Leadership is always discussed in external terms – skills that individuals have developed which allow them to lead others, usually in organizational environments. And good leadership is important – it means that organizations meet their goals, that projects get completed on time and within budget, and that morale and commitment to the organization is high.

What is seldom discussed, however, is inner leadership – those skills and talents we develop that allow ourselves to be productive, focused, and successful in our navigation of this complex world.

What Does Inner Leadership Look Like?

History has given some great examples of leadership (and some pretty bad ones too).

One thing that all great leaders have in common, however, is that they have developed their abilities to lead themselves first, before they are able to lead others successfully.

And this is where the journey to leadership should begin for all of us – not because we want to lead others, but because we want to provide direction and purpose to our own lives.

Here, then, are the basic characteristics of inner leadership.

1. Character.

This may be the most important inner leadership quality.

It can be equated with integrity. But integrity is not just how you treat others in your personal and business lives, about following the “rules,” and about being honest and forthright with others.

The inner leader has integrity in terms of his/her relationship with the principles, values, and beliefs that are important to him personally.

Have you set goals? Are you true to those goals? Do you have passions? Are you pursuing those passions?

These are the things of which self-integrity is made. 

You want to be a writer – you feel passionate about it. How is that translating into your daily activities and routines? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your social life so that you can hold down a “regular” job and set aside enough time to pursue that passion? If you compromise, then you have lost some of your inner integrity.

Shakespeare said it best, through Polonius, as he gave advice to his son, Laertes. “To thine own self be true.” This is inner integrity.

2. Optimism/Attitude.

Long before she founded The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington exemplified the spirit of optimism and great attitude, as she led herself through a Master’s degree in economics from Cambridge, and then settled in London to write, primarily biographies. When she moved to the US. and married, she became involved in politics, first as a conservative and then as a liberal.

Even when she dropped out of the race for California governor, it did not impact her optimism. She simply moved on to pursue other avenues of success.

To date, she can count to her many credits not just The Huffington Post, but over 15 books.

The one that probably depicts her inner leadership the most is On Becoming Fearless – in Love, Work, and Life. She has sold her media empire to AOL but continues to lead herself into new endeavors with the same optimism and positive attitude she has always had.

3. Vision.

When Bill gates was in college, he had no plans to lead a multi-national corporation like Microsoft. He simply had a vision of a computer operating system that the average person could use.

So strong was that vision that he quit school and, with a partner, began to work on it. Gates was leading no one else – only himself with that vision.

As a writer, you, too, have a vision – to enrich the lives of others, not through external leadership skills, but by producing works of writing that have an impact.

You may have had this vision since childhood; you may have had to work hard on your skills and solicit reviews from others who were more skilled and talented than you. But through it all, you have continued to lead yourself in the direction of your vision.

4. Prioritizing.

Leaders of teams within organizations prioritize projects and tasks for their team members. People who are not leaders of others still lead themselves in this critical piece of personal success.

Without the ability to prioritize, we flail through life, jumping from one activity to the next, without satisfactory focus on anything. Cleaning up the kitchen becomes just as important as writing that next chapter or finishing that poem.

Without priorities, we cannot schedule sufficient amounts of time and effort for all that we want or need to do.

If you really want to be a writer, then you must have an inner leader who forces you to set aside the time to develop your craft.

These four aspects of inner leadership do not each exist in a vacuum. They are inter-connected and work in cooperation with one another.

When each of these four traits is developed, and they become part of the total leadership picture, we gain the ability to accomplish our goals.

About The Author

This is a guest post by Michael Harred, a passionate blogger and writer from Florida. His topics of interest are leadership and self-improvement. In his free time, Michael writes for LordOfPapers. Connect with him on Twitter.