***This article is inspired by chapter 2 of John C. Maxwell’s book Leadership Gold –
“The Toughest Person To Lead Is Always Yourself.”***

We look into the eyes of the most difficult person to lead as we gaze into the mirror each morning.

Leading others is difficult, but leading yourself is the hardest task you’ll ever take on.

Why is that?

First, we don’t see in ourselves what others see. We struggle to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s impossible to be objective with ourselves. Therefore, we struggle to define what we need to work on most.

Second, we judge ourselves more by our intentions than our actions. By doing this, we allow ourselves to drift and brush off mistakes that we wouldn’t accept from others. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt more often than we should which hinders our ability to grow into better leaders.

If you are going to be a leader worth following, you must begin with the person staring back at you in the mirror.

Consider these 4 keys to effective self-leadership:

1 – Learn followership

In order to be a good leader, you must first become a good follower. No one starts out as a leader without first being a follower. If you do not follow others well, you will hinder your leadership potential. The best leaders learn from others. Imitate others early on and then innovate your own style as you grow and mature.

2 – Develop self-discipline

Do you know who has the greatest self-esteem according to various studies? PRISONERS! This proves that self-esteem does not always lead to good results. While self-esteem may make you feel good, self-discipline is what will make you successful. If you cannot control yourself and lead a disciplined life, you will not be able to lead others effectively.

3 – Practice patience

Self-leadership is hard. It is tedious work to improve your life and leadership. Becoming better as a leader requires daily work. It’s often taught that we should strive to become 1% better every day. At the end of a year, that compounding interest will show tremendous results. But on a daily basis, it doesn’t feel like you’re moving forward much. Stay with it. Be patient with the process. Keep moving forward.

4 – Seek accountability

In order to develop into a high-quality leader who is capable of leading high-quality team members, you need others to hold you accountable. Accountability can come from a supervisor, mentor, or friend. However, seek accountability from people who are unafraid to call you out if you are not progressing or if you begin to decline. Ask for and accept “tough love” so you can grow into a great leader.


While leading yourself is difficult, it is worth the effort. Strong, successful leaders begin by looking in the mirror each morning and commit to making that person better today than yesterday. You control your leadership potential by how you choose to lead yourself daily. You can become great, but it will take great effort.

Are you willing to do the hard work?

I hope so.

I believe in you.

Until next time…make today GREAT!

P.S. If you need help developing a personal growth plan or implementing a leadership development program for your team, please contact me. I’d love to talk with you to determine how I can help!

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