What is Leadership without Self-Leadership?

author/source: Ellie Lane, LICSW

Photo Courtesy of Rob WalshWhen I declared permission to myself to be a leader, I saw that it first meant self-leadership.

As a therapist, I’d been guiding and helping clients for over 25 years, and coming up to the big midlife number ( is that even a thing anymore?), I started to think, what else?

After some deep internal work, honing my own purpose going forward, it became clear to me that my passion is working with women who want to expand their sense of purpose, success, and power in their lives, and my bigger vision is moving the dial on gender equality in the world.

And a few things were revealed to me; We often teach what we most need to know.

First, my courage comes first, not my confidence.  Confidence is a result, not a requirement.  Oh sure, who doesn’t want to feel that light, easy sense of being in flow, the true, “I GOT THIS” feeling? 

Photo Courtesy of Darius BasharConfidence isn’t black or white and it’s not genetic, mostly.  I can step into a state of confidence at any moment.  So can you.  And while I practice this, I wanted to pay more attention to small consistent steps of courage.

I’d been doing the same work my entire career. It was comfortable.  When I stretched out of the proverbial comfort zone, courage was needed, over and over. It was very uncomfortable at times to be shifting into a new work focus.  Still is. 

Move towards feelings, not away, I’d told thousands of clients over the years. AH but this is me, and we can’t always see ourselves, that’s why they’re called blind spots. And the nagging thought, “I don’t have this down yet, c’mon,”  kept creeping in.

Thoughts.  They do that, they hang around for all of us. Just the way our minds work.

I had to keep noticing and being in the discomfort to let it pass through me and in order to use courage to grow. 

This is silly, but if you have kids, do you remember the book, Going on a Bear Hunt?  The metaphor is powerful -  the kids had to go through the weather, and Photo Courtesy of Kiana Boasmanthey couldn’t go around it.  Well, you get it – it’s the same with our emotions.

Courage is needed, not confidence.

Second, self-compassion is NOT overrated.

When I’d hear that nagging voice, after allowing it, I kept working to drop the judge voice, the shoulds… I slowed down to be present and tap into self-compassion.

The thing is about love and compassion, they are already in us. 

One of the reasons the world would be a better place with more female leaders is our capacity for compassion.

Leading ourselves powerfully first, though, means tweaking our self-compassion. You can’t give to others what you don’t access within you.

For me, self-compassion has meant noticing the judge's voice, then sending it some love and affection.

That’s it.  It doesn’t have to be hard.  I still remember being about 8 and my parents telling me over and over to practice piano.  Which resulted in me not wanting to practice piano  – but this internal work really is a practice.

Slow down each day to practice tapping into your self-compassion.

The third piece of self-leadership is being clear about who you are being.

Photo Courtesy of Michael HeuserThis sounds so basic, doesn’t it?  But somehow, at least for women, we often don’t really know.

I believe we create our lives. From that place, we have internal power.  We are not powerless.  So, as I transitioned my work from therapy to coaching, naturally I was exploring new ways of seeing myself.

What are my highest values and am I actually honoring them?                             

How do I want to be in my life, in this world?  How do I want to show up for myself and for the people I love?                                                                                          

What’s the legacy I want to leave?

These were questions I explored, will continue to bring into my awareness, and invite you to as well.  These aren’t boxes to tick, they are ongoing questions designed to dive into deeply, so when you come up to the surface, you are clearer about who you are being.

Leadership and self-leadership begin with who you are, not what you do.

BIO:  Ellie Lane LICSW Leadership CoachEllie Lane, LICSW, is a therapist, Life and Leadership Coach, and the Creator of Ellie Lane Coaching, a sanctuary for women who're superb at creating lots of things -- except space for themselves.

Because walking the tightrope between driving yourself and loving yourself is harder than it looks. And real success doesn't happen as you juggle "all the things." It happens when you stop perpetuating a cycle of over responsibility and start focusing on radical self-compassion and meaningful contribution to the world.

Taking courageous steps, setting clear boundaries, living into your dreams, seeing and believing in who you truly are, and what you really want, you can be fulfilled and build more success, as defined by you.

Working in the field of personal development and mental health as a therapist and coach for nearly 30 years, Ellie has worked with thousands of clients on a wide range of life issues and is now passionate about and focused on guiding women with a track record of success who are creating and building successful businesses and joy-filled lives, on their terms. 

Ellie Lane Coaching

 Ellie Lane, LICSW

Life & Leadership Coach

ph: 781-826-5826


Mental Health Thought Leader iSAW.org