To Become True Leaders, We Have to Start Leading Ourselves

Being a leader does not require a title. We all are and can be leaders, whether at home or at work. I am convinced that if we want to become better leaders, we have to start with being a leader of ourselves.

We cannot expect people to follow us and/or see us as role models if we cannot lead ourselves if we do not lead by example. Each and every one of us have values. Our actions need to be in sync with these values. Words mean nothing if our actions go in the opposite direction.

When we lead ourselves, we need to make sure we continue to develop ourselves. We need to be curious. We need to be willing to go outside our comfort zone and take risks to grow and achieve results.

2019 was a year where I put this into practice.

A recent personal experience…

For a bit more than a year, we’ve been suing our heating company with not just one but two court cases. For both cases, we decided to defend ourselves without a lawyer in court. We knew nothing about the Luxembourgish legal system, except that we needed to speak in either French, German or Luxembourgish to defend ourselves.

My husband did most of the preparation work, and I did all the translations into French. I also ‘played’ the lawyer in the tribunal, being the one speaking to the Court and the adverse party, answering questions, and defending our case. We won the first case against our heating company who was defended by a well-known lawyer and were proud of ourselves. Unfortunately, the adverse party appealed and we have subsequently been forced to take a lawyer as we can no longer defend ourselves in appeal.

Every time we were in court, I had to stay calm, even though false and completely unexpected allegations were made against us (allegations that had absolutely nothing to do with the issues we have had). During several sessions, I spoke clearly and in a confident manner, although the adverse party tried to destabilize us in ways that were simply disgusting. At the same time, I had to translate what was said to my husband, as he does not speak fluently French.

We spent a huge amount of hours preparing for documents, for the court sessions, providing counter-proofs, etc. This whole process cost us sweat and tears, lots of time and energy.

Going outside of my comfort zone

Was I in my comfort zone? Not at all.

Did I enjoy it? No! I now know I could never be a lawyer.

But did I learn something? Absolutely!

I now have a much better understanding of the legal system and how things work. I now know how to deal with (and without) lawyers. I know the Luxembourgish law better. I know that when people tell you things, you should never assume they are right and that judges are also normal people. Finally, I feel better prepared should I be faced with a similar situation in court in the future.

Our court cases are unfortunately not over yet. We are still trying to fight for our rights. But I see these experiences as priceless. We would never have learned so much if we had read books about the legal system in Luxembourg.

When we stop learning, we start dying

I see myself as a leader in progress. I work every single day to become a better version of myself. And with these experiences, I have learned tremendously, even if I had never planned to go through them!

Tony Robbins’ quote could not be more relevant:

All growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.


Virginie Lemay
Virginie Lemay
Virginie Lemay is an international Leadership Trainer/Coach/Consultant based out of Luxembourg. She is originally French but has been an expatriate for more than 25 years. She fluently speaks 5 languages (French, English, German, Dutch, and Italian) and has lived in 6 different countries. With more than 20 years experience leading international/virtual teams, Virginie is a true advocate for Diversity and Inclusion, She worked in senior leadership roles in big international organizations such as Amazon. Virginie combines her two passions (training/coaching and dancing) and helps people Succeed in the Adventures of Leadership and Self Assurance (SALSA). She basically turns professionals into global leaders by improving their communication, international leadership skills, and confidence. Virginie is also the author of the book "My revenge on life", where she shares how to become the leader of your own life and flourish in the midst of seemingly hopeless circumstances. You can find more information on her website and LinkedIn listed above.

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