Some people almost fall into leadership due to their charisma. They are good at connecting with people. They are confident in themselves. They look good. People notice them and look to them. However, those working closely with them find them frustrating and difficult to work with because they have never learned to lead themselves well.

Others, like former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, are extremely driven and have huge ambitions. However, their character weaknesses and insecurities start to cause problems the higher up the ladder they rise.

Their insecurity may manifest in annoying micromanagement, or an explosive temper when things go wrong, or a variety of power plays with colleagues. Their poor self-leadership becomes a major issue that makes them extremely difficult to work with, and undermines their success.

Ultimately, if you fail to lead yourself well, at some point, you will forfeit the right to lead others. ‘Three strikes and you’re out’ is about right, in terms of describing the way leaders can lose trust and influence with their team. Once respect is gone leadership is reduced to a position with little real influence.

Poor self-leadership usually emanates from:

  • Insecurity

    Trying to please everyone, inability to say ‘No’, unclear boundaries, a need to be in control or needed.

  • Weak character

    Indiscipline, laziness, a short-cut mentality, poor anger management, moodiness.

  • Poor organisation

    Unstructured thinking, inadequate systems, poor planning and follow through.

The talented person who can be a bit muddle-headed and disorganised is a whole lot easier to deal with than the insecure leader who has significant character flaws. This is why addressing poor self-leadership starts with working on developing healthy self-respect and not a time management course.

Unless you work on yourself and deal with your insecurities, you will always struggle to lead yourself well, especially under pressure. Secure leaders learn to set and live with clear boundaries. Effective leaders keep working on their personal growth, developing disciplines and strength of character.

When difficulties and conflicts arise, it is vital that a leader has learned ways to lead themselves under pressure, so they can manage their energy and focus their mind on what is important.

Indicators of poor self-leadership:

  • Fails to discern the important from the urgent
  • Tries to please everyone and usually ends up frustrating everyone
  • Struggles to say, ‘No!’
  • Constant interruptions – an open-door policy, email alerts on, always answers phone
  • Needs to work back late because there’s always too much to do
  • Tends to run late, thinking they can fit one more thing in before that meeting
  • Makes a lot of decisions on the run because they avoid investing time for planning
  • New shiny thing syndrome – lots of new ideas, often changes their mind
  • Poor daily routines

When the first person you lead well is yourself:

  • Outcome focused rather than input driven
  • Proactive rather than reactive
  • Easy to work with because you have clear plans
  • Communicate consistently and clearly
  • Actions back up your words
  • Put into place self-care strategies that enable you to have energy when required even under extreme pressure
  • Find it easy to earn respect from your team
  • You are secure, and empower team members to do their roles

Once you have reached a certain level of technical skill within your industry the main issue that will determine how far you rise in leadership roles will be related to how well you lead yourself.