Mastery is defined as comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity. It starts with mastering ourselves and leads to us leaving a legacy that adds value, empowers, builds and makes a way for others.
Great leadership doesn’t start when you are entrusted with a team, it starts with leading one person…. Yourself. And to be honest it will probably be the hardest person you will ever have to lead.
I always have a quip when people start talking about time management, that there is no such thing as time management only self management. I know what people mean, but I do love to provoke people to think about things a little different.
If you want to be a leader that influences others in a positive way there are seven core areas you might want to get personal mastery on. Mastery can not happen over night, it happens over many hours of trial and error. These seven core areas are simple, but often not easy as with anything worthwhile, it will require you to be intentional and consistent.
Energy Mastery: The first is learning to manage your energy, your body has an internal battery and when you run it flat or neglect to fuel it properly you are going to run into trouble. Learning to recognise and respect your capacity is vital to learning to lead not only yourself but others too. Everyone is different so don’t try do what others do, find your own energy capacity, find out what part of the day (or night) you are most productive, find out how much sleep you need to be at your best and find out what kinds of foods and exercise fuel your body to be at it’s peak. All of this takes time and attention.
Emotional Mastery: This one is key, those who understand and master their emotional quota are some of the most successful people I know. This is all about self awareness. It is all about knowing what your triggers are, when you understand who and what triggers you, you are able to keep that power rather than have people “wind you up” or “press your buttons”. I am constantly challenging people who say things like, “She made me mad” when we say that we are saying that a person has power over us to “make” us shift into another emotional state. Understanding and controlling your emotional state is simple, I didn’t say is was easy though. It means we need to learn how to respond to things that happen to us rather than react, this means we have to slow everything down, and figure out what is actually happening in us as things happen to us, then it is having the power to choose my response to it. It is a powerful way to live and it takes intentionality and discipline. It means we never get to play the victim anymore, it means we always take the high road.
Relationship Mastery: This leads us to relationship mastery, one of my wise mentors often said that the quality of your life equals the quality of your relationships. Think about it, when your closest relationships are not in a good space, life just sucks. It makes everything hard. It is hard to focus, it is hard to achieve those goals and aspirations when those relationships you care about the most are not good. Again, this is something we have control over, whether it is putting some healthy boundaries in place or sitting down to have that uncomfortable conversation, you have the power to change things. And if you are in a relationship where you totally disempowered and unsafe, get help. When we are willing to see the part we play in the dysfunction and step up to make it right, it goes a long way to creating a safe haven that supports you to live out your wildest dreams.
Time Mastery: Everyone is given the same 24 hours a day, what we choose to do with those 24 hours determines the results we will or won’t get. I am naturally quite a cluttered and disorganised person, so none of this comes naturally to me, but I have learnt to manage my behaviours around time. One of the main things that I have implemented is Margin. This came with understanding my energy and understanding how much I can successfully do on a sustainable level. To me it is not just about having bouts of activity but having consistent and ongoing results that I can sustain for as long as I decide to do this particular activity. I know that I tend to be a bit of a workaholic but also know that I cannot sustain that for long, so I have had to created a work week that includes all the things I love to do, all the things I have to do and all the things I want to do. I work with both a paper diary and electronic. My electronic diary that my clients have access to has limited time they can book, so that I guard my time as coaching and facilitation require a lot of energy, I always make sure I have some margin cushioned around those times so that I can do something that fills me back up again. Figure out how many hours you have per day that must be productive and then find the margin to recover and fill up your tank so you can do it over and over and over again.
Mastery of Purpose: Viktor E Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search for meaning, “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” Knowing your “Why” is important, especially for when times are tough, and let’s face it, if you are stepping up for leadership, it is not going to be a walk in the park. If you are clear on your “Why” you will inspire others and give them something worthwhile to do until they find theirs. Happy days if they can align their “Why” to yours. Many people are looking for someone with clear vision who they can link up with. This is often how leaders are “born”, they become passionate about their vision and start to pursue it and then turn around to find others have followed. John Wesley said “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.”
Financial Mastery: We may not realise it, but the way we treat money says a lot about us. We can have all the other things down pat and have it all mean nothing over this one thing. Money reveals a lot about our character. Are we stingy, generous, compromising? Want to find someone’s “button”? This one can trip us up every time. For many years I fobbed this off with the excuse that I am not strong with numbers. For many years I got away with it because I had a strong team member who took care of it, but if I am to be the leader I am called to be, this is an important area to get mastery over. It is often the hardest to get help with, because it feels shameful that you are an adult and you don’t know how to do it effectively. Great leaders humble themselves to learn what they don’t know, because if we don’t, we will need to protect this area and that is never pretty. There is nothing more devastating that an insecure leader. We have all been touched by that at some point.
Contribution Mastery: This one is a big one, as human beings we have 6 needs that drive our behaviour, the first four are all about survival and we can meet them in healthy and unhealthy ways. These needs are certainty, variety, significance and connection. The reality is we will do anything to meet these needs even violate our own values, when these needs go unmet it is detrimental to our wellbeing. The last two needs are what we call fulfilment needs, they go beyond the physical and when we are able to meet this needs on a high level in a healthy way, it can make our lives feel incredible, awesome, beyond wonderful. These are the needs for growth and contribution. As a leader, our ability to meet these needs for growth and contribution should drive behaviours that set us apart and that make us people who not only grow and contribute to our lives, but reach out to things greater than ourselves. Great leaders who master contribution leave a mark in history. They leave a legacy.
The time to start building leadership skills is not when you become a manager of people, it starts today, right now and it starts with you. Let each of us can take small deliberate steps to this kind of mastery today.
Where can you start today?