High achievers don’t wait to be led; they lead themselves

Who is your leader? There’s an assumption that your leader is your boss. While that might be hierarchically true, placing the future of your career in someone else’s hands takes you out of the driver’s seat.

In reality, you’re in control of your behavior.

In today’s environment, the ability to lead yourself is crucial. Even in huge companies, high-achievers are regularly praised for their self-starter mindset, steadfast motivation and ability to get things done, despite a massive organization chart. No matter what chaos is around them, they manage to lead themselves toward success.

Here are three tips to develop self-leadership:

Motivate yourself

To develop self-sustained motivation, it’s critical that you connect emotionally to the larger purpose of your work (instead of just the task).

Paint a mental picture of how your work impacts your colleagues, your organization’s customers and the communities you serve. This will help you sustain your mojo. Ask yourself questions like: Who is counting on me to do this well? How will this impact them? How will this enable my organization to thrive? How am I growing from this even if it’s tough or boring?

We all face tedious tasks, but looking for the end game for either your development or the improvement of the world will help you push through when your boss isn’t around.

Set strategic goals

Self-leadership requires that you do more than what’s asked of you today — you have to set strategic goals. A strategic goal might be: Improve my ability as a leader, increase organizational innovation or accelerate our competitive differentiation in the market.

Strategic goals are all about looking into the future and deciding where you want to focus your attention.

They’re more complex than tasks you’re being assigned and they require more than just checking a box that you did it.

When you’re setting strategic goals for yourself, focus on the impact. How does your goal help accomplish personal, departmental or organizational objectives? How are individuals going to be different as a result of you accomplishing your goal?

You don’t have to know exactly how you will accomplish or even measure the goal when you start, but you do need to fully understand the impact you want to have. If the goal is low-impact, it’s probably not a good strategic goal for you.

Take disruption head-on

Disruption is an overused word. You’ll hear it bandied about for everything from a pandemic, to a merger, to a new log-in process. When things change unexpectedly, it’s easy to send yourself into an emotional tailspin.

To lead yourself, you must quickly identify what is changing. What does this really mean for your industry, for your company, for your competitors? Will things change immediately or will they take some time? How does this impact your team? When you look at the big picture, you’ll often find that the change isn’t as world shifting as you initially thought.

With a clear view, you can develop an action plan. Channeling anxiety into action puts you in the driver’s seat.

You can’t control everything, but you can control yourself and your responses. As change management expert Cassandra Worthy says, “The difference between hope and fear is belief.” Believe that even if this disruption is scary, even if it results in temporary frustration or pain, this will be a growing experience for you. You can embody the same mindfulness, ambition and resilience as you do every single day, and step into this moment as a leader.