When I was a kid, every once in a while my parents would back my brother, and I up to a doorframe, lay a stick across our heads, and mark a line with a pencil to chart our growth. They would then write the date next to it. It was always exciting to see how much I’d grown since my last measurement.

If only measuring our effectiveness as a leader was so easy. Why is it so hard to get a clear picture of our own strengths and weaknesses? Self evaluation means:

* Being willing to critique myself.
* Asking for and accepting honest feedback from those who can most accurately assess our leadership-those who follow us.

* Exercising self-discipline. This last point is perhaps the hardest. I define self-control, in the beginning of life, as the choice of achieving what I really want by doing things I really don’t want to do. Once this becomes a habit, discipline becomes the choice of achieving what I really want by doing the very things I now want to do! I really believe that a disciplined life becomes a joy – but only after we have worked hard to practice it.

All great leaders have understood that their number one responsibility is cultivating their own discipline and personal growth. Those who cannot lead themselves cannot lead others. Here’s what I call the START plan for becoming a disciplined leader.

* START ON YOURSELF – We’d all rather focus on changing everyone else to conform to us. The only problem with that is we end up with an organization full of people who reflect our weaknesses!

* START EARLY – I’m grateful for parents who taught me the value of a disciplined lifestyle early on.

* START SMALL – A simple plan will more likely bear fruit than anything elaborate will. Remember the value of small things, consistently practiced over time, in transforming a life.

* START NOW – The will to prepare is more important than the will to succeed. The dream to succeed, apart from the will to prepare, is simply wishful thinking.

* START ORGANIZED – Those who take time to organize have a special power. Organizational skills allow for the possibility of gaining stamina and momentum as your successes build. You gain a reputation as the person who always follows through.

Key to Leadership
LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE – nothing more, nothing less. Just think about it – the more influence you have, the more people are willing to follow you. As the old maxim says, “He that thinketh he leadeth, and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” One of the keys to becoming a better leader is, understanding the five levels of leadership.

Level 1: Position: At this level, people may follow you, but only BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO. Influence is based on a job description, and people won’t follow you beyond the bounds of your stated authority.
Level One is a great place to start, but a terrible place to stay. Leaders who stay on this level experience insecurity, high turnover and friction. As a positional leader focuses his or her energy on asserting their RIGHT to lead, their followers get frustrated and de-motivated. To achieve lasting leadership, he or she must move on to the next level.

Level 2: Permission: People will follow you BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. This phase of leadership makes work fun for everyone. Followers go the extra mile with a good attitude.
When leaders stay here and never advance to the next level, they find that they don’t earn the respect they would like, and any highly motivated people on the team become restless.

Level 3: Production: People follow BECAUSE OF WHAT THE LEADER HAS DONE FOR THE ORGANIZATION. Momentum picks up speed as followers see the RESULTS their leader has achieved and make a conscious decision to “get on board.” As a result, they catch the vision and act on it; they begin to share the success.
By the way, this is an important level, and many effective leaders remain here for a long time. But only at the next level can a leader help his or her people experience their own success.

Level 4: People Development: Leaders who practice people development make it their goal to REPRODUCE their own leadership in others. People follow BECAUSE OF WHAT THE LEADER HAS DONE FOR THEM.

The leader who reaches this level has accomplished a great deal. His or her followers feel a personal connection with them, and they continue to grow. In fact, most good leaders hope to someday arrive here. There is still one final level that only a small group of HIGHLY influential people ever achieve.

Level 5: Personhood: Few leaders reach this level. People follow them BECAUSE OF WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY REPRESENT. Their reputation precedes them, and people flock to them and their organizations. Few make it here, but those who do are larger than me. If you want leadership that lasts, take pro-active steps to move to grow to higher levels.

Where Change Begins, Part 1
There’s a popular opinion that says followers resist change and leaders like change. That’s not true at all. Most of the time, leaders like changes only if the changes were their idea! Very few people prefer change, for the simple reason that change requires more work than maintaining the status quo.

If we are going to change a society, we must begin by changing ourselves. Change is not a once and for all kind of thing – if only it were that easy. No, changing ourselves is a lifelong process. Not only that, but we must be intentional about how we want to change. I have found that:

1) When you change your thinking, you change your beliefs.
The following strategy has been particularly effective in helping leaders bring about change in their thinking. They have trained themselves to think in ways that are:

* Positive – This allows you to look for the best and receive the best.
* Creative – This allows you to find answers when others quit looking.
* Bottom line – This allows you to prioritize and get rid of busy work.
* Simple – This allows you to communicate your thoughts to everyone.
* Practical – This allows you to apply principles to everyday life.
* Continual – This allows you to assimilate everyday experiences into projects that are “on the table.”

2) When you change your beliefs, you change your expectations.
Belief is the knowledge that we can do something. It’s the inner feeling that what we undertake, we can accomplish.

For the most part, all of us have the ability to look at something and know whether or not we can do it. So in belief there is power: our eyes are opened; our opportunities become plain; our visions become realities. There are two fundamental beliefs we must have before we begin to see changes. First, that change is possible. Second, that change is profitable. Until we believe that both are a possibility and that the change will ultimately be in our best interests, our ability to change is crippled.

I also believe God has a plan for me. God wants me to fulfill that plan. God will help me succeed in that plan. I can know God’s plan for my life. I can experience God’s blessing on my life. I must change to grow with God’s plan for my life. When I grow, those closest to me grow as well. When my inner circle grows, my organization grows.

Where Change Begins, Part 2
In the last chapter I said that if we are going to change the society, we must begin by changing ourselves. Change is not a once and for all kind of thing – if only it were that easy. No, changing ourselves is a lifelong process. Not only that, but we must be intentional about how we want to change. I have found that: Remember this;

1) When you change your thinking, you change your beliefs.

2) When you change your beliefs, you change your expectations.
We pick up this by understanding that:

3) When you change your expectations, you change your attitude.
Positive expectations produce feelings of excitement, desire, conviction, confidence and enthusiasm. Here is where a natural- born pessimist can re-program his or her basic outlook on life. What a difference it makes when you expect the best, not the worst – the possible, not the impossible!

4) When you change your attitude, you change your behavior.
Once we begin to see change as being the key to a better future, it’s easy to modify our behavior accordingly. Going the extra mile no longer seems out of the question; in fact, we do so willingly, knowing it is taking us closer to where we want to go.

5) When you change your behavior, you change your performance.
I find that we often make two mistakes in this area. First, we often sit around and wait for God to change our circumstances. Second, we wait for circumstances to change our behavior. Is it any wonder that some people change so little?

6) When you change your performance, you change your life.
Most people fail to see that life is moving on at a rapid speed. None of us have all the time we’d like. If you see an area you need to change, CHANGE NOW. I’m not talking about cosmetic changes. That’s where we change our talking but not our thinking, our environment instead of our expectations, our appearance instead of our attitudes, our business instead of our behavior, and our biases instead of our beliefs. Rather than focus on changing ourselves, too many of us content ourselves with dreaming about the results we desire from life and wonder why they remain just that – dreams.

Making Changes That Count
Consider the following six questions carefully. Each addresses a critical area of life that may need improvement.
* What areas of my thinking do I need to change? * What beliefs do I hold that hold me back? * What expectations hinder my personal growth? * What attitudes hurt my success? * What behavioral areas must I change to give me a boost? * What things are keeping me from a peak performance?

Making changes in yourself is a prerequisite to leading any organization or society through change. Once people around you begin to see the results of personal growth, you gain both credibility and respect. With those two things, change in your organization moves from possible to probable.

Don’t Delay – Do it Today
* Identify Procrastination: While some of us are more predisposed to procrastinate than others, most people suffer from the affliction in some form or another. To discover your own tendency, ask yourself these questions:

“When faced with a problem, do I take a long time analyzing before I act?” This isn’t necessarily a sign of procrastination, but if your track record shows disproportionate amounts of time spent on thinking rather than doing, you’re probably using analysis as a way to put off action.

“When given an assignment, do I automatically place it in the ‘to do later’ pile?” This is probably the place where most postponement begins. In contrast, people who get excited about tackling a new assignment the minute it comes in don’t usually have much trouble with procrastination. Instead, they need to make sure they stay focused on their priorities.

“Do I keep handling the same things over and over?” Maybe projects keep coming back because you’ve been postponing rather than resolving them.

* Understand Why: What makes one person a procrastinator and another a “go-getter”? I believe it boils down to perception and attitude. Most of us tend to make decisions based on whether we believe the results will bring us pain or pleasure. So people procrastinate when they believe that doing a certain task will give more discomfort than happiness. As long as the “negative” (boredom, risk of failure, challenge, etc.) outweighs the “positive” in their minds, they feel justified in avoiding the task.

* Change Your Outlook: Sometimes all that’s needed is a change in perspective. By focusing on the benefits of completing the task, we free ourselves to take action. Another way to shift your outlook is to list all the negative consequences of inaction. Besides the obvious – an unfinished task – those include stress from having the job hanging over your head, inability to move forward, and lack of respect from others. And don’t forget the biggest curse of delay: the loss of opportunity.

* Prioritize and Delegate: Many leaders do everything they can, and give away what they can’t do. The problem with that is that if you’re an intelligent and motivated person, there are a lot of tasks that you CAN do. And that results in an overloaded “in” box and lots of reasons to procrastinate. A better plan is to do everything that ONLY you can, and give away anything that can be accomplished nearly as well by others. By delegating effectively, you trim your “to do” list down to something manageable.

* Simplify Each Task: Taken as a whole, many jobs can look too big or difficult, and this perception can tempt you to put them off. The key is to break down the task into manageable parts. To do that, first look at the entire project and everything it involves, getting a global perspective. Then make a list of all the components, creating a separate folder for each. This way it’s easy to group the various folders based on similarity. Now ask yourself which part needs your attention first, second, etc., and stack them in order of priority.

* Value Progress over Perfection: One of the biggest reasons for postponing tasks is fear of failure. Many procrastinators are so intent on doing a job perfectly – which they know deep-down, is impossible – that they can’t bring themselves to start it. But I like the motto I heard from business expert Tom Peters: “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” The point is that if you wait until you’re 100% ready before you begin a project, you’ll be waiting for a long, long time.

* Reward Yourself for Completion: Finally, when you finish a difficult task, take the time to acknowledge a job well done. The kind of reward doesn’t matter. Just make sure to reward your success in some way that’s meaningful to you. There’s nothing worse for morale than putting off a project, finishing it in a rush at the last minute, and immediately moving on to the next on without at least a moment of celebration.

Do you have something unpleasant to do where you have been waiting weeks to apply these tips? Change your attitude, break it down, and when you finish, reward yourself. Break your old habits and begin a new cycle of success.


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