Michael Jackson on Leadership

If you think leading others is tough, try self-leadership. Bill George said, “The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself.”

Self-leadership means:

  1. High standards. Expect more from yourself than you expect from others.
  2. Humility. Reject special privileges. A title doesn’t make you better than.
  3. Personal responsibility. Blaming isn’t leading.
  4. Go first. Never ask others to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.

Michael Jackson on Leadership: The Man in the Mirror


“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”

The song, “Man in the Mirror,” peaked at #1 on the U.S. charts in January 1988.


Motivation to lead begins with a problem to solve, a frustration to answer, or a drive to make something better. But eventually, you realize that leadership isn’t “out there.”

Frustration with others isn’t leadership. Owning YOUR frustrations is the beginning of leadership.

Leaders aren’t finger-pointers.

Blaming doesn’t change anything. The real question is about personal responsibility, not blame.


“I see the kids in the streets,
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs”

Compassion is the beginning of a life that matters.

  1. Leadership without compassion is tyranny.
  2. Compassion turns toward tough issues, not away.
  3. Compassion turns high standards into inspiration.

Be passionate about being compassionate.

Influence requires an open heart.

What does self-leadership look like to you?

What leadership lessons do you see in the song, “Man in the Mirror?”

After material:

Official video: Man in the Mirror

Full lyrics: Man in the Mirror

Written by: Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett

Trivia: The only place Jackson appears in the video is in a crowd shot toward the end.