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Successful leaders often talk about how the first person you should lead is yourself. But, what does that actually look like and how can this help clinicians lead teams more effectively? 

Winston Churchill said, ”If you seek to lead, invest 50% of your time leading yourselfyour purpose, ethics, principles, motivations and conduct”. Leading self is fundamentally about knowing who you are and what you stand for, and allowing that “compass” to guide all you do. It is vital for leaders and relevant to for anyone, in any profession.

In all my years in healthcare, I have seen some physician and non-physician leaders bring out the best in teams under demanding circumstances, and others that led by mandates which of course only diluted team performance. The difference? Leader authenticity and values that influence and inspire others.

These leaders have a calling to make a meaningful impact. When leaders take the time to live and communicate these values, others listen and we all operate together beyond compliance, regulatory demands or metrics

Leaders that had a strong sense of who they are and act in accordance with this not only had greater authenticity to mobilize others, but were more fulfilled in their work. Most of us have heard that emotional intelligence has a strong impact on leader effectiveness, and we certainly found this to be the case in the area of personal leadership.

When a leader knows what they stand for, and communicates core beliefs effectively, we see teams actualize these values and work together with shared purpose. Those that lead themselves effectively are reflective, insightful, consistent, mission-driven and always get the best from those around them. I find that they are talent magnets—everyone wants to work for and with them.

Every physician I know wants to work with a team that is as passionate about patient care as they are. That said, if we are to get this important work done, we need to better understand how leadership begins with us.

One of my favorite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi: “Happiness is when what we think, what we say, and how we act are in harmony”. This, in its simplest form, is leading self and a foundation for leadership and resilience. If you lead yourself well, you can lead anyone.