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How to Be an Effective Leader of One

Wisdom and Leadership. Leading effectively requires wisdom. Ironically, according to Socrates, “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” However, Socrates also said that “wisdom begins in wonder.” This is a great starting point. There are several definitions of “wonder”, but as a coach and for the sake of this topic I will use “desire or to be curious to know something” as the foundation. Professional coaches are trained in the mindset of curiosity. Through curiosity, coaches help clients discover their own insights and wisdom. Discovered insights and wisdom become the basis for developing leadership skills.

Leadership Result versus Leadership Process. There are many types of leadership styles. This article will focus on SELF-leadership. This leadership type has the characteristics of efficacy and inclusivity. Effective leadership practice is dynamic, complex, and is nurtured over time. Many theorists express that to be a leader, one must have a follower otherwise, you cannot lead (Murphy and Riggio, 2003; Daft, 2008). While this seems to be common sense, it does not consider human complexities: effective leadership today is multifaceted and intricate. Moreover, there is a focus on “successful leaders” who have proven themselves to be successful by earnings and the ability to survive in our turbulent leadership landscape. I am not discounting those high performing leaders who are executives and CEOs but want to bring attention to the leadership influence of mid-level managers and below. There is an erroneous belief that leadership development is reserved for the few. Perhaps the difficulty of understanding effective leadership practice may lie in the focus on the big picture and the results rather than the process.

Leadership Process and Result. The concept of self-leadership states that you can both lead and follow yourself; this seems to indicate that there is no need to have another person to either follow or lead you to develop effective leadership practices. Andrew Bryant (2016), who teaches, coaches, and writes about self-leadership, explains in his eBook that self-leadership can be based on seven mindsets: ownership, effective thinking, and feeling, self- awareness, self-confidence, self-efficacy, influence, and impact. He does a great job dispelling the mystique of effective leadership. Furtner & Rauthmann’s research (2013) on self-leadership found that efficacy of self-leading is viewed as a pre-requisite to leading others. A potential leader must exercise positive role modeling to be effective with others. Norris (2008) has also found that people who are self-leaders are more likely to “engage in innovative behaviors in the workplace.”

Wisdom. How does wisdom play into this? If you are not curious about yourself and your own strengths, weaknesses, and development, how can you develop and lead others? What I have found in my research and coaching about leadership is that it begins with you. How you see yourself and how others see you is important. If you are committed to developing yourself through the path of gaining wisdom and being your own die-hard follower, then perhaps others will follow you too.

There is a caveat though: most of us need an invested mentor or guide (preferably a “curious” professional) to facilitate self-development. It is very easy to become great planners and great dreamers. Give us some time to plan and dream, and we will succeed; however, the action is something else. Most of us will fail to act on what we learn. This is why time management, life/work balance, even health continue to be an issue for most of us. We probably know what to do, so it is not from the lack of knowledge. What we desperately need is accountability; it is about the commitment to keep that motivation alive that we make to ourselves and to others. It is possible to be an effective leader of one however, it is very difficult to develop alone.

Written by

Leadership & Executive Coach


Bryant, A. (2016). Self-leadership: 12 Powerful mindset & methods to win in life & business. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from

Daft, R. L. (2011). The leadership experience (5th ed). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Furtner & Rauthmann (2013). How self-leaders are perceived on the Big Five. Psychology of Everyday Activity, 1(6), 22-29, Retrieved April 23, 2017, from

Murphy & Riggio (2003). The future of leadership development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Norris, S. E. (2008). An examination of self-leadership. Emerging Leadership Journeys, 1(2), 43-61. Retrieved November 4, 2013, from

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