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Leading with Character: Leading Self

It’s important that leaders, as they grow more senior, with more influence, never stop going back to the basics of leading themselves.

My New Year’s Day blog was “Resolve to be Worthy.” That’s a resolution anyone can make, regardless of their status as a leader. In fact, leadership starts with “leading self.” In that context we’re all leaders.

Learning to Lead Oneself

Resolving to be worthy starts with knowing oneself and learning to lead oneself. Sounds almost ridiculously easy, right? But it’s not. If it was, everyone would be a good leader. Learning to lead oneself requires dedicated effort and reflection. At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the James M. Loy Institute for Leadership enables cadet leader development. The 200-week (four-year) journey begins with “leading self.” Cadets experience leadership first-hand on the waterfront, through their professional military development, in the classroom, and on the athletic field. They are assessed and measured in seven competencies:

  • Accountability & Responsibility
  • Aligning Values
  • Followership
  • Health & Well Being
  • Self-Awareness & Learning
  • Personal Conduct
  • Technical Proficiency

Over the course of the program, the cadets gain some level of mastery of the “leading self” competencies, and move on to the next stage, “leading others.”

Lifelong Learning

Looking back on my 40 years with the U.S. Coast Guard, including four years as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, I realize “leading self” is not just for younger people or aspiring leaders. It’s an enduring element of leadership at all levels. The more I reflect, the more it seems I learn about myself, and how to better lead myself. I think it’s important that leaders, as they grow more senior, with more influence, never stop going back to the basics of leading themselves. Such a practice keeps a leader grounded and humble, empathetic and compassionate.

A good test of whether or not you’ve succeeded in learning how to lead yourself is to ponder the question, “Would I want to follow myself?” Only then are you ready to move to the next stage of “leading others.”

Look in the mirror. Are you worthy of leading others?

Please join me again next week for more on Leading with Character.

If you enjoyed this post, please visit my website where you can buy my book, Breaking Ice & Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters, and sign up for my mailing list: https://sandrastosz.com/book/breaking-ice-and-breaking-glass/

Sandra L. Stosz
Vice Admiral Stosz, a Homeland Security Today editorial board member, started out in the U.S. Coast Guard as an ensign serving on polar icebreakers, conducting national security missions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Her 40-year career is filled with leadership lessons gleaned while breaking ice and breaking glass as the first woman to command an icebreaker on the Great Lakes and to lead a U.S. armed forces service academy. She finished her career as the first woman assigned as Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, directing one of the Coast Guard’s largest enterprises. She has lectured widely on leadership, and has been featured on CSPAN and other media outlets. In 2012, Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast” named Vice Admiral Stosz to their list of 150 Women who Shake the World. Proceeds from “Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters” will be donated to the US Coast Guard Academy James M. Loy Institute for Leadership.

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