The greatest challenge in leadership today is not the technical challenge, but the psychological one: Moving the organization forward and staying the course, regardless of whatever chaos, distraction, or adversity comes at you. That takes real skill.

I call it the skill of ‘self-direction, and in a world of relentless, merciless, change, the need for it is becoming increasingly urgent. Self-direction means knowing yourself and your purpose so clearly that you will not be deflected. It means that you’re driven, not by your ego, unmanaged emotions, or the events of the day, but by explicit values and the ability to self-regulate.

But the skill of self-direction doesn’t come from the things we traditionally learn in business education. It begins instead with a better understanding of yourself and the inner processes that drive your behaviors.  

This self-knowledge is the basis of all change, growth, and self-mastery, but self-direction isn’t just about you. That same self-knowledge is also the foundation for a broader understanding of people and of human motivation. Human nature exists. We all share the same hardware and internal processes and self-knowledge reveals those characteristics that are unique to you and those that are common to everyone.

To master self-direction is to master something fundamental in human motivation and for any leader or manager, such deeper understanding people will give you the edge in the future.

The ultimate purpose of self-direction is to grow your influence in the world, but you won’t lead others effectively until you first learn to master yourself.


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