The First Gate in the Pipeline: Managing Yourself

The most fundamental step in learning and applying the leadership craft is learning to manage yourself.

As promised in An Overview of the Leadership Pipeline, I am facilitating a closer look at the journey through the leadership pipeline from Managing Self through Managing the entire Enterprise. The discussion is based loosely on the book: The Leadership Pipeline: How to build the Leadership Powered Company, by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel – and supplemented by personal experience.

I am not making this journey alone. Many current and former government leaders and thought leaders like Paul Alberti, Mark Hammer, Corey McCarren, Dannielle Blumenthal, Dave Bell, and you! are sharing wisdom along the way in these Blog posts and in discussions like Leadership Series: Tips for Managing Self. If this is your first read in this series, please consider looking at some of the other posts. They all work together & maybe something will stand out for you.

Before we can expect anyone to follow our lead, we must learn to manage ourselves. Not only does time management, prioritization and values increase in complexity with more scope and responsibility, but humans are really smart! If a “leader” is practicing the “do as I say, not as I do” method of leadership, others will pick up on that and soon be blowing holes in that leaders authority and credibility. People want authenticity & they want to know that their leader has their act together enough to really pay attention to other things.

Awareness of one’s position in a community and the effect of our own behavior on others is a good early indicator of leadership potential. When someone realizes that the way they behave has an effect on the mission and on others around them, it’s a magic moment. They chose to ignore it, to use it to be selfish, or to use it to become a role model and do good. I consider this a birth moment for leadership – that first choice. Careers can be built on this first choice.

Assuming a decision is made to use position and behavior to benefit others, the question of good, better, best is close behind. This can happen at any age, rank or station in life. What can I do to be the best I can be for myself, the organizations I am a part of, and the people around me?

A life of leadership is a life of service. In this first critical phase, we learn to serve ourselves so we can have enough capacity to serve others. Using the structure provided in The Leadership Pipeline book, here are the things an individual learning to manage themselves is focused on:


  • Technical or professional proficiency
  • Team play
  • Relationship building for personal benefits, personal results
  • Using company tools, processes, and procedures

Time Application:

  • Daily discipline – arrival, departure
  • Meet personal due dates for projects – usually short term for managing own time

Work Values:

  • Getting results through personal proficiency
  • High-quality technical and professional work
  • Accept the companies values

In addition to the framework offered by the book, I would add a few from my own experience.


  • Standing up for yourself in a way that is proactive and confident
  • Giving yourself a break.
  • Balancing work and play
  • Listening to yourself. Keep a journal if it helps
  • Smiling – even when you don’t want to
  • Overcoming fear
  • Accepting reward
  • Accepting criticism

Time Application:

  • Exercise
  • Fun
  • Charity / Giving

Work Values:

  • Be okay when someone else gets rewarded – even if it was for something you did
  • Spreading gossip or slander is not okay
  • Integrity is what happens when no one else is looking
  • Be prepared
  • Be generous

Learning to Manage Self is never a finished process. We will learn how to manage ourselves in different settings, at different ages, and with different life objectives in mind. Each time you or your environment changes, you will be asking yourself how best to manage yourself – even if you become the president of the United States.

Sometimes you’ll get it right. Other times, you’ll fall flat on your face – which brings me to one of my favorite skills when it comes to managing self: Allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s the journey, not any one destination that is most important.

For other posts in this series, see:

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Dave Uejio

I totally agree with this – Peter Senge calls it “Personal Mastery”, and it’s absolutely fundamental. As a young government leader, Self Leadership and Self Awareness should be a priority growth area: they are tangible, controllable, and always ready for immediate action. Great stuff!

Megan Libby

This is really true and definitely empowering. For those younger aspiring leaders out there, The Learning Cafe just put out this wonderful two-pager with tips on Mentoring Yourself. Anyone interested in creating their own career development may find more than a few useful tidbits there. Take control of your careers!!!