On Leadership as Self-Mastery

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“Engineers have computers; painters, canvas and brushes; musicians, instruments. Leaders have only themselves. The instrument of leadership is the self, and the mastery of the art of leadership comes from mastery of the self. Leadership development is self-development, and self-development is not about stuffing in a whole bunch of new information or trying out the latest technique. It’s about leading out of what is already in your soul. it’s about liberating the leadership within you.” – James Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

A popular (mis)conception about leadership is that leadership is about mastery over others. If this is true, one cannot have mastery over others if one does not first have mastery over oneself.

In many of the traditions of warriorship in Asia – from the Shambhala of Tibet to the Japanese samurai – true leadership begins with one being able to master every aspect of who they are. The true leader masters their thoughts and emotions. A true leader is deeply present to and conscious of their actions in the present moment. And they do this knowing that the only real control that they exercise is over how they respond to life circumstances.

Where in your life can you claim mastery? Where in your life does it seem like you are a victim of circumstance?

What is the first step you can take right now on the path to leadership as self-mastery?

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