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Leading with a Full Tank

September 5, 2017
Lead Organizations
Rusty Chadwick

Earlier this year, I had a conversation with my life coach that has turned out to be a bit of a watershed moment for me.

We were discussing my personal and work-related journeys over the last year and I had to confront the fact that I was neglecting several key areas of my life. Areas I had been claiming were important priorities were not getting the attention they deserved. As I came to this realization, my coach challenged me by saying, “At some point, you have to ask yourself if you are a fraud or if you really believe what you say you believe.”

Wham! This challenge hit me like a two-by-four between the eyes. Though I had a clear vision of the future and I had identified critical priority areas in my life, the hard truth was that I was not following through on key commitments I had made regarding those expressed priorities. Our behaviors reveal our beliefs; therefore, my coach’s probing words were most certainly on point. How could I claim I was really committed to the priorities I professed if my actions did not align with my stated goals? I couldn’t. I was forced to take a hard look at my routines to get back on track.


Before any of us can successfully lead another or serve effectively on a team, we must first be able to “lead” ourselves.


Over the past few years, much of my thinking on this topic has been shaped by the ideas and philosophies of a business and life coaching organization called Building Champions. The CEO of Building Champions, Daniel Harkavy, has also co-authored a book with Michael Hyatt titled Living Forward. The book lays out their process for developing and implementing an intentional Life Plan. This book is a great resource for anyone looking to gain traction as a self-leader.


We all have areas in our lives in which our actions do not match our intentions.


We make commitments to ourselves, but do not follow through as we planned. The good news is . . . we can get better! As you think about your own self-leadership, consider the following questions:


1. What value could I create? As individuals, team members, and leaders, we have the opportunity to create value for others. We not only influence our own futures, but those of our families, our teams, our organizations, and our communities. When we align our behaviors with our beliefs, we accomplish more of what we intend. When we live out our values within our families, our teams, and in relationship with those we lead in the workplace, we are able to create value for each individual in our lives. Pausing to consider the potential value we can create will motivate us to set priorities and discipline our actions in order to achieve our goals.

2. Have I identified several linchpin activities? This question is critical. Linchpin activities are those behaviors that fuel you for improved performance in other areas. They clear your mind, strengthen your body, and fill your tank for what is ahead. Exercise, healthy eating habits, personal quiet time, quality family time, date nights with your spouse, and healthy sleep patterns are a few examples. Discipline in these key areas will make it easier to be disciplined in others.

3. Have I made a plan for incorporating linchpin activities into my routine? Do not assume linchpin activities will naturally make their way into your schedule once they are identified. They won’t. If you want to be consistent in these activities, you will need a plan. What time of day will you exercise? How often? Which night will be date night?

4. Is there someone in my life who holds me accountable? Don’t try to go it alone. You need someone who will encourage and challenge you. This could be a coach, a friend, a leader at work, a spouse, or someone else who is willing to ask you hard questions when needed. We all need “two-by-four questions” from time to time and this accountability helps us stay committed and achieve our goals. I am so thankful my coach challenged me in this way. I needed the wake-up call; I can serve better because he prompted me to ask myself the hard questions.

5. Am I willing to commit? Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with saying: “the reason most people fail instead of succeed is they trade what they want most for what they want in the moment.” At some point, we have to commit. We must decide that we are willing to sacrifice for what we want most. This can be the hardest part of developing self-leadership, but I have found the rewards to be well worth the effort.


Oftentimes, we focus on how to lead others. Most leadership development takes an outward approach. However, before any of us can lead others effectively, we must be able to lead ourselves. Leadership is a journey, and the tank needs to be full before you hit the road. Take some time this week to answer the above questions.