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Be inspired every day with Living North
Health and beauty
September 2022
Reading time 3 Minutes

You ARE the Pilot NOT the Passenger

Living North columnist Dr Maurice Duffy explains how leadership impacts many roles in life, but although many people assume that leadership is all about titles, positions, money, and fame, leadership is not an actual position or title, but the means to living a happy life.

When I coach people on leadership, I always tell them there are five steps to great leadership. I’ll go through the first three here and will focus on Step 1 because as Jack Welch said, ‘Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about others.’ 

These are the first three steps in the leadership programmes I teach.

Step 1: learning how to lead yourself

Step 2: learning how to lead an individual

Step 3: learning how to lead a team

Let’s focus on Step 1 as very few of us know how to lead ourselves for a day never mind a life.

The challenge is our lives are like ice creams we eat. If we don’t enjoy it, it has a tendency to melt away before our very eyes and all we have left are regrets about what is gone forever.

Read More: How to Take Back Control of Your Mental Health and Manage Everyday Stress

The number one regret people mention while lying on their deathbeds is, ‘I wish I had the courage to live the life I really wanted’. Many of us, regardless of knowing this fact, still take life for granted. We know we should be doing things differently. We know we want to be living our life to the fullest, yet, way too many of us still spend countless years in a job we don’t love, in a relationship we don’t like, living out our lives in the exact opposite of what we really want. And tragically, too many of us let our days pass us by in an uninspired state of mere existence. 

But this doesn’t have to be the case – not for you. Leading yourself is taking the steering wheel and setting the direction of your life towards your dreams and aspirations. Leadership is not defined by status, title or success. How we lead ourselves in life impacts how we lead those around us.

Read More: The Cost of Living Crisis: How to Avoid Being Sucked into a Downward Spiral of Anxiety

In his book True North, Bill George tells us, ‘The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself’. Leading yourself means that you take a deep look at who you are, where you have strengths, and where you can stretch these strengths.

Live life to the fullest. Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself. Leadership is not about men in suits.  

Don’t be one of those who die at 25 and hang around miserable and unfulfilled until they are buried at 75.

‘Leading yourself is taking the steering wheel and setting the direction of your life towards your dreams and aspirations’

1. Laugh More. Babies laugh on average 400 times a day; people over 35, only 15. A recent study of Gallup data for the U.S. found that we laugh significantly less on weekdays than we do on weekends. Work is a fun drain and it should not be.

2. Take control of your thoughts, and if you can’t afford 10 minutes for daily meditation then find an hour.

3. Don’t let those with dirty shoes walk through your brain. Don’t let others pollute your brain.

4. When the past calls your brain, let it go to voicemail – it has nothing new to say. The ghosts of the past must be banished from your thoughts. Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.

5. Your actions must follow your words. Well done is better than well said.

6. Everything you want is on the other side of your fears. Fear is the second toughest bitch in life. Do you know who comes first? 

7. Don’t be a glory hunter. It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others’ edited highlights. There is no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s their time.

9. Never let your emotions overwhelm your intelligence. Respond do not react.

10. Unlearn to learn. Life is always a work in progress and your life should constantly be under construction. There is always something to improve.

Read More: How Self-Awareness Can Help You Reach Your Potential

Our aim should be to end fully worn out from having lived fully, sliding at full speed into the grave shouting as loudly as you can ‘what a ride!’. 

Lead yourself there.

Live your life to the full. Everything you attract into your life is a reflection of the story you believe and keep telling yourself. Go dare greatly! 

‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.’ John Quincy Adams

Dr Maurice Duffy is Visiting Professor at Sunderland, consulting coach to the NHS, the Australian cricket team, Durham Cricket Club, international golfers, rugby and many sports people, and also coaches many senior FTSE 100 business leaders and politicians around the world. Find out more at or follow him on twitter @thebeaksquawks

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