Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth leading.” But if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that sometimes the toughest person to examine truthfully and lead well is yourself. Since all of us are leaders, we are in a position to influence others, and we must be the best we can be.
Legendary former basketball coach John Wooden developed seven questions to help us check ourselves on a regular basis to ensure that we are growing and well-equipped to lead ourselves and others. I want to share those with you and then add a few more.
1. Am I investing in myself? Your self-investment determines the return you receive from your work and life. Believe in yourself with full confidence.
2. Am I genuinely interested in others? Great leaders prioritize the people they lead over any leadership framework.
3. Am I grounded as a leader? Do I think too much of myself? Leaders must never think they are better than those they lead.
4. Am I adding value to my team? Coach Wooden would ask himself, “How can I make my team better?” What are you doing? How?
5. Am I staying in my strength zone? Concentrate on building on your strengths, not on improving your weaknesses. This takes you to your best.
6. Am I taking care of today? Don’t focus so much on the future that you drop the ball on today. Today is where everything takes places. Strive to make each day your best.
7. Am I investing my time with the right people? Pay attention especially to those with the potential to become leaders. Choose team members according to their traits and abilities, such as the capacity to grow personally and professionally, strong values, good character.
Additional thoughts for growth:
What are three things I’m grateful for today? There are endless gifts to be thankful for in this life. Research upon research links gratitude with happiness. Get specific by writing down a couple of things you’re grateful for each day.
Whom do I need to thank, honor, or recognize?
What are three things most important to accomplish?Too many leaders are distracted by the urgent rather than focused on the important.
Is my pace sustainable? I may work at such a pace that I will be worn out and done before I get there. Can I keep this up? What adjustments do I need?
If someone replaced me right now, what would they do differently? Should I consider doing that right now?
How are my relationships? My personal relationships are actually the bottom line. If I fail there, no other success matters.
Are interior issues undermining my leadership? Do I have thoughts, habits, or lack of character that no one sees? My outside must match my inside.
Everyone, no matter how great a leader they appear to be, must be accountable and answer such questions well. The Romans staged giant parades to honor their most successful generals, who rode in chariots while everyone cheered. A slave stood behind the general being honored, positioning a laurel wreath over his head to acknowledge the leader’s recent victory. The slave would also whisper to the general, “Hominem te memento.” Meaning, “Remember, you are only a man.”
Remember, and grow.