Self-Leadership is An Inner and Outer Game—Here Are 4 Skills to Win it

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 19 Feb 2018

Self-Leadership is An Inner and Outer Game—Here Are 4 Skills to Win it

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In the agile world of tech start-ups and entrepreneurship, the practice of self-leadership or “intentionally influencing your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve your objectives” is what will separate outstanding start-up founders from the mediocre.

Motivational speaker, leadership expert, and author Andrew Bryant likens self-leadership to the game of tennis, whereby “the outer game relates to how you hold your racket and play the game, and the inner game to how you think about yourself and the game.”

In the arena of self-leadership, the idea is to improve your inner game to ensure your outer game is more influential. Because it is when your outer game is more influential that you’re able to make an impact—the desired result of today’s self-leader.

“The world measures us not for who we are but for what we do. A self-leader sets goals and objectives that are going to have an impact. I could sit here and write great articles, have great thoughts, but unless I’m coaching, speaking to, and changing the world, changing organizations, there is no impact. So the self itself is an inside-out job, but the impact relates to the outside end, the economics of the world that we live in,” relates Bryant.

With your inner game as the starting point, Bryant lists the four skills you need in your arsenal to win both in life and your career: 

1. Intentionality

Begin with your purpose or why you are doing what you are doing. “Intentionality is not a new idea, but Simon Sinek packaged this beautifully: Begin with the why before you get to how and the what,” shares Bryant.

When push comes to shove, and in the dynamic start-up world this is normal, knowing your purpose is what will ultimately drive you — with clear and articulated direction — to accomplish your personal and professional goals. According to this Inc. article, one’s purpose serves as an “internal compass, a gravity-strength commitment to core values facilitating our choices, intensifying our victories, and guiding us in difficult conversations and in times of deep stress.”

2. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is acknowledging that you, in fact, have a split personality—sort of. “We’re always two people. We’re always an experiencing self and a narrative self,” Bryant points out.

According to him, you meet your experiencing self every time you exercise mindfulness or being present in a given moment. The narrative self, on the other hand, pertains to how you tell yourself and others your story. “A lot of that story you may have adopted from your parents, your culture—within five minutes after your birth, you are given a name, a gender, a nationality, an ethnicity, and possibly a religion and football team to follow—and some of these parts may not necessarily ‘fit’ who you are today,” explains Bryant.

These two personalities often do not agree, says Bryant, “so when I talk to you and when you talk to me, we get to the gestalt of those personalities.”

3. Self-confidence

Research has shown that today’s successful leaders are supremely self-confident. Confidence, says Bryant, works like an electromagnet. It attracts people. Pointing to a book he wrote about flirting in the early 2000s, Bryant avers that “the biggest attractor for both genders is confidence. The less good looking confident guy is going to get more dates than the good-looking shy guy. It’s the same in our careers—if we don’t have confidence in our own ability, we get passed over for promotion, we don’t get the sale.”

If you think self-confidence isn’t in your DNA, you’re actually right. As with every other life skill, self-confidence is something you learn and cultivate. Self-confidence largely has to do with building your competencies—and this entails a lot of willpower and discipline to push yourself through mental, physical, and emotional discomfort. Not comfortable with expressing yourself in public? Start speaking at industry events, and you’ll be surprised at how confident you will become after the third/10th/15th try.

“We have to develop competencies, otherwise you can’t really say you’re amazing if you can’t do anything,” states Bryant matter-of-factly.

4. Self-efficacy

According to Bryant, the era of hiring for skill is dated. “If you’re hiring for the 21st century, you want to avoid hiring somebody just because they have a set of skills or an MBA because the skills you will need in two years are not the skills you have today,” says Bryant, pointing to disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence “which could easily learn the skills you have today and eventually do a better job of it.”

Instead, he advises hiring for “self-efficacy”, which is that mindset of trying something new, being able to take feedback, and make the necessary adjustments. “You don’t want to hire somebody who’s conditioned to do one thing and is unable to adapt to do something new. Hire someone on attitude, who operates on that mindset of self-efficacy,” shares Bryant.