You cannot give what you do not have
Get on to a commercial airliner and about halfway through the safety briefing you will hear words to the effect of: “Place the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth before assisting children or those around you.
Far from being an act of selfishness, this is a necessary precaution to ensure you have the capacity and the ability to help the people dearest to you, and those who are geographically closest to you.
Our families and our communities are crying out for leadership. We desperately need the oxygen of hope and purpose, belief and meaning. And as the cabin crew keep reminding us, nemo dat quod non habet
. We cannot give what we do not have. We cannot truly lead others, until we first lead ourselves.
In the words of Professors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of the highly acclaimed The Leadership Challenge
Leadership development is
self-development. Engineers have computers; painters, canvas and brushes; musicians, instruments. Leaders have only themselves. The instrument of leadership is the self, and mastery of the art of leadership comes from mastery of the self.
Mastering myself means first becoming aware of myself – it entails knowing my strengths and limitations, my hopes and aspirations, my values and beliefs. It requires understanding my communication and behavioural styles, my approach to people and work, my goals and my emotional needs.
Sadly, many people never reach this level of awareness. John Maxwell (The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
) suggests there are three types of people, when it comes to self-development:
As I gain greater awareness of these dimensions of myself, I can start aligning them with my purpose and vision, and with the needs of my organisation or the people around me. I can start intentionally developing my capacity in those areas, so that I have something to give.
If you are one of the many people looking at the state of the world and wishing you could do something to make a difference – you can!
You can start by developing your self-awareness. Don’t wait for things to get better, or for opportunities to drop into your lap. Don’t expect your community or boss to put that oxygen mask on you; they’re still struggling with their own.
Understand what and how you think, what you value, and why you react to the things you do in the way you do. Know yourself. Breathe it in. And then you can help others do the same.