would or could do differently the next time to avoid that same result. It’s about getting the lesson and taking different action, so you aren’t repeating the same mistake.

3. Develop Accountability. When you have self-leadership in your own career and life, you have a plan. A specific development plan that is actionable. That means you know what you need to be doing every day, every week, every month, to achieve it. Do you have a way to track your progress regularly? This could take the form of a simple checklist that tracks your daily actions. It could be an accountability partner who holds you accountable to what it is that you say you are going to do. It could be a mastermind where you join with other like-minded people who want to advance in their careers. Simply put, how can you put processes in place that help you to be accountable to yourself, your goals in your career and life, and help you show up in a more proactive way to lead you to what you want?

Self-leadership is a skill you are always working on and refining. It’s not a destination; it’s a process and a journey that takes you from where you are to where you want to be and beyond to who you never thought you’d be.

Enjoy the ride, and here’s wishing you the Clarity you deserve!

Debbie Peterson is a Keynote Speaker and Career Clarity Coach, supporting and advancing women leaders at all levels to create career success on their terms without losing who they are in the process. Curious about what the next steps are to advance in your career? Let me help give you some insights.